In most places, it has been a brutal winter. That harsh season has taken a toll on the roads, which has in turn taken a toll on your tires. Potholes are increasing, and transportation budgets that are strained with snow removal and other burdens cannot keep the potholes fixed fast enough.
Given all these factors, should you insure your tires for the increased risk of damage? You may think that your tires are covered under warranty, but warranties typically cover only defects in the tire and not damages from anything on the road (“road hazards”).
Some tire vendors do offer free road hazard warranties, so make sure you understand whether you are already covered before you buy any extra insurance. Others will be happy to sell you the tire insurance at the time of your tire purchase.
You will have to make your own decision on tire insurance based on your driving habits, the road situation in your area, cost considerations, and your overall tolerance of risk — but here are some things to consider as you make that decision.
- Cost – Tire insurance typically costs $10-$20 per tire, thus $40-$80 total. Costs may vary in either direction depending on the level of coverage and whether rim damage is included.
Start by looking at the replacement costs. If you are buying cheaper tires, the cost of replacement is not going to be much more than the insurance cost. Higher-dollar precision tires or specialty-purpose tires such as heavy-duty truck tires may be worth the extra cost.
- Risk – How often have you had flat tires or any other incident that required tire replacement? Is there any reason to expect that risk to change one way or the other — for example, have you just taken a job in construction where you will be driving in areas with plenty of loose nails, screws, and other puncture hazards? Weigh the cost of insurance against the likelihood of your using it.
- Coverage – What coverage are you getting for the amount of money you are paying? Almost any tire insurance policy will handle punctures and typical road hazards, but are the rims covered as well? If so, is it just for repair or replacement? Are towing costs included and under what limitations? Is cosmetic damage to rims covered?
Compare tire insurance/road hazard policies from different tire vendors to get an idea of the typical coverage and see how your preferred tire vendor stacks up. Consider asking for inclusion of any missing coverage that is important to you and negotiate its price.
- Exclusions and Obligations – Look over all exclusions for sources of damage (for example, damage caused by curbs), driving habits, or failure to maintain the tires. Generally, tire insurance will require some form of documentation that you have rotated the tires within the manufacturer's recommendations.
If you are not likely to follow the rotation instructions, or if you engage in other insurance-voiding behaviors, tire insurance will not help you. (You may also want to consider changing your habits…)
If you drive often, drive in harsh winter environments where damage is increased, or in areas with unusual amounts of hazards such as construction zones, tire insurance may be a sound investment for you. In other cases, you may want the extra coverage just for peace of mind.
Weigh the advantages and coverage against the cost, and review any policy in detail before you sign. Take those steps and you are likely to make the best decision for your situation — whether that is to buy tire insurance or take your chances with your local highways.
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