Where's Eagle Man When You Need Him?
Recently, we bought a second car. Even though I can cycle to work, I can't depend on Peter and our main car to always be around. I learned pretty quickly – you can live in the Middle of Nowhere without a car, but you have to be happy with limited shopping choices and nothing can ever go wrong. For example, if you break a tooth and require emergency dental work or if you clip your dog's nail to short and he's splattering blood around the place for 2 hours like a bad episode of “CSI,” not having a car becomes more than just a minor inconvenience. (Sadly, these are real-life, first-person experience examples, not hypotheticals.)
We identified a list of suitable car candidates from the Munster Free Ads newspaper. We were sort of working to a deadline because Peter had to go back to Dublin. On the day he needed to go back, we had an appointment to see the most suitable of our candidates – a 1996 Peugeot 306 Turbo Diesel. We were 95% sure that unless the car was held together with duct tape and the seller was scary, we were going to buy the car. Car nearly purchased, our attention turned to insurance.
I called our existing insurer and got a reasonably priced quote, only to be told that I had to fax in proof of insurance for the last nine years. I had a vague recollection of having had this issue when we insured our main car. It was an enormous pain in the ass because the first 5 years we had insurance cover in Chicago, we went through a middle-man (because Peter was young and a new driver). Each 6-month or a 1-year contract could have been through a different underwriter. I'd shredded most of our Chicago-related paperwork before the move – bills, insurance records, correspondence. The only papers I'd kept were our tax returns.
I knew we had some records, but we didn't have them all and we sure didn't have them with us down in the Middle of Nowhere. I asked the woman to please run the quote again, with no insurance record. She told me that she couldn't – without proof of a no-claims bonus, she couldn't quote me for insurance at all.
I want to know who came up with the phrase “no-claims bonus.” No doubt, he's some sort of marketing, spin-doctor whiz kid who has retired to the Grand Caymans. It sounds like this great thing – oh yeah, if you haven't made any insurance claims, then we'll give you a bonus. Good puppy, have a cookie. But no, it really is more of a no-claims requirement.
Another annoying issue in getting cover is the named driver requirement. If you don't have insurance that is expressly in your name, insurance companies do not consider you to have been insured. I seem to remember that some of the difficulty in our first insurance-getting experience was because Peter wasn't a named driver on our Chicago insurance. (Remember, he was young and I was a bit older, wiser, female, and a more experienced driver. It was to our advantage to make me the main driver on the policy.)
I rang Peter to report all of this and he had a bright idea. He could add the new car to our existing coverage. (Coverage under which he is the named driver.) Perfect. The company would have proof of everything from our last struggle to get insurance and we could be done with this. Peter rang and learned that he couldn't just add the car to his insurance. The no-claims bonus apparently goes with the car, not with the policy. So his one little policy with all its paperwork can only cover his one little car. If he wanted to cover another car, he would have to start over by submitting all that paperwork. You know, the paperwork that was up in Dublin instead of down in the Middle of Nowhere.
I'll spare you the forensic detail. We got the car home safely (if under slightly dubious insurance reasoning), Peter was delayed by a day in his return to Dublin, and within 2 days, I had proper temporary insurance that will become full insurance once I receive their paperwork, sign, and return it. The whole insurance saga just exhausted me. It angers me that insurance is so difficult and expensive to get. I fear what will happen if my no-claims bonus disappears.
These companies make ridiculous profits, only to turn around and try to weasel out of paying claims and bully people out of making claims. Insurance should be protection against the worst-case scenario, not a legal and unfair protection racket. When you make insurance too difficult and expensive, some people will drive uninsured. I'd wager these are the people who are most likely to have accidents and the people who suffer from this aren't the insurance companies.
All of this makes me nostalgic for insurance in Illinois. Pretty much anyone can get insurance in Illinois – it might cost extra, but an effort seems to be made to make sure the higher-risk end of the market is sufficiently covered. Thinking about insurance reminded me of these really bad ads that were run on daytime television in Chicago.
I was going to describe the ads, but through the miracle of YouTube, I can show you. I don't want to spoil it for those who haven't seen the ad before, so I will put my thought about the ad in the comments.