Auto Insurance Lessons from Seinfeld — Deductibles and False Claims
Over the course of its nine seasons, NBC’s hit show “Seinfeld” taught us a lot of useless information. But on occasion, it did teach us a few practical lessons about something we all have to deal with at one point or another: auto insurance. This article is the second installment of a five-part series discussing some of those lessons from the show about nothing.
In one of the show’s last episodes—Episode 176—Jerry’s driving Kramer, George, and Elaine home from a Mets game, which they left early since it looked to be a blowout. On the way home, they get hopelessly stuck in a traffic nightmare brought on by the Puerto Rican Day parade, which becomes an even bigger nightmare when Jerry hears on the radio that the game they just left early is turning out to be one of the biggest comebacks in Mets history. To make things even worse, Jerry’s been boxed in by another driver, whom he’s nicknamed “Maroon Golf,” who won’t let him out. Kramer thinks he has a solution, which includes a little fibbing to Jerry’s insurance company:
Kramer: You want to get outta here? Here’s what we do. We leave the car here, we take the plates off, we scratch the serial number off the engine block, and we walk away.
Jerry: Walk away?
Kramer: You’ve got insurance. You tell them that the car was stolen, and then you get another one free.
Jerry: Isn’t there a deductible?
Kramer: All right, what is your deductible?
Jerry: I don’t know.
Kramer: Yes, because they’ve already deducted it.
Jerry: From what?
Kramer: The car, which we’re leaving. So the net is zero. See, you pocket the money, if there is any, and you get a new car.
Jerry: We’re not leaving the car!
Kramer: All right. If you refuse to grow up and scam your insurance company, you’ll have to work this out with Maroon Golf.
While Kramer does have his moments of sagacity, he’s giving Jerry some horrible advice here. They haven’t “already deducted it.” The deductible is the amount you pay on a comprehensive or collision insurance claim before your coverage actually kicks in. So you don’t pay a deductible until after you’ve made a claim. You specify what size deductible you’d like when buying the policy. (There is the option to get a policy with no deductible, but auto insurance quotes for comprehensive coverage are likely to be much higher with no deductible than if you set it at $250, $500, or $1,000.)
And as for leaving the car and reporting it stolen, that’s a crime that can land you in jail. In fact, telling your New York insurance company that you had your car stolen when it really wasn’t is considered a class D felony if the claim is between $3,000 and $50,000. That brings with it a sentence of up to seven years. (If it’s between $1,000 and $3,000, it’s a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in jail.)
Now, back to the episode. Jerry decides to leave the car with George and Kramer to catch the end of the game, but they both also leave the car unattended to do the same. Eventually, a mob starts rioting in the streets, and Jerry’s Saab ends up upside down in a stairwell. The issue of whether the insurance company would cover a car that was vandalized after being left unattended in the middle of the street will have to wait for another article.
Bottom Line: Don’t try to scam your insurance company just so you can catch the end of a ball game. And if your main source of coverage advice is someone like Kramer, get a second opinion.
Didn’t catch our first installment in this series? Check out What’s the Deal With This Policy? — Auto Insurance Lessons from Seinfeld