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Contaminated Gas Can Ruin Your Engine, and Your Pocketbook

Imagine this: You pull into your favorite convenience store and gas up your car. You pay, jump in your car and head down the road. A few miles away your car starts to sputter and eventually conks out on the side of the road. No matter what you do, you cannot get it started. You have just become a victim of contaminated gas.

Contaminated Gas Happens

While not a common occurrence, contaminated gas does make its way into local gas pumps and can severely damage your vehicle.  Recently, BP recalled 2.1 million gallons of gasoline in the Chicago area. The contaminated fuel caused stalling and hard starts in affected vehicles. According to BP the fuel contained a higher than normal amount of polymeric residue.

Contaminated gas can cause everything from mild to severe damage to your vehicle. Your car may end up in the shop for a few days or even weeks depending on the damage. If you have had the bad luck of filling up with contaminated gas you might be wondering if your insurance protects you from the cost of a bad fill-up.  

Am I Covered?

The easy answer is that there is no easy answer. Every insurance policy is a bit different and coverage for incidents like contaminated gas push the limits of most policies. In general, mechanical breakdown is not covered by a standard insurance policy. However, there is a chance that it may be covered under the comprehensive portion of your policy, if you are carrying comprehensive.

Comprehensive covers all non-collision incidents. Flooding, vandalism, and animal damage are some of the more common claims on a comprehensive policy. Comprehensive is an add-on and is not part of a basic policy which only offers liability. If contaminated gas has caused damage to your vehicle, check your policy to see if you have comprehensive.

If you are carrying comprehensive you will need to contact your agent in regards to coverage for contaminated gasoline.  Some policies offer protection against contaminated fuel while others rule out coverage.

If you do have coverage, your insurer is going to want a number of details. You will need to provide proof that the gasoline was contaminated and details about where the gas was purchased. The insurance company will go after the fuel company to be reimbursed for their pay out.

Before filing a claim be sure to get an estimate for the repairs. There is a chance that the repairs will cost less than your deductible, so making a claim will not make sense. If your repair costs are more than your deductible making a claim on the comprehensive part of your policy does not typically raise your overall premiums.

Oh No, I’m Not Covered, What Now?

Many insurers are not willing to cover contaminated gas because it is a mechanical issue and is not a covered peril. Some policies actually have wording that state there is no coverage for fuel related issues.

While your insurer may not be taking your claim, there are other avenues. In most cases of contaminated gas, the fuel supplier will recall it and put information on their website on how to make a damage claim. Typically you will have to provide proof that you purchased contaminated gasoline, usually a receipt will suffice. The fuel supplier should cover the cost of your damage but it can be a grueling process and there is no guarantee of rental car coverage if your car is in the shop for an extended period of time.

Filling up with contaminated gasoline can be a frustrating and costly headache. Check with your insurer to see if you have coverage under the comprehensive portion of your policy, if not you will have to pursue the fuel supplier for damages.