Parked cars at higher risk of being dented during Christmas

Over 50 percent of AA Insurance car claims last year happened while cars were parked.
Over 50 percent of AA Insurance car claims during the last year happened while cars were parked. Photo credit: Getty.

With Christmas Day just over a week away, people flying into pre-Christmas rush are advised to save a little consideration for fellow shoppers - and their vehicles.

According to the latest annual AA Insurance Lifestyle Survey, 11 percent of car claims arose from accidents to parked cars - racking up almost $3.5m in costs - with 16 percent of those caused during December and January.

Amelia Macandrew, customer relations manager at AA insurance, said cars are vulnerable at supermarket car parks, with a third of Kiwis having had their car damaged by a trolley - and people aren't always honest.  

"Despite seven in 10 drivers saying they wouldn't hesitate to leave their details should they accidentally damage another person's parked car, 86 percent of Kiwis returning to a damaged car hadn't received a note from the [perpetrator]," Macandrew said.  

"Despite it being a legal requirement to [provide] your details and registration number to the owner within 48 hours, or if you can't find them, to report the accident to police within 60 hours, the reality is that most people don't leave a note."

Abiding by the law is one thing, but in the spirit of Christmas, shouldn't Kiwis show others a little courtesy and own up to their mistake?  Especially given that, without knowing who caused the damage, the owner of the car is likely to be left with a bill.

"If [the insurer doesn't] know who [caused] the damage, we can't contact [the other party] or their insurer to manage the claim.

"[This means] the owner of the car must claim on their own insurance and pay an excess - or pay for the damage themselves if it is minor," Macandrew added.

People falling prey to dishonest drivers are encouraged to do what they can to find out the details of the person at fault before making a claim - or they're lucky, a whistleblower might help to expose them.

"One [of our] customers returned to her car after visiting her friend in hospital to discover the police waiting for her. 

"They had been called because another driver had caused damage to several other cars in the parking lot, including over $1000 worth to the back bumper and driver's side door of her vehicle," Macandrew said.

Jason Bayly, owner of JB Insure suggested that people returning to their parked car to find damage could approach nearby retailers for CCTV footage.

Recently, a client was able to get hold of footage showing the registration number of the other vehicle, enabling the insurer to track them down.  

"In this instance, the owner of the damaged vehicle didn’t lose their 'No Claims Bonus' and no excess [was required]," Bayly said.

If the third party can't be identified, people are advised to weigh up whether it is worth putting in a claim.

"Your insurer will deduct an excess and your 'No Claim Bonus' may be affected, which will mean [the] premium may increase at the next renewal," Bayly added.   

Among AA Insurance findings of the most common car park collisions, is a situation that involves two drivers reversing out of opposing car parks and driving into each other. 

"In this instance, both drivers are generally deemed at fault, which means each needs to claim through their own insurer or pay for their own damage," Macandrew advised. 

Another common car park situation is when a reversing driver doesn't pause to look for other moving vehicles.

"[As an example], as our customer was driving through the parking lot, [the other] driver backed out of a car park and into the front passenger side door of our customer's car, causing $2500 worth of damage," Macandrew said.

As car parks are likely to be heaving with last-minute shoppers including young children, in the coming days, Kiwis are reminded to take their time and check before opening car doors and while reversing out of their car park - remembering the 'blind spot'.

In addition to remembering basic car park etiquette, AA Insurance provides the following tips to help drivers stay safe on the road this Christmas.

  1. Drive according to the road rules. Indicate to let people know where you're headed and use your mirrors to see other drivers and pedestrians before reversing.
  2. Park at the far end of the car park.  As most drivers like to park as close as possible to their destination, [this helps to reduce the risk of damage].
  3. Park away from where people are most likely to leave their trolleys, including trolley bays, pavements closest to the store's entrance, and traffic islands.
  4. Don't shop during peak hours when car parks are at a premium. Early morning, or later evening should be less congested.
  5. Shop local and park down side streets, or parallel park instead.
  6. Take public transport, shop online or get all your main shopping done early.

Under the AA Insurance survey, information collected from 1019 people aged 18 years and over showed that for over half (53 percent) of people claiming on their car insurance, damage was caused to their car while parked, with trolleys accounting for over a quarter of the damage.

While most people like to think they're honest, pre-Christmas pressure can cause cars - and people - to get bent out of shape.  

Shoppers who are yet to brave local shopping centre carparks are advised to do it soon - staying out of range of supermarket trolleys - while remembering to show patience and courtesy to their fellow drivers who are likely to be in just as much of a rush to get home.