PEMBROKE PARK, Fla. – Car dealerships are adding even finer print to the fine print.
And just one word, according to Local 10 News viewer Luis Corrales, left him on the hook for thousands of dollars. That's when he called Christina.
What Local 10 News investigative reporter Christina Vazquez learned is that Corrales, and any other driver of a leased car, could owe big bucks if their insurance policy does not match the terms of the lease agreement.
"That is the first time I have a problem," Corrales said. "And that's when you realize you are not protected."
In early May, Corrales was driving his leased BMW in a patch of street flooding.
"(I) unfortunately got water in the engine that won't be covered by BMW, but a claim with my insurance," Corrales said.
He thought he was covered. He soon learned, however, that a single word, buried in pages of tiny text in the lease agreement, would leave him on the hook for thousands of dollars.
That one word is "new."
According to his lease agreement, a replacement part must not just be genuine but new.
"These repairs include, but are not limited to, those necessary to return the vehicle to its pre-damage condition, including, but not limited to, repairing damage to exterior panels and components, structural components, vehicle safety systems, such as airbag systems and seatbelts and the vehicle's interior. All repairs must be made with new and genuine manufacturer's original equipment replacement parts," the lease agreement states.
Corrales was stuck in the middle between Allstate, which said it is meeting the dealer's lease agreement by providing a genuine BMW recycled part, which would have restored the vehicle to its pre-loss condition with an even younger engine, and BMW Financial Services, which said recycled doesn't cut it. The replacement part must be new.
The resulting difference in cost was more than $8,000, which prompted Corrales to Call Christina.
"I don't think it is right," he said.
"The customer agreed in his lease agreement with BMW Financial Services to use genuine BMW parts, if needed, to return his vehicle to its pre-damage condition," BMW Financial Services said in a statement to the Call Christina Team. "Regrettably, recycled parts do not satisfy the condition of his lease terms. The customer should contact his insurance company to resolve this matter."
"In this particular situation, we are honoring our insured's policy with an original BMW engine at the same model year or younger, which has fewer miles than the engine being replaced, so the vehicle can be restored to its pre-damaged condition," Allstate company spokesman Justin Herndon said. "Allstate's policy is above the industry standard in this situation."
Don Griffin, with Property Casualty Insurance Association of America, said the request for new parts is not something they have seen or heard a lot about. They represent insurance companies, but Allstate is not one of their members.
"So I think the request for new versus old is a little excessive in this case," Griffin said. "When you're leasing a car from them, it's not unlike if you're renting an apartment. The apartment belongs to someone else. The car is basically not yours. It is the dealer's responsibility to make sure they are providing the right information to the consumer about the lease."
A dealership wants to protect the car you are renting, that's why insurance requirements are different if you lease rather than buy a car. While you don't own it, you are often responsible for damage.
VIDEO WEB EXTRA: Insurance requirements if you lease rather than buy.
"The key takeaway I see for customers is to make sure they ask all the questions they can and do a little research about the specifics of the lease," Griffin said. "The other thing consumers can do is that they can buy gap coverage."
Corrales, however, was still faced with possibly owing more than $8,000 to fix a car he didn't own.
"I just want them to fix my car," Corrales said.
So he decided to repair, rather than replace, the engine.
A Local 10 News staff member helped him locate a shop that fixed the engine using new, genuine BMW parts within the amount of money Allstate approved.
He should be back in his car this week.
Corrales said while the dealer waived a storage fee, he was still going to be out of pocket for hundreds of dollars related to dealership labor costs in connection with a diagnostic.
The lesson learned: even while what happens after an accident might not be what you're thinking during the excitement of leasing a car, leased car drivers should double check that the policy and lease agreement are in agreement.
"Make sure they [customers] ask all the questions they can and do a little research about the specifics of the lease, the dealership and the insurer that you're doing business with, and make sure to ask the insurance agent of the company about gap coverage if it is something they think you need and what it would provide for a circumstance like this," Griffin said.
Joel Brown, from the Office of Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, explained some insurers offer optional coverage for Original Equipment Manufacturer Parts.
"It is important for consumers to read and understand their personal lease agreement and work with their insurance agent to make sure that the coverage they secure meets the requirements," Brown said.
The department might also be able to advocate on your behalf with your insurance company, so consumers are asked to call the toll-free Insurance Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO.