Just Like the Cars They Insure, Automotive Policies Can Feel Comically Overengineered

By: | November 18, 2023

Roger Crombie is a United Kingdom-based columnist for Risk & Insurance®. He can be reached at [email protected].

Three years ago, I bought a car. A Mini. I hate it. It is the single most over-engineered object in history.

The driver’s space is so poorly designed that recently I suffered a bruised a rib on the center console.

If the car is ever hit side on, I’ll be your former columnist.

I cannot operate most of the features.

On the day I bought the car, I also bought a $5 toothbrush. The toothbrush came with a manual; the $28,000 car didn’t.

I was told “The handbook’s on the car.”

“It must have blown off,” I replied.

Later, I learned that some information can be displayed on a screen, useful only if one is left-handed and has nothing to do for a few hours.

The car has its own phone and routinely dials for help without consulting me. I don’t know what the mileage is, but the showroom does.

In its defense, the thing goes from A to B, which is all I want it to do. I don’t drive much, so the cost per mile, including everything, has averaged about $5.

Among “everything” is, of course, the insurance, which I recently renewed.

My broker trawled through all available offers and discovered that my previous insurer remained the cheapest.

It was still expensive, however, so he set about finding ways to reduce the premium, which is where things became odd.

I drive fewer than 3,000 miles a year, which is the minimum insurable. By raising the forecast mileage to 5,000, however, a reduction in premium was possible. The broker didn’t know why.

Nuttiest of all, I was being penalized for being the only driver. If I named another individual — regardless of their driving history, health or prison record — we might effect a saving.

I named a friend who surely holds the world record for crashing things into other things. A true maniac.

I was happy to have this lunatic on the insurance policy, but he would never be a passenger in my car, let alone its driver.

“Perfect,” the broker said, and my premium was promptly reduced by about 15%.

Readers who work in motor insurance will probably understand all this and laugh at my naiveté. I don’t mind people laughing.

To quote one of Britain’s most successful humorists: “My parents laughed at me when I said I wanted to be a comedian. They’re not laughing now.”

One reason that my mileage is so low is that, for some months, the car wouldn’t let me drive.

The tire pressures were a little low, so a sort of siren went off and the screen kept flashing “You cant cont to drive.” [sic]

I later discovered the full message, which was “You can’t continue to drive until you inflate the tires.”

Without a manual, and the door panel badly printed, I couldn’t discover the required pressure. Very reluctantly, the dealer told me it was “2.4 bar all round.”

“Bar what?” I asked. Not being Spanish, I don’t speak metric.

The slogan used by BMW, which makes the Mini, used to be “The joy of driving.”

Now it’s “Beyond rational.”

Truth in advertising. &

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