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Classic Cars: How to Protect Your Clients’ Investment

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At the time of this writing, a Ferrari 250 GTO is set to become the most expensive car ever sold at public auction. According to experts, the car is expected to sell for more than $45 million at the annual auction in Monterey, California.

While an eye-popping number, this soon-to-be record-breaking sale is indicative of a larger trend: Successful individuals are increasingly turning to classic cars as a way to bolster and diversify their portfolios. Unlike traditional stocks and bonds, however, this asset has four wheels, a complex engine and often handmade parts. In other words, it requires a unique set of risk mitigation measures to protect.

(Related: How to Rein In a Client Who Strikes It Rich)

For financial advisors, advising your clients on how to protect their classic cars can be unfamiliar territory. Here’s what you need to know.

Shift Into Drive The first thing to know about protecting classic cars is that your clients probably aren’t going to lock them away for safekeeping. Rather, most classic car owners want to enjoy their cars as intended — on the road. Therefore, it’s important that cars are well-maintained, ensuring both the safety of passengers and financial value.

No matter the type of classic car, taking it to a traditional mechanic can do more harm than good. Rather, clients should only work with mechanics who specialize in their car’s manufacturer, make and model.

There are a number of resources available to help clients find the right mechanics. The best resource, however, is likely the car manufacturer’s national car club. With one existing for nearly every car manufacturer, the club can provide information on the best mechanics, common maintenance issues and red flags to watch for. As a bonus, it also often serves as a social club for car enthusiasts. Advising your clients to join their respective national car clubs is one of the best steps you can take to help them protect their classic car investments.

Hitting a Pothole Despite the best maintenance, accidents do happen, therefore it’s important to transport the car in a way that will prevent further damage, potentially impacting its value. Ideally, your client is insured by a specialty carrier whose classic car policy includes roadside assistance services. No matter who your client calls, however, what matters is that the firm has the relevant experience.

Transporting a car on the bottom level of standard double decker car trailer, for example, could mean that it is exposed to leaking brake fluid and oil from above. If a classic car is being transported long distances, whether for a show or for a repair at a specialty shop, use a transportation company that specializes in moving these rolling works of art. They know how to make sure there’s no damage along the way. How to effectively ship a classic car post-damage is particularly important if it is going overseas for repairs (remember, you want the best specialty mechanic and that could mean going abroad). If trans-Atlantic shipping is required, ensure it goes by air freight, not sea cargo. Not only will this eliminate the car’s exposure to extreme weather and salt, air cargo typically clears customs faster.

Park and Depart While well-maintained classic cars typically don’t require any post-use special care instructions, there are a handful of circumstances where taking additional safeguards can help preserve value. If your client won’t be driving the car for a while, suggest emptying the fuel. Since today’s fuel contains 10% ethanol, excess fuel can deteriorate hoses and tanks. Overinflating the tires also can avoid creating flat spots from the weight of the car. Finally, covering the car and its access points, including the tail pipe and vent, can prevent pests from entering.

Whether your clients are gearing up to auction their classic cars or they simply want to enjoy them on the open road, helping them think through pre-, during and post-drive care considerations can ensure they get their intended value from their investments. If you have any questions about this topic, please email me at [email protected].

Fran O’Brien is Division President, North America Personal Risk Services, Chubb.

— Check out Collectible Cars Are No Joke. Just Ask Jerry Seinfeld on ThinkAdvisor.


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