What Is Loan/Lease Payoff Insurance?

Loan/Lease Payoff Insurance Explained

Definition
Loan/lease payoff insurance provides some coverage beyond your vehicle's actual cash value if it's stolen or declared to be a total loss. It's important coverage if you find yourself "upside down" or "underwater" on an auto loan or lease and you owe more than what the vehicle is worth.
Man with crashed car calling for help on the roadside
Photo: Chris Ryan / Getty Images

Definition and Examples of Loan/Lease Payoff Insurance

Standard loan/lease payoff insurance pays the amount you owe on a totaled vehicle’s loan after your insurance company has paid you because your car has been totaled in an accident or it's been stolen. You can only purchase this type of insurance if you're buying the most comprehensive coverage insurance on your vehicle. It typically pays up to 25% of the vehicle's actual cash value (ACV), allowing for any insurance deductible.

  • Alternate name: Gap insurance

For instance, if you bought your car and still owe $20,000 on it, it may only have a Kelly Blue Book value of $15,000. You are "upside down" on your car loan. If you are then in an accident where your car is totaled, your insurance may only pay you for the value of the car, which is $15,000. That means you still owe $5,000 to the bank for the remaining balance on your car loan. Payoff or gap insurance could help you pay the bank some or all of that remaining balance.

Note

Progressive is one notable insurer that lumps loan/lease payoff coverage with a gap insurance product.

How Loan/Lease Payoff Insurance Works

The term "loan/lease payoff" is often used in place of gap insurance. Both coverages work in a similar way, but there are some subtle differences between the two. Providers can assign their own sets of rules to loan/lease payoff insurance that separate one type of insurance from the other. Other providers might not distinguish between the two coverages at all.

Suppose that John has purchased a new Chevy truck for $28,000. He purchased the truck with a 0% down payment and an extended six-year loan to keep his payments low.

Unfortunately, the truck is stolen within a month of purchase. The insurance company determines that the ACV of John's truck is just $21,000 due to the plunging value of these vehicles when they're driven off the lot. That's a difference of $7,000, compared to what John owes on the loan.

Luckily, John purchased loan/lease payoff coverage through his car insurance provider. This insurance will cover 25% of his ACV. It works out like this:

  • 25% of $21,000 is $5,250.
  • The insurance company will therefore pay $26,150 after subtracting a $100 deductible.
  • John is responsible for paying for the remaining $1,850 balance.

John must pay out of pocket to meet his obligation, but he's still better off than he would have been without the loan/lease payoff coverage, even though his loan wasn't paid off in full. This is an extreme example of depreciation and no down payment, and it's an unlikely scenario.

Note

In most cases, you would find that 25% of the actual cash value will cover the remainder of your loan in its entirety.

Loan/Lease Insurance vs. Gap Insurance

Gap insurance tends to be a bit more generous and flexible than loan/lease payoff coverage and in some critical ways. You can often avoid out-of-pocket costs at all with gap insurance. You won't be forced to come up with a portion of the balance in order to retire the loan against the destroyed or stolen vehicle.

Loan/Lease Payoff Insurance Gap Insurance
Does not cover deductibles May cover deductibles
Pays only up to 25% of the vehicle's actual cash value Pays the difference between the vehicle's actual cash value and the loan balance against it

Do I Need to Buy This Coverage?

It's always best to discuss this type of coverage with your insurance agent rather than deciding on your own whether you need it. Make sure you understand all the details and restrictions that apply to loan/lease payoff agreements.

It can provide helpful coverage even if it doesn't pay 100% of what you owe, and it will certainly come in handy compared to not having any access to coverage when you know you're underwater on your car loan. However, some consumer advocates argue that the premiums for these coverages often are too high given that claim payouts are fairly infrequent.

Key Takeaways

  • Loan/lease payoff insurance will pay up to 25% of your vehicle’s actual cash value after your insurance company has paid you if the vehicle is stolen or totaled.
  • Your insurer must declare the vehicle a total loss.
  • You can usually add loan/lease payoff coverage to your auto insurance coverage at any time. There’s no deadline for making the decision.
  • You must have existing full coverage on your vehicle to qualify.
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Sources
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Insurance Journal. "Auto Loan/Lease Payoff."

  2. Progressive Casualty Insurance Company. "What Is Gap Insurance?"

  3. AutoBidMaster. "Damaged Cars FAQ Insurance."

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