In December 2014, actors John Krasinski, Emily Blunt, and Jimmy Kimmel enjoyed some harmless holiday hijinks. The group, which also includes Kimmel’s wife Molly McNearney, has been pranking each other every December for several years. In 2014, Krasinski and Blunt outdid themselves: Kimmel’s car was completely gift wrapped. When he tore back the paper, he found the car to be filled with ornaments. After he opened the doors, the ornaments spilled out all over the parking lot. He exclaimed, “Wow! That is impressive. I have to hand it to you, that is very impressive.” Of course, car pranks and other tricks can be very fun, but they can also get out of hand. When that happens, it’s good to know how to clean up the mess and who to call for help.
Often, the holidays are a prime time for car pranks. Whether it’s April Fools’ Day, Halloween, or the 4th of July, people love to play tricks on their friends and neighbors. Common pranks include placing a noisemaker on a car’s tailpipe, covering the car in duct tape or sticky notes, or relocating the vehicle. There are endless possibilities, and some are more harmless than others. On occasion, a seemingly innocent prank can cause a big headache. Some jokes may end up costing you money and may require a call to your insurance company. Below is a list of common pranks, and what to do if they happen to you.
- Broken car windows
As you walk towards your car after a long workday, you notice that your driver’s side window is missing. As you get closer and look inside your car, you see shards of glass all over the seat and on the floor. Someone has smashed your car window! Or not- your friends are hiding around the corner watching your panicked reaction and laughing with glee as they have successfully pulled off another prank. They run over to you and explain that it was a joke- your car window was just rolled down and glass was placed in the car to make it look like it was broken.
In this instance, you were lucky. Nothing actually happened to your car. However, sometimes people take their pranks too far and actually break the car windows or windshield. If this happens, your insurance company considers it vandalism. Comprehensive insurance is available to protect against car damages caused by incidents other than collisions. This can include vandalism, fires, theft, and weather. Depending upon your policy, the comprehensive coverage may include protection for the windshield and windows. Sometimes, it only covers the windows. Your independent insurance agent can speak with you about your policy’s auto glass repair coverage. If you have a comprehensive policy, then obtain a repair estimate and compare it to your insurance deductible. It may be more cost effective to simply pay for the damage out of pocket rather than filing and insurance claim.
- Tires- slashed or stolen
While at work one day, you look out your office window and see your car propped up on cinder blocks. Where are your tires? You quickly run outside to assess the situation and plan how to get home that evening. Your friends are down the street watching the events unfold. After walking around your car several times in disbelief, your friends come walking toward you yelling “April Fools!” Thankfully, your tires were never really stolen.
If your tires are ever stolen or slashed, a comprehensive insurance policy has you covered. With comprehensive coverage, the insurance company will help to pay to replace or repair any damage caused by theft or vandalism, including your tires. Of course, every comprehensive policy is different, so it is best to check with your independent agent about the details of your coverage. Sometimes, the cost to buy four new tires is similar to the cost of your insurance deductible. If you find yourself in that situation, it is usually best to forgo filing a claim and simply pay to replace the tires out of pocket.
- Gas tank surprise
While slashing or stealing your tires is a way to prevent the car from moving, a similar prank that is less obvious or visible is putting sugar or sand in the gas tank. Supposedly, the sugar mixes with the gas to produce a thick liquid substance that is unable to move through the fuel lines and other systems, making your car inoperable. This has proven to be untrue. The sugar or sand is stopped by the filter and will likely not disable the car. However, you may have to pay a mechanic to clean out the tank in order to prevent the foreign substance from getting through the filter.
As with the previous two examples, putting sugar or sand in a gas tank is considered an act of vandalism, and is therefore covered under a comprehensive insurance policy. It costs money to have a mechanic clean your gas tank, lines, and replace the filter. Depending upon the cost of your insurance deductible, it might be worth it to file a claim. Of course, it is best to speak with an independent insurance agent first to get his or her advice on the matter.
- Car tipping
In recent years, a new car prank has emerged: smart car tipping. A typical smart car can weigh several thousand pounds less than the average sedan or truck. This makes it much easier for pranksters to lift a car and either tip it on its side or completely upside down. While it may be amusing to mischief-makers and onlookers, owners of these cars aren’t laughing. According to a 2009 incident in Edmonton, Canada, a man’s smart car had damage to the windows, mirrors, and side panels after people tipped his car over. He stated, “The first reaction is shock and disbelief. The second reaction is anger because your car has been vandalized.”
Thankfully, comprehensive insurance also covers against vandalism. Car tipping falls under this category. If you are thinking about buying a smart car, consider comprehensive coverage. It is not required under any state laws, but it is certainly worth the investment. The policy will have a deductible, but if your car is tipped, it will certainly be worth the cost to have your glass, paint, and anything else repaired.
- Thrown objects
One of the most common car pranks is egging: taking raw eggs and throwing them at a car so they break and ooze all over. Pranksters also might try silly string or shaving cream. Throwing or spraying items on a car might be funny, but if it dries, it can spell trouble. Of course, there may be different ways to carefully remove the dried liquid without it damaging the paint, but that might not always be possible.
If eggs, silly string, shaving cream, or any other chemical causes the car paint to peel or chip, then speak to your independent insurance agent about your comprehensive insurance policy. This coverage may include a provision for repairing the damaged areas. In some instances, the entire vehicle may be repainted at no cost to you (aside from the deductible). It may be viewed as a harmless prank, but it is still considered vandalism if it damages the car.
- Scaring the driver
There are many car pranks that involve scaring the driver: attaching a balloon to the exhaust pipe so that it fills and then pops, tying objects on a string and attaching it to the bumper, switching the wires so that the horn honks when they step on the brakes, or just hiding in the back seat and jumping out at them. As the prankster, you’re hoping for a silly reaction and a good laugh with your friends. As the driver, a small scare could be a big distraction and cause an accident.
If you get into an accident, whether it is with another car or with a stationary object, you need to have the right insurance. An independent insurance agent will tell you that state laws only require liability insurance, but that you might want to consider additional protection. A liability policy only covers the other vehicle and its passengers in the event of a crash. If you also want to have coverage for your own car, then you need collision insurance. So, if a scare prank has led to an accident in your car, you simply pay a deductible and the insurance company will help to repair the damage.
Speak to an Agent
If you’ve experienced a car prank, contact your independent insurance agent. They will have the knowledge and experience necessary to recommend the right course of action. If you live in an area known for car vandalism, or simply have friends who like to pull pranks, you can also speak to your agent about improving your insurance policy. This will enhance your coverage and protect you before a prank even occurs.
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