Advertiser Disclosure » Loans » Auto Loans » What Is Gap Insurance For Cars And How Does it Work?

What Is Gap Insurance For Cars And How Does it Work?

Written by Allison Martin

Allison Martin is a personal finance enthusiast and a passionate entrepreneur. With over a decade of experience, Allison has made a name for herself as a syndicated financial writer. Her articles are published in leading publications, like, Bankrate, The Wall Street Journal, MSN Money, and Investopedia. When she’s not busy creating content, Allison travels nationwide, sharing her knowledge and expertise in financial literacy and entrepreneurship through interactive workshops and programs. She also works as a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI) dedicated to helping people from all walks of life achieve financial freedom and success.

Updated June 26, 2024​

7 min. read​

what is gap insurance for cars

It’s common for car loan balances to exceed the car’s value. This isn’t a big deal in a perfect world, but your car can get stolen or totaled. What happens then?

If your car is stolen or totaled in an accident, gap insurance will kick in to pay off the outstanding balance on your loan if you owe more than it’s worth. It can be purchased as an add-on coverage and possibly save you a lot of cash. Read on to learn more about how it works, how to decide if it’s a worthwhile investment, exclusions and where to purchase gap insurance coverage. You’ll also learn how to save on gap insurance if you buy it for your ride.

Loading... Loading...

What Is Gap Insurance for Cars and How Does It Work?

Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) insurance allows drivers to fill the void between their auto loan balance and the actual cash value of their car. The policy kicks in if your vehicle is stolen or involved in an accident and categorized as a total loss.-

For example, assume you purchased the car of your dreams for $40,000. A few years into the loan term, it’s stolen while you’re on vacation, and the remaining balance on your auto loan is $25,000. The car held its value fairly well and was worth $22,000 at the time of the incident. The lender would receive $22,000 from the auto insurance company through your comprehensive or collision coverage. Gap insurance would cover the remaining $3,000.

What are the Benefits of GAP Insurance?

  • Financial protection: You won’t be stuck with a hefty auto loan balance if your vehicle is totaled in an accident or stolen.
  • Protection from depreciation: To piggyback off the last perk, gap insurance helps protect you if your vehicle depreciates quickly.
  • Peace of mind: Whether you purchase or lease your vehicle, gap insurance gives you peace of mind, knowing you’re protected if something happens to it.

Does Paying GAP Insurance Build Your Credit?

GAP insurance does not help build your credit, as it is not reported to the credit bureaus. GAP insurance is an added expense that can be rolled into the auto loan. You can also pay your auto insurance provider directly for coverage. However, the monthly payment amount allocated towards GAP isn’t reflected in your credit report.

How Paying GAP Insurance Can Affect Your Credit Score

If you choose to buy GAP insurance through your car insurance company, your credit health could benefit from paying on time.

Making Timely Insurance Payments

You can add GAP insurance to your auto policy for an added layer of protection. Although car insurance premiums generally aren’t reported to the three major credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax – Experian offers a free tool that gives you credit for on-time insurance payments.

It’s called Experian Boost, and you can use it to help improve your credit score based on Experian data in real time. Plus, Experian Boost only includes timely payments in your credit report to give you the best chance at a healthy credit score when using the tool.

You can sign up for free in minutes to have a positive payment history added to your credit file. Visit the website to learn more about how adding your insurance bills to your credit profile with Experian Boost can get you one step closer to a stronger credit score.

Experian also offers a free account where you can view your credit report and score and receive valuable insights.

Loading... Loading...

Is GAP Insurance Worth It For Cars?

It depends on your down payment, loan term and how quickly your vehicle will depreciate. You should also consider how much you’ll use the vehicle and if you’ll lease or purchase the vehicle. More on this shortly.

Do You Need Gap Insurance for Your Car?

Some companies will require you to pay for gap insurance if the gap becomes sizable. This insurance policy may also come up if you apply for a refinance. Most of the time, gap insurance is optional, unlike other car insurance policies. However, it can be a good idea for some car owners to get this policy.

When You Should Get Gap Insurance

  • You put less than 20 percent down payment when you purchased the vehicle, and you’ll need some time before you build up a substantial amount of equity. A low down payment can make you upside down on your loan by a high margin. Gap insurance can help you sleep better at night.
  • Your loan term is greater than 60 months, and you’ll likely be upside down in your auto loan in a few years. Your car’s value will depreciate quicker than the loan balance.
  • Your vehicle depreciates rapidly, and your car will be worth far less than you paid for it sooner than later. New cars fall into this trend more often than used cars. The latter has already lost considerable value over the years.
  • You’re planning to accumulate a lot of miles on your car, and the cash value of your car will likely drop significantly in a short period.
  • You currently lease your car, and gap insurance is mandatory.
  • You traded in another vehicle to purchase your current one and plan to roll the amount owed on the old loan (known as negative equity) into the new loan.
Loading... Loading...

What Doesn’t Gap Insurance Cover?

Before you buy gap insurance, be mindful that it doesn’t cover the following:

  • Auto insurance deductibles
  • Car or truck repairs
  • Major mechanical work or failures
  • Past due payments or late fees incurred on your current auto loan or lease
  • The down payment on a new vehicle

You will need an add-on to your car insurance policy to get more coverage. Gap insurance can be a useful asset, but it’s not an umbrella that protects you from everything.

Where To Get Gap Insurance for Your Car

Car owners can get their insurance policies from several providers. Here is a list of resources you can consider.

Banks and Credit Unions

You can work directly with the lender if you’re not using dealer financing to buy coverage. Banks and credit unions usually have higher credit score minimums and more competitive interest rates. It can also take a while to hear back from them.

Car Dealership or Lenders

If you finance your auto loan in-house at the dealership, you can purchase gap insurance when securing the loan. You might get a faster response from car dealerships and lenders. They offer competitive rates on car loans, but those rates vary considerably.

Auto Insurance Companies

Gap insurance is readily available through auto insurance companies. Compare your options to find the best deal. You might find an auto insurance company that can cover all of your policies. However, you will need comprehensive insurance and automobile liability insurance coverage. Rules vary in each state, and you can get the policies under one umbrella. Many insurers with auto insurance policies also have home insurance and other policies you may need.

How Much Does Gap Insurance Cost?

It varies by individual, but you’ll likely get a better deal by buying coverage through an auto insurance provider. You’ll pay between $20 and $30 annually in most instances. But if you buy a policy through the dealership, you’ll pay up to $700 for coverage plus interest if you roll the fee into the loan.

Ultimately, the amount you’ll pay will depend on the make and model of your vehicle, its age and how much gap coverage you need. In most cases, a car owner with a $3,000 gap between the car’s value and loan balance will pay lower premiums than a car owner with a $10,000 gap. A lower gap means less risk for the insurer. The insurance provider will also review your driving record to come up with a rate that accounts for the risk you pose (if any). A good driving record means it’s less likely that your vehicle will be totaled in the future.

Loading... Loading...

How To Save On Gap Insurance

Gap insurance isn’t the most expensive policy, but it’s also not your only expense. Small costs add up and can strain your budget, which is why it’s important to save every dollar possible. These strategies can help you keep your gap insurance cost low.

Don’t Get Gap Insurance

It’s not for everyone. If you make a 20% down payment or aim to pay the loan within five years, the policy may not make sense for you. The insurance policy only kicks in if your car is totaled while you still have a gap between the loan’s balance and the car’s value. Avoiding accidents protects you from having to rely on gap insurance to get out of a jam. However, the roads are unpredictable, and a reckless driver can accidentally total your vehicle.

Shop Around

The easiest way to save on gap insurance is by avoiding it in the first place. However, some people feel safer on the road with gap insurance. It’s a small expense to pay for an extra layer of financial protection. You can reach out to multiple lenders and insurance providers who offer gap insurance to find the best policy. Lenders can add a gap waiver to your loan, which serves the same purpose as gap insurance.

Drive Safely

Driving safely can make you feel more at ease on the road and also help with your premiums. Insurers set premiums based on the perceived risk of a policyholder. A clean driving record makes the insurance company feel more confident that you will not get into an accident. Insurance companies do not want policyholders to exercise their premiums. If every policyholder had to exercise their policies, these companies would go out of business. Insurance companies want to keep low-risk policyholders and use a lower premium to attract more of those people.

Loading... Loading...

Improve Your Credit Score

If you have applied for a loan, your lender likely asked for your credit score or obtained a copy of your credit report. Your credit score impacts your interest rate and how much you can borrow. Surprisingly, insurers also look at this number to determine how much to charge for your gap insurance.

An insurance company doesn’t only measure risk based on your safety record. These companies also consider your ability to make monthly payments on the premiums. A consumer with a low credit score is less likely to keep up with financial obligations, so insurance companies charge higher amounts to these consumers. That may seem counterproductive, but insurance companies want to collect as much upfront cash from these consumers as possible in case they walk away from their policies sooner. Some studies have also connected low credit scores with a higher likelihood of getting involved in an accident or DUI. Those events would trigger the policy, something insurers don’t want.

Insurance companies will charge lower premiums for consumers with higher credit scores. They know consumers with higher credit scores have more options and are less likely to get involved in accidents. Insurers view these policyholders as steady income streams with less risk.

Get Insurance from the Same Company

Some insurance companies offer discounts if you get multiple policies with them. Of course, you should still shop around instead of sticking with the same insurer, but there are benefits to staying with the same company. You can check with your current insurance company about policy bundles and deals. It’s also possible to find another insurance company with better policy bundles than your current provider.

Make a Higher Down Payment

A higher down payment will reduce the gap between the car’s value and loan balance. Building equity in your car decreases the insurer’s risk and can help you secure a lower gap insurance premium. Saving extra money for a down payment can also help you qualify for better loans and score a lower interest rate. You can create a savings account for your down payment proceeds and work on a short-term side hustle to raise additional cash. A higher down payment will also help you get out of gap insurance and debt sooner.

Loading... Loading...

Advertisement Disclosure

Product name, logo, brands, and other trademarks featured or referred to within are the property of their respective trademark holders. This site may be compensated through third party advertisers. The offers that may appear on’s website are from companies from which may receive compensation. This compensation may influence the selection, appearance, and order of appearance of the offers listed on the website. However, this compensation also facilitates the provision by of certain services to you at no charge. The website does not include all financial services companies or all of their available product and service offerings.