Decades of experience, including...
Decades of experience, including a background as a show judge has given Jeff Hyman from Classic Auto Appraiser expert knowledge on the value of street rods. The modifications, details, and quality of work are recorded in a computer template to help him appraise the cash value of the specialty cars.
Last month, we explored the topic of automotive insurance for hot rods and custom cars. In Part 1 of our two-part article on insurance, we talked about finding the right insurance company-meaning a company that specializes in insuring collector cars and understands the hot rod hobby, including the value of hot rods and the habits of hot rodders. We talked about the importance of insuring your vehicle as soon as possible with an "agreed value" policy in order to ensure that your car is valued properly and insured thoroughly in the event of damage or a total loss. If you missed that issue, we hope you'll find a copy because the information we dug up could potentially save you a bundle of money and a pile of grief in the event of an accident, theft, or damage.
This month, we've got more insurance information that could save you even more money, plus some advice for protecting your investment. First, let's dig into the topic of determining the accurate value of your specialty car, then let's get into recent improvements in hot rod insurance for restorers and builders.
What's your rod worth?
Of course you know the value of your street rod. The real question is, can you prove it? The best way-maybe the only way-to confidently answer yes is to have your car appraised by a professional appraiser.
Every part of this coupe was...
Every part of this coupe was photographed as part of the appraisal process.
We're assuming you've already taken our advice and insured your car with an "agreed value" policy from one of the many insurance companies specializing in classic and specialty cars. In the event of a total loss, your agreed value policy guarantees that your insurance company will cover the cost of the car with no hassles.
Many insurance companies we talked to don't require an appraisal to insure your hot rod, but for the relatively minor expense of the service, an appraisal from a certified and reliable appraiser is a smart investment. There are cases when an insurer could ask for an appraisal, such as on ultra-high-dollar cars, or when the value might not be evident to the insurance company. Chrome/ANPAC, for example, requires appraisals for cars valued at more than $25,000 and asks for updates every three years to make sure they are insuring the car for an adequate amount.
This car owner's excellent...
This car owner's excellent documentation, including titles, registration forms, receipts, photos, and other records were a huge help to Hyman as he made his appraisal. The more paperwork you can provide, the more accurate the appraisal will be.
Disputes over the value of your car are more likely to occur when dealing with non-specialty insurance companies, such as in the case of an accident caused by another vehicle. If the other person's insurance company is not familiar with the value of hot rods (which is not unlikely), they may try to low-ball the value of your car. Documentation from an independent professional appraiser could be vital in helping you collect. Another circumstance where an appraisal would pay off is when you're selling your car and need to validate its worth to a potential buyer.
Jeff Hyman from Classic Auto Appraiser is the independent professional appraiser we call when we need appraisals on the project cars at our in-house tech center where STREET RODDER and our sister publications build and store various magazine project cars. We called him recently to ask him questions about the work he does.
Our first question was, who should be getting their street rod appraised? "Anybody with a car mildly to wildy customized, anybody with a limited-production specialty car, anybody with the type of vehicle you couldn't look up in a 'blue book' or conventional value guide, including custom modified cars and low-production factory cars with rare options that would elevate its value."
When completed, Hyman's appraisal...
When completed, Hyman's appraisal was presented in the form of a thorough and lengthy appraisal report.
Hyman emphasized the value of an appraisal in the case of an insurance dispute. "The dispute is typically with an insurance company that was never part of the agreed value accepted by the owner and the owner's insurance company," he explains. "If the car is damaged in a collision or in a paint shop fire, your insurance will pay the agreed value. But when you start dealing with the paint shop's insurance company or with the insurance company of the person who crashed into you at the cruise night, you'll need some way of determining the value of your vehicle."
This page from the appraisal...
This page from the appraisal report on Editor Brian Brennan's '29 Ford roadster shows the car's condition in all areas. Your hot rod's condition might not be excellent in every category, but this is not a judging sheet for a contest; it's a condition appraisal to help determine the accurate dollar summation of the value of the vehicle.
Classic Auto Appraiser makes house calls, doing its appraisals wherever the car is located. Hyman comes equipped with a digital camera and a laptop to record extensive photos and technical data on the vehicle being appraised. He examines the vehicle with the care and the expertise of an ISCA show judge, noting descriptions, modifications, and components. "Some owners know every nut and bolt on their car," he told us, "and a lot of the people we deal with may not be aware of all the elements of the car."
After many years in this business, Hyman has developed what he calls "templates" for street rods, hot rods, customs, restorations, lowriders, trucks, and bikes. "The programs list every possible mod from front bumper to rear; I note all the modifications that have been made to the vehicle being appraised."
The results are presented to the owner in the form of a bound appraisal report, which includes an identification and description of the car, listing virtually every component on the car and every modification made. It also contains a condition report on every area of the car-exterior, interior, and engine compartment (rated poor, fair, average, good, very good, or excellent)-any published stories on the vehicle, dozens of photos of every corner of the car from multiple angles, and finally, a summation of the dollar value of the vehicle.
This appraisal included an...
This appraisal included an extensive list of the modifications and parts on the roadster. Virtually nothing was overlooked. But there's more to an appraisal than just making a list of parts-it involves understanding the value of parts and custom modifications, some of which cannot be purchased off a shelf or out of a catalog or website.
We got a hold of the Classic Auto Appraiser appraisal report on Brian Brennan's '29 Ford roadster. The report is more than 30 pages long and incredibly thorough. As it turns out, Brennan's roadster rated an "excellent" scoring in all applicable categories.
We wondered how Hyman determines subjective judgments such as "very good" and "excellent." "Condition is subjective, of course," he explains, "and that's where 22 years of experience comes in. I have worked as a judge at many major car shows, including the Grand National Roadster Show, so I've seen enough to be able to judge a car's condition and dollar value pretty well. Every once in a while I may come across a vehicle that I'm not sure of. I do belong to an appraisal association and I will seek the opinion of other experienced appraisers within that association, or I'll get the expert opinions of professional builders, asking them what they think it would cost to build such a vehicle."
We asked Hyman about the qualifications to look for when searching for a reliable appraiser. "You want someone with lots of experience. You want to avoid these networks and groups with appraisers who have been trained for maybe a week, and who then go out and takes some photos and send them to a parent company for a long-distance appraisal. If your car gets stolen or wrecked, that appraiser might have to be an expert witness in a court case where his credibility will be called into question; he will be questioned aggressively by the opposing lawyer. You need somebody with testimony experience who will be able to state with confidence that he did see your vehicle, that he is the one who made the dollar amount appraisal, and that he has the credentials and the authority to back up his appraisal."
Can you afford Restorer and...
Can you afford Restorer and Builder insurance? If a fire or other catastrophe destroyed your shop and its contents, could you afford to rebuild your business?
Insurance For Shops
One of the topics we talked about last month was insurance at the shop where your street rod is being built, rebuilt, or upgraded. We related a couple stories about rod shops that burned to the ground, destroying the building, the equipment, and the irreplaceable cars inside. In both cases, the shops had business insurance that helped cover the costs, but were unable to fully cover the loss of the projects being built.
Most established shops have business insurance to protect their property and ideally their customers' property, but many insurance companies just don't know what happens inside a hot rod shop and how that's different than what happens inside an automotive repair shop. Bobby Alloway told us that after a fire destroyed his shop in 1998, his business insurance agent had a hard time understanding why a shop would need six or seven sets of wrenches or three welders or specialty tools made by hand.
A Building and Property policy...
A Building and Property policy with Restorer and Builder insurance protects a shop owner's property, including the building, tools, and equipment. A garage keeper's policy protects the customers' cars and parts, including components such as an engine that may be stored in the shop while the car is away being blasted or painted.
Specialty car shops need specialty car insurance just like specialty car owners do. As it turns out, specialty car insurance companies have been responding to the need. Grundy and Hagerty both offer Restorer and Builder insurance customized to the specific needs of specialty vehicle shops and their customers. Both companies offer coverage policies, including general liability, building and property comprehensive, collision for shop vehicles and customer cars, umbrella coverage of vehicles under construction, liability on vehicles once they leave the shop, and more.
Steve Foltz heads up the Business/Commercial Insurance department at Northwest Classic Insurance, an agent for Grundy Worldwide on the West Coast. He explains that specialty companies understand the differences between the classic car industry and the repair industry (such as collision shops): turnover is less, security is generally higher, the cars are of higher value and are appreciating (not depreciating) in value, and the shop crew is likely to be more specialized. And most importantly, the cars are unique; if a highly modified shop-built '32 Ford roadster is damaged in a fire, you can't replace it with another one just like it, as if it were an '05 Ford Festiva.
All of those benefits of a specialty shop, combined with the fact that claims are less frequent than with ordinary shops, means that specialty insurers can provided this type of custom-built coverage cheaper than most mainstream business insurance companies.
Jonathan Klinger at Hagerty reinforced these points and outlined the extensive nature of Restorer and Builder coverage, which might include general liability to cover such events as someone falling and injuring themselves in your shop. Other coverage pays for damage and protects the shop owner when driving the vehicle, such as when going to a paint shop or even attending a car show. Liability also protects the shop after the car leaves the shop, in case something breaks and there is damage or injury. Building and property protects the facility, tools, and equipment in the shop, including specialty tools and the employees' personal tools. And of course, the garage keeper's policy provides agreed value coverage on all the cars in the shop in the event of damage or theft.
We talked to John Heckman, who was hired to set up the Restorer and Builder program at Grundy (the first company to offer it) about their garage keeper's policy, the insurance that covers the customers' cars in a shop. Most standard garage keeper policies, written for repair shops are based on "actual cash value" (the type of insurance you'd have on a "normal" car) which, in the event of a total loss, pays replacement cost minus depreciation. Grundy's policy is based on "agreed value" (the insurance you should have on any specialty car). In the event of a total loss, agreed value policies pay the prescribed amount-no depreciation and no haggling. Individual car owners need to keep their insurance companies up-to-date on their cars; shops don't.
The appraisal report on Brennan's...
The appraisal report on Brennan's Model A contained 10 more pages of photos just like this page, providing an extensive look at the roadster. While photos are an important part of the appraisal documentation, photos can't tell the whole story of any car. For example, it's hard to see the difference between economical vinyl upholstery and high-dollar imported leather when you're looking at a 4-inch snapshot, but that's a huge difference and the right information needs to be noted and included in the appraisal. The value of your hot rod is based on a lot more than the total sum of all the receipts. The quality of the build is another important factor. For example, was that expensive leather upholstery masterfully stitched by a talented upholsterer or hastily needled up by an inexperienced amateur? An experienced appraiser can identify the difference between poor and excellent workmanship, and the difference will affect the ultimate value of the car.
"We don't require shops to report on each specific car coming in," Heckman explains. "We ask the shop owner how many cars are in the shop, and the cost to replace them in the event of a total loss. Maybe it's 10 cars, with an average value of $50,000-so you're looking at $500,000 of garage keeper's coverage. In the event of a claim or claims, the insurance company will determine the value of the individual cars by asking the owner how much coverage they had it insured for, or by looking at the shop's build records, and by our own expertise." This illustrates the importance of shops keeping a separate set of build records off-site. It also shows how an independent appraisal could come in handy.
Grundy's garage keeper's coverage is "direct primary," meaning that the shop's insurance company pays the car owner without involving the owner's insurer. This makes it convenient for the customer and shows integrity on the part of the shop.
Heckman told us that he's met many shop owners who don't carry garage keeper's coverage because their customers' cars are already covered by their own personal policies. That's a risky habit. If a customer's car does get damaged or destroyed in an uninsured builder's shop, the car owner's personal agreed value policy will cover the loss. The second part of that story, however, is that the car owner's insurance company can then invoke its "right of subrogation," and come after the shop owner to recoup the expense of the claim. That surprise visit can cost a shop owner a lot of money-and even potentially close him down.
After talking to all these insurance pros, we decided to get advice from another shop owner, for the viewpoint from the other side of the policy. Hollywood Hot Rods (HHR) has been in business for eight years, always with insurance, and so far with no claims or accidents. HHR has been covered by restorer and builder insurance from Grundy for three years. "Anywhere you've got a lot of cars in one place and a lot of activity, there is risk," HHR owner Troy Ladd says. "Stuff happens all the time. Not even big things like a fire, but small things like moving a car and hitting something or bumping into another car, opening the door into something or moving the cars into the shop at night. A hot rod shop is a small business with a very low profit margin, and the reality is that not every builder can afford as much insurance as he would like to have-but insure as much as you can as early as you can and increase it as you grow and can afford it. If something happened to a customer's car and you had to pay that back, you could lose your business. With insurance, you're protected against catastrophe, which is peace of mind for the builder and for his customers."