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Driving Force: Got a cool car? Protect it with an appraisal

When an insurance company puts a value on your vehicle, it’s usually based on basic data for its age, mileage and condition. That’s fine for most cars, but if you have a collector vehicle, you should have the extra protection of an appraisal.

“If you don’t have an appraisal, you don’t have insurance for replacement value,” says Wayne Copeland, vice-president of business development for Antique & Classic Auto Appraisal Service.

“When there is a loss with a third-party appraisal, then the insurance company pays the agreed value.”

While appraisals are most commonly for antique cars, they’re useful any time there is added value, such as a newer vehicle that has been heavily modified. Copeland has also done appraisals for estate sales and divorce proceedings, and in Ontario, you’ll need one if you’re buying a vehicle that’s 20 years or older, to determine the sales tax.

There are no government standards for appraisers, and anyone can claim to be qualified. A poor appraisal runs the risk of incorrect value, and insurance companies are within their rights to refuse one that doesn’t meet their standards.

Copeland says the appraiser must see the vehicle in person, and the appraisal should include the car’s year and make, mileage, license number, condition, complete description, several photographs, and the appraiser’s full contact information. You should receive two copies: one for your files, and one to send to the insurance company.

The appraiser should also take various factors into consideration when determining a price, including what it would cost to fix following a crash. A 1957 Fiat may not be as valuable as a 1957 Chevrolet, for example, but replacement parts for the rarer Fiat could cost more than for the Chevy, which is popular enough that many companies stock parts.

You can ask your insurance company if it recommends any appraisers, and most importantly, if there are any whose work they reject. Ask car club members if there’s anyone they’ve used. And ask the appraiser if he’s familiar with your vehicle. If he only does antique cars, for example, he may not know as much about customized ones. Your appraisal should be updated every few years to account for changing car prices, or if you do something that adds to its value, such as restoration or major modifications. And don’t just think about cars.

“I’ve done boats, ATVs, tractors, anything that has a value for insurance, legal purpose or sale,” Copeland says.

“It’s all about protecting yourself.”

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