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Hello, everyone. We’re glad you could make it back for another installment of Police Car Collecting. I hope that you have found the past columns informative and enjoyable. There’s much to be talked about, so let’s get started.
A question was raised a while back about being able to register a privately owned police car in your state. So far, I don’t know of anybody that has had any issues getting their cars legally registered anywhere. If any of you know of someone that has, please send me the particulars because this would be something to look at. As long as the car is legally titled to the owner, there should be no problem getting plates and being able to operate the car.
You may want to look into historic plate registration if your car is 25 years old or older. There are several benefits to historic vehicle registrations, but some states have restrictions on how many miles you are allowed to drive per year. The magic number is usually 5,000 miles per year; this is done to help prevent people from registering a car this way and using it for primary transportation. Historic car registration is usually a ‘one time’ fee and can be a cost savings over time. Your DMV will be able to provide specifics on your respective state’s rules regarding these plates.
As mandated safety inspection requirements vary from state to state, if your state even has any, you should check to see if the mounting of emergency lights has any impact on being able to pass. While most inspection requirements are tied into the respective state’s vehicle code, some homework might be in order if you have no experience with inspections in your state in regard to your police car. In some states, vehicles registered as historic vehicles are exempt from safety inspection requirements. Emission inspections vary from state to state and sometimes from county to county within a state. Usually, exemptions from emission inspections are year-exclusive depending on the year of production of older cars. Check with your respective DMV if the year of your car is exempt or not, if your state has emission inspection requirements. Generally, when there are exemptions to emission standards, it is often from mid-1970s back.
One important issue that we all as auto owners face is insurance, an unfortunately necessary and costly evil. In many states, it is mandated by law. If you have had any thoughts about obtaining insurance on collector police cars, I've heard of no issues ever with insuring our cars. Anything with wheels can be insured.
If your police car is a pre-1990, I would highly recommend looking into collector car insurance, if you haven’t done so already, as our civilian classic car counterparts have done for a long time now. As we use these cars infrequently and they are not primary transportation (the insurers may go as far as requiring a copy of your policy on your daily driver to prove this), you could save a lot of money and potential stress going this route. There are a number of insurance companies specializing in collector car policies, so you have choices. Some of the best known companies are Hagerty, J.C. Taylor, Grundy, and American Collectors. I'm not endorsing any specific company here; rather I mention them by name just for example. All have web sites; some are even available through your independent insurance agent. It’s a good idea to check more than one company as the perks that go along with the basic policy, as well as premiums, vary between the companies. All of these companies have 1-800 phone numbers, convenient web sites and some set up booths at major car shows like Carlisle.
What are the advantages of this specialized type of auto insurance rather than adding the car to your existing policy on your daily driver? Actually, several. Our peers in civilian car collecting have known about the benefits for a long time and have helped it become a growing segment of the insurance industry. One advantage is cost, a very significant one at that. Collector’s policies cost much less than everyday run of the mill auto insurance as a rule. The rationale is that the cars are used much less than your normal transportation as they are not allowed to be your regular daily transportation. There are usually provisions allowed for occasional, and I stress occasional, pleasure drives outside of travel to/from and participation in parades, shows, etc. Mileage restrictions (a maximum allowable travel mileage per year, usually 5,000) have been eliminated by some companies.
Another rationale in the industry to reflect the low rates is that these cars are taken much better care of than everyday cars as a rule. Collector cars are babied, treasured, protected, and taken very good overall care of.
Another major benefit is agreed valuation — your loss coverage is based on an agreed value between the owner and insurer. Loss coverage is what you would be entitled to if the car was stolen and never recovered or damaged beyond repair (totaled). Generally, there is no disputing the valuation set by the owner as long as the amount is below $20,000. It becomes totally arbitrary below the $20k amount at the car owner’s discretion within reason. At a $20k valuation or higher, an appraisal done by a recognized appraiser will be needed.
While it is conceivable for anyone to overvalue a car for a total loss at any value under $20k, the companies aren’t too concerned about this as they pay out fewer claims in any calendar year compared to conventional auto insurance. If you realistically feel that your car should be insured for a $10,000 loss, then that’s what they will process your application at. Fewer total claims means less hassle to clients by the industry.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should go crazy overvaluing your car as they aren’t stupid. Keep it real and within reason. The premiums you pay are based upon this valuation and the limits of other coverages (comprehensive, liability, etc.). To say that a car with an agreed value of $8000 and full coverage with limited tort (restricts your rights to sue) and reasonable limits otherwise would not cost you more than in the neighborhood of $200/year is not a stretch.
They all require you to submit several clear pictures of your car taken at several angles along with your application. If your car is not completed, they might ask questions regarding when the restoration will be complete and what is still needed to be done before they approve the policy.
Some companies include roadside assistance. Think about this...who would you rather trust if you broke down with your classic cruiser? Some guy that is used to towing Cavaliers or an insurer-approved service company that is experienced in towing classic cars? This can be mutually beneficial as you have someone towing your car that understands classic autos and the insurance company has to deal with less damage claims from improper towing. Check with the company of your choice to see if they offer this valuable service along with your policy.
Another savings that some insurers offer is stacked liability; if you own more than one car insured through the same company, the cars share the liability coverage. The rationale here is that you only drive one car at a time so why should you have to pay liability coverage for other cars that sit in a garage? If you were out with one car and the other was totaled when a storm brought down your garage or if it was stolen out of the garage while you were at the show, the separate collision/loss coverage would cover the one in the garage. Repairable damage would still be covered also.
The rates are so low partly because they usually require the insurer and any possible drivers to have had no less than 10 years experience as a licensed driver. They require a signed agreement by the policyholder that you will not allow anyone without 10 years as a licensed driver to operate the car when this requirement is a term of policy. If you violated this term and something happened, they could refuse to pay any claims regardless of fault (though not always, read the conditions of any policy carefully) and would probably also cancel your insurance. While this seems discriminatory to younger drivers, they are looking at statistics of accidents.
Another is the age of the car you are attempting to insure. I have my cars insured by two different companies at this time, and not by choice. Each company has its own criteria for what years of cars it will insure. While they all insure older vehicles, acceptance of more recent ones from the 1980s vary between the companies. The one that insures my 1976, which is my preferred carrier, won’t insure my 1987 yet. Hopefully, in the next year or so, they will be able to.
If you still aren’t sold on the benefits of collector’s insurance, consider the following carefully. While this is a fictional scenario, though far from a stretch of the imagination, this could and has happened for real. What would happen if you have a, say, 1978 Fury and the car is wrecked and totaled on the way to a parade with no other vehicle to take responsibility? How it occurred really isn’t important as long as you weren't breaking the law in the process. I know…the thought of something like this happening makes me shudder also, but there’s an important point to be made. If you used your regular insurance carrier to insure the Fury (it doesn’t matter if it’s Allstate, Nationwide, State Farm or anyone else, they all operate the same way), they would go off of a “blue book” average value for the car to figure out its relative value at the time of the loss, which is non existent for cars this old unless you use the special NADA collector car pricing guide. They commonly do not do this for conventional auto policies. They usually go off of either the NADA Used Car Value guide or the Kelley Blue Book guide. You would likely end up with a settlement of possibly no more than a few hundred dollars after the deductible (If you are curious on what your car might be worth in the regular market, you can look it up online free at either www.nada.com or www.kbb.com). That’s if they were able to give you collision coverage at all in the first place because of the age of the car. Most insurers will not insure an older car for collision/loss. All you are likely to be able to obtain for a 1978 car is liability and maybe comprehensive coverage which will not cover a total loss of any kind. It’s bad enough that the car may not be repairable or replaceable, much less the amount of work and accessories put into it. Now, you have lost your entire financial commitment. If in the same scenario, the car was insured through a collector’s company with a valuation of $10,000, in a total loss that is what you would receive minus any deductible, if you opt for any deductible at all. This also varies.
In conclusion, this special insurance can be a godsend to anyone with a collector car. It allows you very good coverage that actually protects your entire investment. The premiums are quite attractive and the companies that offer them have generally good reputations in the industry.
Introduction | The basics of police car collecting | Who are collectors? Why do we collect?
Emergency lighting | Sirens | Where to find retired police cars | Emergency vehicle shows | Investing in police cars
Restorations: Rules and regs for restorers | Do-it-yourself bodywork | Do-it-yourself mechanical work
Shows: Chicagoland Emergency Vehicles Show | Aquidneck Island Police Car Parade (2008 | 2009)
Also see the EVOOA home page
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