When shopping for new tires for your car, you often get offers for road hazard protection plans. A road hazard cover is an insurance policy that protects your tires against road hazards like nails, potholes, glass, wood, road debris, and any other form of tire damage.
Once in a while, stores such as Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club offer free road hazard protection on all their tire products. Others charge between $40 to $75 to insure a set of four tires. The rates may vary according to the plan and the insurer.
But considering that tires are covered under a manufacturer’s warranty, do you need to spend extra cash on a road protection plan?
What’s Covered in Road Hazard Protection?
A tire and wheel road hazard protection plan should cover the repair or replacement of tires and/or rims that have been damaged by road hazards. The insurer can incur the full replacement/repair cost or an agreed percentage depending on the type of plan.
Stone walls, curbs, and sidewalks are not recognized as road hazards. As such, your insurance claim will be denied if an assessment reveals that your tire damage resulted from hitting stones walls, sidewalks, or curbs.
In some plans, roadside service is included in the cover. This may include a tow and changing the tires.
Road Hazard Protection vs. Manufacturer’s Warranty
Virtually all tires are protected against workmanship defects under a manufacturer’s warranty. Although this warranty covers things like irregular wear and tear, broken belts and tread separation, it doesn’t cover any damage caused by the driver.
Furthermore, the workmanship defects of the tires are normally identified during the manufacturing process, so you will probably not cash in on the warranty.
Some warranties offered by the manufacturer also cover the tread life of the tires. This means that you get a pro-rated refund in case your tires don’t last the specified mileage. Unlike a road hazard protection plan, this tread life warranty excludes tire damage caused by the driver or bad roads.
Limitations of Road Hazard Protection
One limitation of road hazard protection plans is that they cover repairs based on wear and tear. The depth of your tire’s tread dictates the percentage of repair/replacement costs covered by the insurer.
Reimbursements may cover 75%, 50%, or only 10% of your tire damage, depending on how worn your tread is. While some plans provide full coverage, they often come with strict limitations that sometimes contradict the initial offer.
For instance, a tire rack road protection plan won’t cover more than $25 to cover a tire repair. So if you have a damaged sports tire—whose repair price exceeds $90—you may have to incur out-of-pocket expenses in excess of $75 despite having a road hazard protection plan. So ensure you thoroughly go through the terms and conditions of a particular plan before purchasing it.
Another limitation of road hazard protection policies is that they don’t cover car alignments, even if they are caused by a reasonable road hazard like a pothole. This is ridiculous considering the fact that most alignment problems arise from rim and tire damage.
When Should You Buy a Road Hazard Protection Plan?
Like any other insurance policy, protecting your tires against road hazards is a matter of personal preference. Before you decide to buy a road hazard protection policy, you might want to consider your car’s risk of tire damage. If you drive through risky areas like construction sites or on bad roads with lots of potholes, you may find a tire rack road protection plan extremely useful.
On the other hand, if you normally go for more than three years without hearing the rumble of a flat tire, spending $25 may seem like a pointless investment. Nevertheless, you will be happy to know that you are protected in case of such an ordeal. It’s all about how much you value your peace of mind.
What Voids Your Road Hazard Protection Plan?
Just like a typical warranty, you can void your road hazard protection plan too. One of the common ways this can happen is through improper car maintenance. If the dealer does not see any clear proof that your tires were properly rotated, inflated or aligned, your claim can be denied.
You can also void your tire warranty through vandalism or illegal road racing.
Is a Road Hazard Protection Plan Really Worth it?
The best way to judge the worthiness of a road hazard protection plan is to analyze it on a cost versus benefits basis. Despite its limitations, the benefits of a road hazard protection plan outweigh its costs. However, this depends on your car usage and the road conditions.
Also, some cars come with free road hazard warranties, which expire after a pre-determined miles/year limit. In such cases, road hazard protection in the first year of purchase is unnecessary.
The bottom line is, you should only commit to a road hazard protection if you need it.