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Preparing For Losses You Hope Will Never Happen

I just saw photos of many collector cars that were destroyed in Hurricane Katrina. Anyone with classic, collector, restored, or just an older vehicle that is in far better than usual condition should take heed. Besides the mental anguish a loss causes, additional shock may hit when the insurer comes back with a settlement for far less than the vehicle is worth. Thus, you can prevent this heartbreaking experience with a portfolio that can be used to prove the vehicle's true value. This should include the following:

Photograph your vehicle in detail, not just a snapshot of your family with the car in the background. What you need is a minimum of one roll of color film (or several dozen digital images) that captures the vehicle from all sides, plus the interior, under the hood, and inside the trunk. Photograph the chrome and trim in detail. The level of detail should be like that used by photographers doing vehicles featured in a magazine article. The best time to do the photography is after you have just detailed the vehicle. Make sure there is lots of light when the pictures are taken.

If you're not a skilled photographer, get a friend who is into photography to do the job or hire a professional photographer. Make several sets of prints putting them in several locations, for example, at home, at work, with friends and relatives, and in you safe-deposit box. If you use a digital camera, burn several CDs and put them in several locations.

Record a restoration in progress on Videotape. Do a "feature" on the completed restoration. Videotape your car at car shows. Then edit it all down into a single, professional-looking tape. Insurance-claim adjusters won't spend hours looking through a box of tapes you send them. It is your responsibility to update the videotape periodically and have the latest version readily available.

If the vehicle is quite valuable get a professional appraisal. Use only a reputable appraiser who has an established reputation in the old-car and collectible-car business. An appraiser who deals in real estate, art collections or the guy down at the local car dealer who appraises trade-ins will not do. Qualified appraiser advertise regularly in collectible car magazines. Another source is an appraiser recommended by local collectors and car club members. Your insurance company may also be able torecommend an appraiser.

Keep accurate records on investments you have made in restoration work, repairs, and improvements. Make sure to keep receipts of all purchases, and payments for outside services. Keep a log of your own hours invested in a restoration project. While restoring, keep a scrapbook showing progress, effort, and the quality of the work and materials used. Store in a safe location - not in the trunk of the vehicle - and make copies of the most important documents.

Keep records of comparable prices realized at classic-car auctions for vehicles similar to yours. These results are published in publications like Old Cars nearly every week. Also keep copies of any articles that discusse the value of similar vehicles.

If your beautiful car places well in car show judging, keep a record of this, as well as the scoring sheet. The latter is worth keeping, even if you don't win anything If the car appears in a magazine article keep copies of the actual article and not just photocopies.

Don't forget to keep your portfolio current. Be prepared to "counter attack" an insurance adjuster who is down rating the settlement because of depreciation, deterioration and wear. A five-year-old appraisal and a bunch of faded photos will not provide the proof you need. You must be able to show that an older restoration has been maintained so that the vehicle is still in prime condition. Up-to-date photos and appraisals will help in this regard.

Finally, consider purchasing a 'stated value' insurance policy rather than a standard collision and comprehensive policy. Or insure with one of the many insurance companies that specialize in vintage and collector vehicles. They can offer better coverage for lower prices, but often do have limitations on use and storage, for example.