insurance

RV insurance covers your home on the road

If the open road is calling you and a recreational vehicle, or RV, is the way you want to go, it may be smart to hitch on some RV insurance. While some owners opt to cover their RV with an endorsement on their auto insurance policy, insurance companies including Progressive, Nationwide, Geico and GMAC offer specialized RV insurance that resembles a combination of car insurance, home or renters insurance, and travel insurance rolled into one policy.

"While some of the coverage an RV policy offers is similar to regular car insurance to cover accidents, you also need specific coverage that's like property insurance because you essentially live in the vehicle when you're using it," says Gregory J. Blanchard, an associate vice president with Nationwide insurance in Des Moines, Iowa. "You also need liability insurance to protect you if someone trips and falls on your campsite or slips inside your RV."

Why consider RV insurance?

Leslie Kay Drury, president of Leslie Kay's Inc., a specialty insurance firm in Boynton Beach, Fla., says she would never recommend putting your RV on an auto insurance policy because of liability issues and the potential for loss.

"Some people think their belongings (in the RV) are covered by their home insurance, but if you carry expensive things like a digital camera, binoculars, jewelry and electronics, you can easily exceed your coverage," says Drury.

"I had one customer who didn't buy personal property coverage on their RV, and they had $19,000 worth of stuff stolen when it was parked behind their house," she adds.

Charles Mozingo, a product manager for Progressive insurance in Mayfield Village, Ohio, says RVs often carry special equipment such as a generator, a water pump and a refrigerator that also needs to be covered.

What does RV insurance cost?

Like most insurance policies, RV insurance premiums vary widely. Mozingo says coverage can cost as little as $65 annually or up to $25,000 a year, in part because RVs themselves vary from $5,000 for a nonmotorized trailer to several million for a top-of-the-line luxury RV with a hot tub and crystal chandeliers.

"RV insurance is usually a lot less expensive than car insurance because the RV isn't driven as often and because RV drivers tend to be more experienced," says Blanchard. "Our annual car insurance premium averages $1,500 a year, while RV insurance averages $550 annually for a motor home and $250 for a nonmotorized trailer."

Variables that go into determining RV insurance rates include:

  • Your driving record.
  • Your age.
  • Your gender.
  • Your marital status.
  • Your credit score.
  • The model, type and age of your RV.
  • Its storage location.
  • Usage for vacation or as a primary residence.
  • Average number of days per year you intend to use the RV, typically grouped as more or less than 150 days.

RV insurance can cover the actual cash value (depreciated value) or the total replacement cost in the event that your RV is totaled or stolen, says Drury. Companies tend to limit total replacement cost coverage to newer RVs.

What about extra coverage?

Note that RVs have very specific features that should be included in the policy.

"Motor homes have awnings that people often forget to roll up when they start driving, so we offer special insurance coverage to repair the awnings," says Blanchard.

RV owners also can choose optional coverage for:

  • Pet injuries. "Many RV owners travel with their pets, so this will cover up to $1,000 in vet bills in the event of a loss that's covered under comprehensive or collision coverage," says Drury.
  • Vacation liability. "One of the most important types of optional RV coverage is vacation liability insurance, which will pay for bodily injury and property damage if someone or something gets hurt in or around your RV," says Mozingo.
  • Personal effects. "The biggest mistake people make is not covering their stuff," says Drury. You can get basic personal property coverage up to a specific limit or schedule individual items, says Mozingo.
  • Trip insurance. A traffic accident in an RV "can be even more of an emergency because you're normally far from home when it happens," says Mozingo. "You can purchase coverage for living expenses and transportation in case your trip gets interrupted."
  • Trailer and golf cart coverage. "A lot of RV owners also tow a golf cart, a kayak or a trailer with extra belongings," says Blanchard. "You can get extra coverage for physical damage caused if one of these comes loose."
  • Roadside assistance. "Towing an RV can cost a lot more than a regular car, so you should buy a higher level of roadside assistance coverage," says Drury.

Some companies offer special insurance for RV "full-timers" with extended liability coverage and coverage for excess belongings kept in storage. Blanchard says many people who live full time in their RVs use storage facilities for possessions that don't fit inside the vehicle.

Are there any discounts?

In addition to discounts similar to those available on car insurance, (such as for a good driving record) RV drivers can get a discount for membership in an RV association or for taking an RV safety course, says Blanchard.

You also can cut your RV insurance premiums based on the time your vehicle spends off the road.

"Most companies also offer layover or storage insurance to reduce the cost of insuring the RV when it's in storage, typically up to 50 percent off the normal premium," says Mozingo.

Before you get behind the wheel of your RV, make sure you've got enough protection to keep the fun going even if you hit a bump in the road.

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