When I moved to Uruguay I was surprised by significant differences regarding insurance in the UK and the US where I lived before. Why did my car premium always go up though I’d never had an accident? How come I wasn’t able to get decent insurance for my laptop? How come my Uruguayan friends insist I use a broker when I was used to shopping around myself?
Alejandro Sosa Lucas-Calcraft, director of one of Uruguay’s oldest insurance broker companies, sheds light on eight sticky situations and unexpected benefits of taking out insurance in Uruguay—all in perfect English.
The content of the interview was edited for brevity.
1. As a resident you can insure your imported belongings for their (more expensive) replacement value in Uruguay
We all know that buying goods abroad tends to be much cheaper than here in Uruguay so when you come in you can bring a container with all your household contents including even a car duty-free as part of residency. Say you have a couch that costs 3000 USD abroad, the insurance company will allow you to insure it for the replacement value. That includes the cost when you bought it plus the freight, the duty and the VAT which is around 55-60% of the value. So the company should insure the couch for 4800 USD because that is its replacement value in Uruguay.
2. Your car premium will go up every year, even when you’re a good driver
This surprises everyone coming from abroad. The fact is that if you are a reckless driver and you claim from company A and then go to company B to renew, B considers you a new driver because most companies don’t share information or collect individual risk histories. Saying that, if you have an accident, if you have been with the company for a long time you may receive preferencial treatment.
We contact our clients 2-3 weeks before renewal and get quotes from each company as every year they will offer very different rates. Some of them will be charging half what another is offering for similar coverage. So we compare rates for our clients every time renewal comes up.
3. Household insurance may provide 24-hour emergency service as a freebie
A number of companies offer this and it is a great benefit. You can call and get an emergency visit from a plumber, electrician, locksmith, or someone to fix a broken window, right away. It’s a 24-hour service. It was a godsend in my own family when our water heater started spraying water all over in the middle of the night. Our plumber wasn’t able to come until the next day so we called the insurance’s emergency service and they sorted it out right away at no cost. We just had to pay for parts.
4. Household insurance doesn’t cover your laptop outside the home
Household insurance covers your laptop but only when it’s at home. To get coverage when you’re out and about you’ll need separate coverage. Individual laptop insurance for about 120 USD which gives you worldwide all-risk coverage. The coverage is for fire, theft and accidents—if the item falls on the floor or your mate falls on it (!) it’s covered. You can also get coverage for photographic equipment.
5. It’s easy to get travel insurance with a pre-existing condition
This is something fairly new in Uruguay. It’s a per-trip policy which gives you coverage for a maximum of 85,000 USD. You just need to declare your pre-existing condition and pay an additional premium. I’ve heard in other countries the age limit for this type of policy is 70 years old. It’s good news to know that in Uruguay you can get this insurance until you are 80. My clients without a pre-existing condition normally opt for annual insurance which allows multiple trips for up to 30 days with 100,000 USD coverage for about 170-180 USD.
6. There’s a (long-term) way to avoid sky-rocketing life insurance premiums over 60
In Uruguay you have the option of taking out life insurance and extending it till you reach 71 and pay a fixed premium for the entire period. It’s a good deal if you start the policy early, say in your thirties or forties. The closer you are to sixty, obviously the higher the premium. I’ve checked in the US and it’s almost impossible to get affordable life insurance coverage for your sixties. So, if you’re young and thinking of getting this type of coverage my advice is to take out a policy well before you’re sixty, so you can pay a fixed premium and know exactly what you’ll be paying till the age of 71.
7. Small businesses can get hold of affordable insurance
There are more and more policies available for small and medium size businesses (known as PYMES). The policies are not tailor-made but they are pretty good. They’ll cover fire, damage from water or electrical surges, accidental death on the premises, computers, petty cash, etc. As a small business, the best bet is to have at least fire and building insurance. Your rental contract will state you’ll return the building in the conditions you received it. Before noone used to sue in Uruguay but nowadays you could end up in court if there’s a fire and the landlord accuses you of negligence. For instance, a 600-dollar policy on an office could give you full comprehensive coverage which is a hell of a lot cheaper than lawyer’s fees. Or you can get some peace of mind through basic fire insurance which costs around 150 dollars for a building worth 100,000 USD. Other recent advances: businesses can also now buy product and business liability insurance.
8. Uruguayans use an insurance broker. They don’t shop around themselves
Fortunately in Uruguay, insurance companies are very solid institutions. But they have a lot of issues on their plate and they are not used to dealing with clients directly. We brokers have relationships with each company and good brokers will fight for our clients’ claims. After all, that’s how we make our living. I think that most insurance companies would admit they prefer to work with a broker, especially when the claim is complicated. We charge the same as you’ll pay going direct. In reality if you go direct it’s more expensive–you’re investing your time in something a broker does much more efficiently. [Note from Guru’Guay: This is really true. And just another example of the kind of ‘old fashioned’ service that still (happily) exists in Uruguay. Just like you still don’t pump your gas in Uruguay–an attendant does it for you.]
This article is possible thanks to Y. Lucas-Calcraft Seguros. They have been in the business of selling insurance “the British way” in Uruguay for over 140 years. For quotations in English or Spanish, call or message Alejandro Sosa Lucas-Calcraft on +598 97 604 836 or visit the Lucas-Calcraft website