Insurance Tips: Getting the Best Car insurance
If you are an expat driving around Pattaya it will be easy to see that general road sense seems to be set aside for many Thai drivers, and even some foreigners at that! Motorcyclists weave in and out of traffic, drive on the wrong side of two-way streets, and rarely use crash helmets, unless of course there is known to be a police patrol about.
Car owners could also be considered in the same league, often pushing in at give way junctions and not caring to look if traffic is oncoming when pulling out.
Safe to say there are plenty of opportunities for accidents to happen and indeed many accidents do occur, though curiously not as many as you might expect given the poor level of road discipline.
To avoid any long lasting negative effects of even a simple road accident it is necessary to have adequate insurance in place. For foreigners this would seem easy to achieve by going to an insurance broker and securing the best deal for your car.
However, there are many differences in Thailand as compared to other countries in Europe and the US. One notable difference is the ceiling amounts of claims payable to third parties especially in the case of causing serious injury or death. Whereas these may be several million pounds in the UK for example, in Thailand they may be capped at just 1 or 2 million baht, barely 1/50th of the amount in the UK, and sometimes even less. This may mean that there is a serious shortfall if a claim comes in at over these limits through the civil courts following an accident.
As for amounts that you can claim for yourself for hospital treatment after an injury, these are also similarly small and it may be difficult to find an insurer willing to raise the capped amounts to anything you may consider reasonable in your home country.
For a smaller accident where there is just minor damage to the car then this is quite easy to cover and indeed the insurance industry reacts quite quickly for these types of accidents, normally directing you to an approved garage for repairs. Where there may be serious damage to your car, or to your third party's vehicle, or where these may be written off, then the insurance company can usually reflect the value of your car but the cap in place may be inadequate for the third party. For example if you hit a brand new Mercedes sports car and write it off, your insurance may not cover enough of the cost, leaving you out of pocket for the difference.
Look carefully also at the maximum amount per accident, as this will often be less than the sum of the parts that are detailed as maximums for damage and injury. You may find that if there is both significant damage and significant injury your insurance will cap the total amount and you will again be inadequately covered.
If you do have a minor accident then it may well be worth coming to an arrangement with the driver of the other vehicle on the spot so as to avoid the case becoming complicated with insurance companies and civil court claims.
As for fire and theft then coverage for the vehicle in these instances is likely to also be capped to a level that may not reflect the value of the car or truck in question.
It may be tempting to get multiple insurances to cover any apparent shortfalls but there is usually a clause that prohibits this or restricts an insurer’s liability to pay out given another insurer has already done so.
The trick to getting the most comprehensive insurance is to use a foreign insurer and be prepared to pay higher premiums to increase the overall limits for injury, damage, and the total limit for a single event.
AIA has agents in Thailand as do some European insurance companies. That said, many of them do not follow the international levels and revert to Thai standards when issuing a policy for car use in Thailand.
Be aware that older cars are hard to insure properly. This means classic car owners will have to endure some frustration when it comes to getting the car covered for the full replacement cost, and may never achieve full coverage. The reason is that the car is appraised by age and older cars have very little value on the books. Even though a restored classic may be worth a fortune there is little or no room to express its true value on an insurance application form.
Fire and theft coverage for older cars may be impossible to obtain. You would have thought that if you offered to pay enough premium you could get insurance cover up to an adequate amount, but this simply doesn’t happen with most Thai insurance companies. Maybe this is why you see so few classic cars on the road in Thailand. Either that, they are a rarity in a market that does not recognize their value anyway.
The best way to avoid any of the ultimate risks with driving is to simply consider giving up car use. In some ways, with transport options in Pattaya plentiful and inexpensive it may not be necessary to drive anyway!