4WD insurance is one of the necessary evils in life. You'd rather not have the hassle of finding a good quality policy and paying the premiums month after month, but when something does go wrong (and it does!) you wouldn't be without it.
The real shame though, is the massive difference between 4WD insurance policies and the lack of transparency and knowledge that goes with it. There are far too many grey areas when it comes to insuring your pride and joy and these often only become apparent after the fact; when its too late to do anything about it.
I've seen a lot of people get stung by insurance companies, and its frustrating for me and far worse for those on the receiving end. I'm on a mission to make people more aware of what to look for in a quality 4WD insurance policy.
Is your 4WD really covered?
Yep, you've got insurance, and are covered should it all go pear shaped. Or are you?
You should be, but due to the many grey areas, long product disclosures and general lack of knowledge within the insurance industry many people find out the hard way. When something does go wrong they either have their claim declined, or they miss out on a substantial portion of it.
There's a few ways that insurance companies get out of paying 4WD insurance claims, and I'd love to see more people aware of them!
Poor verbal advice
When you ring various insurance companies, you'll get a whole heap of bad information. Many sales reps doing quotes simply don't understand the product they are selling, and the market they are covering (referring mainly to the 4WD industry). If you ring up and ask an insurance company whether your Patrol with a 4 inch lift and 35's is covered, they should tell you straight out, 'No, its not!'.
However, many will say 'yeah, no worries'. What they should be telling you is that your vehicle must be legal and roadworthy in order to be covered. If you were to go off their bad advice and have an accident, you'd only find out in the event of a claim that what you were told up front is not correct.
When you question your insurance company, ask them for an answer in writing. This way, if you are influenced by the wrong information, you have a paper trail to back it up.
Driving in excluded areas
Many 4WD's purchased will drive on a beach from time to time. Did you know some insurance companies won't cover beach driving? Some won't even cover you off the bitumen! No, I'm not kidding. Seriously; ring your insurance company and ask them. You might be surprised at the answer.
Along with beach driving, gazetted and non gazetted roads, private property and non registered 4WD tracks, there's a realm of grey areas where you may or may not be covered by your existing insurance policy. If the PDS says that you aren't covered for driving in a certain area and you have an accident, what do you reckon the chances of being paid out are?
Not being covered for a realistic amount
It's important here that you are aware of how, and what your 4WD is insured for. If it is insured for market value, every year that passes the value of your 4WD drops. If you have an accident 5 years after purchasing a 4WD, the market value will have dropped substantially, and you will get much less than what it was originally covered for. That's fine if you are aware of it, but a lot of people aren't!
Agreed value on the other hand, is a figure that you set (and the insurance company agrees to), which does not change for the term of the policy (12 months). I believe this is the better option of the two.
Lets take it a step further though; a lot of people have spent thousands of dollars on 4WD accessories. Are you covered for everything bolted onto your 4WD? What do they actually cover? I've found insurance companies often won't cover more than about 30% of the value of the vehicle in modifications and accessories.
If you write your vehicle off then, what would it cost to replace it with an identical one, including all the accessories? Guaranteed its a lot more than what you are covered for!
The last one that I will mention relates to having a roadworthy 4WD. Every single insurance company states in their PDS that in order to be covered you must have a vehicle that is roadworthy, and meets the legal requirements within the state you reside.
In Western Australia, that means 50mm increase in vehicle height via tyres, suspension or body lift (and in combination). If you go higher than that, your insurance company has a valid way of getting out of a claim! How many people do you think in Australia are driving vehicles lifted beyond the legal requirements, that have 4WD insurance? Every single one of them can have their claims declined.
If you want the bigger tyres and lift, you need to have it engineered.
We've swapped to Club 4x4 Insurance
With the above information, you are probably thinking we've had a bad experience with our previous insurance company. The truth is, we haven't. I've been with RAC insurance for the better part of 9 years now, and can't complain much about them at all.
I had one claim in my previous Hilux when I rear ended a van on the way to work, and they covered it with minimal issues. That said, since getting the Land Cruiser (and spending a small fortune on it), I haven't been happy with the level of cover they offered, and they won't budge. Our vehicle was insured for the maximum value that they would go up to, and it still fell vastly far away from the true replacement cost.
So, when Pat Callinhan started pushing a new insurance company set up purely for 4WD's, my interest was peaked. I actually attempted to get a quote a year or so back, and it failed online. As you do, life got in the way and I forgot about it.
That is, until Kalen from Club 4x4 Insurance made contact asking if I was interested in getting a quote. It just so happened to be a few days after I received the renewal notice from RAC; perfect timing.
Getting the quote
Getting a quote is easy; you can do it online in 2 minutes at www.club4x4.com.au or call them on 1800 CLUB 4x4 (1800 259 249). They will require a list of your modifications and a replacement value for each (doesn't have to be correct to the cent!). Once they have the information, give them a day and they will be in touch.
I listed the value of all the accessories fitted to our 80 series, and nearly had a heart attack. Thankfully, Club 4x4 didn't, and I received a quote the next day. Their premium was higher than I had been paying, but the value of cover was also substantially better.
So, why Club 4x4 Insurance?
Better cover of 4WD accessories
Whilst other insurance companies only cover a small portion of the value of your accessories and modifications, Club 4x4 cover the full price of every single accessory bolted to your 4WD. With RAC, our 80 series was covered for just under $20,000, including the massive list of accessories. Club 4x4 have insured it for $42,200 ($26,000 worth of accessories and $16,200 for the vehicle itself).
Why should you put up with an insurance policy that only covers a portion of the replacement value of your 4WD? Isn't that the point of insurance; to cover you when something does go wrong?
They understand 4WDs
For the first time in Australia, we have an insurance company that is solely dedicated to insuring 4WD's. This means they are avid 4WDer's themselves, and speak our language. You can ask them anything you want to know about your cover, and they will answer it with the knowledge and experience behind them to back it up.
I questioned them on cover for dirty fuel, getting a stick through the radiator causing engine damage, breakdown cover, repair vs write off probability and a whole range of other things. I was impressed with their answers every time, and they didn't have to put the phone down to talk to a manager, or get back to me after reading their PDS!
Off Road Recovery included
Despite all the preparation under the sun, things still go wrong when you are out and about in your 4WD. Lets say your transfer case fails in the middle of the Simpson Desert, and you need to have your vehicle recovered back to the nearest town. Who's going to help you?
I know of no insurance company that will cover the costs of recovering a 4WD that has had a mechanical or electrical failure. Club 4x4 cover $1500 with all of their policies, and you have the option of getting cover all the way up to $30,000 if required. When it comes to remote area recoveries, expect it to cost huge money; we are talking $400 per hour, from the moment a 4WD truck is turned on to come and get you until you get back home!
Most insurance companies will recover your vehicle in the event of an accident from wherever you are (as long as you are covered to be there). Club 4x4 does this too; its pretty standard cover, just Club 4x4 covers breakdown recovery too.
Touring gear cover included
I don't like leaving my camp gear behind for the day, even when its way out in the bush. There are too many grubs around these days, and when you've spent a small fortune to live comfortably when camping, I reckon I've got every right to be concerned. We do what we can; hide anything that is expensive, shut everything up and take whats practical with us. However, at some point you've just got to trust that no ones going to come and take your Oztent and other expensive gear.
Club 4x4 Insurance covers up to 2 grand worth of touring gear. This includes camping gear left unattended. If you want more cover, you have the option of increasing this up to $10,000. Ever heard of another insurance company offering this?
They are clear and straight forward
It makes my blood boil to speak to other 4WD owners who are confused about where they are covered, what they are insured for and what affects their insurance policy. Why is there so many grey areas, and so many confused people? So many insurance companies hide behind the fine print in their PDS, and are able to catch you out in the event of a claim.
Club 4x4 don't fit into this category; they are direct, straight forward and clear. Just recently, they published an article regarding illegal modifications done on your 4WD. Ever seen another insurance company come out and say it as it is? Here's another one of their articles, regarding Insurance coverage on Gazetted or Non Gazetted Roads.
You'll find Club 4x4 on a number of 4WD forums too, answering any questions directly.
They have great reviews
I won't recommend products unless I personally use them, and believe what they offer is quality. Have a look around on Google; you'll find plenty of people that are extremely happy with Club 4x4 Insurance.
You'd be mad not to check them out
Well, I'll leave it up to you, but for a couple of minutes of your time, I reckon Club 4x4 Insurance deserves a look. It takes a couple of minutes to do the quote request online, or just send them an email via the website and have them call you at a convenient time. I'm sure you'll be impressed with what they offer.
Lets support the only dedicated 4WD insurance company in Australia!