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Things you really need to know about insurance

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When you sign up for car insurance you may be under the impression that you simply pay your monthly premium and you are covered for everything bar an unsuccessful attempt at the land speed record. While a good policy protects you from most driving calamities, it does not allow you to be reckless, nor can you materially change the conditions under which the insurance was granted.

Not knowing your way around your policy can result in a serious dent in your wallet as well as your bumper. If there are any grey areas pertaining to your conditions of cover you are going to be the one draws the short straw. So while you are busy shopping around for the best price it is also a good idea to look at the inclusions, exclusions and the activities that you may be penalised for.

Did you know for example that should your car be involved in an accident due to lack of maintenance, your insurer is unlikely to pay out. Policyholders can be covered against their own negligence-to a degree but insurers are entitled to decline a claim if the policyholder’s behaviour was reckless or if their vehicle was not roadworthy. So if you add a NOS kit and a jet booster to the engine, chances are you will not be covered when it spontaneously combusts on start up.

The onus is on you to safeguard the vehicle from loss and damage and maintain it in an efficient condition at all times to remain covered. So, if for example you leave your keys in the ignition when you pop into the local Shabeen, or you leave it next to a demolition site in the path of a wrecking ball; your insurer would conclude that reasonable steps were not taken to safeguard your car.

Ensure that tyres, brakes, gears, wipers, and everything else that contributes to the effective and safe working of the vehicle is actually working. If you had an accident on a rainy day and your tyres were as smooth as Zuma’s excuses, the insurance assessor would not certify the car roadworthy. If you need the length of a jetliners runway for your car to stop-well this would also be a problem.

Coverage when lending out your car.

Most policies do cover you if the car is in the hands of another driver but some need to be informed. Insurance companies determine your premium based on the regular driver’s details; they take into account your age, driving ability and claims history. If you have a situation where you swap cars or lend out vehicles for extended periods, you should call your insurance company to add or change the nominated driver.

There are some insurers who limit the cover of vehicles to specific and nominated drivers only. Your policy schedule and wording will highlight this. Check your documents to see whether this is the case for in such instances there may be no provision whatsoever for anyone else to drive your car.

Policies that do cater for multiple drivers usually have additional excess levied if another driver is involved in an accident with your vehicle. For example, if your car is covered for private use and a colleague borrows it to go and see some clients, there may be no cover for the vehicle if it sustains damage while the driver is on a business trip. Business use carries a premium loading and if you are paying the premium for private use, business use is excluded. And remember, it is vitally important for you to check that the driver is in possession of a valid driver’s licence. No licence, no cover. Sober would be good too, if they have been drinking, bye bye cover.

Sometimes youth can be pain in the pocket. If you are 25 or under, or you are buying a new car for your offspring, before you sign on the line give the insurance company a call and check if they have any engine size limitations for a young driver. If you manage to bag a 5 litre supercharged gangsta car for a ‘steal’ you may find that you are sent to the car insurer’s leper colony. A 20 year old wannabe street racer with a missile, is not going to sit well with an insurance company. Some limit new drivers to a 1400 engine. Never say never though, if you are prepared to pay a squillion rand premium, you may just get the cover.

Another way to be black balled is to move house and not inform the insurer. If at the time you got insurance your car was parked in a locked garage, inside a gate, inside a guarded community with armed guards, helicopters and attack dogs, your premiums will look very different to those levied if you lived in the middle of the city next to Pete’s Pawn Emporium.

Expired drivers licence? You are breaking the law and insurance companies do not support illegal activity. Time to make that appointment.

Yet another insurance no-no is to change the use of the vehicle without informing the insurer. So if you only use your $ X $ to jump medians in traffic jams (you know who you are) but then decide that you could make money using it to transport beds, bikes and lounge suites to Polokwane; you could risk losing your claim.

So while you expect your insurer to come to the party you must too, in your Sunday best and hand on heart.

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