I frequently get asked which cars are more economical to maintain and have the best maintenance track records. This is a great question, but new car buyers looking for economical, hassle-free vehicles should be asking one more important question. What is the price to insure this vehicle? What factors can cause the premium to be higher than other vehicles?
So you are off to look for a new vehicle, and you have done your research on car prices via the Internet. You feel you have educated yourself well. You know the dealer cost and the car's government safety rating, you've read many customer reviews, and you are satisfied with the fuel economy rating. But don't overlooking an important issue that could change the overall financial equation-insurability.
Some factors that can drastically affect insurability are its popularity on the black market and the cost of replacement parts. Are you about to purchase a vehicle that is the number one sought after target of car thieves? Are there parts on the vehicle that are astronomical to replace if stolen or damaged in an accident?
I remember a popular GM minivan that was also very popular with car thieves a few years ago. The thief would break the steering column on the vehicle, take it for a quick joy ride, and then quickly remove all the seats inside. These minivans could seat 8 adults, and the seats conveniently lifted out of the vehicle with minimal effort. The rest of the vehicle was basically untouched. So here is the kicker to the story. The insurance companies would only pay for used "reconditioned" seats which the repair shops would buy from salvage yards or upholstery shops. Why not new seats? The price for new seats was comparable to the total value of the vehicle!
The thieves knew this policy, and it was the basis for them to steal just the seats and not damage anything else. They knew they could sell the stolen seats to salvage yards and upholstery shops for a huge price, and the salvage yards and upholstery shops knew the insurance companies would pay a huge amount to get the seats back. If the thieves damaged the vehicle or had stolen more stuff from it in addition to seats, the total claim might be enough to "total" the vehicle, and the stolen seats would not be repurchased.
This vicious cycle went on for a few months until the insurance companies refused to purchase used seats and would only replace the seats with brand new ones. Well, most these vehicles soon became "total losses" and they were not repaired, but sold to salvage companies. Can you imagine your vehicle not being repaired by your insurance company because someone removed the seats? The engine is fine, the body is not damaged…heck if you could bolt down a lawn chair behind the steering wheel you could have your vehicle back. I could only imagine what the yearly insurance premium was for this vehicle once the seat fiasco was at its hay day.
Some vehicles have super expensive windshields, high priced air bag systems and anti-restraint devices, one of a kind expensive stereo systems, or extra medallions or emblems that can become collector's items by the not-so-honest collector. I remember about ten years ago when Mercedes and Jaguar emblems were a hot item among thieves. Do you remember that? Guys would cut off the hood emblems from these cars and wear them around their necks. For about a two year period, you could not find a Mercedes or Jaguar with the hood emblem attached, and the dealerships could not keep these emblems in stock. It really became frustrating for these vehicle owners to replace the stolen emblem and days later have it stolen again. It just took 2 seconds and a regular pair of wire cutters to remove the emblems…and they were not cheap! Since then both Mercedes and Jaguar have removed their easy to "collect" emblems from their vehicles.
All these items just add to the expense of a collision or theft repair. The insurance companies know what items typically break in a crash or what items are sought after by thieves, and they adjust their premiums accordingly.
So before you drive off the lot with your new car, place a quick call to your insurance agent and get a price quote on full coverage. Your agent should be able to tell you which part of the coverage is adding the most to the total premium cost. If theft coverage is higher than most cars of that type, it could be a clue you could be in for some harassment from would-be thieves. If the comprehensive portion of the policy is higher than other vehicles, this higher premium could be a tip off that there are expensive or hard to replace items that are known to break during an accident. Theses added expenses could also extend repair time and cause the vehicle to reach "total loss" value quicker than other cars-like in the seat example.
So call your insurance agent and check the insurability of the vehicle you are looking at before you have to call your agent and submit a claim.
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Austin C Davis
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