Safe travelling with insured tires
Tire insurance: we normally think of it when it is too late. Yet there is no shortage of solutions available to motorists
Have you ever driven over a deep pothole or an abandoned nail and damaged a tire? How many of us, one sad morning, found themselves with a punctured tire or with their car firmly resting... on four bricks? Whether this is a case of "bad luck", circumstances not depending on the will of the driver or third parties, or an act of vandalism and theft, we hear of such cases on news reports as well as by word of mouth, confirming that such predicaments are anything but unusual in the life of a motorist. The Motor Vehicle Third Party Liability policy, which is compulsory for all vehicles on the road, does not offer any insurance coverage for the cases mentioned above. However, as drivers, we are not left entirely in the lurch. There are, in fact, several policies created to protect the consumer and, at the same time, even the tire dealer.
The first is a "legal warranty" which, according to Legislative Decree no. 24 dated February 2, 2002, is the responsibility of the "final seller" towards the "final consumer" (understood to be a non-professional user). This warranty covers all consumer goods, tires included, but can only cover manufacturing defects and lack of conformity with the contract. In addition, as required by European Directive 1999/44/EC, this would be valid only for two years from the date of sale of the tire (not its production), which is evidenced by the sales receipt. A further coverage is the so-called "commercial warranty", normally offered by the retailer. The latter is an additional warranty and is to be considered complementary and not a substitute for the legal warranty. (source: Assogomma).
All these policies though, compensate the damaged party against manufacturing defects of the product – which are not always easy to recognize as such – leaving the motorist totally defenceless against accidental or malicious cases. We should mention that a Kasco insurance policy, which is rather comprehensive (and consequently quite expensive), can cover also damages caused to tires, and cover any type of damages, including those caused by the insured party which cannot be compensated by third-party insurance, as these do not make any provisions for other vehicles involved. A Kasko policy can therefore also cover tires and thus protect the consumer against the many risks mentioned above.
Producers lend a helping hand
In addition to all these options, several tire and vehicle manufacturers offer additional coverage for their car's tires. The FCA group, for example, through its financial institution FCA Bank, offers customers two different yet specific products: "tire policy" and "tire policy plus". The first, available on all Fiat and Lancia models, covers damage to the tires of the insured car in the event of a puncture or accidental damage. The policy can be applied to both summer and winter tires for a maximum of 20,000 km per year and to all new or 0 km vehicles up to 96 months of financing. The formula also gives the right to roadside assistance and breakdown services. The "tire plus" policy, available on all Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Abarth and Fiat Professional vehicles, goes as far as covering damage to wheels, for a maximum annual mileage of 25,000 km. Volkswagen, on the other hand, after purchasing and installing new tires in one of its own centres, offers, at no additional cost, a 36-month insurance policy, covering up to 100% of the costs incurred due to damage caused by unforeseeable circumstances or vandalism. Within an almost identical offer, BMW also extends the benefit to theft. These are just a few of the many examples.
Of course, as one would expect, tire manufacturers, in an effort not to be outdone, make their overall offer more attractive by developing insurance-type promotional packages. Buying at least two Goodyear and Dunlop car tires from a SuperService centre – therefore excluding tires for light transport and off-road use -, you receive a free subscription to "SuperAssistance", a free 12-month insurance policy on the tires. In the event of accidental damage (hitting a kerb, a puncture etc.), the policy entitles you to replace the damaged tire, with a new one, identical or of equal value (up to a maximum of € 516.00 excluding VAT), as well as towing assistance. The compensation, however, does not include labour costs and any additional services. The maximum number of events that may occur during the period covered by the policy may not, however, exceed the number of tires included in the policy.
Pirelli's proposal for a "Tire Warranty" is rather similar: purchasing four tires, for the same car, from dealers participating in the initiative, entitles the buyer to a "welcome kit" which allows them to apply for a policy that includes the option of replacing two damaged tires free of charge for each set of tires purchased regardless of the type, whether summer, winter or all-season, Suv and 4X4, with a diameter of 16 inches or more. LCV tires with a total mass of 3.5 tons , on the other hand, are not included. The "Warranty", which must be activated within one month of purchase, will last for one year. However, if one takes out two warranties on the same vehicle (for example, one specific for the winter set and one for the summer set), the duration of both warranties is automatically extended to two years. The "Tire Protection Warranty" covers only accidental damage (and therefore not vandalism) deemed irreparable, and does not include labour costs for replacement work.
Similarly, several specialised networks are now providing specific tire insurance packages. Among these we find Pneusmarket (Fintyre Group), whose offer includes a special "Kasko Lifetime Warranty" which, starting from 2.50 euro per tire, covers the entire life cycle of all types of tires, whether for cars, motorcycles and camper vans, regardless of the date of purchase. The "Kasko Pneusmarket Lifetime Warranty" covers damage and failure caused by manufacturing or material defects and irreparable accidental damage due to normal road use.
In all these cases, however, it is good to know (and therefore point out to the consumer), that the warranty is void if the residual tread is found to be less than the established standards (on average between 3 and 4 millimetres), or the tire has come in for some serious pounding, damage from collision with other vehicles or the tires have been moved onto a vehicle other than the one indicated at the time of purchase.
When we buy a new smartphone, a smart TV, a laptop or even a blender, it is not un common to be offered a warranty extension or maybe just a specific insurance on the product. With a small additional charge over the selling price, we get that comfortable feeling that comes with being able to have the device repaired "at no cost", the replacement of the product or in some cases even a refund. More and more often we are offered this type of additional service and we do well to go for it. But this is not necessarily the case when it comes to tires.
Despite the fact that when it comes to wheels, tires, sensors, purchasing and/or replacing our car’s "shoes" our pocket takes a beating - certainly much more than a few years ago - and notwithstanding statistics that clearly show that cases of theft, accidental damage (ie, not by will or fault of the driver or third parties) or vandalism are quite common, specific insurance on tires are still quite scarce, as confirmed by Giancarlo Veronesi, president of Federpneus, a national association that represents over a thousand independent specialist dealers and groups with hundreds of outlets throughout the country. "Independent tire dealers do not always have the strength to extend their offer to include any specific policy and therefore usually rely on a third party supplier or manufacturer for any warranty extension or insurance against accidental damage. Some networks, on the other hand, do have something to that effect. In any case, not many consumer ask for a tire warranty. "Evidently, the average motorists has still to develop an interest on the matter" - says the president of Federpneus - "In part this is due to the complications involved: all the red tape related to managing the applications and eventual claims are far from streamlined and this can be a source of discouragement. Furthermore, it is absolutely true that issues such as tire theft or vandalism are on the rise, but this is a rather recent phenomenon. On the other hand, the cost of replacing tires in recent years has become such that it more than justifies taking out a specific insurance policy". For the time being this service is viewed as insignificant by most consumers and therefore quite marginal for specialist retailers. However, things might change faster than one could imagine. "In a sector where margins are dropping, everyone is focusing on services – states Mr. Veronesi -. This is why I expect to see a greater attention on tire insurance policies in the future, especially as drivers will become increasingly aware of their importance”.