It might seem strange, but we're about to spend the next several pages encouraging you to spend your money on something we hope you'll never use. Just like a fire extinguisher or bandages, automotive insurance is one of those things you would prefer to never need. And just like brakes or oil, you're nuts if you're driving your car without it.
We've read and written a bunch of hot rod insurance articles over the years, going back to the days when insuring any kind of specialty vehicle was a big hassle and trying not to violate the terms of your policy was an even bigger challenge. Luckily, things have changed for the better. There are now many insurance companies providing coverage to collector cars exclusively, and the rules regarding coverage, claims, and usage have become a lot more hot rodder friendly. In these days, when it is becoming increasingly more difficult to build, paint, register, and drive a hot rod or other specialty vehicle, it's nice to know that our insurance companies are on our side.
Finding the Right Company
Finding a specialty car insurance company is easy. There are lots of them. Some, and only some, are listed in the source box at the end of this article. Many more can be found in vendor booths at car shows, advertising in magazines, and on the Internet. Finding the insurance company with the best policies for your car and your habits is easy too-just a little more work. Start by asking your fellow rodders or trusted builders for recommendations (or warnings). Then start checking websites or making phone calls to gather information from as many companies as you can. Tell them about your car and ask them about what kind of coverage they offer, how they handle claims, premium rates, vehicle usage policies, and any specific issues that might pertain to your vehicle. Each company has its own rules, its own definitions, and categories for the many diverse types of collector cars, not to mention its own types of policies and programs. In addition, insurance is regulated by states, and all 50 of them have different laws regarding it.
In recent years, more standard automobile insurance companies have started dabbling in the specialty car market, and we've been impressed by some of them. We're glad to see companies supporting our hobby, especially since many of these companies have good, time-honored reputations. Even so, there are advantages to insuring with a company that specializes in collector cars. Specialty companies deal exclusively with specialty cars and tend to have a better understanding of the hot rod hobby, the value of the cars, and the habits of the people who build, own, and drive them. Best of all, specialty car insurance companies typically offer lower premiums than standard companies. If you are ensuring your specialty vehicle with a standard insurance company, definitely avoid the temptation to simply add your hot rod to the policy you already have on your ordinary cars. Specialty cars should be insured with an "agreed value" policy. What that is and why you need that for your hot rod will be described a few paragraphs from now.
We took our own excellent advice and called several different specialty insurance companies to get a general idea of their policies. We also asked them for their excellent advice for enthusiasts-and their opinions about common mistakes made by hobbyists.
Translating into Hot Rod
You may have noticed we've been using the term "specialty car" in this story, as opposed to "hot rod" or "street rod." That's because most of the specialty insurance companies we're familiar with have different coverage programs for many different categories of collector cars in addition to hot rods and the classifications, terminology, and definitions for those categories differ from one company to another.