Insurance Companies Go After Tuner Crowd

This is scary, folks!
------- By ANDREW LUU
Canadian Ron Shortt is a far cry from the fast and furious type: The 47-year-old Toronto man drives a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire back and forth
to his job as a computer information technology specialist, and his driving record is snow-white cleanno accidents, no tickets.
None of that mattered when Shortt decided to dress up his Sunfire with off-the-shelf, bolt-on interior parts, special wheels, a trick exhaust and lowered springs. In response, his insurer of 15 years, State Farm, canceled his policy, citing the lowered springs as a big no-no.
As with muscle cars of yore, which faded away as much because of jacked-up insurance rates as the triple whammy of high gas prices, government emissions rules and safety regulations, insurance companies are embarking on a collision course with the booming population of drivers who insist on tuning their sport compact rides.
"The insurance industry may be able to accomplish what the police could never do," says Shortt, "by making all these cars illegal to be on the streets because they can't get coverage." Shortt eventually wound up back with State Farm, but not before he reinstalled the factory springs and had the work verified by an insurance company adjuster.
Steve Budzinski of Ottawa also was dropped by State Farm because of performance upgrades to his Acura Integra Type-R. "My underwriter flat out told me it no longer wants to insure modified cars," said Budzinski.
State Farm Canada spokes-man Derek Fee says the insurer has no blanket policy to refuse coverage to the sport compact segment, but he acknowledges some sport compact ownersparticularly those involved in street racingare a growing concern. "That subculture is causing difficulties for the rest," Fee says.
In the United States, major insurers like AAA and State Farm say sport compacts aren't a problemat least not yet. State Farm spokeswoman Ana Compain-Romero says the company has no issues with minor upgrades such as lowered springs and tuned exhaust systems, but she recommends informing your agent about any modifications, especially when you go from minor to major. Changes discovered after the fact (say, after an accident when an owner is trying to collect against the policy) may void the coverage.
"Changes are subject to an agent taking a look and an underwriter deciding if we can extend coverage," Compain-Romero says.
That kind of talk has some people worried Canada's sport compact insurance woes could be a precursor of similar trouble in the United States. Steve McDonald, senior director of government affairs for the Specialty Equipment Market Association, says the aftermarket group is keeping an eye on the situation and gathering information.
"We're not sure how widespread it is," McDonald says. "We are alarmed by the possible implications of this."
Meanwhile, auto manufacturers are powering ahead with plans for performance models, as well as building up their inventories of performance parts that can be used to turn their sport compact entries into tire-ripping street burners. Automakers contend they are merely responding to demand from customers who want performance.
Are they concerned about potential insurance pitfalls? "To a degree, yes," says General Motors sport compact expert Bob Kern. "But 90 percent of kids say So what?' Most kids are dedicated to the cars and aren't really reading the fine print. I think a lot of them don't know they could invalidate their policies by modifying their cars." ----------
Yet another reason to build a sleeper.
Patrick '93 Cobra '83 LTD
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How about not telling them its modified?
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Read the post:
After the fact, when trying to collect on a claim, the policy might have been invalidated already.
In the US, that is called misrepresentation, and is punishible not only by a voided policy. But also by, a large fine and imprisonment.
The insurance companies have had us by the short hairs for years and years, and especially myself, as a collision repair shop operator. They are trying to make us fall to our knees in humble felatio,
But, Homie don't play dat!
Refinish King

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years,
trying
If my insurance company tried that, I would yank by house and vehicle coverage from them and cost them plenty. My insurance agent has seen my car and thought it looked great. He was somewhat dissappointed when I bought a new F-150 instead of a Subaru WRX Sti because he wanted to go for a ride in one of these cars.
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Lowering springs don't change what make and model the car is. It doesn't change jack about the car as insurance is concerned.
The problem in the USA is that the insurance goes with the vehicle, it should go to the driver.
And which is better in the hands of a moron pushing a car's limits? A car with higher limits or lower ones?
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by a

That is why Insurance companies helped KILL the Horspower Wars in the early 70s.
-ERIC
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Same here in Canada.... at the bottom of the insurance application is the oh so often unread verification of veracity...... that "I ain't lyin'" statement. Ever so strange that folks are as honest as the day is long yet tell tales and sign the "I ain't lyin'" clause.
FWIW, my agent of 30 years has never, ever seen the need to offer me state farm coverage. There's a real good chance I pay too much for my coverage but the times I've needed it all I ever did was make one phone call and the problem disappeared - and that includes ME taking the high bid body shop or whatever because that's where I wanted to go.
Whenever we buy stuff for ourselves, we should ask "do I deserve cheap???? or do I deserve good????". State farm is, quite obviously, trying to minimize their exposure to lawsuits and payouts....... By law, Albertans are required to buy insurance "coverage"..... for a few bucks more, I can buy peace of mind...
Yeah, insurance companies make way too much...... the only thing that will change that is civil war....
Jim Warman snipped-for-privacy@telusplanet.net
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Like the article states. When they inspect your car AFTER an accident that it is in fact Modified, you don't get REIMBURSED. You LOSE.

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wrote:

Old wife's tale and scare-mongering. They'd have to prove that the "performance"part is the cause of the accident. Yeah, like painting flames on your car caused the old fart to slam into the back of me. Judges are not stupid (most of teh time). Zed
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at 05 Apr 2004, Zed [ snipped-for-privacy@yahooooo.com] wrote in

Prove to whom? Unless you take them to court over it, they don't have to prove a thing. They just point at the contract and tell you that you neglected to inform them of a modification pertaining to the vehicles performance. So breach of contract. You'll have a fun time in court unless you are loaded and can afford an allstar time like eg O.J. or Micheal Jackson. The insurance co will just open another can of lawyers and drag it through the courts...

That's different from lowering the vehicle and I doubt any insurance would drop you for that.
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Problem is, the insurers see performance enhancement = speed = racing street racing. I still shake my head for the civic owner that got his ins dropped cuz he put springs on it. Ins guys said made the car more aerodynamic therefore was faster. FASTER THAN WHAT YOU TOAD'S ASS?? Guy can still only legally go as fast as the local speed limit. Any Yamaha would be "faster". Oh yeah, he was parked when the Cops did a drive thru at the local burger barn. The usual teen harassment in that particular part of town, when the first scares about the horror of teenagers streetracing the cops were pulling anything that didn't look stock over and inspected them for NOS. Everyone got tickets, no NOS, oooooh your car doesn't bounce, heres a ticket boy, unsafe suspension. <---WTF!!!!!! Officer I most respectfully must tell you, YOUR ASS IS SUCKING WIND!!!!!!!
Reminds me of in the day, were no "performance mufflers" per se. Only had Thrush glass packs, basically straithrus, if a Cop could hear your muffler, he would be all over you. It was just an excuse to check for beer or liquor. Only other solution was plain old cutouts but those were loud as hell.
But I digress, as I understand it, there is a way to insure modded vehicles.
First you have it appraised by an independant appraiser for Replacement Vehicle Cost. A good appraiser will give you a detailed report, some even provide a photocatalogue along with the report. Mods are listed but not in a manner thats outwardly objectionable. Ferinstance, "shorter springs", stiffer shocks or bigger brakes could be considered to be steering or handling enhancements, thereby making the vehicle more safe. Forced air induction or enhanced natural aspiration could be considered to be making the vehicle more fuel efficient as well as more environmenalty friendly. You got a ton of chrome on it? Its in the report. Custom interior? Its in the report. ohh here's one thats a no-brayner, custom pearl or metallic or mural/graphics paint jobs need to be listed for a "complete car repaint" - ya can never match the original - you can get close but never exact and in some lights a patch sticks out like a sore thumb. A big(_!_) one! Then either forward this information to your ins co or have the appraiser do it. I kinda think gettin the appraiser talk to your ins co is the route to go. You WILL pay a higher premium because now you've upped the ante on the car. Remember, part of the insurance cost is the value of the vehicle then the driver's liability is added on. This does however satisfy everyone and theres nothing underhanded about it. Its also not new, people have been doing this for years.
This doesn't get around the fact they're ripping us off, its just a way to keep our cars on the roads where they belong. Input would help here I'm still fuzzy on the whole thing, I saw a 1/2hr presentation on it this past weekend but thats the basics of it. I have a couple of numbers to call and a few ins cos to checkout before going forward with this.
'02 GT Black gears, KYB shocks/struts, CI, TB, TFplenum, <<-------- holy shit its uninsurable!! C&L MAF, chip, pulleys, subs, towerbrace. <<-------- holy shit its uninsurable!! - We are born naked, wet, and hungry. Then things get worse.
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That can't even be discovered after the fact.
Steve 72 Skylark

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When a trained adjuster looks at the vehicle;
Then investigates, and also if that adjuster excercises the option to call in a specialized forensics investigator. For there is one for just about every automotive dicipline.
Would you want to bet your colorectal health on that?
You be da cell block showa queen ain shiet!
Refinish King

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Tell me more about these "automotive forensic investigators"
Steve 72 Skylark
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If your car burns:
They'll have them investigating like green flies on shit. If you say a car hit you and drove you off of the road, their will be trained investigators at the scene and like grene flies on shit all over the car.
I have many friends that are adjusters, and if they want to advance in the company, when they hit the cap at the adjuster's level.
The next step is the investigative level.
Refinish King

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OK,
I thought they were regarding finding out if mods had been done to a car, not if a claim was fraudulent such as an arson.
Steve 72 Skylark
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The
forth
his
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Dam, Steve. I thought you had him!
Jimmy....
(DAMN!)

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Patrick opined

AND... for some insurors, it will be an "opportunity".
"Come to US when State Farm cancels you... if your record is spotless we'll only charge you 20% more than you were paying"
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Eh, just one more way for Insurance Companies to increase profits. They can't raise rates too much or they create economic 'swirl' - that is, customers who fire them and go elsewhere.
Why are Insurance companies in need of so much money? Bad drivers causing wrecks? No; actually, they invested their profits poorly and lost a LOT of money after 9/11, and are now trying to recoup. It has nothing to do with our driving habits, the way we 'tune' our cars; just poorly run companies who invested their profits unwisely, and we all now get to pay for their stupidity.
My advice has always been the same on matters such as this: if you are not being served properly, fire the bastards and go elsewhere. The only reason ANYTHING costs so much is because we are willing to pay.
-JD
-------------------------------- Enlightenment for The Masses: http:/207.13.104.8/users/jdadams --------------------------------
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wrote:
** what are you/I gonna do ?
A few rules regarding auto insurance that everyone should know: ---------------------------------------------------------------
1. Consider auto insurance as you would major medical. That is, only for really BIG boo-boo's. Nickle-and-diming them for windshields and other small (less than $500 claims) won't work in your favor. Do they track the little stuff? You bet. File a couple of piss ant claims and you're history.
2. Consider partially insuring yourself by raising the deductible to $500 or even $1000. This pretty much eliminates the piss ant claims that get most people canned.
3. If the value of the car is less than the cost of comp/collision X 10, drop it. Again, you're insuring yourself here, and if you are a reasonably good driver, it won't be a problem.
4. Drive responsibly. It sounds silly, but avoiding citations and chargeable accidents will save you serious money and make you very insurable, which leads me to #5:
5. Hire only 'preferred insurers.' These are outfits who ONLY insure the best drivers who adhere to rule #4. I have a clean record and can buy a $1,000,000.00 liability policy for less than $350/yr. Another good incentive to maintain that clean record.
6. Avoid brokers. Hire only the best, and do business directly with them. There is no reason to pay a brokerage fee these days. Most decent insurers are happy to do business directly with the consumer, right over the internet or by phone.
7. Pay the annual fee up front. Avoid paying bi-annually or by the month; most add unnecessary fees to the cost of insuring you if you do this.
8. Park in a secure location at night. Clean out the garage and actually put a CAR in there, and lock that sucker up tight. My preferred insurer actually offers a discount for those who securely garage their vehicle. Most thefts and vandalism occur late at night, and insurers know this.
9. Realize that the best insurer is not the one that offers you the cheapest rate. Most suck when it comes to servicing a claim. Others charge a bit more, but don't quibble when you need help, and won't cancel your policy. Check Consumer Reports for a list of the best insurers in terms of SERVICE, not price. And it might surprise you to learn that list is quite small, and consists of companies you've probably never heard of. (No, they don't advertise: they don't have to.)
10. Buy a Beater Car and use it for your daily commute, especially during winter months. This will allow you to avoid public parking lots, where tremendous unexplained damage occurs to nice cars. Save the prized Mustang for weekend motoring pleasure, and let everyone beat the crap out of the beater instead. Cost to insure my beater? Again, $1,000,000.00 liability coverage is about $180/yr - a small price to pay to avoid costly damage to my GT during commute times, when you're most likely to get zapped by some tailgating lame ass who could care less if you live or die.
OK, there you have it. Several things you can do to both lower the cost of insurance AND get better service. Go forth and be enlightened.
-JD
-------------------------------- Enlightenment for The Masses: http:/207.13.104.8/users/jdadams --------------------------------
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