Leave that supercar to valet at your own risk

Insurance clause means owners must pay if valets damage their cars

Supercar owners who let valets handle their vehicles do so at their own risk, motor insurers confirmed yesterday.

Coverage for such cars may protect only the drivers named in the policy, such as the Ferrari owner whose vehicle was allegedly taken for a five-minute joyride by two valets from Resorts World Sentosa (RWS) last Tuesday.

Such restrictions are included in policies for "highly valuable cars", said Mr Derek Teo, president of the General Insurance Association of Singapore.

This is because of the high value of such cars and the sum insured, and the fact that they are usually "high powered".

Owners of high-end cars who spoke to The Straits Times said they were aware of this clause.

The case of the "borrowed" Ferrari at RWS - which was exposed by the vehicle's in-car camera - was not unusual either.

Owners told The Straits Times they have heard of Lamborghinis, and other high-end cars, being taken on joyrides by valets. They also said there are times when their cars have been scratched, dented or they had items stolen after they used valet services.

Mr Gregory Soh, who drives an Audi S5, said that he stopped handing his car over to valets about four years ago.

"I was driving a BMW convertible then, and I gave it to a valet. He headed in when parking and scratched the bumper," said the 36-year-old, who owns two garages that deal mainly with exotic cars.

Mr Soh ended up paying for the repairs himself.

Those who own mass-market cars can breathe easier.

Said Mr Peh Chee Keong, vice-president of motor insurance at NTUC Income: "In general, most motor insurance policies will cover the owner and authorised drivers including valets."

He added that companies providing valet services should ensure they have the appropriate trade insurance policy in place, given that not all customers will have policies that cover valets.

According to those in the valet business, unauthorised joyrides are not unheard of.

Former valet Mohamed Ashraf, 25, said there was one well-known case where a valet at a restaurant took a customer's BMW to go out and meet a friend. This, after hearing that the owner would return only in two hours.

The owner reported the incident to the valet company when he realised the bonnet was still hot when he got the car back and saw that the fuel gauge was lower.

The valet was believed to have been sacked soon after.

When contacted, lawyers said valets who take cars out for a drive instead of parking them may be committing theft of motor vehicle.

Valet companies which spoke to The Straits Times said they have heard of joyrides and thefts, but such cases are not common.

Mr Danesh Kumar, a manager at Prestige Valet, which provides services at nightclubs, restaurants and shopping centres, said his company has several safeguards in place.

For example, $100 is withheld from a valet's monthly pay for the first 10 months. Money will be deducted if they are "suspected of any wrongdoing".

In serious cases, the valets' service will be terminated immediately.

The company also has "prestige police" - plainclothes staff who monitor drivers discreetly to ensure they are obeying the rules.