Canadian Underwriter

What you need to know about gap insurance

November 28, 2018   by Matt Jones - THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Print this page Share

About 85 per cent of new car buyers will use some sort of financing to pay for their vehicle, according to credit reporting company Experian. If you’re such a buyer, you can expect that during your purchase a car dealership will try to sell you gap insurance.

Gap insurance makes up the difference between what a person owes on a vehicle and that vehicle’s actual cash value if there’s an accident and the car is declared a total loss. Dealerships primarily offer gap insurance for new cars, but you might also get a pitch for it if the car you’re buying is less than 3 years old, especially if it is luxury car. Many, but not all, leases include gap coverage.

Dealerships like gap insurance because compared with other aftermarket products they offer, it’s is relatively inexpensive, making it an easy sale. While extended warranties can run several thousand dollars, gap insurance is usually sells for $350 to $800. Prices vary depending on the length and amount of the car loan.

Gap has appeal for car buyers because it protects against two factors they can’t control: the quick depreciation of a new vehicle and the method insurance companies use to determine how much to pay if a car is totalled.


Most buyers know that their new car takes a serious depreciation hit in the first few years of ownership. What isn’t as widely understood is that unless a car buyer makes a hefty down payment to start the auto loan, chances are good that the vehicle will be worth less than what’s owed on the loan for several years. That’s especially true because loans include extra costs – taxes, registration and other fees – that don’t increase a vehicle’s value.

Say a shopper in California buys a new car for $25,000. Factoring in tax and registration, the “out the door” price would be about $27,500. Assuming the buyer made a 12 per cent down payment, which was the average in 2017, the loan amount would be $24,200.

Most new cars depreciate about 20 per cent as soon as owners drive them off the lot. In this example, the initial depreciation would be $5,000, dropping the car’s value to $20,000. That means the vehicle is worth about $20,000 but the loan balance is $24,200. In car industry jargon, the buyer is $4,200 “upside-down.”

If the vehicle was in an accident soon after purchase and declared a total loss, an insurance company would likely pay a settlement of somewhere around $20,000 ? the vehicle’s value. But the owner would still owe $4,200 on the loan. Gap insurance would pay the difference.

Being upside-down in a car loan is fairly common. Nearly one-third of people who traded in vehicles last year were in that situation, and the average shortfall was more than $5,000.


If you’re making a down payment of more than 25 per cent on your next vehicle, or if your insurance policy will replace your car if it’s declared a total loss in the first few years of ownership, you have little use for gap insurance.

But if you fall into any of these six categories, you might consider getting it:

  1. You’re taking out a car loan that’s longer than 60 months. Lengthy terms mean it takes longer to reach the point where the loan balance and the vehicle’s value match.
  2. You’ve traded in a vehicle with negative equity, meaning you owe more on it than it’s worth, and you’re rolling that negative equity into your new car loan. Just like the taxes and registration fees in the earlier example, adding that negative equity to your new loan will widen the gap between what you owe on the car and its value.
  3. You’re buying a car that traditionally loses value quickly. Models that have lots of options, luxury vehicles and domestic sedans fall into this category.
  4. You intend to drive lots of miles in a short amount of time. Higher-than-average miles mean greater-than-average depreciation.
  5. Your loan has a high interest rate, which means it will take longer to reach the break-even point in your loan.
  6. You’re buying or leasing a car with little or no down payment.


Dealerships aren’t the only place to get gap insurance. Some credit unions and auto insurance companies also offer it, sometimes for less than dealerships charge. If you think gap coverage might be right for you, call a credit union or auto insurance provider to see if it offers the coverage and how much it charges. Do this before you start working with a dealership so you can easily compare prices and pick the option that works best for you.

EDMUNDS SAYS: It’s natural to be skeptical of a sales pitch in a car dealership. But if you’re buying a car with little or no money down, gap insurance may be good to have. Just remember you have options outside the dealership. Do some comparison shopping before you buy

This story was provided to The Associated Press by the automotive website Edmunds. Matt Jones is a senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds. Twitter: @supermattjones.

Print this page Share

7 Comments » for What you need to know about gap insurance
  1. Thom. C.J. Young says:

    Please forgive me, I’m not a fan of GAP insurance. Loss ratios on the product run less than 20% and the fee’s charged for providing it run about 50%. By any close analysis the product is a rip off designed to make the dealer more money on the transaction with little benefit to the insured. Over financing of the auto or equipment produces the “GAP” and the lenders are the prime beneficiary of the transaction when that occurs. It is also a concern that the dealer is often arranging the financing and is in a position of unfair influence in the transaction.

    The article is not accurate in its focus and reads like an advertising for the product. Depreciation on new cars is easily mitigated by the replacement cost endorsement which would benefit the insured for full value and not just the amount of the loan. Also the financing of used vehicles at above market value is not considered a good practice from a lending or insurance perspective.

    Your mileage may vary but I don’t see the product as a benefit to anyone except for usurious lending and padding auto dealers.

  2. Robert Varga says:

    Hello Mr. Young,

    Our company is the largest GAP provider in Canada and loss ratios are FAR higher than 20% and on the rise North America wide. I’m not sure where you are getting your information. Car are written off more readily because of the cost to replace the expensive parts; sensors, cameras, technology.

    We literally pay GAP claims daily and have been for over a decade. I agree there are varying levels of quality but your note is unfair and inaccurate to say the least.


    Robert Varga

  3. Ammie Kaur says:

    What if the car got hail damaged and insurance declares it a total loss as repair costs will likely exceed the value of the car, then will the gap insurance covers the rest of the loan?

  4. Trevor Senka says:

    Mr. Varga,
    What is the total value of your capital assets and cash? I am interested to know how lucritive it is to have the position that informs your opinion.

  5. Ron Gowan says:

    I just had a accident it’s was a total write off the other driver ran a stop sign and was changed I’m not at fault I have been fighting with my own insurance company over it’s value it only 4 years old and yes high miles but it a Cummins diesel there known to last a million or more there’s very few 2016 models the same make out there so how do they use the black book and why does the GAP insurance use the black book do they not pay the difference between the insurance pay out and the loan also if you deferred payments during Covid through the government of Canada they will not pay for these payments I feel that this is go a little to far unfair consumer practices I’m asking the government to see where they stand this many people and businesses were ordered to stay home and only essential business could operate in my case I work Canada and USA and the government closed it down so why would a insurance company tell me to sign off of my claim and the mail it in to them they refuse to accept written paperwork from my insurance company with the offer so if I sign it I’m at the mercy of the GAP that told me that they use the black book so are they ready going to pay the gap and pay the loan in full

  6. Mike says:

    Thank You for the information, which companies underwrite GAP Insurance ?

  7. Susan says:

    What will GAP PLUS pay, if the car was paid for with a personal loan and is now paid off? I’m asking for a family member, as their car was stolen but found torched 2 days later and now written off. Firstly, is that even covered? Secondly, they had used their personal loan to buy it and have now paid off the loan in full. But they will only get the depreciated amount. Does GAP Plus replace the vehicle with a new car?

Have your say:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *