Few things in life are as fun as high-wheeling it across the country in a rented, financed or fully owned recreational vehicle (RV). But before you make those plans to motor over to the Grand Canyon, California coast, Florida hotspot or other desirable destination, you should make sure that your home on wheels, and everything in it, is properly insured.
Just as you shouldn’t assume that a vacation home you own is covered by your homeowners insurance policy on your primary residence, it’s important to know that a recreational vehicle usually requires coverage separate from your traditional automobile insurance. Insurers also distinguish between RVs and manufactured homes - typically, an RV is a motor home that can be driven. Manufactured homes have no motors and are usually built offsite, brought to a location and pieced together. Those fundamental differences are the reason manufactured homes and standard RVs are covered by different types of insurance policies. As with the latter, at least a minimum amount of liability coverage is mandatory; if you’re financing or renting an RV, your lender or rental company will, in fact, likely obligate you to have an even greater level of coverage in place. Knowing how RV insurance protection works and the various options available to you can position you to choose the best coverage for your needs.
Insurance Coverage Inclusions and Options for Your RV
Recreational vehicle insurance works very much like conventional automobile insurance: it safeguards you from catastrophic expenses that can arise if you are involved in an accident or have to file a claim. However, because it can also serve as a temporary or primary residence on wheels, it can also work similarly to travelers and homeowners insurance.
Insurance for your motor home can include any of the following protections:
Auto Insurance Components:
- Liability coverage for bodily injury and property damage: this covers you when you cause an accident in your motorhome, are considered at fault, and are on the receiving end of a claim or lawsuit. A minimum amount is required in all states, with those amounts varying from state to state.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: your insurer steps in to pay for any damages or repairs should you get hit in a hit and run, or by someone without auto insurance; required in some states.
- Personal injury protection: also required in some states; pays for any medical care you or your passengers require, regardless of who is at fault for the accident.
- Collision coverage for damages: pays for repairs to your RV (optional) if you crash into another car, or another vehicle collides with you.
- Comprehensive coverage for theft, fire, vandalism, property damage, and other non-accident events (optional).
Homeowners Insurance Components:
- Personal property coverage (optional), which covers personal possessions housed inside your motor home, including suitcases, electronics, and clothing. "Many people assume their homeowners insurance will cover the personal property inside their RVs, but it usually only does so to a certain limit, which can be insufficient to protect you from loss," says Bob Passmore, Assistance Vice President of Personal Lines for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
- Attached accessories and/or specialty equipment coverage (a standard inclusion in some policies, optional for others), for items like awnings, TV antennas, satellite dishes, generators, refrigerators, and water pumps.
- Total replacement cost coverage (optional), which reimburses you up to the actual cost to replace your RV at its pre-loss value, instead of merely reimbursing you the depreciated actual cash value; this is typically only recommended for newer models.
- Roadside assistance and towing coverage (optional).
- Trailer coverage (optional), which covers a trailer, kayak, golf cart, or other item that is hitched to the motor home.
- Emergency expenses coverage (optional), which covers expenses associated with traveling home for lodging nearby if your RV is unusable.
- Pet injury coverage (optional), which covers veterinary expenses up to a certain amount. Might be unnecessary if you already have pet insurance.
If you live full time in your RV, you will need to purchase full-timers insurance coverage. This provides protection up to 365 days a year. If you only plan on using your motor home occasionally, and keeping it stored without use for long periods, you’re better off with part-time insurance that includes campsite/vacation liability coverage and which offers a reduced premium for layover periods.
Note that a towable RV (camper-type recreational vehicle) does not have to have insurance coverage; your existing auto insurance on the vehicle towing a rear RV should extend to cover the latter. Only a recreational vehicle that is actually driven, and not towed, is required to be insured up to a minimum level of coverage, according to the laws in each state.