Offroad Insurance

In by Glyn DemmerLeave a Comment

Playing the 4×4 Insurance Game

No-one likes to spend money on insurance, be it for their home, car or household contents. But Glyn Demmer says the first and most important accessory after buying your 4×4 is a decent 4×4 insurance policy that is tailored to the things you will do and the places you will visit

The “essential” off-road grudge purchase. This is how many 4×4 owners regard insurance for their vehicles. You don’t want it, but you have to have it.

But don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that it’s about cross border cover versus domestic cover. A river is a river, no matter where it is.

Repatriation Cover

You want cover that will pay when you experience a situation in a river and need to replace your 4×4’s engine, be it the low-water crossing near your home, or the Chobe river in Botswana.

But perhaps before we go into the details let’s look at some of the most common situations that occur in the bush, and at the same time what could have been done to avoid a failure and insurance claim.

Many minor accidents take place while reversing. “Oh no, I never saw the tree behind me and now the rear of my bakkie is wrecked!”

In most cases when this happens when the driver is unable to see anything with his rear-view mirror in the cabin, as the canopy obscures the view, the loadbox is fully packed and the driver never checked behind the vehicle before reversing. To make matters worse the passenger is more often than not in the passenger seat when this happens, instead of behind the vehicle, giving directions.

Water Crossings

When you plan to attempt a river crossing, check it. How often does it play out like this: “No man Kosie, we don’t have to walk it… this bakkie has been through maaaaany river crossings, no problem! It can wade through 800mm deep water!”

Then in goes the bakkie, and the engine mysteriously dies halfway through the crossing, in water that’s more than one metre deep.

The result is a very costly repair bill – and an insurance claim to boot.

Then there is grass. Not the common variety you will find in most gardens. The tougher stuff that makes up the African bush, and savannahs.

You drive for hours in low-range through this grass, never stopping as you want to make camp and have the first frosty. Then, some time later, you realise a strange, orange glow underneath your 4×4. And it’s not the sunset.

Fire Damage

Before you can say “holy smoke!” the glow spreads and the vehicle is engulfed in flames.

What the blazes happened, you wonder. Spontanuous combustion?

After a long day’s drive the vehicle’s exhaust system and catalytic converter are piping hot, and with grass lodged in the vehicles undercarriage and in the engine bay, the smouldering grass can ignite – and within about 2min your vehicle will be no more.

Sadly one of the more obvious issues simply hails from a loss of control of a vehicle, coupled to a lack of understanding of the vehicle’s dynamics.

Yes, the extra weight and height affect the centre of gravity, cornering and braking. Yes, on gravel a vehicle equipped with ABS braking does take longer to bring to a stop than one without the system. Yes, you have to slow down during cornering – this is not a race, and no-one wants to overtake you in the corner.

If the vehicle does end up going into an oversteer situation (where the back-end wants to overtake the front), and your name is not Sarel van der Merwe, you are likely to hit a tree, slide off the road or track, or even roll. Rather slow down and enjoy the holiday.

Now a few questions beckon. What should you look for in your policy before signing on the dotted line? What is important if you and the family are going to head outdoors and across borders on a regular basis?

Specialised Insurance for Specialised Cover

I spoke to Ian Gerogeson, managing director of Cross Country Insurance Consultants, to get the low-down.

“It’s a specialised business and one has to offer high levels of service to stay in the game. It’s all very well to simply brand a policy as a 4×4 policy, but when the claims come in you have to walk the talk,” says Georgeson.

“A good policy from a reputable company has to look after you, your family as well as your belongings and vehicle, if you get into trouble,” he says.

Gerogeson suggests that you look at the following pointers before signing on the dotted line, if you want peace of mind.

International repatriation cover for your family, vehicle and any trailer or caravan as well as contents. This extends to dirt bikes, quads and jet ski’s as well.

  • Medical assistance and medical evacuation cover for all family members
  • Roadside assistance, even if it’s off-road
  • Technical and mechanical assistance in the event of a break-down.
  • Car hire, in case your own vehicle is not going anywhere soon
  • Passenger and third party liability
  • Vehicle replacement within the first 12 months of the policy term
  • Cover for all fitted vehicle and lifestyle related accessories such as mountain bikes, photographic equipment, and so on
  • The policy should cover private and business usage
  • Cover should extend to winching equipment as well as locks and keys and vehicle sound equipment
  • Territorial limits should cover most southern African countries south of the equator as well as Kenya.

There are other factors to keep in mind too.

“Approved 4×4 training certificates enable a customer to negotiate a better rate,” says Gerogeson. “An experienced driver will obviously know the pitfalls of overlanding better than a rookie. But even the experienced drivers do get it wrong, and that’s when an insurance policy is vital,” Ian Georgeson.

More information

a href=””>Visit Cross Country Insurance Consultant’s Website, or contact them at 011 215-8800

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