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Insurance for imported cars

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Why does car insurance for imports cost more and how can I keep the price down?

When compared to cars made in the USA, it can often be more expensive to insure foreign-made vehicles. That’s because imported cars often use non-standard parts that need to be shipped from overseas at extra cost, manufacturers might lack service facilities in the US and imported cars are often modified or otherwise non-standard, which can further raise the price.

You’ll need to bear some of these costs, but there are ways to keep down costs:

  • Choose a specialist insurer. Insurers who specializes in rare, modified or imported cars will often have lower prices.
  • Choose a specialist policy. Non-standard insurers will sometimes have special categories for imported vehicles, which can be more cost-effective than getting cover with a typical comprehensive policy.
  • Take advantage of discounts, deals and other price reductions. There are a lot of ways to save money on car insurance, and you can leverage these with imported vehicles too.

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What are the challenges?

Getting cover for imported cars is, in many ways, more difficult than it should be. Difficulties may emerge because of the following issues:

  • Non-standard parts: Insurers consider the cost of replacement parts for your vehicle. If they need to be shipped from overseas this can significantly increase the cost.
  • Roadworthiness modifications: Importing foreign-made cars means that they may not meet the US standards to make them road ready. This means you’ll often need to modify them, further inflating the price. Not only are the modifications added to the value of the car, but performance-affecting modifications will often incur high insurance costs.
  • Performance differences: People often don’t go to the trouble of importing low-end cars, so there’s a good chance that your premiums will be inflated right from the start because it’s simply a more powerful vehicle.
  • Default classification: Insurers categorize vehicles to determine their insurance costs. With imported cars, different insurers might place them in different categories. When an insurer doesn’t have a suitable category for imported vehicle, it may default to a “high performance” or similarly expensive vehicle classification. It can help to look for insurers with additional categories like “hard to place”.

Providers that might cover your imported car

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Available states
Liberty Mutual
Included free
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
All 50 states
Car insurance through Liberty Mutual will give coverage options for almost any situation.
Allstate
Included free
Yes, cars under 2 years old
All 50 states
Enjoy having your own dedicated agent to help you get the best discounts and coverage.
Root
Included free
No
Arizona, Arkansas, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah
Root offers simple, affordable insurance that’s ideal for good drivers. Try the Root app for 2 weeks and see how much you could save. Available in 20 states.
Esurance
Optional
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
All states except Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Montana, Vermont, Wyoming
Esurance offers a modern online and mobile experience that helps you take your insurance on the go. Available in 42 states.

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Are there any specialist imported car insurance providers?

You can find the cheapest imported car insurance by getting several quotes from standard insurers with cover for special vehicles. Then compare these with the quotes provided by specialist insurers.

Depending on your vehicle, the insurer and the cover, you could find a small price difference, or an enormous difference of 50% or more.

  • Get comprehensive car insurance quotes from standard providers.
  • Get imported, or special-category, car insurance quotes from specialist providers.
  • Compare the two types of quotes, and rule out standard providers if there’s a significant difference.
  • If the prices are close, then standard insurers might be a preferable option, with many options available.

Standard insurers with specialist cover

It always best to find a list of standard providers and get quotes. Contact several insurers with your inquiry and write down the quote so you don’t forget. Once you have those prices, move on and get quotes from the specialists.

Specialist insurers

Specialist insurers are often focused on providing cover for people who are truly passionate about cars. Although the vehicles can be more powerful and driven at higher speeds, the drivers themselves are often highly experienced, safety-conscious and know how to look after their car.

This has the effect of lowering risk levels, and letting specialist insurers offer prices that standard providers cannot.

Which imported cars do insurers cover?

Assuming your import meets standard federal and state regulations for the car to legally drive on US roads, you should be able to find insurance for any imported car. A few examples of imported cars you can bring into the US include:

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How to compare specialist insurers

Specialist insurers will generally offer a variety of extra benefits which set them apart from standard providers, and each other. Consider the relevant coverage factors below, as well as the price.

  • Salvage rights: Having salvage rights means you can retain the wreck if the vehicle is totalled.
  • Choice of mechanic: You are typically able to choose your own mechanic with specialist insurers.
  • Modification limits: Some insurers may only cover a certain number of modifications, or will have strict limits on the amount that can be claimed for modifications. Look for an insurer that offers cover for an unlimited number of modifications, or offers this at a lower price.
  • Lay-up period: More prevalent with classic and vintage car specialists, you may be able to find lay-up, or limited-use options to reduce costs if you aren’t driving the car for everyday use.
  • Agreed value: Specialist insurers usually only offer agreed-value cover, while standard providers will often have both, but often charge extra for agreed value.
  • Lifetime guarantee on repairs: This option can help drivers of imported cars get more peace of mind. Repair costs are one of the main areas where imported vehicles are a lot more expensive, so a lifetime guarantee on repairs is important to a lot of people.
  • Cover for racing and high-speed use: Standard insurers will rarely cover you on a racetrack or when competing in any kind of car event. Specialists, on the other hand, are more likely to cover these types of risky, recreational pursuits.

Even with specialist insurers, you’ll still be subject to many of the same pricing effects and conditions as with standard providers. It can be very useful to have a general understanding of how these work.

Picture: Shutterstock

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