We all like to think we’re pretty knowledgeable when it comes to our insurance policies. We know our deductible and we know if we have collision or comprehensive coverage.
We even know that certain, cartoon-come-to-life mascots represent our vehicular interests.
However, there is more to car insurance than the catch phrases and humorous commercials.
Here are five things you might not know about car insurance. Knowing them can save you a lot of money. Not knowing them can prove to be extremely costly.
1. It’s the car that’s insured, not necessarily the person.
You’re a nice person. You also happen to own a pickup truck, let’s say a shiny new Ford F-150. Your best friend knows about your genial and generous nature. They also happen to be moving. Of course, your best friend asks to borrow your F-150 since their king-size water bed won’t fit in the comically small trunk of their FIAT 500.
Being the nice person you are, you hand over the keys, show them where you keep the registration, and silently hope all goes well because you really, really like your truck.
The thing about people who drive FIAT 500s is they aren’t used to driving 244-inch long cars. So, your (formerly) best friend scrapes your truck along a brick wall, completely tearing up the entire passenger side. Initially, you’re happy that your friend has a really low deductible, collision, and comprehensive coverage on their car insurance.
But, that joy is fleeting because their insurance doesn’t cover your car, even if they’re the driver. Your insurance covers your car, frequently, no matter the driver. So, it’s your coverage that has to pay for the damage to your truck. If you have a high deductible and no comprehensive coverage, you’re out of luck.
It’s always a good idea to contact your insurance company to see the extent of your coverage when you’re not the one driving your car when your car gets into an accident.
2. A broken window may be covered, but a stolen phone isn’t.
If your car is parked on the street with your laptop, iPhone or other uber-stealable item, and an industrious thief decides to break your window to abscond with your valuable electronics, you’re likely covered for the broken window.
As for replacing that lost item of value, you are often out of luck.
In the majority of auto insurance policies, damage to your car caused by vandals or theft is covered. The goods in your car, however, are not. Keep your valuables out of site, and contact your insurance company, just to be on the safe side.
3. Changing policies may equal lower rate.
In many situations, loyalty is rewarded. Go to the same restaurant every Sunday for breakfast for ten years, odds are, every once and a while, your meal (or at least desert) will be taken care of by the proprietor. Keep going to the same barber for longer than your hairstyle has actually been in style; they’ll probably give you a birthday present.
This is not the case with car insurance. Take a look at your past few car insurance renewals. No tickets? No accidents? Rate creeping up anyway? You’re not alone. Sometimes, car insurance companies will raise your rates for no apparent reason. It’s their way of balancing out the discounts given when people first sign up.
The best way to handle rate-creep is to shop around every once and a while. If insurance companies are going to price new policies aggressively, it might not be a bad idea to see if it works for you to become one of those new policy holders somewhere else.
4. Fido’s vet bills may be covered in an accident.
There are few things sadder to a pet owner than when their beloved fur-baby is hurt in a car accident. You and your passengers have airbags and seatbelts to protect you in an accident. Your dog, cat, bird, iguana, or bunny isn’t so lucky.
Worse yet, vet bills, especially for emergencies, can be very expensive.
Depending on your car insurance policy, however, you might be in luck. Some car insurance policies cover up to $1,000 in vet bills if your pet is involved in an accident. Pets aren’t covered in all policies or in all states, so be sure to check with your insurance agent to see if Fido is covered.
5. After an accident, you may be able to get your settlement check AND sell your damaged car.
This is a big one. Keep in mind, a repaired car can lose up to 30% of its pre-accident value. That’s called diminished value, and some car insurance policies may reimburse you for some of that lost equity. If you decide to repair your car after you get your settlement check, there are a few things you need to know.
First off, get your car out of the tow lot as quickly as you can, as they charge up to $100 per day. Next, repair the vehicle. You don’t need to use the repair shop your insurance recommends either. You can choose your own.
However, not all shops are created equal.
Research your body shop. Are they I-Car Gold certified? Have they worked with your type of car before? Do they have good reviews? It’s also a good idea to get multiple estimates if possible. Find out if the estimates are just being done visually or if there is a partial tear-down to look for hidden damage.
Here’s the good part: Depending on the damage, repairing your car may not be the best option. If your car is a lease or you owe money to a lienholder, you may be required to repair your car. But, if you own the car outright, you can ask your insurance company for a check AND sell your car to a damaged car buyer, like DamagedCars.com.
Your settlement check is designed to make you whole again, vehicle wise that is. But, with that whole diminished value thing, it’s not easy to do. If your car isn’t completely totaled, some insurance policies will allow you to take their check and turn around and sell your car. This will get you the most bang for your car buck.
Car insurance can be annoying, stressful, and complicated. By knowing your options and understanding the fine print, you can save yourself a lot of time, money, and aggravation.
*Nick Glasnovich is the Marketing Director for CAS Auto Group, the parent company of DamagedCars.com who buy cars in less-than-perfect condition. Nick is also the founder and executive editor of TickTickVroom.com, a car and watch blog. Nick drives a 2015 Subaru WRX STI that he’s slowly modifying (but wishes he was modifying faster).