Are you 100% confident with your 4WD insurance? When you head down to the beach, a 4WD park or some remote 4WD track are positive you are covered should it all go wrong?
If you are like a lot of Australian 4WD owners, you've probably never thought a whole lot about 4WD insurance. The dreaded bill arrives and you get the money together to pay it without much further thought.
What would it mean for you if your 4WD was involved in a bad accident, and your insurance company wriggled their way out of a claim? Wouldn't you be absolutely horrified to find out that you aren't covered for beach driving, or entry to 4WD parks?
In this post, we are going to look at why its so important to understand 4WD insurance, and what you need to look for in a quality 4WD insurance policy. I don't know about you, but I like knowing that my 4WD is really insured should things go wrong.
We've partnered with Club 4x4, who are a dedicated 4WD insurance business and who are shaking the insurance niche up. I've agreed to help spread the word about the services they offer, and why they are different, and better than other insurance companies.
Fear not; I'm not telling you to move to Club 4x4; this is generic information that you can speak to your insurance company about. If you aren't happy with their answers, Club 4x4 are happy to chat to you.
What would it cost to replace your 4WD?
If your 4WD were to be written off today, would the pay out from your insurance company cover the total cost of getting another vehicle with the same accessories and modifications? In many cases, your insurance company will only cover a portion of the true cost to build a like for like vehicle.
My last vehicle was an 80 Series Land Cruiser, and was originally insured with RAC for $20,000. With over $26,000 worth of modifications done to it, I would have been hugely out of pocket if it was written off. I found Club 4x4, did a huge amount of research and signed up for a policy covering the vehicle for a whopping $46,000, meaning if my vehicle was written off I could easily buy another one and set it up the same as it was.
Now, there's not necessarily anything wrong with being under insured, providing you are aware of the gap. What sucks is when someone is involved in an accident and they only find out after the fact that to replace their vehicle like for like is substantially more than what they are covered for.
Where are you covered?
I've done my fair share of digging around information on various insurance companies, and one thing that varies hugely is where you are covered.
One would expect that if you take out insurance for your 4WD you would be covered anywhere you are allowed to go, including beaches, 4WD parks and 4WD tracks. However, this is not always the case; many insurance companies will not cover your 4WD on private property (which rules out 4WD parks), and some won't even cover you for beach driving! What is the point of insurance for a 4WD if it doesn't cover you off road?
Just because you'd expect to be covered where it would be logical doesn't always mean you are; take a few minutes to find out! If you aren't satisfied with the answers you are given, its time to look for a different insurance company.
There have been a number of people who've written vehicles off in 4WD parks and on beaches, only to have their insurance company bluntly state 'we don't cover you there'. Unfortunately, the responsibility falls on the owner to read the fine print, but most people wont ever bother! Once the damage is done, its too late, and its a real kick in the guts.
The new Dmax insurance
A couple of months ago we replaced our 80 Series Land Cruiser with an Isuzu Dmax on a novated lease. This is essentially a giant package that is partly salary sacrificed through work, which covers the cost of the vehicle, fuel, maintenance, registration and insurance.
As part of the lease with Toyota Fleet Management, I was signed up to Toyota Insurance, which from all accounts seem to have a solid reputation. However, now knowing that its so easy to get caught out with 4WD insurance, I decided to do some extra research.
The best place to start with any 4WD insurance is to read the PDS (Product Disclosure Statement). I opened it up online, and hit the search button: "Beach" "Gazetted" "Private Property" "Water Crossings". I couldn't find a single thing referencing anything to do with 4WDing. Now, given that most of their customers are probably not 4WD owners, I sent my contact at Toyota Fleet Management an email asking about where I would be covered, and was told that beach driving and being on non gazetted roads would mean I wasn't covered.
Up until then the Dmax had not been offroad, so I hadn't put myself in any risk. However, it was concerning nonetheless. Not content with the answers, I thought I'd ring Toyota Insurance themselves to double check. The operator didn't know the answers to my questions, but was happy to send an email through (always get these things in writing!) with information once he had found out. As it turns out Toyota Insurance actually does cover beach driving and a few other logical areas, but I still wasn't happy with what they offered, especially knowing of Club 4x4 and what they do differently.
What makes Club 4x4 different?
Australia has never had a dedicated 4WD insurance company until Club 4x4 started up. The closest thing in the past has been a couple of 'car specialist' insurance companies. Most people have their insurance policies with run of the mill insurance companies who do everything from trailer and house insurance to health and travel cover.
Club 4x4 was specifically started to target the 4WD insurance niche, and they've done a pretty amazing job of creating a unique product, clarifying a whole heap of information that was in the past a grey area and allowing for fair cover for 4WD owners.
Yes, they are a business, and yes they need to make money, but the policies they offer are 100% tailored to 4WD owners. This in turn makes it hard to compare them to run of the mill insurance companies. However, I'll do what I can, and mention the things that makes Club 4x4 different. You can see how important these are for your situation, and then chat to your insurance company about it:
Full value of modifications covered with no limitation (agreed value vs market value too)
Specialist 4WD insurance; understanding modifications and the way 4WD owners use their vehicles
Canopy insurance on top of the agreed value
Covered anywhere in Australia including 4WD parks, gazetted and non gazetted roads
Club 4x4 will cover your 4WD anywhere in Australia, as long as you are allowed to be there, and you are being sensible. The 'being sensible' means checking water crossings before you jump in, not racing your 4WD and essentially looking after your 4WD.
A clear stance on legal and illegal modifications
I've long been frustrated by the lack of clarity when it comes to 4WD modifications. Some insurance companies 'insure' vehicles that are clearly illegal. However, in the event of an accident, what happens? They have a legal right to walk away from the claim.
Club 4x4 have written a post covering all this, which you can read here. Essentially, they will cover legal and illegal modifications, but if you have an accident and the modifications contribute to the accident you may have your claim reduced or denied.
Off road recovery from a non claimable event ($1500 to 30k)
Portable valuables and touring gear coverage of 2k-10k
Choice of repairer
I've seen some absolutely woeful repair jobs done on 4WD's. With Club 4x4, you have a choice as to who does the repairs.
First option to purchase the vehicle back if written off
Only someone who's spent hours building and modifying a 4WD can really appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. If your 4WD is written off, you get first choice of buying it back from Club 4x4, regardless of the age of the 4WD. This means if you want to remove the modifications and bolt them onto another vehicle, you have first right to do so.