UPDATED - Ask Andy: Gap insurance - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported By Andy Wise

UPDATED - Ask Andy: Gap insurance

My insurance sources - agents, adjusters and regulators -  say gap insurance will pay off the balance of what you owe on the car in the event of a catastrophic loss, like if the car is totaled.  If you ever owe more than the purchase price of a vehicle, gap insurance is good to have.

Christopher Garrett, a spokesperson for the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance, says auto dealers cannot sell gap insurance.  Only licensed insurance professionals can sell a gap policy.  Auto dealers, however, can offer gap "coverage" or gap "warranties," as long as those terms are disclosed in writing.

Two insurance agents I trust say gap insurance is only available on new cars not previously titled.  Premium costs vary, and they say it expires after three years.

Kent Ritchey, owner of Landers Ford Lincoln Mercury, disputes that.  He says gap coverage is available on used vehicles, too -- especially if the buyer owes more on the used car than it is worth.

"I contend that you should look at gap coverage on any vehicle you buy new or used, and if you owe more than the purchase price of the vehicle, and most people do, you should seriously look at gap," says Ritchey.  "It is a very effective amount of coverage to cover what could be a huge financial imbalance."

"Gap or (debt) cancellation insurance is available on used automobiles and that coverage is available for the term of the (loan) up to 72 months," says John McBay, finance manager for Wolfchase Toyota.  "The confusion might be the difference between what is available from your insurance carrier and what is available from the dealership."

Before you consent to gap coverage from a dealer on any car purchase, check your existing auto policy.  Like mine, it may have a replacement clause.  The one in my policy will replace my car if it is totaled.  I would still have to make the payments on my loan, but my insurance company will replace my vehicle with a comparable one, prorated of course.  If my car is damaged beyond operation, but not totaled, my policy will pay off the loan just like gap coverage would, so it would not be necessary for me to buy gap coverage or a separate gap insurance policy.

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