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Car Insurance Jargon

What Does Car Insurance Jargon Really Mean?

Ever feel like insurance companies are speaking an entirely different language? If your insurance contract has you scratching your head, you’ve come to the right place. We’re here to decode that perplexing car insurance jargon so you can navigate your auto insurance policy like a pro.

1. Retail, Market, and Agreed Value: What’s the Difference?

Understanding the distinction between these three terms is essential when considering the level of cover for your motor vehicle. Retail value is the replacement cost of your car considering its age, mileage, and condition – the price a dealer would tag on your car right now. Typically, this value is higher than the market value, which is the amount you could sell your car for in its current state.

And here’s the thing: cars depreciate. They lose value faster than a hot potato loses heat. So, if disaster strikes and your car is written off or stolen, your insurer will only cough up what the car is worth at that precise moment, not what you initially paid.

An alternative to this, some insurance companies now offer the option to insure your car at an agreed value. This is a pre-set replacement value, potentially up to 20% more than the retail value, that doesn’t depreciate over a fixed period. So, you’ll know exactly what your payout will be if your car is written off or stolen during that policy period. Neat, huh?

The Purpose of Credit Gap Insurance

2. The Credit Shortfall Conundrum: The Purpose of Credit Gap Insurance

The term “credit shortfall” can be confusing in the insurance industry. Essentially, it refers to the difference between the value of your car that’s insured and the amount you still owe to the bank. Let’s say you’re in an auto accident, and your car is written off or stolen.

In some cases, the insurance payout may not cover the full amount owed to the bank. You can choose to add on credit shortfall insurance onto your existing car insurance policy. Then, if something happens to your car, you can rest assured, knowing that it covers any outstanding amounts you may owe to the bank.

This additional coverage can provide a safety net in a potentially difficult financial situation. But remember, credit shortfall is not designed to cover the gap between your car’s insured value and the price of a new car. It’s there to settle any remaining debt on your written-off or stolen vehicle.

3. Comprehensive Coverage: Not Just for Natural Disasters

Comprehensive cover is the big kahuna of auto insurance terms, covering physical damage to property and repair costs from events like theft, fire, vandalism, and natural disasters. But it’s not just about those headline-grabbing events. It also covers accidental damage, whether you’re at fault or not, and typically includes coverage for uninsured losses like personal injury or uninsured driver accidents.

4. Understanding Excess: Compulsory and Voluntary

The policy excess is the amount you’ll pay out-of-pocket towards a claim for damage before your insurer steps in. Compulsory excess is the set amount determined by your insurance carrier, which can depend on factors such as the type of vehicle and the driver’s age and driving record.

Voluntary excess, on the other hand, is an optional amount you agree to pay in addition to the compulsory excess. While increasing your voluntary excess can potentially lower your premium, it means a higher out-of-pocket expense if you need to make a claim, so it’s all about finding the right balance.

Car insurance industry in South Africa

5. No-Claims Bonus: A Reward for Safety

One of the more cheerful terms in the car insurance lexicon is the No-Claims Bonus (or NCB). This is essentially a discount offered by insurance companies that rewards policy holders for not making a claim during their policy term. It’s the insurance industry’s way of saying “Well done, safe driver!”

The longer you go without making a claim, the bigger your No-Claims Bonus can be. It’s one of the ways safe drivers can lower their insurance premiums. However, if you do make a claim, you may lose your NCB, or see it substantially reduced. It’s worth checking if your insurer offers protected no-claims bonuses for a non-fault claim, which can help keep your discount intact even if an accident wasn’t your fault.

6. Third-Party Liability Coverage: What it Is and Why It’s Crucial

Another essential piece of car insurance jargon is “Third-Party Liability Coverage.” This type of insurance comes into play when you’re responsible, or “liable,” for an accident. Liability coverage typically falls into two categories: bodily injury and property damage.

“Bodily Injury Liability” covers medical expenses, loss of income, and funeral expenses of other people involved in an accident if you’re at fault. It also provides for your legal defence if you’re sued as a result of an accident.

“Property Damage Liability,” on the other hand, pays for the repair or replacement of another person’s property or vehicle if you cause damage while driving.

The key thing to remember here is that liability coverage does not cover the insured vehicle owner’s injuries or damages their car. It’s strictly for the other parties involved in the accident. Hence, it’s often supplemented with other types of coverages like Comprehensive or Collision Coverage to ensure you’re not left out-of-pocket.

7. Exclusions in Your Auto Policy: The Devil is in the Details

Insurance policies typically include certain circumstances, events, or conditions where coverage for your insured vehicle does not apply, often referred to in the policy wording as ‘exclusions’. These may range from damage caused by “acts of God” (like natural disasters), intentional damage caused by the policy holder, or damages incurred when your car is driven by an uninsured driver.

Exclusions can also extend to “optional coverage” items, which are additional coverages that you can add on to your policy at an extra cost. These might include things like personal injury protection (useful if you often have passengers in your car) or theft cover (important if your car is an attractive target for thieves), and even things like cracked glass & flat tires damage cover as separate items.

It’s also worth mentioning “underwriter” here, the professional who evaluates and determines the risk of insuring potential customers. They may also set exclusions based on your insurance claims history, credit history, or driving record.

Understanding exclusions in your insurance policy document will help you find the right balance between the level of insurance cover and the cost of your policy. This way, you can be more confident that your financial position won’t take a big hit when an unfortunate event strikes.

Remember, it’s not just about not just getting the lowest insurance rates; it’s also about getting a level of cover that meets your needs and offers real value for money. That’s why it is a good idea to check for any exclusions before finalising your insurance contract.

8. Insurance Premiums: The Cost of Peace of Mind

When you’re crunching the numbers on your car insurance, the word ‘premium’ will be popping up quite frequently. Basically, the insurance premium is the monthly amount of money you will need to pay for your policy to remain active. 

The cost of your policy premium is calculated based on a number of factors that represent how risky you are to insure. These factors include your age, driving record, the type of car you drive, and even your credit score. It’s a complex cocktail of variables that insurance companies use to determine your individual rate.

You also have a say in how often you pay your premiums. Whether it’s annually, semi-annually, quarterly, or monthly, the ‘interval of payment’ can often be adjusted to suit your financial position.

Now, here’s something to consider: opting for a voluntary excess can sometimes reduce your payable premium. This means you agree to pay a higher out-of-pocket amount if a claim is made. However, while this could reduce your annual premium, remember you’d be taking on more of the cost in the event of a claim. It’s a balancing act.

What to do with Your Newfound Car Insurance Jargon Knowledge?

There you have it – a whistle-stop tour through the world of car insurance jargon. It may seem like a bit of a labyrinth at first, but with a little know-how, you can navigate your policy like a seasoned insurance broker. Remember, knowledge is power, especially when it comes to protecting your precious set of wheels.

Ready to apply this newfound knowledge? Fill in the form on this page for a free quote for car insurance. Let’s find the right policy that suits your needs, without breaking the bank. Because when it comes to car insurance, understanding the fine print can make all the difference.