Monday, March 7, 2016

Should you buy road hazard insurance when you buy new tyres?

Tyres are expensive. But they're sort of critical to your car so it's not like you can ignore them. Once you include the cost of labour and balancing, it's not unusual to end up spending $900 or more for a set of four. So when the person at the tyre place asks if you want "road hazard insurance" (the name varies by store), the question is - do you? Most places will do free tyre rotations and in some cases they'll also do free puncture repair. So what is road hazard insurance? Generally speaking it's the tyre equivalent of catastrophic health insurance. It covers damage to the tyres which is so severe that the tyre can't be repaired. Blowouts because of debris, getting chunks of metal wedged in the tyre, having it sliced open because of debris - there are many ways you can destroy your rubber without really trying. The cool thing is that most of these plans are not pro-rated meaning that you get a straight replacement tyre no matter what age it is. The price is good too. Normally about $20 per tyre.
But there are some things to check and consider. For example if you have a Subaru or any other vehicle with permanent all wheel drive (no center viscous coupling) then there's a good chance that destroying a single tyre will result in you needing to replace all four. Because of the design of those all wheel drive systems they just don't tolerate tyres with radically different tread depths (and thus radii). Road hazard insurance only covers the one tyre that had the damage.
Also worth considering that tyre failure because of manufacturing defects, while rare, would NOT be covered by this sort of plan. Instead it would be covered by the manufacturer warranty. 
You might ask how a $20 stake can give you a full replacement tyre. Surely the tyre stores would go out of business? Not really. It's a straight numbers game. The number of people who take this insurance far, far, far outweighs the number of tyres that they'll ever need to replace due to catastrophic failure. Tyres these days are pretty damn well made.
So should you take the insurance if offered? Honestly I would. $80 for no quibble coverage on four tyres is also a numbers game. If even one of your $200 tyres suffers this sort of damage, you still only paid $80 to have it replaced.