What is Gap Insurance, how much does it cost, and do you really need it?
Gap Insurance is unlike any other consumer insurance policy. Why? Because it covers the part of your car that only banks would think about: depreciation. That’s the part that goes down every month you own your vehicle. Still confused? Let me explain.
What is Gap Insurance?
You’ve probably heard it said, “once you drive a new car off the lot, it’s worth thousands of dollars less.” It’s true. Say you visit your local Nissan dealership. That new Altima is screaming your name, so you buy it. After handing over your down payment, the salesguy hands you the keys to your new ride. You just bought a $22K vehicle, but once you’re home, you could only sell it for $18,000. That missing $4,000 ($22,000 – $18,000) is the depreciation you incur by merely relocating the vehicle.
Unfortunately, a regular auto insurance policy does not cover a car’s depreciation. If, on the second day of owning your Altima you total your car, the insurance company would only pay you the actual cash value (ACV) for the car, or $18,000. But the bank still wants all the money you borrowed. Where are you going to come up the extra $4K? That’s why you need gap insurance, also called loan/lease gap coverage. If you want to cover the depreciation of your vehicle for the life of the vehicle, then get gap insurance. It sometimes even pays for your deductible.
How Much Does It Cost?
Since you’re not paying to insure your entire vehicle, a gap insurance policy is not as expensive as regular car insurance. However, since the policy is basically all-risk coverage, it’s not exactly cheap either. If you shop around, you can pay a one-time premium of $300 to $700. The price depends on the amount financed and sometimes the terms of the loan or lease. There are caps involved, but most new vehicles are eligible for gap insurance. Check with your finance company for an easy quote.
Do You Really Need Gap Insurance?
There are a couple of reasons why you might want gap insurance. For one, if you owe a significant amount on the car you should consider it. How much money? Dave Hurt, who sells gap insurance with Car Select, says, “Anyone who buys a car and finances 80% of the purchase price should buy Gap Insurance.” That’s probably a good guideline.
Second, you should consider gap insurance if it’s early in the life of your loan or lease. If you owe more money than your car is worth, you’re considered ‘upside down’. Gap insurance could ease you out of an ‘upside down’ situation if you total your car. It may not be required by your finance company, but it’s not a bad decision in certain circumstances.
It’s worth mentioning that gap insurance is not for every car. If you have an older vehicle, gap insurance may not be available for it. Check with the company who writes the gap insurance policy if you’re curious about your particular vehicle.
Finally, check to see if your finance company already includes gap insurance with the auto loan. When I worked with State Farm, their bank automatically included a gap insurance policy for new car purchases. True, their auto loan rates could be higher than dealer financing, but it was an added benefit of their auto loans.
If you have an experience with gap insurance, feel free to leave a comment.