Insurance–it’s everywhere. One can insure just about anything. Are tires an investment one needs to insure? Tire insurance, also called a road hazard policy, road hazard warranty, or tire reimbursement plan, is a rapidly growing industry in the automotive world.
Tire warranty plans pay in full or in part for the replacement or repair of damaged tires and/or rims from “road hazards.” Road hazards are defined as pot holes, debris, nails, wood, and other hazards found in the road. Curbs, sidewalks, and stone walls are not road hazards. This is an important distinction to consider when deciding if tire insurance is right for you (discussed further ahead).
Tire plans last for a specific period of time and tire wear tread-depth. Some plans last 2-3 years. Others can last 5 years or 60,000 miles. Several plans come with fixed amounts of coverage: $500 per year up to 4 years. Many contracts require three years of law school to comprehend. In terms of tread depth, a tire is usually considered worn out (and thus the plan null and void) at 2/32 to 3/32 of an inch.
Another important distinction is in the type of plan.
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Tire reimbursement plans are just what they say. You, the plan holder, will be reimbursed after the claims process is finalized–usually 2-8 weeks. There is an out-of-pocket expense. These plans are often sold by new car dealerships. The prices can range from $300 to $600 dollars.
Road hazard policies operate similarly to reimbursement plans. However, some tire insurance providers, in partnership with the repair facility, may have a direct-pay relationship. Thus, there would be no out-of-pocket expense, except for applicable deductibles, and items not covered in part or in full. These plans are primarily sold by tire dealers and repair shops. The prices range from $10 to $30 per tire. They also can be based on a percentage of the cost of the tire: usually 12% to 15%.
Both types of plans have a number of variables, requiring a magnifying glass to read the fine print. Also, many are pro-rated warranties, covering only a percentage of the cost of the tire based on its wear.
Claims and Coverage
Depending on the plan, claims are initiated by the repair shop. The process is fairly smooth, although there can be a significant delay from the provider for authorization. This delay may be an hour or an entire weekend. This means that you’ll have to “ok” the tire replacement, and then hope it’s authorized for the full amount, or drive on your spare.
Another interesting note is that a lot of tire damage is caused by curbs. Curb damage is not covered under most road hazard policies. High granite curbs with sharp edges slice through tens of thousands of tires per year.
You Won’t Notice
Many people don’t even notice tire damage. Other than to see if the tires are holding air, who “really” looks at tires? Tires are subject to a whole host of external influences which cause bubbles, slices and gouges. Despite the potential dangers of damaged tires, the damage very often does not translate into any noticeable drivability issue. The point is that if you don’t notice any tire damage you can’t benefit from the coverage.
Those raving about the benefits of a road hazard policy are the actual folks in the industry who stand to benefit from the sale. They’ll argue that it’s so cheap–only $10 to $20 per tire. Even so, for four tires, that’s $80 based on the “possibility,” the “chance,” of damaging a tire that meets the repair/replacement requirement protocols.
If a rim and tire has incurred significant damage, it’s quite likely that other problems have resulted as well. The first is that the vehicle may have been jarred out of alignment. Secondly, hub bearings, front end components: tie rods, spindles, ball joints, and a variety of other components may have sustained damage. In this case, auto insurance, which you are already paying for, will pay for everything–brand new.
Free Road Hazard Warranties
Many tires come with road hazard warranties FREE. In other words, in an effort to secure retailers, many tire distributors provide service centers FREE road hazard insurance. Some shops pass this on to their tire customers, others sell them. Ask if the tire “comes” with a road hazard protection policy. If not, request that one be provided at no additional charge. It’s worth a shot.
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Also, some car manufacturers provide road hazard warranties FREE of charge for 12 months or 12,000 miles. If you’re buying a new car or even used, ask that the dealer provide a complimentary road hazard policy (after all the wheeling and dealing is done, of course), and just before you commit.
What’s the best road hazard policy?
Money in your bank account.
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If you run a tire shop or a tire store then everyone who works there needs to know a little bit about sales and a lot about tires. You should have routine classes for all employees so they can answer questions about road hazards, tire wear, inflation pressures and the various companies and brands that you sell. Customers need this information and they want it and desire it.
Additionally, every person in the tire store should understand when the customer has a problem or a question that can be solved by another purchase that they need to be referred to the person who takes the orders. Often customers will ask about balancing, car rims or performance tires. When a customer starts asking these types of questions there may be future sales involved that can be had quite easily.
Running a busy tire shop and busting tires can be difficult and hectic, but missing sales because your staff could not answer basic questions or field the needs of the customers, means you are losing business and that is not something that makes a lot of sense considering your over head, labor costs and inventory costs. Lets face it your job is to sell tires, put them on cars and go to the next car as everyone leaves satisfied and happy. Please consider all this in 2006.
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When it comes time to replace your vehicle's tires, tire size is very important. If you ever switch to a different sized tire, you could damage your vehicle. Before switching tire sizes, do some research to ensure that it can be done safely.
Most drivers will not need to change their vehicle's tire size. Stock tire size is what your vehicle was designed to use. These are some vehicle components affected by changing a tire size:
oBoth the speedometer and odometer are calibrated based on the height of your tires. Taller tires would make the speedometer read slower than actual speed. Shorter tires would show a higher speedometer reading.
oNewer vehicles have internal computers that base calculations on the tire's height. Components, such as Anti-lock Braking Systems, could fail with a different tire size.
oStock suspension could have additional stress with a taller tire, resulting in faster wear and/or failure. For substantial increases in tire height, you should upgrade from stock suspension.
When possible you should use your vehicle's stock tire size. Don't switch just because you find a good price in a different size. A lot of things in your vehicle were designed for the stock tire size. If you do have to switch tire sizes, make sure the size is safe for your vehicle.