Gap Insurance – Worth it?

Guaranteed Asset Protection or as most car buyers know it – Gap insurance, can provide valuable financial protection during several years of your auto loan. If you put little or NOTHING down on your brand new $60,000 vehicle it could take around 4 years for you to be in a positive equity situation.

If a loss occurs, gap car insurance will pay the difference between the actual cash value (ACV) of the vehicle and the current outstanding balance on your loan or lease.

If your vehicle has been totaled by a covered incident, such as an accident, theft, fire, flood, tornado, vandalism, or hurricane, your insurance company will pay you the actual cash value for your car, if you have comprehensive and collision insurance. This amount is often considerably less than the actual amount you still owe on your loan or the amount due for a lease buyout/payoff.

When the amount of your ACV payout is less than what you owe on your lease or loan, the loss from this financial shortfall is the “gap” you can be left with. Would anyone enjoy paying a monthly car note for a vehicle they can’t drive anymore? Well, as Kevin McCallister would say ” I don’t think so”.

This is how a “gap” occurs:

  • You choose a shiny new Lexus that costs $60,000 and you drive it off the lot. (YAY ME – if you bought from yours truly)
  • The stock market is doing fabulous right now and you decide to put nothing down and now owe $60,000 in car payments over six years (0% interest loan = $833.33 per month on your new Lexus). You won’t get 0% but let’s stick with it for the fun of it…. we can all dream, right?
  • You purchase physical damage insurance (comprehensive and collision) with a $500 deductible to protect you against damages and loss.
  • You have an accident after 6 months of owning your precious new ride and you are for sure still upside down on your loan (meaning you owe more on a car than it’s worth) and your vehicle is totaled out.
  • The insurance company determines that the actual cash value of the car is only $46,000, but at the time of the loss you still owe $55,000.02 (remember those $833.33 payments)
  • Gap insurance should pay the difference plus your deductible, totaling $9,000.02. (Note: not all gap policies pay the deductible).

Many car owners don’t take into account the depreciation that takes place with a new car. Within minutes of driving off the lot, a new car can be worth 10 percent less than what you just paid. In my example above, if you owned the car for three days, had physical damage coverage and the car was totaled, you could owe 10 to 20 percent of the $60,000 ($6,000 to $12,000 out of your pocket) even though you purchased “full coverage.”

Car owners often assume that if their car is totaled, it will be replaced at the amount they paid, or at least the amount they owe. This is not so. That is why many car insurance companies offer gap insurance as an optional coverage that is available with physical damage coverage. Typically, a stand-alone gap policy is sold by a car dealership.

How much does gap insurance cost?

I cannot speak for all car dealerships, but ours is $499. It is a one time fee rolled into your payments ($6.93 per month on a 72 month loan).

Prior to my grand entrance into the automotive industry I paid $880 for my Gap insurance for a vehicle I purchased in Virginia…… thanks to the Dodge dealership for up charging me! LOL

Can I get gap insurance without primary insurance?

Even if you get gap insurance, you still need your state’s minimum auto insurance coverage (the insurance coverage the police check for if you are stopped and asked for your insurance card), because gap insurance isn’t catch-all coverage.

While most states require you to have certain car insurance coverages, typically at least bodily injury liability and property damage liability, for your gap insurance to be in effect you need to carry physical damage coverages of collision and comprehensive on your vehicle as well. This “full coverage” of liability and physical damage coverages is also normally required by your lien holder.

Can I purchase gap insurance on a used vehicle?

Yes, most of the time you can! State laws and insurance companies’ guidelines vary, but there are gap policies that are available for used cars that are financed. Gap insurance is beneficial when the value of a vehicle, whether new or used, depreciates while you still owe money on the loan or lease.

Can I buy gap insurance for a car that I bought if a private person is holding the loan?

Gap insurance providers won’t offer coverage if your loan is through a private individual instead being a structured loan from a proven financial institution, such as Chase, Huntington, Bank of America…. you get the picture.

When dealing with a bank or finance company, the gap insurance carrier knows the terms, sees the paperwork, etc. With a private party loan it is hard for the gap carrier to be assured that the loan is only for the vehicle, payments were made properly, etc. – all things that an insurer requires.

Is gap insurance an acceptable proof of insurance at the DMV or for police?

Gap insurance isn’t accepted by any Department of Motor Vehicles as proof of insurance. It’s not the right type of insurance needed to show financial responsibility when you are going to register, or renew registration, on your vehicle.

Showing proof of gap insurance to a police officer wouldn’t help if they ask you for proof of insurance. You would probably get laughed at…. Gap insurance is optional coverage that only helps you out in a total loss situation, it doesn’t provide the state-mandated liability coverage that police want to verify that you have on your vehicle.

If I bought my car outright, do I need gap insurance?

If you bought a car with cash and thus don’t have a lien holder due to there being no loan or lease on the vehicle, then there would be no reason for you to obtain gap insurance.

Am I due a refund on part of my gap insurance if I pay the car off early or trade it in?

If you financed your vehicle and the gap insurance is part of your vehicle’s financed monthly payment, then it is doubtful that you would receive any refund for your gap insurance. That is because when the coverage gets paid for monthly — as part of your financed monthly payment — then the coverage is used that same month.

If you paid for your gap insurance policy in full, then you will need to contact the company that sold you the policy to see if there is any unused premium that should be refunded back to you when you trade-in your vehicle.

Is gap insurance transferable from one vehicle to another?

Gap insurance cannot be transferred to a different vehicle or loan. If you are trading in, selling, or buying a new vehicle, you will need to get a new policy to cover the newly financed vehicle.

If I paid a high down payment, do I need gap insurance?

If you put down a decent down payment, your vehicle depreciates at a steady pace, and you are paying down the balance of the loan each month, then typically you wouldn’t need gap insurance coverage. Most of the time if you put 20 percent down, you will be okay.

Gap insurance is only needed if you have negative equity in your car (owe more than the value of the vehicle) since this coverage only pays for the balance of the loan left after the ACV is paid out when your car has been found to be a total loss by an insurer. If you owe less than the value of your vehicle, then save your money; you don’t need to buy gap coverage.

Is gap insurance required by law?

While gap insurance is good to have if you owe more on a vehicle than its value, it isn’t required by any state law for you to have as part of your car insurance policy.

Gap insurance is optional coverage; however, it’s not uncommon for lease contracts to have gap insurance included in them. Sometimes it’s referred to as auto loan/lease coverage or loan/lease payoff coverage. All Lexus leases have Gap insurance included.

If a lender of leased cars requires gap insurance to be purchased, then they must include the gap insurance within the cost of the lease itself. This means that the monthly price quoted by the dealer must include gap insurance when they mandate you carry this coverage.

There are some financial institutions that may want you to have gap insurance as part of your auto insurance policy on the car you are purchasing. If this is the case, your loan or lease papers should note this.

If you have declined gap insurance, a dealer shouldn’t be able to add it on to your loan amount or charge you for it in another way. Even though gap insurance may be helpful to you, if you owe more on the vehicle then its ACV and were to be in an accident, you should have the right to turn down this coverage and thus not be charged for it.

In general, car dealers anywhere should provide car buyers with an itemized price list for all these items, such as warranties and insurance, etc., if the items are being financed.

What isn’t typically covered by gap insurance?

Gap insurance will not pay for:

  • Overdue lease/loan payments
  • Costs for extended warranties, credit life insurance, or other insurance purchased with the loan or lease
  • Carry-over balances from previous loans or leases
  • Financial penalties imposed under a lease for excessive use
  • Security deposits not refunded by the lessor
  • Amounts deducted by the primary insurer for wear and tear, prior damage, towing, and storage
  • Equipment added to the car by the buyer, meaning that only factory-installed equipment is covered
  • Mechanical issues, such as engine or transmission failures, or any other car problems that are not losses covered by your car insurance policy.



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