Personal Finance

Is it a supercar if it's cheap to insure?

Perhaps the best way to decide whether your car is exotic or just expensive is to try to insure it.

Premiums for a $210,000 2012 Audi R8 Spyder Quattro, for instance, average $3,384 a year, according to data gathered from six major insurers by Quadrant Information Services. That's for a 40-year-old with a clean record commuting 24 miles a day.

Then try to insure a $181,900 Lamborghini Gallardo LP550-2.

You're unlikely to get coverage from the same company that insures your Camry, or in fact any company you've already heard of. It will be more expensive. And it will come with a multi-page list of exclusions and limitations.

You won't be attacking the morning grind in a million-dollar supercar unless you are very, very rich.

Tow it to the local Zenvo dealer

While most mainstream insurers are reluctant to talk about the upper limits of their coverage spectrum, many put it at around $150,000 to $200,000.

"Due to the high value and performance capabilities, standard market providers often have issues placing coverage on an exotic vehicle," says Eric DeBoer, spokesperson with specialty insurer Hagerty. "A few will insure up to $150,000 in value, but anything higher and most will not be able to offer coverage."

DeBoer estimated a premium for the Gallardo between $3,500 and $5,500 a year, with mileage restricted to 2,500 miles a year. Also, each licensed driver in the household must have a fully insured car for daily driving as well.

Those are fairly typical restrictions. The truth is that just because you can afford an exotic car doesn't mean you can drive it well, and crashes get expensive quickly.

In the Highway Loss Data Institute's most recent findings, the honor of the most expensive average collision loss went to the $192,000 Ferrari California, with a typical claim seven times greater than average.

Limited production and highly specialized materials make these cars very expensive to repair, requiring specialized knowledge and training. While most towns have a Mercedes dealership capable of servicing and repairing a SL65 AMG, there are only about 20 Lamborghini service centers in the country. The Zenvo ST1 supercar has to be shipped to Denmark for any type of major work.

So, what's the damage?

There are no hard and fast rules from insurance company to insurance company about which cars can be covered and what restrictions apply.

While specialty policies are the norm with uber-exotic cars, finding standard coverage on more run-of-the-mill exotics is certainly possible. Ali Maadelat, president of The Lorenz Marketing Group, insures his Ferrari, Maserati and Lotus with Allstate on a standard policy. While his mileage is limited to 4,500 miles per year, it was not mandated. Maadelet suggested the restriction to lower his premium costs.

But a true exotic is almost always insured by specialty insurers like Grundy or Hagerty, using agreed-value policies. Agreed-value policies allow the owner to decide what the car is worth and pay a premium based on that amount. (See " Insuring your keepsake car .")

"Guaranteed value policies are ideal for collector vehicles as it guarantees the amount owners receive in the event of a total loss," says DeBoer.

With a standard policy, the owner is paid actual cash value for the car if it is totaled because the resale value is easy to determine. But a true supercar such as a $1 million Bugatti Veyron may find a buyer once or twice a year, and Lexus has delivered just 33 copies so far this year of its comparatively common but very expensive LF-A.

You can't check Craigslist or Kelley Blue Book to find a reliable value on a $1.4 million Pagani Huayra.

I won the lottery -- tell me more!

So how expensive is it to insure an unquestionable exotic like that Bugatti?

According to DeBoer, the annual premium for a $2 million modern exotic can fluctuate by tens of thousands of dollars depending on the exact profile of the potential client. Autoblog estimated the annual insurance cost for a Bugatti at a shocking $50,855.

This owner insured his for $2 million, then wound up engine-deep in a Texas swamp.

Driving something even more rare? Specialty insurers can write a policy for just about any type of vehicle as long as they can verify the value and the car is used in a manner consistent with their program restrictions. Hagerty has some classic cars insured for $30 million, DeBoer says.

And while insuring a supercar is expensive, maintaining one is where the real money is spent.

A routine service on a Bugatti Veyron costs about $21,000, according to AutoCar magazine, making for a very expensive oil change. Bugatti also recommends that you put new rubber on the Veyron every 2,500 miles.

At $40,000 for a set, your lottery winnings could soon be tapped out.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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