South African car theft, hijacking and vehicle accident rates are amongst the highest in the world, yet, in spite of this, only 65% of car owners in South Africa have car insurance. It is therefore important that people are informed of the benefits and pitfalls of car insurance.
Simply defined, car insurance constitutes the contractual obligation of the insurer to assume financial responsibility for the loss of a vehicle as it pertains to damage or theft. Having quality car insurance can provide immense peace of mind to the policy holder. However, car insurance is known to be comparatively more expensive in South Africa than it is in other countries. This is undoubtedly due to the high level of risk insurers take in insuring a vehicle given the alarming accident and car theft statistics in the country. For this reason, car insurers pay careful consideration to your risk profile when determining your premium. Information such as the make and model of your vehicle, any damage the vehicle has already incurred, the vehicle’s mileage, its market value, your age, even your gender and the area in which you live, all form a part in calculating your monthly premium.
It is important that the consumer is made aware of the various types of cover available in the market: Comprehensive cover, covers the consumer for any loss incurred as a result of an accident, theft or damage; Balance of third party cover only covers the cost of an accident in which the insurance holder is at fault; Limited cover provides cover for theft and hijacking and it does not provide accident cover; Liability cover covers the cost of injuries and fatalities that came as the result of an accident for which the insurance holder is at fault.
It is crucial that the consumer has read all the fine print pertaining to their chosen policy, as car insurers are notorious for their loopholes. In 2007 the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance recovered a staggering R83.9million on behalf of policy holders who, more often than not, did not understand the information given to them when purchasing their policies.