Rolling the dice on auto coverage

With any kind of insurance, I’m paying for peace of mind — a guarantee that I’ll be able to financially take care of myself and my family in the event of a medical emergency, a natural disaster or an accident. And that peace of mind is gone when that insurance coverage doesn’t provide the coverage I thought it did. That’s exactly what happened to me recently with my current automobile insurance policy.

I have always believed that my automobile insurance follows me from vehicle to vehicle, regardless of whether the vehicle I am driving is owned, leased, rented or loaned. But apparently that is not the case anymore for policyholders with certain insurance companies. I found out the hard way about a policy change recently made by my insurance company that eliminates primary coverage for physical damage to loaner vehicles provided by dealerships and other motor vehicle repair facilities.

My hometown dealer, Donnie Buckalew at Buckalew Chevrolet in Conroe, routinely provides customers like me with a loaner vehicle when my own vehicle is being serviced at their shop. Dealers do this as a courtesy and convenience to their customers. And these loaner vehicles allow all of us to keep our busy lives moving, getting to and from work, dropping the kids off at school or getting to necessary appointments throughout the day.

I was in one of those loaner vehicles last summer when a powerful storm came through Conroe and toppled a tree in my yard. Unfortunately, that tree landed on top of my Buckalew Chevrolet loaner and damaged it significantly. As I worked with the dealership to compensate them for the damage done to their vehicle while it was in my possession, we discovered that our insurance provider had made a change, eliminating primary coverage for such loaner vehicles. Even many of the company’s independent insurance agents were not aware of the change, thinking that loaners were still covered just like rental cars.

And while some insurance companies may claim they are still providing coverage on these loaners, that coverage is only excess coverage, which only covers above and beyond underlying primary insurance policy. But before there can be excess coverage, there must be primary coverage in existence. Dealership’s garage-keeper policies are also excess insurance when the vehicle is being operated by someone outside the dealership. Needless to say, I had no idea I was uninsured in this specific circumstance. And apparently many insurers are now changing their policies. And that will leave many other Texans without real coverage for physical damage on their loaners.

Fortunately for all Texans, state Sen. Jose Menendez, D-San Antonio, and Rep. Stan Lambert, R-Abilene, have filed legislation (Senate Bill 1737, House Bill 3420) to ensure that your personal automobile insurance coverage for physical damage covers you when you’re driving a loaner vehicle provided by a vehicle repair facility.

Automobile insurance should follow us every time we are driving a car, not solely when it’s convenient for the insurance company to cover us. Our physical and financial security is too important to roll the dice about what our coverage covers. It’s time for the insurance industry to provide Texans the level of protection they deserve.

Kimberly Kaye McDonald - Resident of Conroe, TX

Texas Automobile Dealers Association