Last week, the Calgary Herald reported the sad story of Bert Curtiss, a vintage car collector who lost a $3 million collection of vintage cars to a fire on his property in Olds, Alberta, 55 miles north of Calgary. His 27,000 square foot dairy barn — housing hundreds of one-of-a-kind vintage vehicles, restored farm machines and collectibles — was consumed by a fire that took 33 firefighters from five towns, and 140,000 gallons of water to extinguish.
The crushing part of the story is that the collection was uninsured. We got in touch with the experts to learn how to avoid such a catastrophe.
The vehicles on Curtiss’s property included a 1927 International Harvester truck that Curtiss referred to as “museum quality.” Many of the pre-war vehicles on the property had wood bodies, which were completely destroyed in the fire. In an interview with CTV, Curtiss estimated that he had approximately 40 classic cars and trucks, along with another 40 antique tractors. That was all in addition to the equipment required to run his farm.
The sad part of the story was that despite the value and rarity of some of the classics on the property, none of them were insured.
Insurance is something that nobody really enjoys paying for, but in times of catastrophe, it can at least help an owner to recoup some of his losses. Nothing will bring the cars back, but a settlement check can be the difference between rejoining the hobby at some point, or just walking away. Curtiss told CTV that he didn’t think he’d go back to collecting and restoring vehicles after his experience.
For some collectors, the cost of insurance seems like it would be too large to bear. If you worked with a traditional insurance company, that might be true. If you were to take out a full coverage insurance policy from a traditional insurer, on a vehicle like the 1978 Chevrolet Blazer we’ve written about in the past, that policy could be somewhere around $1,000 per year in Massachusetts. Multiply that by the dozens of vehicles on Curtiss’s property, and the cost can be insurmountable.
That doesn’t take into consideration that most car insurance companies typically insure cars like 2014 Toyota Camrys and 2011 Honda Accords, and have little to no experience establishing a value for a 1927 International truck.
It’s why the 1978 Blazer is insured with a company that specializes in collector cars. Hagerty Classic Car Insurance, for example, provides insurance for collector cars that is tailored not only for the limited use that vehicles like the Blazer see, but for the collector value that older vehicles enjoy.
Classic car insurers typically write policies for cars that aren’t used as daily transportation. Companies like Hagerty, for example, require that drivers have an insured, registered daily driver in their name in order to get a policy for their collector cars.
The thing that sets these policies apart from traditional car insurance is something called “agreed value.” When you insure your collector car with Hagerty, you take out a policy on the actual value of the vehicle. To a traditional insurer, NADA book value is what your car is worth, minus any deductible. Crash something like our 1978 Blazer, and you might be lucky to get a check for $5,000, based on the vehicle’s low retail value.
“Agreed value” on a policy from a collector car insurer like Hagerty is — within reason — determined by you. We wanted to be able to recoup the value of the truck, including the labor and parts that went into its restoration when we insured it, so we agreed on a value of $7,500.
If we were to have an accident in the truck and it was totaled, we’d get a check from Hagerty for $7,500, with no deductible.
If you could write a policy like that with a traditional insurer, it would cost thousands because a traditional insurer assumes you’re putting an average of 15,000 miles a year on your car like the average American does. Hagerty assumes you’re doing just the opposite: That you’re not driving it in the winter, that you’re not using it as daily transport. As a result, the cost is — on average — 42% lower than a conventional, full-coverage insurance policy.
The policy on the Blazer, plus a 1965 Vespa scooter, ends up costing less than $300 a year to insure against collision, fire and theft.
That’s a small collection of just two vehicles, neither of which are significantly expensive, though. What about insuring a large collection like this one?
We talked to Jonathan Klinger, Hagerty’s Vice President of Public Relations to find out. Hagerty has offices in Canada and the United States and writes policies in all Canadian provinces. “There are a lot of variables that would factor into what the premium would be for a collection of that size and value,” Klinger tells us. The cost varies based on the types of vehicles insured, whether the building is wood-framed, steel or concrete block, whether or not it has a fire suppression system, and even how far from a fire station the building sits.
Given those variables, though, a collection like this one could averages “between $10,000 – $15,000 Canadian dollars for an annual premium that would provide full coverage,” says Klinger.
That assumes all of those vehicles are running. Unlike your average car insurance company, a collector car insurer can write a much less expensive policy to cover the car for loss while it’s dormant during extended storage, or in the process of restoration when the danger of collision is much lower.
Classic car insurers can offer this flexibility, according to Klinger because “claim frequency is definitely less,” meaning that collector cars are much less frequently involved in accidents. However, Klinger adds, “Severity is often more. There aren’t a lot of claims in general but they can be significant, such as a situation like this.”
Even if you have a single collector car, it might seem like a hassle to move your insurance policy to a collector insurance policy, but it’s not. Companies like Hagerty can help you through the entire process with just a single phone call, saving you hundreds of dollars every year, and protecting your investment with a policy much more suited to the collector car you love and enjoy.