Arbella Sucks

In mid-February after one of our many blizzards, my wife was driving her sedan home. There was a pile of snow on our street that had hardened over. I guess she miscalculated its height (and hardness) and when she went over it, the car lurched up and she heard a loud grinding sound against the undercarriage. The engine started shaking immediately and within seconds died. She called me out and I took a look at the car. It was dead. I walked over to the ice and it was rock hard, so I tried to take a shovel to it and immediately emailed my neighbors to be careful of it. I am not mechanically-inclined, so when I googled what might’ve happened, I saw several comments that it could be as minor as a damaged oil pan that causes the engine to shut down. Figuring it might be something minor, I called AAA (had to wait a few days since their lines were down) and had the car towed down the street to a service station. I was not expecting the assessment from the mechanic: apparently during the collision, the timing belt slipped and caused the pistons to bend. This would cost several thousand to fix. Unfortunately, this car has an “interference” design which is prone to extensive damage when this happens. Not wanting it to sit at the service station for too long, I had the car towed back to our home. I reached out to Arbella and described the situation. I’d heard of others getting things like pothole damage covered, so I thought I’d give it a shot. Elizabeth Moran at Arbella said that it sounded like it would be coverable, but they couldn’t look at it at my house. I’d have to have it towed to a shop. So I had it towed back to the same shop. Well, an Arbella rep went to the shop and took a look at it and is now claiming it is not coverable, but “wear-and-tear”. I don’t understand how this could be considered a random event. My wife ran over an obstruction and the car died immediately. Now the car is sitting at the service station awaiting a follow-up by an Arbella engineer. I feel like they’re dragging their feet and giving me excuses.

If they don’t cover this claim, I’m ready to ditch Arbella. They are the worst insurance company. This is only the second auto claim we’ve made with them. The first one back in 2011 was from a hit-and-run when my car was parked on the street. There was rear body and tail light damage, but the car was driveable, so they had me drive it to one of their claim centers. The rep took a look at it and said they’d get back to me. A week later I got a letter with his itemized estimate: $510. But at the very end, $40 was deducted due to “betterments” since there were some scrapes on my bumper. “Sorry! That puts it $30 under your deductible!” How convenient. It irked me at the time, but I didn’t contest and had it fixed out-of-pocket. After this second run-in with them, I’m ready to ditch this lemon of an insurance company.

UPDATE: They didn’t cover me. We had to junk the car. And I switched to Plymouth Rock, which seems to have a much better complaint record than Arbella. We’ll see how it goes.

Mass RMV Scam

A few months ago, I received a notice to renew my registration. I immediately mailed it to my insurance company to be stamped and they promised to send it over to the RMV. Time passed and my registration expired in September. Recently, I was parked in Boston and got a ticket for an expired registration. I’m religious about putting that sticker on my plate as soon as I get it in the mail. So at first I thought my insurance company had goofed, but then I looked back at my bank statement and sure enough, my registration fee check had been cashed by the RMV. I called them immediately and they told me they could send me another – for a fee. “I can’t send it for free, or I’ll get in trouble,” the sweet lady on the other end said to me. So I got dinged with a fee for a duplicate registration. As for the ticket, I’m going to fight it (I was technically registered, even though I didn’t have a sticker. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it!) But some simple googling revealed several other people complaining about the same problem with the RMV: send in a renewal, forget about it, then get dinged with a ticket. As I told the sweet lady, this cannot all be the fault of the postal service. How often do letters get lost being sent across town? Not often I bet.

So if you can get the RMV to admit that they make mistakes sometimes and explain why they have to charge $25 to resend a registration when there’s a pretty good chance it’s their fault, I’d be impressed. (By the way, I was told they do have a grace period but I had just passed it.) Since the chances of them admitting fault are near zero, I have a suggestion: as soon as you fill out that renewal form, set up a reminder for yourself to check back on it in a few weeks. There’s a pretty good chance your sticker won’t arrive and you won’t realize it until you get dinged with a ticket!