Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) insurance (also known as GAPS) was established in the North American financial industry. GAP insurance is the difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing (car loan, lease, etc.). GAP coverage is mainly used on new and used small vehicles (cars and trucks) and heavy trucks. Some financing companies and lease contracts require it.
GAP insurance covers the amount on a loan that is the difference between the amount owed and the amount covered by another insurance policy. Some GAP policies also cover the deductible. This coverage is marketed for low down payment loans, high interest rate loans and loans with 60 month or longer terms. GAP insurance is typically offered by a finance company at time of purchase. Most auto insurance companies offer this coverage to consumers. GAP insurance is usually paid upfront and, for that reason, one is eligible for a refund if he/she sells or refinances their vehicle.
There are two ways of getting GAP coverage. The first type is an insurance policy sold by a broker. The second type is a waiver agreement sold by a Finance & Insurance Manager. The first is regulated by the insurance industry, the second is unregulated. In either case coverage is usually the same and sold as a soft product through the car dealership. Coverage is usually financed along with the lease/loan. Claims are subject to a total loss. The total loss is usually determined by the primary insurance company’s third-party appraiser
Exclusions to GAP insurance vary by country or state. Some exclusions include a maximum loss limit of $50,000 while others require a loan term of less than 84 months. GAP is an optional purchase; however, many states in the US require that a car dealership offer GAP at the point of purchase. Other states require insurers to offer GAP if a client requests it. States such as Louisiana require that the purchaser sign a disclosure document as proof. Although GAP is optional, some finance companies require GAP as a condition to obtaining a loan. The Truth in Lending Act excludes GAP premiums from financial charges if GAP was not required by the creditor, the premiums were disclosed in writing, and the consumer provides a written request for the insurance.
UK Gap Insurance Update
In September 2015, the FCA changed the way that Gap Insurance premiums are sold by car dealers in the UK.
Claims ratios for GAP insurance (the amount paid out in comparison to premiums paid) were just 10% between 2008 and 2012, meaning that just £10.00 was paid out for every £100.00 paid in premiums. The poor value for money being given to consumers prompted the FCA to require the following:
Ensure dealers make consumers aware that other suppliers exist.
Delay the transaction by 4 business days.
How gap insurance works
When you buy or lease a new car or truck, the vehicle starts to depreciate in value the moment it leaves the car lot. In fact, most cars lose 20 percent of their value within a year. Standard auto insurance policies cover the depreciated value of a car—in other words, a standard policy pays the current market value of the vehicle at the time of a claim.
If, when you finance the purchase of a new car and put down only a small deposit, in the early years of the vehicle’s ownership the amount of the loan may exceed the market value of the vehicle itself.
In the event of an accident in which you’ve badly damaged or totaled your car, gap insurance covers the difference between what a vehicle is currently worth (which your standard insurance will pay) and the amount you actually owe on it.
When you might need gap insurance
It’s a good idea to consider buying gap insurance for your new car or truck purchase if you:
Made less than a 20 percent down payment
Financed for 60 months or longer
Leased the vehicle (carrying gap insurance is generally required for a lease)
Purchased a vehicle that depreciates faster than the average
Rolled over negative equity from an old car loan into the new loan
Where you can get gap insurance
Your car dealer may offer to sell you gap insurance on your new vehicle. However, most car insurers also offer it, and they typically charge less than the dealer. On most auto insurance policies, including gap insurance with collision and comprehensive coverage adds only about $20 a year to the annual premium.