By Nick DiUlio
The arrival of spring and summer means tens of thousands of drivers across the country will soon be hitting the open road in their RVs. According to the Pennsylvania Recreation Vehicle and Camping Association, one in 12 vehicle-owning households (or about 8 million families) in the U.S. now own an RV. If you’re thinking about joining the motorhoming throng, you should first think about how you will insure your new house on wheels.
“The biggest mistake people make when they think about buying an RV is that basic car insurance will be adequate, and it’s not,” says Frank Darras, a national consumer litigator who specializes in insurance. “There are some very unique distinctions between your run-of-the-mill car insurance and insurance for an RV.”
Here are some crucial tips on how to properly insure your RV, along with a few suggestions about saving some money in the process.
Are You A Full-Timer?
The first thing to consider: Do you plan to use your RV as a full-time residence or as recreational transportation for weekends and extended vacations?
“We found out right away that a lot of auto insurers out there won’t write coverage for full-timers, which was a little surprising,” says Doreen Orion, author of “Queen of the Road: The True Tale of 47 States, 22,000 Miles, 200 Shoes, 2 Cats, 1 Poodle, a Husband, and a Bus with a Will of Its Own.”
“If they will cover you full time, let your insurance provider know right off the bat that you plan to live in your RV year-round,” says Orion. “Technically, your insurance company can deny a claim if they didn’t know you were using it on a full-time basis.”
Generally speaking, full-time RV coverage resembles a basic homeowners policy and will usually cost about $100 to $200 more than part-time coverage.
For instance, Progressive offers a “Full Timer’s Package” that consumers can purchase if they plan to use their RV as a primary residence. In addition to collision, liability and comprehensive coverage that comes with any auto policy, the full-time package also includes coverage for up to $500,000 in personal liability and $50,000 in medical payments to anyone who may get injured in and around the vehicle.
“Just like at home, there are a lot of accidents and variables that can crop up when you’re using the RV as a permanent residence,” Orion says.
Finally, if the RV is your primary residence, you should ask your agent if you can purchase loss of use insurance. According to Janet Groene, author of “Living Abroad in Your RV,” this will cover the cost of staying somewhere else should you be without your RV after an accident.
“Remember, if your RV is being replaced or repaired, you’re going to suddenly be without a home,” Groene says.
Comprehensive Coverage for Part-Timers
If you only plan to use your RV for weekends and vacations, you’ll need to buy the same coverage any driver needs. That includes bodily injury and property damage liability, which pay for injuries and property damage you caused to others as the result of an accident. But since you won’t be using it 365 days a year, chances are the vehicle is going to spend a lot of time parked or in storage. And this is where comprehensive coverage comes into play.
According to Ricky Taranda, specialty auto product manager for Allstate Insurance, comprehensive insurance covers the cost of damages the RV may sustain from weather, fire, theft or vandalism.
“Too often we see consumers dropping their insurance altogether while the RV isn’t being used,” says Taranda. “But just because it’s sitting in your driveway or in a garage doesn’t mean it can’t be damaged, which is why comprehensive coverage is so important.”
If your RV will be stored or parked for more than 90 consecutive days, Taranda recommends reducing the insurance to just comprehensive coverage during that time, which will probably cut your monthly premium in half while the vehicle is not on the road.
Insuring the RV’s Contents
One of the most unusual aspects of RV ownership is the amount of stuff that’s inside the vehicle. This might include granite countertops, flat-screen TVs, expensive mattresses and flashy bathroom fixtures.
“Again, this is a lot like homeowners insurance,” says Groene. “The contents of your house need to be covered, and so do the contents of your RV.”
According to Taranda, anything originally manufactured as a part of the RV will typically be covered by the base RV policy. However, anything that you bring into the RV will be considered additional content that needs additional coverage.
Allstate offers content coverage for up to half the value of the RV. So, for instance, if the RV is worth $50,000, Allstate will cover up to $25,000 worth of its contents.
Moreover, most homeowners’ policies will offer a certain amount of coverage for contents kept inside the motorhome. For instance, Allstate provides RV content coverage for up to 10 percent of the home’s value. So if you have a $100,000 home, you will have coverage for up to $10,000 of RV contents.
“Content coverage is usually very affordable and well worth the little bit of extra money,” says Taranda, adding that consumers can expect to spend about $100 a year on this type of coverage, which will pay for the replacement of content lost as a result of an accident, theft, or natural disaster.
Just as with basic car insurance, the cost of insuring your RV is going to depend on a range of factors, including the value of the vehicle itself as well as the driver’s age, gender, driving history and average miles driven per year. On average, however, Taranda says part-time RVers can expect to pay between $500 and $800 a year on RV insurance, while full-time coverage may cost between $900 and $1,100 annually.
“Surprisingly, RV insurance is usually much less expensive than people expect,” says Groene. “And that’s because they’re mostly used on weekends and during vacations, which means they don’t get driven as much as a car.”
Even so, it’s always nice to save some money on your annual premium. The best way to do this, says Taranda, is to insure your RV with the same company that insures your home and car.
“Generally speaking, most people can save up to 30 percent if they bundle their insurance with one company,” says Taranda. “It’s not a ton of money, but every little bit counts.”