Specialist Car Insurance: What Is It and Do I Need It?

Specialist car insurance is a must for those who own high-performance or collectible vehicles. Specialist auto insurance comes with different categories for different vehicles, and the actual cash value of your vehicle will influence the level of coverage as well as your specialist car insurance rates. Start comparing specialist auto insurance quotes for free with our comparison tool below.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 31, 2020

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Studebaker, Jaguar, Alfa Romeo, Packard…the names of the most desirable cars are spoken of with reverence by many, but only a few lucky souls actually own such icons of the automobile industry. While such vehicles are akin to works of art, they also must be protected with car insurance. Specialist car insurance is a must for those who own high-performance or collectible vehicles.

Whether you own a collectible Aston Martin or a new Chevy, Ford or Dodge, you can get quotes for your car insurance needs by putting your ZIP code into the FREE box now!

The term specialist car insurance is one that has traveled across the pond from the United Kingdom, but the essence is the same.

Specialist car insurance is a must for any vehicle that has a value above and beyond normal, everyday vehicles.

Specialist Car Insurance Defined

The term specialist car insurance can refer to a few different categories of vehicles, but it generally refers to vehicles that are defined as classic or collectible. Such vehicles are worth a lot of money, and they have a wide range of factors that go into their value, such as original parts, modifications and the rarity aspects of the vehicle.

The Classic Car Club of America defines a classic car as specific makes and models of vehicles built between 1925 and 1948. The term vintage generally refers to cars manufactured from 1915 to 1925, and antique cars are those that are over 25 years old. Yet, many different countries and different groups use different definitions, and common use may find all three words used synonymously.

Owners of classic or collectible vehicles don’t own such cars out of need. They don’t use such vehicles for travel purposes or for work applications. Owners of collectible vehicles own such cars because they feel a special affinity for they make and model. They treasure their classic cars for the prestige and honor of owning such a vehicle.

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Car Value Agreement

One important point where specialist car insurance and normal car insurance differ is the valuation of a vehicle. With normal car insurance, the value of a vehicle is not an issue. Car insurance companies have a method for estimating the actual cash value of a car, truck or SUV based on mileage, age, and condition of the vehicle. Such vehicles lose value or devaluate over time.

That devaluation doesn’t occur with many collector cars, according to a sound bite issued by the experts at the Insurance Information Institute. Classic cars usually increase in value as they get older, so it can be harder to judge the value. Classic and collectable vehicles have a wide range of factors that affect the worth of the vehicle, from original parts, to mileage to condition.

It is usually a good idea to get an appraisal and agree on a value with a specialist car insurance provider. Then, both the classic vehicle owner and the insurance company agree on how much the vehicle is worth at the onset of the policy.

This agreement can eliminate any problems in the future between the insurance company and the owner of the collectible car. A settlement offer for a claim by an insurance company cannot be too far off from the owner’s expectations if they agree on the cost of the vehicle from the onset. The value that is agreed upon will also alleviate any fears of the owner that they don’t have enough insurance coverage.

It is also important to alert a car insurance provider if there are any significant changes, modifications, or restorations performed on the vehicle that may affect cost. A specialist car insurance policy may have a clause that won’t cover unknown changes to the vehicle; few classic car owners would want their vehicle to be without total coverage!

Driving Differences

Another difference between specialist insurance and typical insurance is the amount that both types of vehicles are driven. With regular vehicles, these cars and trucks are on the road just about every day. They need coverage that addresses liability for other cars and drivers if a normal vehicle causes an accident, as well as coverage to fix damages on their own vehicle.

Many specialist vehicles are really more along the lines of valuable antiques, and they are not driven nearly as often as normal cars. Generally, such classic and collectible vehicles are used in shows or put on display, so they are driven with little regularity. Many owners of specialist vehicles even transport such vehicles in a covered trailer rather than driving them to shows.

Specialist vehicles don’t need a great deal of liability coverage, because they are not really likely to cause an accident.

They do need a higher amount of coverage that protects the specialist vehicle from damage or theft. Repairing or replacing such a specialist car is quite expensive as parts are rare and specialist vehicle owners usually want costly, original parts.

Cost of Specialist Insurance

Obviously, insurance costs will vary depending upon the specialist vehicle, whether it is driven or not and how much the specialist vehicle is worth. Car insurance costs for a regular vehicle usually start around $800 a year and increase, but specialist insurance can be much cheaper.

Owners of specialist vehicles are usually quite careful with their collectible cars, treating them like priceless works of art. The risk resulting from driver error or carelessness is usually pretty small, so insurance costs to cover specialist vehicles are generally low. Annual costs of $300 a year for specialist insurance is an often-quoted ballpark figure.

Costs for specialist car insurance will increase if the classic car is driven with any regularity on public roads. A specialist car insurance policy may have restrictions on how many miles the vehicle can be driven in any year.

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Other Specialist Insurance

The term specialist insurance is also used at times to refer to vehicles other than collectible, antique, or classic cars. Some use the term to refer to insurance for ultra-luxury vehicles, modified vehicles or high performance vehicles, such as racecars. Essentially, the term can be applied broadly to refer to any vehicle that has a cost beyond normal vehicles.

Insurance costs will be different because the vehicle is special.

One big difference can be cost, however. Many other specialist vehicles are driven often, so they have different insurance needs. Typically, insurance costs for such vehicles will be higher because they are driven with regularity, they usually have high-powered engines that can cause a lot of damage, and they are expensive to repair.

Consider an Umbrella Policy

One option that many owners of collectible vehicles utilize is an umbrella policy. An umbrella policy provides a higher dollar amount for liability coverage, according to CNN Money. Such a policy can cover liability for a number of areas, as an umbrella covers you from rain, hence the name.

Generally, umbrella policies are relatively inexpensive and start at coverage limits of $1 million.

This type of coverage would be used in addition to an auto insurance policy or a homeowner’s insurance policy. An umbrella policy might be one option for specialist vehicles that are driven in order to protect the owner from the high costs of a car accident.

Review Coverage Annually

As with all insurance, the insurance needs for a specialist car change with time. Rather than depreciating, collectible, classic, antique, and vintage cars usually increase in value over time. The industry specialists at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners recommends that any driver review his or her auto insurance policy every year to ensure that coverage is complete.

An annual review is very important for drivers of specialist vehicles, as last year’s insurance policy might not be enough to cover the increased value of the collectible car. Additional modifications or restorations may also increase the value of the automobile.

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Where to Find Specialist Insurance

Most specialist vehicle owners love their special vehicles, so finding the best coverage is just as important as finding an original replacement part or restoring the interior to factory specifications.

Many car insurance companies specialize in providing insurance coverage for specialist vehicles.

An expert in specialist car insurance will understand all of the factors that go into insuring classic, vintage, antique, and collectible cars. They will also understand how much such vehicles mean to their owners, so finding a car insurance provider that specializes in insuring such cars just might be your best bet.

The requirements for specialist insurance differ greatly from those of regular insurance. For one, an appraisal might be required in order to estimate the value of a classic car. Many drivers get an independent appraisal in order to make sure that it is accurate. A specialist car insurance company might also require pictures and descriptions of the car and its modifications, so that they are always kept informed of the changes on the car.

A specialist vehicle without adequate insurance does a great disservice to the legacy of the make and model. Just like a work of art, a collectible car must be protected so that it can be enjoyed for years to come.

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