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Tire Insurance: Myths And Facts About Road Hazard Policies

Insurance—it’s everywhere. One can insure just about anything. Are tires an investment one needs to insure? Tire insurance, also called a road hazard policy, road hazard warranty, or tire reimbursement plan, is a rapidly growing industry in the automotive world. Tire warranty plans pay in full or in part for the replacement or repair of damaged tires and/or rims from “road hazards.” Road hazards are defined as pot holes, debris, nails, wood, and other hazards found in the road. Curbs, sidewalks, and stone walls are not road hazards.

This is an important distinction to consider when deciding if tire insurance is right for you (discussed further ahead). Tire plans last for a specific period of time and tire wear tread-depth. Some plans last 2-3 years. Others can last 5 years or 60,000 miles. Several plans come with fixed amounts of coverage: $500 per year up to 4 years.

Many contracts require three years of law school to comprehend. In terms of tread depth, a tire is usually considered worn out (and thus the plan null and void) at 2/32 to 3/32 of an inch. Another important distinction is in the type of plan. Tire reimbursement plans are just what they say. You, the plan holder, will be reimbursed after the claims process is finalized—usually 2-8 weeks. There is an out-of-pocket expense. These plans are often sold by new car dealerships. The prices can range from $300 to $600 dollars. Road hazard policies operate similarly to reimbursement plans. However, some tire insurance providers, in partnership with the repair facility, may have a direct-pay relationship.

Thus, there would be no out-of-pocket expense, except for applicable deductibles, and items not covered in part or in full. These plans are primarily sold by tire dealers and repairshops. The prices range from $10 to $30 per tire. They also can be based on a percentage of the cost of the tire: usually 12% to 15%. Both types of plans have a number of variables, requiring a magnifying glass to read the fine print. Also, many are pro-rated warranties, covering only a percentage of the cost of the tire based on its wear. Claims and Coverage: Depending on the plan, claims are initiated by the repair shop. The process is fairly smooth, although there can be a significant delay from the provider for authorization. This delay may be an hour or an entire weekend. This means that you’ll have to “ok” the tire replacement, and then hope it’s authorized for the full amount, or drive on your spare.

Some plans offer national coverage either among their service facilities or from other repair centers. Claims procedures will vary. Others only provide local coverage, or coverage at the selling facility. Limitations: Tire insurance does not mean that everything is covered. Pro-rated warranties are based on the wear and tear of the tire. You may get 75%, 50%, or only 10% coverage depending on the tread-depth. You’ll pay the remainder. While there are plans that offer full coverage, even these have limitations, or they may conflict with a repair shop’s policies. For example, many plans allow for a maximum of $30 to mount and balance one tire, and a maximum of $15 to repair a tire. However, sport tires often have significantly higher mounting and balancing fees—upwards of $50 per tire—and tire repair prices can exceed $90.

There are also discrepancies on the tire and rim prices themselves, which in the end, may have to be supplemented by the service customer. Although there usually is not an issue with the latter given the competitive market, the service center’s price mark up may be unacceptable to the plan provider. In this case, the service center needs to lower the price or you, the service customer, need to pay the difference—or go somewhere else. This does happen! Rim Prices and Repairs: Rim replacement is becoming less frequent. With the high cost of aluminum wheels and sport wheel packages, tire insurers have opted to have them repaired. Repair will only be done if the rim does not hold air. What this means is that even if the rim is warped—enough to cause a vibration and even premature tire wear—they won’t replace it. Rather, they will send it out to be straightened and repaired. Rims are replaced only if the damage is so extensive that the new tire, when mounted on the rim, won’t hold air.


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