How to choose the best car insurance is the question. You must confront that crucial query head on in pursuit of your own best interest.
If you don’t, you could find yourself in deep doo-doo in the event of a declared unrecoverable theft or declared collision total loss of your exotic car, classic car, collector car or expensive sports car.
Which car insurance to buy? Agreed Value, Actual Cash Value or Stated Amount?
Like all car guys and car gals out there, I can relate to the blinding passion that sometimes consumes us all when we at long last snag that elusive car of our dreams.
Among other things, that dream-car obsession can also blind us to good ol’ common sense about taking the right actions to protect that vehicle. More important, it tends to stupefy us and our ability to think rationally about fully protecting our financial interests.
In short, we all need to properly and fully bullet-proof our financial interest when it comes to our precious collector automobiles in the catastrophic event of a total loss.
Total Loss can and should be defined as the following language illustrates:
The subject vehicle of a claim is declared a total loss when the appraised damage is declared to be rendered “irreparable,” (at least) or when the repair expenditures exceed a pre-determined percentage (i.e., the standard industry average of about 80%, give or take) of the insured value of the vehicle (at most).
So, how to choose the best car insurance?
I know, I know. Talking about insurance is excruciatingly dull stuff – even less thrilling than watching proverbial paint dry, for sure. Definitely not my favorite subject matter either. It’s the only way to figure out how to choose the best car insurance.
But I want to help you get the most bang for your buck in terms of financially protecting your Porsche or any other car you desire. So, yes, talking insurance is a must.
Together let’s glean how to choose the best car insurance — i.e., how you can obtain the proper insurance coverage — for your cherished exotic car, classic car, collector car or sports car or even your high-end daily driver, whether it’s a Porsche or any other premium marque of your choice.
I’ll do my best in plain, easily digestible English to explain both the major and finer points of getting the best automobile insurance. And I’ll do my best to simplify the subject matter – hopefully without becoming simplistic in my discourse.
First we’ll start with the generalities if that’s all you want to take away from this article on the insipid subject of automobile car insurance. But then, if you need more detail, we’ll drill down further to some of the minutiae of classic car insurance.
The Trilogy of Car Insurance
As you’ve probably gathered by now from the start of this article, the three types of varying protective-coverage flavors are “Agreed Value,” “Actual Cash Value” and “Stated Amount.”
But I’ll cut directly to the chase: In most if not all cases, you want to make every effort to acquire an insurance policy that covers your precious vehicular asset with the “Agreed Value” form of coverage.
We’ll get to that momentarily. But first let’s explore why you should avoid the other forms of coverage and thus opt instead for “Agreed Value.” Here’s why:
“Actual Cash Value”
Probably the most common form of car insurance is Actual Cash Value. This is the type of policy that most of us carry on all of our daily drivers. All of the major insurance companies provide this type. They insure the thousands upon thousands of new cars that most of us buy each and every year.
In short, your vehicle is valued by your insurance company at the time of loss. This valuation is a depreciated amount predicated on the make, model, age, condition and options of your automobile. It is calculated by commencing with what your vehicle had cost you bought new, then deducting percentages against each year of your vehicle’s age. In addition, further deductions are assessed for anticipated “wear and tear.”
So, in an Actual Cash Value policy it’s not stipulated in advance what amount the insured (that’s you) will receive. In contrast, an Agreed Value policy by definition indeed specifies this amount at the time you purchase your policy.
In other words, the Actual Cash Value is what your vehicle is worth in a cash amount just moments before you suffer your heartbreaking collision or theft.
After your accident, your insurance company will send one of its adjustors out to the storage yard or facility or wherever your car is in the meanwhile sequestered. The adjustor will evaluate the damage, employ the valuation research sources of choice, and thus determine the final claims settlement offer to present to you.
Chances are, it won’t come anywhere close to what you had hoped for. If the gulf is extremely too wide for your liking, then you may be forced to engage the services of a lawyer or mediator to reduce that vast difference to a resolution.
However, you may be barred from hiring an attorney. Your Actual Cash Value policy may stipulate that you must resort to arbitration as your only recourse to rectifying your unfortunate plight.
Another risk you incur is that your insurance settlement may end up being less in value that the balance amount of your still-outstanding loan – yet another major gap in your coverage.
In any case, getting into an accident with an Actual Cash Value policy is no fun. Instead, it’s just one big headache after another – especially if your sweet motorcar is a classic or collectible car or an exotic automobile or a sports car.
“Stated Value” or “Stated Amount”
A Stated Value or Stated Amount insurance policy specifies the insuring of your vehicle for less than its true value or worth. In exchange for this hefty concession – oh, goodie! – you get to insure your car at a not-at-all-proportional, slightly lower premium.
Bottom line, Stated Value or Stated Amount policies determine how much premium you, the insured, pays – NOT how much you get paid in the event of a vehicular loss.
In essence, then, the Stated Value concept provides your insurance company with the loophole which allows them to take the fallback position of settling with you for – wait for it – pennies on the dollar as follows:
The insurance company will pay the lesser of:
- The Stated Amount or
- The cost to repair the covered vehicle at an amount not to exceed the “Stated Amount” [oh boy, here it comes. . .] or
- The ever-depreciating “Actual Cash Value” of your automobile
So, a Stated Value or Stated Amount policy is little more than an Actual Cash Value policy that sets an upward ceiling limit on how much your insurance company will pay out on your claim.
Worst of all is the fact that this type of policy gives the insurance company the wherewithal to depreciate your vehicle’s value and deduct the amount further south of that value. In short, your settlement is limited most likely to your car’s Cash Value – which will probably be lower than your policy’s Stated Value.
“Agreed Value” or “Agreed Amount”
So as initially alluded to above right off the bat, here’s why you should – no, why you must – land an Agreed Value (aka Agreed Amount) policy for your exotic car, classic car, collector car or sports car:
Agreed Value is the only insurance coverage that guarantees – in writing – that you’ll receive the mutually agreeable specified amount stipulated in your insurance agreement in the event that your automobile is totaled or stolen within the period of your policy.
For you, the critical factor of an Agreed Value or Agreed Amount policy is to settle on a value that you believe your vehicle is worth. This amount must be a mutually-agreed-upon value that your insurance company approves and agrees to cast in stone in the language of your policy at the time of its writing and purchase.
[For more information on settling on an Agreed Value for your automobile, please see the StuttgartDNA Tip below titled “Setting the value of your vehicle.”]
Origins of Agreed Value
Grundy Insurance founder James A. Grundy, Sr., is credited with originating Agreed Value policy-writing way back in 1947. Mr. Grundy began selling these newfangled policies to fellow car guys and buddies.
His friends needed a way to protect their collector cars and cover their restoration costs. These collectors and gearheads also wanted to somehow indemnify the appreciating values of their classic and collector vehicles.
Since then, collector- and classic-car insurance companies have sprouted up over the years to fill the niche and provide this service to the demands of an ever-expanding market.
One of my fellow members of the Porsche Club of America, the late Harold “Holly” Leland Bromberg, was another major player in the field of Agreed Value automobile insurance. After moving to Fresno, California, in the late 1970s, Holly pursued Agreed Value insurance, covering limited-use collectible automobiles.
Mr. Bromberg then founded and operated Leland West Insurance Brokers., Inc., which provides Agreed Value insurance today. As a PCA member, he concentrated on writing such advantageous AV policies for his fellow PCA members. To this day in the wake of his untimely passing, his company enjoys full endorsement from the Porsche Club of America.
The Agreed Value of Your Vehicle
This Agreed Value is the amount that you and your insurance company mutually agree upon once you decide to purchase your policy.
You would be very prudent to study the language of your prospective policy beforehand. Check the Physical Damage portion to make sure that it reads something to the following effect: “In the event of a total loss or theft, we, the insurer, will pay the Agreed Value of the insured vehicle….”
Plain and simple, easy peasy. If you don’t find very similar language in your prospective policy, find another insurance company.
And if the policy language says anything like, “Insurer will pay the Actual Cash Value or the Stated Value, whichever is less,” don’t walk – run like hell away from that deal.
Setting the value of your vehicle
Value your vehicle under your Agreed Value policy as closely as possible to its true worth as determined through your research, homework and due diligence.
Because underwriters want to insure your vehicle for its true market value and your investment in that vehicle, your accurate stated worth of the car will ensure that you recover your due value in case of catastrophic events visited upon that vehicle.
The following websites are examples of resources with tools to value your car(s), but this is by no means an exhaustive list (and the listees are not endorsed nor sanctioned by StuttgartDNA, but are instead included here for informational and illustrative purposes only):
- Carfax (Caution: Requires your VIN or license-plate number — TMI, perhaps!)
The dollar value of “Agreed Amount” stipulated in your policy can be changed by endorsement. This is a good thing for you.
You should remain proactive over each term of your policy with regard to that mutually agreed upon Agreed Value. Before policy renewal each year, the “Agreed Amount” should be changed, if necessary, to reflect the potentially appreciated current market value of your prized automobile(s).
Drilling down further, you should adjust the Agreed Value not only annually pursuant to renewal, but also during mid-policy. You should do this so as to align the true value periodically with the various stages of your automobile’s restoration, for example, and the actual incremental appreciated value of your vehicle over time.
Obtaining an Agreed Value policy for your mutually agreeable value is relatively easy. But there are a few hoops through which you may be forced to jump. Additionally, there are due-diligence steps you should also take – as Mom would say, “For your own good.”
A lot of the topics – those aforementioned hoops – listed below can be overridden, so you won’t have to comply with them as described. But remember that it will come at a price – i.e., at an incremental increase in your premium for the override of each one (e.g., a daily driver, limited mileage, restricted use, garage storage, etc.).
My listing this here is stating the obvious. It goes without saying that a reckless driving record is going to definitely hamper your ability to acquire a coveted reasonably priced AV policy for your classic, collectible or sports-car machine.
You should be ready, willing and able to document your vehicle, its restoration and its claimed value for which you are applying for Agreed Value insurance.
For example, if you are or have been restoring your car, be sure to document that restoration with before-and-after photographs and all receipts and documentation that apply.
You can’t have too many photos or supporting documentation to acquire insurance for your vehicular baby.
Be sure to choose an insurance company that is authorized by your state’s Insurance Department. Also make sure that the carrier provides Agree Value insurance approved by your state’s Insurance Department.
This, of course, isn’t an insurance-company requirement. Instead, it is a due-diligence requirement on your part to research on your own. This is, rather, a suggestion for you to CYA, if you know what I mean.
Such “paranoia” may not be necessary when it comes to the large, well-known carriers. But if you’re thinking about smaller, lesser-known companies, then you should follow through in taking this advice.
How to get started on your search for insurance companies
Check out our Porsche Resources Directory for our listed insurance companies by clicking on the following link:
Choose only from among companies that have earned A, A+ or A++ ratings from global insurance-rating firm A.M. Best. This requirement is yours to determine. The insurance company doesn’t require this. You must determine this through your due diligence in your research which is in your own best interest.
What is the significance of an A rating or better? It means that the carrier or underwriter bearing such a rating possesses strong financial stability and strength as well as solid creditworthiness. It also indicates a great track record of paying out past claims. An A stands for “excellent” – or better if the A has a + or ++ after it.
Alfred M. Best founded the firm in 1899. Ever since, the company has blossomed into the oldest and most respected ratings provider focusing on insurers and the insurance industry in over 90 countries across the world through its A.M. Best Rating Services, Inc.
If you want to be proactive and obtain an insurance carrier’s and/or underwriter’s rating on your own, click here to go to A.M. Best’s rating page.
But before you can use the service, you must undergo New Member Registration by clicking on “Sign Up” in the upper-right-hand corner any webpage on the website. Start the registration process by entering your email address and creating a password.
Then, once you log in, you’ll be good to go to access the Ratings page. Click here again to access the rating page once more if necessary and then enter an insurance company’s or underwriter’s name in the blue search box entitled “Search for a Best Rating.” Then click on the green-shaded “Go” button to obtain the desired rating.
Finally, remember that a rating of A or better goes not only for the insurance carrier you’re thinking of signing up with, but also for the underwriting companies covering claims under that insurance company’s policy. Don’t be shy about asking the prospective carriers whom their claims underwriters are.
Using only one insurance agent isn’t a requirement for obtaining an AV insurance policy. But it will ultimately make your life and management of any future claims so much less stressful. The crucial point here is that you will have to deal with only one point of contact to manage all of your insurance policies and claims.
Also be sure to screen that agent to determine if he or she has an intimate knowledge of, as well as actual experience with, the world and passionate hobby of collecting classic, exotic and collector cars.
That agent should also have an established and firm relationship and rapport with the company that will be underwriting your AV policy. Such a relationship will ensure that your agent has the authority and clout to help you settle your claim as expeditiously as possible to meet and even exceed all of your expectations.
Many companies require that you possess a co-insured daily driver. The idea is that you presumably will drive that vehicle for the greater balance of time, as opposed to the vehicle to be insured at Agreed Value.
In other words, insurance companies that provide Agreed Value insurance want to know that you have another car to drive to work and for any other daily use – so that your Agreed Value vehicle will be driven for the far lesser balance of time.
Most Agreed Value companies and their policies limit your collector-car’s annual mileage to a pre-determined amount. However, if you do your due diligence, you can find a select few insurance companies that offer unlimited mileage under their AV policies, though it may (or may not) cost you a slight increase in premium.
Not unlike limited mileage discussed above, many insurance companies limit your driving privileges to only pleasure driving of your AV automobile. As alluded to above, your coverage may not apply if you have an accident on your way to work, or in the course of running errands. Consequently, you may be restricted to using your AV automobile only for car-club events, car shows or concours d’elegance competitions, among other similar hobby-related activities and events.
Yet again, though, shop around for those companies that are a little more lenient in this area. They’re out there, but you have to ferret them out.
It stands to reason that you should properly store your classic automobile or cherished sports car. Most if not all AV insurance companies feel the same way.
So my advice to you is to take plenty of photographs of your garage and your automobile stored in that garage. Have these photos available at your fingertips in digital JPEG format if and when any of your prospective companies request them.
Insurance companies providing Agreed Value insurance policies prefer matching liability coverage limits – and if they don’t, you should.
Specifically, both liability amounts and uninsured-motorist / underinsured-motorist limits on your daily driver(s) should match the coverage limits on your Agreed Value sports-car or collector-car policy.
That is, bodily-injury liability limits as well as uninsured-motorist / underinsured-motorist limits should be the same amount across all vehicular policies.
So what happens if, instead, you happen to have varying coverage amounts on any or all of your other vehicles? Then your attorney – should you be in the most unenviable position to need one – can work a deal to exhaust one policy amount and then tap into and exhaust the next policy amounts to cover the litigation monetary value for which you’re be sued.
Obviously, this potentially nightmarish scenario is a total hassle – not to mention increasingly costly because the meter keeps running on your legal fees during these mismatched shenanigans. Setting matching limits can prevent all of this.
By the same token, it’s best to set identical uninsured-motorist / underinsured-motorist limits to the amounts of your bodily-injury limits to become fully covered and to eliminate any coverage gaps.
But bear in mind that there’s nothing wrong with your sports-car or collector-car policy holding higher limits than your daily driver, however – just as long as it is on par with or higher than the limits set on your daily-driver policy.
Medical payments limits are not as critical, so the limits may or may not have to match, depending on the policies on offer.
Most claims are not for total losses. Rather, they’re for collisions that involve the repair of your automobile for damage that falls under your Agreed Value coverage.
Therefore, you should consider declaring the following, just as a few examples:
- Covering spare parts
- Covering trip interruption
- Getting reimbursed for towing and labor costs and expenses
- Getting reimbursed for any auto-show medical expenses incurred if you happen to fall ill or get injured at a car show at which you are displaying your prized automotive possession
These are some of the possible customized coverages that you could declare on your policy. If you can think of any others, be sure to discuss them with the agent representing your prospective policy.
So you’re narrowing down your shortlist of the most attractive Agreed Value carriers for your AV physical damage coverage. Now it’s time to delve deeper to compare any available extra coverages.
For example, you can include such things on your policy as audio equipment, wheels, and even luggage that was designed to match your automobile, or any other special accessories that are of exceptional value to you.
So make sure to itemize any such special items when negotiating your policy. The additional costs applied to your premium may end up being more than worth it.
You may have to pay extra for it, but make sure to declare reserving the right to choose your own auto-collision center. Or, this right may be a built-in feature of some policies. Either way, look into it for sure.
This could be critical in taking possession of your collector car as one that comes out of the collision center like or better than new – or like an inferior shadow of its former self that will never be the same again.
If you own a Porsche, definitely make sure that you are able to choose a shop of your own selection. Porsche maintains the Porsche Approved Collision Center Program – its own program of approving collision centers that conform to Porsche’s very high repair standards.
It’s imperative that you can choose one of these Porsche-approved shops to put your sweet baby Porsche back together again at least as good as new. The best way to make this happen is to take your baby to a Porsche-approved collision center.
In this day and age of high-tech, cutting-edge Porsche electronic systems and various exotic metal, alloy, aluminum and composite body-panel and chassis components, you’ll at least have a fighting chance at one of these approved centers.
Obtaining only OEM parts to repair your automobile is also critical. Although, it may be easier than the immediately aforementioned choice-of-shop issue to get this feature placed in your policy as a freebie.
See, insurance companies prefer dodging exposure to such sure-to-lose litigation. Many an insurance carrier in the past has been on the losing end of such liability battles. What gets them into trouble is requiring installation of aftermarket parts that, by definition, are inferior in quality to OEM parts.
So obtaining OEM parts during your vehicle’s time in the shop may be a non-issue – but make sure that your policy stipulates OEM parts to be on the safe side.
There are other insurance issues besides the ones above. These other issues are lesser known and more detailed in their definition and scope. So I’ll do my best to discuss them with you and elaborate on them as clearly as possible for you without getting into the weeds.
In the lingo of Wikipedia’s legalese, “diminution of value” is defined as “… [The] measure of value lost due to a circumstance or set of circumstances that caused the loss. Specifically, it measures the value of something before and after the causative act or omission creating the lost value in order to calculate compensatory damages.”
. . . Zzzzzzzz . . .
Simply put, “diminution of value” for our intents and purposes equates to the difference between your sports-car or collector automobile’s value before an accident and its value after collision repairs or after its recovery after a theft.
This represents the amount you will be compensated by your insurance company – provided that you were pro-active enough at the time of the crafting and drafting of your prospective policy to make sure that you had such a crucial provision stipulated in your policy.
Key here is diminution of value as it pertains to your vehicle’s originality. This can be best described as the “fine-arts value” of your car in the sense that such originality cannot be replicated through any efforts or amount of repair or restoration.
Examples of cases when your automobile’s value can and will diminish include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Vehicles that have been customized or restored by renowned, recognized masters who are now deceased (e.g., the incomparable Boyd Coddington, et. al.) and therefore can no longer bring your damaged vehicle back to its original state of being
- Your automobile’s original paint and/or original bodywork have been irreparably destroyed
- Parts that have matching-number IDs that are destroyed and therefore have to be replaced, which will substantially diminish the value of your prized vehicle
- Significant mileage added to a stolen, and then recovered, highly restored or near-perfect original vehicle could radically diminish the value of that super-low-mileage vehicle
The problem with filing a diminution-of-value claim without having the coverage to begin with is that the weighty onus of proof is entirely yours to bear.
Part and parcel of your guaranteed indemnity against inflation and market appreciation is found in securing Agreed Value coverage.
You can actively participate in guarding against this contingency by increasing the Agreed Value listed on your policy. This is done by securing an endorsement to that effect.
However, the good news is that, if you choose the right insurance company and policy, this adjustment will occur automatically without any input on your part.
Such an inflation guard will normally establish a value increase on your insured vehicle by typically 2% each quarter, up to maximum coverage of approximately 8% each year.
But this, along with most if not all of the aforementioned options, is dependent on you pro-active due diligence in pursuing the inclusion of these aspects in your policy.
This, of course, as you may recall, was discussed briefly in the StuttgartDNA Tip at the top of this article. So let’s flesh it out the concept a little more here.
“Total loss” as defined above may be declared when damage is calculated to be irreparable or whenever estimated costs to repair the vehicle exceeds a predetermined percentage of the automobile’s Agreed Value. This percentage usually hovers around 80%.
Among other issues besides restoring the safety of your vehicle, the declaration of total loss can also result from such factors as the complete unavailability of original replacement parts. Another related factor could be the prohibitive cost to fabricate such parts. Both scenarios in turn can dramatically escalate the repair cost to exceed the car above and beyond its insured value.
There is one proactive measure you can pursue to mitigate the dire prospect of total loss: Get your hands on a policy that provides flexibility in adjusting the Agreed Value of your automobile on a yearly basis before any such comparable loss occurs.
Ideally, you should seek out a policy that allows a mutually agreeable increase in value at any time it may be necessary. This could become a critical factor in the event that you are, for example, in the process of restoration and your vehicle thus appreciates over the course of that restoration.
Hopefully, the insurance company that you choose will have well-qualified damage appraisers. Such appraisers should come from a background as participants themselves in the collector-car hobby. Thus they would probably have the superior ability to accurately and fairly assess the value of the damage to your automobile – and they should be well prepared to be able to determine whether or not your car should be deemed a total loss.
If you’ve chosen the right insurance company, then perhaps that company can navigate you through your possible options should you indeed suffer a total loss (e.g., obtain a salvage title as described in the StuttgartDNA Tip directly below).
As a last resort, you may be able to make the best of your total loss by way of the salvage title:
Your cherished-more-than-life-itself classic car, collector car or sports car has just been declared a total loss. You’re heartbroken. Utterly devastated beyond description.
What will you do now? Is there anything you can do but resign yourself to your ill fate?
There may be a means of consolation, a type of answer to your prayers, so to speak. It’s called accepting a salvage title on your totaled automobile, and then buying it back.
But definitely be on your toes in this pursuit, because it could be a pretty tricky proposition. And it is in fact against the law in some states.
Alternatively, you could secure the original title if your insurance company agrees to work with you to declare your vehicle as simply a partial loss by crediting the buyback price from the cost of repairs to restore your automobile as close as possible to its original condition before the declaration of loss – but that’s a whole ‘nother kettle of fish that you should explore on your own.
In a nutshell, you could retain the vehicle by buying it back to use as a parts car. But, of course, this depends in large measure on your particular situation and on the actual damage to your now-totaled automobile.
Ultimately, though, your “insurance” (pun intended) against having your vehicle declared a total loss and thus juggling the issue of whether or not to deal with a salvage title is securing the best Agreed Insurance policy in your power.
Coverage gaps can and will occur if you’re not on your toes.
For example, what if the at-fault buffoon who collides with your cherished sports car or classic automobile does not have the necessary coverage to pony up the cost of repairing your vehicle?
You should know by now from the discussions above that the solution to this problem is having the proper Agreed Value coverage. Such coverage also guards against the dreaded possibility of receiving a settlement under Actual Cash Value coverage that wouldn’t cover the cost of your outstanding loan balance on your totaled automobile.
There is the scenario that your car could enjoy the enviable prospect of dramatically escalating in appreciation. What would you do in such an enviable scenario in the event that you didn’t take the recommended action of increasing your coverage?
The answer is, seek out those Agreed Value insurance companies that pay out in excess of 100% of your stated replacement value. Yes, such companies do exist – some even paying as much as 150% of that stated value. Once again, you just have to ferret them out.
As alluded to above under “Negotiating and Landing Your Ideal Agreed-Value Policy,” some of the steps you can take to plug up any additional gaps are as follows:
- Make sure your coverages for Bodily Injury Liability limits on your daily driver and your classic car(s) match in value as closely as possible – including Uninsured-Motorist / Underinsured-Motorist coverage limits
- Strive to have one insurance agent to handle all of your policies and claims
- Specify customized or additional coverages if you feel you need it
This post is by no means intended to represent the be-all and end-all of classic-car insurance discourse. You should consult insurance professionals and/or a legal professionals to inform you of the full scope of details and repercussions involving the complicated intricacies of Agreed Value insurance.
Consequently, my foregoing discussion with you is intended solely and exclusively as a primer on Agreed Value insurance to enlighten you and guide you on the basics, thus steering you in the right direction in what your future due-diligence research should entail.
Well, I hope I have indeed enlightened you much more than confused you with the dull, dry, comatose-inducing ins and outs of classic-car insurance. Somebody had to do it. . . ! Happy hunting for that ideal Agreed Value policy that will most optimally cover your automotive pride and joy.
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