10 Things You May Not Realize Car Insurance Covers

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Have you ever carefully read your auto insurance policy? Understanding what's covered and what's not is critical, not least because knowing the details can save you money. Be sure to check for these 10 types of contingencies, perhaps in a conversation with your agent. Some fall under the umbrella of standard coverage, but other incidents are insured only through optional a la carte clauses that add to the premium's cost.

Numerous factors affect auto insurance rates, including age, gender, education, geographic location, type of car, and driving history. Each state requires a certain minimum coverage, invariably involving liability for bodily injury to others and damage to property. After that, you can choose to pile on coverage, such as comprehensive (non-collision damage to the car, theft), collision damage to your car, and roadside assistance; the specifics vary by carrier. How much insurance you buy is a decision based, in part, on your own tolerance for risk and out-of-pocket costs versus the price of the premium.

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Rental car companies often advise customers to pay an additional daily fee for insurance to cover any damage to the rental. Full stop. This coverage may already be included in your personal auto insurance policy, depending on the carrier and the type of coverage you have bought. Or, it may not; know the fine print.

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Towing is usually an insurance add-on (i.e., extra coverage beyond the required minimum), but policy holders often aren't aware they have bought this protection. Examine your current policy before paying for a tow.

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Roadside assistance is often automatically included with towing coverage in an auto insurance policy. If so, the insurance company will provide assistance if you run out of fuel or another essential fluid, such as oil and water. Other emergencies, such as lost keys and a dead battery, may also be covered. Beware, though -- excessive use of these coverages may mean higher premiums.

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Damage to your car from hitting an animal is covered by insurance -- but only if you have opted to buy comprehensive protection. Contact your insurance agent immediately after a collision, and only then consult with a body repair shop.

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Vandalism is another type of optional coverage included in most comprehensive clauses. Under this provision the insurance carrier covers costs associated with restoring your car to its original state prior to damage caused by, say, an angry neighbor or ex.

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Auto theft is commonly covered under an auto insurance policy's optional non-collision (comprehensive) clauses. Even certain components, such as stereos and installed DVD players, are covered. That said, insurance companies don't pay for "unattached" personal items that disappear from a car.

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If you are at fault for an accident, the insurance company will pay for proven pain and suffering, including emotional stress. This type of coverage is generally mandatory (part of liability coverage) and may even cover medical costs for emotional counseling, which can save you hundreds of dollars in doctor visits.

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If you added this coverage to your policy, then the insurance company will pay for you to rent a car if yours is totaled or damaged in an accident. No need to reach out to friends for rides or to shell out for a rental on your own.

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You might be surprised to learn that your insurance company will pay for wages lost due to missing work related to an accident that's your fault. How much the insurance company pays depends on your coverage amounts and exclusions. Either way, it's comforting to know that your income won't entirely disappear following an accident.

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Don't consider your car a complete loss if so-called natural forces damage or destroy it. Again, comprehensive coverage is your friend, providing aid to repair damage arising from weather-related incidents such as a flood, forest fire, or hailstorm.