It’s a scene no one wants to imagine: your car breaks down. It happens to everyone sooner or later. You have no idea what’s wrong. And worse, you have no idea how much it’ll cost to get your car back up and running again.
In cases like this, you might wish you had a pot of savings set aside just for car repairs. But that’s sometimes easier said than done.
And while you expect your vehicle to be fully protected with car insurance — you’re paying a monthly premium, after all — that’s not the case for repairs.
Your car insurance comes in handy for certain kinds of repairs and only if you have the right coverage. But that’s where other products such as extended warranties or mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI) can come in handy. And it can be just the thing to save the day.
Does car insurance cover repairs?
Car insurance doesn’t cover the cost of regular repairs or maintenance.
If you have auto insurance, specifically comprehensive and collision coverage, it pays for repairs for your damaged car as a result of a car accident or a natural disaster.
That means that car insurance doesn’t cover fixing engine parts or electrical components. However, it’s possible to get a type of car insurance that helps pay for repairs.
What is mechanical breakdown insurance (MBI)?
An MBI policy will help pay for car repairs that pop up unexpectedly. It does not cover car repairs stemming from accidents, however. You can purchase an MBI policy as extra coverage (i.e., an endorsement or a rider) from your insurance company. Not all companies offer it, but many do.
MBI policies vary by insurance company. It’s always a good idea to read the fine print and see exactly what the policy covers.
Typically, an MBI policy comes with a deductible. After you pay the deductible, the MBI policy covers the cost of fixing your car if it breaks down or needs a repair. It could help pay for new brakes, internal components, and engine parts. You may be able to use it to fix a blown transmission or alternator. Sometimes, MBI offers protection for air conditioning, steering, and the fuel system.
Most MBI policies, however, don’t cover regular maintenance such as:
- Oil changes
- New tires and tire rotations
- Windshield wiper replacements
Additionally, only new cars or cars below a certain mileage amount are eligible for MBI coverage. So if you’re looking to protect an old beater car that’s on its way out, you’re probably out of luck.
MBI coverage vs. extended warranty
Many newer cars already come with an option for an extended warranty. So you might wonder if you need MBI coverage. There are a few similarities and differences that might sway you one way or another.
If getting your car repaired at the shop of your choice is important to you, consider MBI coverage. Extended warranties often require you to bring your car to a dealer in order to get it fixed.
MBI policies often cover a wider range of repairs than extended warranties. But coverage only extends to certain components, such as the drivetrain or engine. Check the fine print of both an MBI policy and an extended warranty to tally up what’s covered and what’s not.
MBI policies don’t require a large up-front payment, so they’re easier on your budget. Instead, you pay them at regular intervals along with your car insurance. On a whole, MBI policies cost less than extended warranties anyway.
How much do MBI policies cost?
Since MBI is additional coverage on top of your current car insurance policy, it will push your premiums up. But MBI policies can be surprisingly affordable, as Kathryn Mancewicz, who writes at Money and Mountains found out after she purchased a new 2017 Jeep Renegade.
“I found out about the MBI coverage when I called Geico to add the new vehicle to my current policy,” says Mancewicz. “I honestly had never even heard of it before and wouldn’t have known about it if Geico hadn’t mentioned the possibility. We were living in Utah at the time and it was around $25-$30 for the whole year so we thought we might as well get it.”
After Mancewicz moved to Wyoming, however, her MBI coverage increased to $150 per year. Instead of shelling out for MBI, Mancewicz chose to drop the policy. She put the savings towards saving up for car repairs on her own.
Other types of car insurance that may cover repairs
Aside from MBI, there are a few different types of policies that may still pay for repairs, in certain cases.
Collision and comprehensive insurance
If you get into an accident, an MBI policy won’t help you. That’s where two other types of insurance products — collision and comprehensive insurance — come into the picture.
If you get in an accident with another vehicle or run into something while driving, collision insurance will pay for the cost to get your car repaired (after you’ve met the deductible, that is). Similarly, if your car’s damaged in some other type of non-driving accident, such as a rogue hailstorm, a fallen tree branch, or a fire, comprehensive insurance will pay for these repairs after you’ve met your deductible.
Comprehensive and collision insurance generally aren’t required. But, if you’re leasing your vehicle or still paying it off, your lender might require you to carry it anyway.
Property damage liability
The good news is that it’s generally required in most states as a part of the minimum insurance coverage requirement.
Is mechanical breakdown insurance right for me?
If you’re interested in purchasing additional coverage for your car, it pays to know what you might need and actually use. You can read reviews of your car and what the common repairs might be on websites like Edmunds, Consumer Reports, and Kelley Blue Book.
It’s also a good to consider whether you can afford a pricey repair, should one come up. If you can, you might not even need MBI coverage. But if paying out of pocket for repairs would strain your finances, then consider buying some sort of coverage.
If your insurance company’s MBI coverage costs less and is more comprehensive than your dealer’s extended warranty coverage, then consider an MBI policy.
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