Auto Repair Shops

Direct Primary vs Legal Liability for Auto Repair Shops

Auto Repair Shops

The difference between Garage Liability coverage and Garagekeepers coverage is the difference between liability insurance and physical damage insurance. The first covers the insured’s liability for operations and autos and the other covers damage to customer’s vehicles. All garage risks need both coverages to properly insure their loss exposures.

A Garage Keeper’s Legal Liability policy is intended to cover damage to an auto held in their care, custody, or control while it is on consignment for sale or you are servicing, repairing, parking, or installing equipment into the vehicle. Direct Primary Coverage provides coverage even if the loss is not the insured’s fault and is not legally liable. On the surface, this seems relatively easy to understand.

For Example, a customer’s locked vehicle is in a fenced and locked yard. There is adequate lighting in the yard and the vehicle alarm is armed. The electronics are ripped from the vehicle and there is $25,000 in lost equipment and damage.  Although you are clearly not negligent – and not legally liable – the claim is submitted to my insurance carrier.

With Direct Primary Coverage, the customer – the owner of the vehicle – is paid no matter whose fault it was. You have a happy customer again and your insurance paid for everything. Well that is great until renewal time, when we can assume that the insurance company will raise the Garage Liability premium by a substantial amount because of the claim. That $25,000 claim typically will continue to affect your premiums for three years.

If you had purchased Legal Liability Coverage, the owner of the vehicle would have had to submit the claim to his own insurance company. Your insurance company would not pay anything on the claim – after all, it was not your fault, you were not legally responsible for the damage – thereby saving you thousands in renewal premium increases.

What is the best option to take? If you have repeat customers that represent a significant part of your business, than Direct Primary Coverage may be the best choice. However, if you do business with thousands of different people and have no significant relationship with them, then Legal Liability Coverage may better suit you.

To recap. Garagekeepers insurance refers to coverage for the cars left in your care, custody or control. Direct primary garagekeepers pays for the loss whether you are legally obligated to do so or not and legal liability garagekeepers only pays out if you are legally responsible for the loss. As a result, direct primary garagekeepers coverage is usually more expensive than legal liability garagekeepers coverage. Both of these options have their positives and negatives. Talk it over with your insurance agent and then make a decision on what you feel is the best for your business. Think long-term vs short term on the cost of the policy. Once you take cost out it will help you determine which is actually the best option.

Garage Liability vs. Garagekeepers

The difference between Garage Liability Insurance Coverage and Garage Keepers Coverage is the difference between Liability Insurance and Physical Damage Insurance. The first covers the insured’s liability for operations and autos. The second covers damage to a customer’s vehicle. All businesses with garage risks need both coverages to properly insure their loss exposures.

Auto Repair Shops:  Garage Liability Vs. Garage Keepers Coverage

A typical garage business has an auto exposure, both owned, non-owned and hired. These businesses also have risks related to premises/operations, contractual and products/completed operations exposures. Rather than writing two separate policies, the Garage Policy allows a business to combine the coverages into one all encompassing Insurance Policy. A Garage Policy is a combination Business Auto Coverage form and a Commercial General Liability Coverage form. Garage liability insurance is an absolute necessity for the owner of a car dealership, a local mechanic, a tire dealer or a company doing oil changes. These policies are for employers who make a living working on cars. These programs can also apply to companies installing stereos or satellite radios. Business owners should not make the mistake of believing Garage Liability Insurance covers the loss of a customer’s auto while in your care. A separate Garage Keeper’s Policy or an addendum to the garage (service center) policy already in place must be added. Under the Garage Keeper’s Coverage, there are two options for the auto service operator to consider. One is called direct excess coverage. This policy pays up to the value of the destroyed vehicle above the owner’s coverage. The other type of coverage is direct primary coverage, where the service owner’s carrier shares the loss with the car owner’s insurer.

If you own or operate a business that has a repair center and the repair center has a fleet of tow trucks or dispatched repair vehicles, those assets are covered under Garage Liability Insurance. However, if the customer car is sitting outside waiting for service, or inside on a lift, they are not covered.  This is the reason why you need a keeper clause for the protection of your business. Please note that most Garagekeeper’s Policies excludes loss to non-factory installed sound equipment.

Garage Liability Insurance providers may become extremely discriminatory regarding the requirements for getting the insurance, such as strict loss prevention or risk management efforts by the auto service owner. To cut costs and keep premiums lower, indemnity companies are often refusing to underwrite such things as wind and hail damage for company and customer vehicles. Tolerance by insurers for multiple incidents at a garage is limited. These are things a business owner should keep in mind when purchasing insurance. Partnering with an experienced independent insurance agent is the best way to determine how your business should best proceed when purchasing this type of insurance coverage.

Make sure every employee and officer of the company is on the policy. Coverage is usually only afforded to the locations and drivers listed on the coverage. Employees that get a DUI or go over their point allowances may be excluded from driving privileges and non-company drivers need to be discussed with the agent.

Getting and keeping garage liability insurance can be daunting. Proper night lighting, well landscaped grounds, well maintained signage and windows as well as a freshly painted exterior as well as clean floors and bathrooms inside can make or break a policy being approved.