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Motor Insurance
Friday, February 19, 2016 - 03:16

It’s 10pm at night and you’re driving on the freeway when you suddenly hear a loud bang, followed by your car pulling to the left. You stop at the side of the road to investigate the damage and find that you have a flat tyre.  It’s late, you’re alone and you have security concerns. Who do you call?

Most insurance policies offer their policyholders the benefit of emergency road-side services such as tow-in assistance following a mechanical or electrical breakdown, jump start service, tyre-change assistance and will even bring fuel should it be necessary to get you going again. What if it’s a case of mechanical part failure? What cover is there to help?  

If you are driving a new or relatively new model car you usually get a warranty with the vehicle and often either a service or maintenance plan. Knowing the difference between a vehicle warranty, a motor plan and a maintenance or service plan can be confusing. But it is important to know what cover you have in place, as this will help you budget for future maintenance costs as well as helping you figure out who to call when you get stuck! An expensive mechanical breakdown can leave you out of pocket and, should your vehicle be written off in an accident, you may end up without a car which you may still be paying for.    

Marius Neethling, personal lines underwriting manager at Santam, says that vehicle owners should at the very least verify what kind of cover they have for their vehicle – and what exactly is covered in the contract. “Mechanical or electrical breakdowns can prove costly – and they invariably occur when you can least afford it,” he says. Keeping your car properly maintained and serviced at the correct intervals can help to reduce the unnecessary cost of repairs and unscheduled maintenance.

Neethling highlights the differences between the various plans on offer:

• Manufacturer’s warranty: Most vehicle manufacturers will provide a warranty on a new vehicle that should cover any manufacturing defects to the original components, mechanical or electrical, for a certain period after the purchase date of your vehicle. Warranties may differ from one manufacturer to another, but on average, the warranty period is usually for three to five years, or for a specific kilometre distance. Warranties usually cover repair costs to parts such as the gear box, water cooling system or head gasket and other large parts in the motor engine.

• Service plans
A service plan will cover the cost of routine car services, usually annually or when a particular mileage is reached, including labour costs. Items that are covered in the cost of a routine service include air filters, oil filters, fuel filters, lubricants such as oil, spark plugs and coolant. Any other repairs required will be for the vehicle owner’s account.. 

• Maintenance plans
Maintenance plans cover the cost of your regular service (including labour) as well as the cost of repairs to parts caused by wear and tear. It provides cover for part such as brake pads and break discs, shocks absorbers, battery, windscreen wipers, globes and fuses.

A maintenance plan is therefore more extensive than a service plan and is the better option. So if it’s only a minimal additional cost when purchasing a vehicle, it’s usually worth it to upgrade from a service plan to a maintenance plan.

• Motor plan: A motor plan combines the benefits of a service plan and maintenance plan in one package, offering the vehicle owner more benefits. In some cases it may also include a warranty.

It is, however, important to note that a vehicle warranty, service or maintenance plan will not cover you for any damage to your vehicle in the event of an accident. You would still need to ensure that you have an insurance policy to cover your vehicle against accidental loss or damage caused to your vehicle in the event of an accident.

Important questions
Vehicle owners should ask themselves the following questions:
• Do I have a warranty and/or maintenance/service plan for my vehicle?
• What is covered by the plan – and what is not covered? More specifically, which parts will be covered in the event of breakdown, and is the labour cost included?
• How long are the plans valid for and will I be able to afford the maintenance thereafter?
• What will the cost implications be when the plan has run its service period?

Making sure you have vehicle insurance is very important given the high frequency of accidents on our roads.  Motorists are advised to ensure that they have the proper insurance cover in place as the costs arising out of a vehicle accident (as well as any third party claims) and loss will not be covered by vehicle warranties, maintenance or service plans.  

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:29.2 1st February, 2016
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