September 15, 2010

How Automobile Accessories Can Be Covered On Your Auto Insurance Policy

While it’s a requirement everywhere to have an auto insurance policy in place in order to legally be able to drive your car, what is required is generally only a bare minimum of coverage. Typically it is $15,000 for injury or death to one person, $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage. These requirements are put in place to make certain a driver has at least some financial responsibility in case of an accident he or she might have caused. When another party has a lien on the vehicle, while a loan is being paid off, say, or the car is being leased, then comprehensive insurance is required by the lien-holder to protect his interests. This policy would repair or replace the vehicle in the case of an accident. But, what about automobile accessories? Are they covered, and will they be replaced?

The short answer is no. What is original equipment on the automobile is of course covered, but if the owner has installed a high-end stereo system, or very expensive aftermarket rims, or reupholstered the interior, these additions were not taken into account when the policy was priced and premiums set, so the insurance company will not assume the responsibility of paying to replace them.

So what can be done? The answer is to buy a rider for your auto insurance policy. This is an additional policy based on the original one that covers anything the original policy might not have covered for an additional premium. It’s important when writing the rider that the true value of the accessories be appraised, and that requires some diligence on the part of the vehicle owner. A comprehensive declaration of what was added to the car will be required, and even original receipts might be required by the company. It’s also important that the owner know if the payout terms are “actual cash value” or “replacement value.” Actual cash value allows the insurance company to depreciate the value of the accessory over time, and pay that reduced value when a claim is made. “Repair or replace” means that the company is obligated to pay a sum sufficient to get you back exactly what you lost in the accident. Since accessories don’t depreciate the way the auto itself does, this is an important distinction.

There are some other considerations to take into account when making a claim. If making a claim will increase premiums, a calculation should be made: is the owner ahead financially if he or she paid for the loss out of pocket rather than make a claim.

Automobile accessories can be valuable investments. Care should be taken to protect them.