So you’ve gone out and got your 4WD’s insurance sorted but did you ask the insurer whereabouts you’re covered? You might want to check that before venturing down your favourite goat track or local beach.
If you’re an average Joe or Jill who drives around all day in your Toyota Corolla never leaving the blacktop, you would never give a second thought to where your car insurance may or may not cover you in the event of a claim. But what about you 4WDing folks? Have you ever been driving down a steep and heavily rutted track in a national park on the verge of tipping over and wondered if your insurance would cover you if you crash out there? Perhaps you should because depending on the wording your insurance company uses in the PDS and how it may later interpret that wording, you may end up being left with a broken 4WD and no insurance cover to pay for its repairs.
An insurance grey area
With this question in my mind, I thought it would be a good idea to check my current insurance product disclosure statement (PDS) to see what it says about where I am and where I am not covered.
To my absolute surprise, it didn’t say a thing. There was nothing in the PDS that said that I would be covered if I damaged my 4WD when driving it off-road. I have to say I was a bit alarmed by this.
The next thing I did was ring the insurance company up and ask them where my 4WD was covered. The reply was “as long as the incident happened on a gazetted road and you weren’t engaged in a wilful or reckless act, you’re covered”.
Fabulous. As long as I’m on a ‘gazetted road’. What exactly is a gazetted road? Here is where the grey area starts. You see, there are a variety of definitions of a gazetted road and while they are all similar, slight changes in wording and interpretation can make all the difference.
What is a Gazetted Road?
Trying to find a definite, consistent answer to this question is actually difficult but according to LawInsider, a Gazetted Road is a road which has been named and published in a government gazette as a public road by the local council or state government.
A gazette is an official publication for the purpose of notifying the actions and decisions of the government. All Australian governments, Commonwealth, State/Territory and local councils publish gazettes. Each state and territory maintains a list of gazetted roads within its borders.
The trouble with these definitions
Here’s something that many insurance companies are not likely to tell you unless you ask. Roads are added and removed from gazettes on a regular basis. Yes, that’s right. Today you could be driving on a track that was gazetted but, tomorrow, it could be removed from the gazette. If you have a claimable incident on that track in the future, you may not be covered.
It gets worse. I read another definition of gazetted roads that said sealed or unsealed roads ‘regularly maintained’ by a local, state or federal government body, authority or council.
When is a track not a road and when is a road not a track? Who decides? How regular must the maintenance be to be considered ‘regular’ by an insurance company? Who makes that determination?
Then there’s the question of roads on maps. What happens if you’re on a track that does not appear on any maps, or it appeared on an older map but not a current edition? Could the position of the track has changed over time? What happens if you get geographically embarrassed, thinking you’re on one track but were on another that was not gazetted?
What happens if I’m driving on a beach or dune that is not a gazetted road or track?
Seriously, the number of variables boggles the mind. At this point, I started to get a headache.
Can I get insurance that covers me no matter where I am?
Fortunately, the answer to that is yes you can.
According to David Carter from Club 4×4, lots of people ask them whether their insurance policy covers them when they take their vehicle off-road.
Dave told me, “Whether it is a weekend trip with the family up fire trails in an all-wheel drive SUV, or the quintessential odyssey to the Cape in a decked-out dedicated 4×4, it pays to have a policy that is clear on your insurance coverage off-road.”
“Club 4×4 insurance was designed to cater for the 4×4 enthusiast, with the aim to remove the “grey” when it comes to your insurance.”
The insurance coverage Club 4×4 offer is clear. Whether you are travelling on a gazetted or not gazetted track, cross country, or on the bitumen, you’re covered. However, as the driver, you are still responsible to be aware of the legalities of where you are driving.
Always make sure you have permission to cross through that paddock or land during your journey and obey road closure signs, warnings and directions from police and authorities at all times.
As always, read and check your PDS and policy wording so you understand your coverage.