Is Car Wear and Tear Covered by Insurance?

You’re at the car lot contemplating the rainbow of color options before you. As the sun bounces off the Cobalt Blue sedan (or is it Nautical Blue?), your temporary blindness sends your brain into overdrive. Will the color you choose define your personality? Will it attract more bird poop? Will it affect your auto insurance rate? The answers: uh, totally; unfortunately, yes; and nope, that’s just a myth.

Once you settle on Hemoglobin Red (sorry, Erudite Maroon), you take it home and marvel at its shiny newness. Then over time, like any relationship, it starts to show its age. Fine lines appear on the passenger side (a result of driving too close to those overgrown bushes?) and perhaps the once-vibrant color you fell in love with has begun to dull. Sure, the weekly car washes help, but once the rust seeps in, you struggle to remember the thrill you felt when you first looked into those now-cloudy headlights.

But you’re loyal. So rather than trading your car in for a younger model, you decide to do your best to restore it to its former glory. And that gets you wondering …

Does comprehensive coverage pay for car wear and tear?

In general, your car insurance policy doesn’t cover maintenance for car wear and tear or mechanical breakdowns. That’s because those costs are to be expected and insurance is meant to cover the unexpected. If your car is still under warranty, however, that contract may have some provisions for vehicle maintenance and upkeep.

While your car insurance may not cover rust or other wear and tear, comprehensive and collision coverage can help cover physical damage to your car (like the dents on your bumper from a bouncing tire iron on Highway 101 … true story). They can also help pay for damage from accidents and certain natural disasters, as well as vandalism and theft.

Wear and tear versus damage

Along with peeling paint and worn-out brakes, it’s natural for a car to get a few scratches and minor dents over the years. But what exactly is considered damage (i.e., what will your car insurance cover?), and what’s considered wear and tear? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Car wear and tear

Car damage

Rust/peeling paintWindshield damage (Esurance will generally waive your deductible if you need to repair a chip or crack)
Interior scuffs/ripped upholsteryDents (from collisions, severe weather, deer, errant golf balls, etc.)
Worn out mechanical parts (like brakes, engine parts, and axles) and electronics failuresVandalism (like keying, spray paint, or break-in damage)
General maintenanceFire

If you’re wondering about a specific scenario, give your car insurance company a call. Esurance customers can call us at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

Why do I have to have my car inspected to add physical damage coverage?

If you choose to add comprehensive and/or collision coverage to your policy, some states require you to have your vehicle inspected. The goal of the inspection is to create an accurate record of your car’s condition at the time your policy starts. That way, if you file a claim later, the adjuster can verify what damage was from that accident and what was pre-existing. This saves time when settling a claim and also helps insurance companies avoid paying more than necessary (which helps keep rates lower for everyone).

When you buy a new car, it’s generally wise to purchase physical damage coverage because it would be expensive to repair or replace a newer model. But as it begins to age, you can determine whether these coverages are still worth the added cost.

To check out which coverages could be right for you, visit our Coverage Counselor®.

 

Motorcycle Safety: The Coolest New Innovations

“Motorcycle safety” used to be something of an oxymoron. After all, motorbikes — and bikers — have a certain reputation for rebelliousness and daring. Would people have gone to see films called The Reasonable One or Safety-Conscious Rider? Would “Amiable” Knievel have had a big career? I don’t think so.

But in real life, no one wants to be the victim of a motorbike accident. So while manufacturers have been working on performance, power, and style, they’ve also been perfecting motorcycle safety features — including adapting many that were first developed for cars.

In honor of Ride to Work Day (and the fact that we now offer motorcycle insurance in Wisconsin), here are some of the biggest innovations in motorcycle safety, along with a few hints of what’s to come.

Airbags

Honda was the first to introduce a motorcycle airbag system in 2006. Motorcycle airbags haven’t really caught on, though — the Honda Gold Wing is still the lone production bike with such a system, and it only protects against head-on collisions. Most of the innovations in this area seem to have come from makers of suits, jackets, and helmets, rather than the bike manufacturers themselves.

The first airbag suit to hit the market was from Japanese manufacturer RS Taichi in 2008, followed soon after by their airbag jacket. Both items attach to the bike with a wire, and when the wire becomes detached, airbags in the neck inflate to help stabilize the bones in the neck.

Other companies contributed their own suits, jackets, and vests that also used a tether system. There was some concern about riders forgetting to unhook the tether, however, causing an accidental deployment. Italian apparel company Dainese solved this problem with their “wireless” D-Air® suit, the first system that doesn’t require a physical connection to the bike. The D-Air, which was made available to consumers in 2011, uses sensors and special algorithms to detect crash conditions. And it’s fast: their racing suit deploys in as little as 15 milliseconds (the street version takes 45 milliseconds).

High-tech helmets

To helmet, or not to helmet — for many bikers, that’s a big question. Helmets seem to go against the “wind-in-your-hair” spirit of freedom that riding is all about. But, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), wearing a helmet reduces the risk of a fatal accident by 37 percent. And when Michigan made it legal last year for riders over 21 to go without helmets, the severity of injury claims went up 22 percent. That’s a pretty strong argument for donning the ol’ brain bucket.

Helmet manufacturers have also been experimenting with airbags. Barcelona-based APC Systems brought the first airbag helmet to market in 2008. Their design used speed sensors to determine when a crash was imminent, which inflated an airbag that protected the rider’s neck and upper spine.

Last year, Swedish company Hövding took the airbag helmet concept one step further by getting rid of the headwear aspect. Using sensors similar to the APC and Dainese products, this “invisible,” inflatable helmet deploys from a collar worn around the neck. Not only does it eliminate helmet hair, it also looks kind of awesome, in a Stockholm-art-gallery kind of way. It’s currently intended just for use on bicycles, but it’ll be interesting to see if anyone comes out with a motorcycle version.

ThermaHelm® takes a different approach altogether. Their so-called “brain cooling” helmet, introduced in 2010, contains a chemical packet that activates in the event of a crash, creating a reaction that cools the rider’s head to help reduce brain swelling.

Intelligent lights

Any headlight can illuminate what’s in front of you, but adaptive headlights show you what’s around the next bend. Opel rolled out the first cars with adaptive forward lighting in 2003. Then, in 2011, BMW brought this technology to motorcycles, offering adaptive headlights that tilt according to the bike’s lean angle.

Brake lights are a special concern on motorcycles. Since bikes decelerate much faster than cars or trucks, riders sometimes don’t use their brakes to slow down. That means the vehicle behind the bike may not get any warning that the bike is losing speed. San Diego start-up Vectolabs is currently raising funds for their new LED safety feature called Vololights. This device automatically lights up when the motorcycle slows down — whether the rider is applying the brakes or not — and varies its flash rate depending on how quickly the bike is stopping.

Anti-lock brakes

Anti-lock braking systems (ABS) have been preventing cars from skidding since GM first introduced them 1972. BMW was the first to pioneer ABS for motorcycles in 1988, and in 2010, Bosch announced the world’s first ABS designed specifically for motorcycles. Previous systems were based on passenger-car technology, but the new Bosch system was smaller and lighter and could be adapted to various sizes of motorcycle.

Studies have shown that ABS can reduce the rate of fatal motorcycle collisions by around 31 percent. Nonetheless, a myth persists that good riders don’t need ABS. This may be due to a lack of exposure — up until recently, ABS was an expensive option and not readily available. This seems likely to change, though. The EU has passed legislation making ABS a requirement on new motorcycles over 125cc, beginning in 2016, and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) is urging the NHTSA to do the same.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Should helmets and ABS be required on motorbikes? And what new motorcycle safety features would you like to see?

Related links

Summertime Travel: Motorcycle Safety

Top 5 Reasons to Ride a Motorcycle

Car Rust: The Hidden Cost of a Dirty Car

Father’s Day is Sunday! And though that means different things to different people, for many, there’s a connection between dads and cars. For me, as a kid, it was considered a privilege to wash the car. But as an adult … not so much.

If you’re like me, you don’t wash your car often enough. You mean to, of course — it gives you no pleasure to watch the neighborhood kids scrawl “Wash Me” into the grime. And unless you’re an entomologist, you probably have no interest in staring at the insects plastered to your windshield. But along with these daily indignities, is it possible that your laissez-faire attitude is actually costing you money?

Car rust: the high price of a dirty car

In the short term, not washing your car regularly won’t affect your expenses. It’ll have no effect on your insurance premium, for instance, and you might even save a few bucks by avoiding professional washes or do-it-yourself washing gear. But in the long term, you’re probably doing your car, and your wallet, a big disservice.

Obviously, an accumulation of dirt, dust, and other particles on the surface of a vehicle is unsightly. But the broader problem is that you’re driving around with a layer of grit perpetually scratching your car’s finish. The clear coat (the top layer of your car’s finish) is designed to protect the paint from dulling due to UV radiation and to provide a physical barrier between the paint and the outside world. Abrasive dirt is going to cause that barrier to wear down faster.

And dirt isn’t the only (or worst) thing that regularly lands on your car. Bird droppings, acid rain, industrial pollutants, sap from trees, and those aforementioned dead insects all damage paint over time. If these aren’t quickly removed from your car’s surface, either with a paint cleaning liquid or a clay bar (or both together, if necessary), it’s bad news for your car’s finish. Without a regular washing schedule, you’re giving these contaminants more time to do their dirty work, which could chemically damage your paint.

But paint damage isn’t just an issue of aesthetics. Your paint and clear coat are also defending your car against its most dangerous foe: rust.

How to avoid car rust

Rust, or oxidation, is the natural process of metals breaking down when they’re exposed to air. One scratch that gets through the paint and exposes the metal underneath is all it takes to get rust started. And once it starts, it’s not going to stop.

The speed at which rust consumes your vehicle can be greatly affected by the presence of salt, which electrochemically increases the rate at which metal corrodes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a salt that’s used to remove snow from the roads (a regular feature in colder climates) or a salt that’s in the air because you live near the ocean (as I do). Washing regularly is the best way to minimize salt’s effect and keep rust at bay.

And once there’s rust? Well, then you’ve got a potentially costly issue. While surface rust can be removed by sanding and repainting at home (which is certainly more complicated than a car wash), if it’s not caught in time, rust can penetrate deep into your car’s frame, damage its structural integrity, and even render it unsafe to drive.

Taking time to thoroughly wash the salt, dirt, and other particles off your vehicle can significantly decrease the risk of rust (which will help your car maintain its resale value). And washing your car means you’re more likely to spot visible scratches, dings, and other trouble spots. This gives you an opportunity to address minor blemishes on your car’s finish before you find yourself with serious paint damage (and help you spot other mechanical issues before you find out about them the hard way).

How often should you wash your car?

Experts say once a week is ideal. That’s frequent enough that if you accidentally miss a week, you won’t be sent into a rusty tailspin. And by making it part of your weekly routine (say, Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m.), it will be easier to remember. Keeping your car clean doesn’t just make it look nice; it just might help you maintain its resale value.

Besides, isn’t it time the neighborhood kids started picking on someone else’s dirty car for a change?

 

Why Did My Car Insurance Rates Change?

No matter how much you study it, insurance is a tough product to figure out. With so many factors affecting car insurance rates, it can even seem a bit random at times (though we can assure you it’s not).

One question we hear on occasion is, “Why did my rates go up if I haven’t had any claims?” So we reached out to our customer service pros to fill us in.

The nature of car insurance: an agreement based on unknown risk

When you think about most contracts, the businesses involved know what they’re exchanging for your money. Hire a lawyer, he or she is giving you hours. Lease a vehicle, the dealership is handing over a set of wheels. But when you buy car insurance, the insurer gives you … a promise?

Yes, strange as it is, there’s nothing to hold in your hand or track on a spreadsheet after you sign a policy. Instead, what you get is an agreement: in exchange for your premium, you get to transfer driving risk to the insurer. And if anything ever does happen on the road, they promise to help pay for the incident.

But here’s the really cool part: the insurance company agrees to this promise without ever knowing what your incident will cost. So, if you cause an accident, or live in a no-fault state, your insurer will have your back and be there to pay your claim (up to your coverage limits, of course). On the other hand, if you didn’t cause the incident and don’t live in a no-fault state, it would likely be the at-fault person’s insurer that does the paying.

If nothing changed, why did my car insurance go up in price?

Because insurers never know what they’ll have to pay, or how often, they can’t offer you one flat car insurance rate forever. They’re always trying to forecast the average claim. And — for good or bad — your rate can change accordingly.

If your insurer studies your neighborhood, for instance, and finds that collision claims are being filed twice as often than the previous year, or for higher settlements, you might see a small spike in your premium even if you, yourself, didn’t file any claims. Same goes if you move from an area with fewer claims to one with more.

The good news? Well, insurers serve large groups of people, so when you do have a rate increase, it’s usually small (hooray for safety in numbers!). What’s more, claim trends in your area can also go the other way. If your insurer discovers an improved claims history in your area, they could give you a rate reduction at your next renewal as a result.

Shop around to lower your auto insurance rates

Since the cost of car insurance isn’t fixed, most policy terms only run for 6 months. This can be great for customers because it gives you frequent opportunities to reexamine your policy. Before you renew, shop around for the best rate and coverage.

At Esurance, we want you to have the right protection for your needs. Try our Coverage Counselor® for help selecting the right auto insurance coverage for you based on your input.

 

Self-Driving Cars: Can We Really Trust Them?

As recently as 2009, a driverless car seemed like a sci-fi fantasy — heck, why not make it fly or swim while you’re at it? Then, in 2010, the folks at Google revealed that they had been working on a self-driving car, and suddenly, the future was not only here, but it might even be cruising along in the lane beside you.

300,000 testing miles later, Google now projects that they will be able to bring self-driving technology to the market by 2018. Several car manufacturers (including Toyota, Audi, and BMW) have also been developing their own driverless vehicles, and self-driving cars are already street-legal in California, Nevada, and Florida. But are we getting ahead of ourselves? We aren’t talking about a vehicle on a track or in the relatively roomy space of the sky. We’re talking about free navigation of city streets and highways with all their attendant hazards (accidents, road work, pedestrians, other drivers). I think of San Francisco, with its wacky rules about left turns, one-way streets that suddenly switch directions, and ubiquitous double-parkers, and I wish the poor driverless cars luck.

The technology of self-driving cars

As we discussed in an earlier post, Google’s self-driving car relies on a combination of sensors (including lasers, radar, GPS, and a car-mounted camera) to get around. The car synthesizes all this data in real time  and uses artificial intelligence to make decisions while it’s in motion.

On top of that, cars in general are becoming increasingly capable of communicating with one another. So when they’re equipped with high-speed broadband (as some models will soon be), they could potentially receive alerts about road conditions from other wired-up cars.

The developers of these vehicles envision a more efficient world, where autonomous cars could be packed together in “road trains” and multiple passengers could share a single self-driving car (like Zipcar, only it comes to you). Passengers could then theoretically spend their commute reading, sleeping, surfing the web, talking, texting, and relaxing.

Self-driving cars: the bad news

Google’s car can do a lot of things — keep a safe driving distance, find a parking space, brake to avoid a collision — but as of mid-May, it still couldn’t obey road signs or handle poor weather conditions (and there are conflicting reports about whether it can recognize pedestrians). Clearly, there’s still a long way to go before the cars are fully autonomous and ready for prime time … or rush hour.

Additionally, a self-driving car’s ability to get where it needs to go depends on a highly detailed, error-free map of roads and signals. This mapping already exists in GPS programs like Google Maps, and it’s getting more sophisticated all the time, but occasionally it’s just plain wrong (like when Google Maps sent me down a pedestrian-only cobblestone street in Ljubljana, Slovenia. That was fun.).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) seems to feel the technology is far from ready. In fact, they recently called for a ban on the use of automated cars for purposes other than testing until they have conducted a thorough study.

Self-driving cars: the good news

The logistics of a successful driverless car may seem hopelessly complicated, but many cars are already available with “assisted driving” features like autonomous braking, self-parking, and sensors that warn you if you’re getting too close to a car or obstacle. So far, results are promising. Cars with autonomous braking, for example, had a substantial decrease in collision claims. Obviously, there’s a big difference between automatic brakes and a totally driverless car, but that gap is closing every day.

Self-driving cars also have another advantage over human drivers: they don’t get tired, distracted, or angry. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 90 percent of car accidents are caused by human error. Once the current technology issues are resolved, driverless cars have the potential to drastically reduce road accidents. These cars also offer mobility for people with health issues (such as impaired vision) that prevent them from driving standard cars.

There’s safety in numbers too. In a way, the more driverless cars are on the road, the better driving conditions will get. Cars will be increasingly more connected to each other and to government traffic systems, reducing congestion, accidents, and thefts. Also, the vehicles will learn as they drive and, using cloud technology, report everything from route information to road conditions, which can be accessed by other cars with the same software.

So how safe are self-driving cars?

Well, right now, it’s too soon to say. But if the technology continues to improve, we might be far safer in driverless cars, on roads filled with other autonomous vehicles, than we ever were with human drivers.

Find out what’s next in the world of driverless vehicles, and how cars are getting more connected than ever.