Full and part-time RVers have very different lifestyles, and therefore have different insurance and liability concerns. If you are a full-time RV resident, or you're considering becoming one, you may need to make some changes to your insurance coverage, including switching your coverage to a full-time RV policy issued by a carrier who specializes in insuring the RV community.
Why? Because many full-time RVers don’t own a home, other than their RV. And once you drop your personal fixed residence, you also drop your homeowners’ insurance policy. Homeowners insurance doesn’t just protect the house itself, though; it also provides vital coverage in these additional two dimensions:
1. Contents coverage.
Homeowners’ insurance policies protect the contents of your home – your personal property, effects, furniture, collectibles, clothing, heirlooms, etc. -- and reimburses you if the contents are damaged or destroyed from a covered peril.
2. Personal liability coverage.
Homeowners’ insurance policies also protect you against lawsuits arising from personal liability, which can be anything from a dog bite on your property to someone slipping on your sidewalk - even a lawsuit over some petty personal dispute. The insurance carrier should provide a legal defense and pay any damages - up to the limits of coverage. There are some exclusions, such as liability, that may arise from commercial rather than personal activities (you will need commercial liability insurance/business insurance for that), but liability protection is a vital protection for most of us.
If you become a full-time RVer, your need for personal property coverage and personal liability protection doesn’t go away. Instead, your RV policy must take on the weight of your homeowners’ insurance policy, and replace your homeowners’ policy when it comes to protecting your personal property and against personal liability - in addition to insuring the RV itself.
Full Time RV Insurance Concerns
Many people purchase ‘bolt-on’ insurance for their RV from the same carrier they buy their car insurance from, which typically only provides limited coverage for RV contents.
Another shortcoming is this: Full-time RV residents commonly keep a lot of belongings in storage somewhere. If these items were to be damaged or destroyed, many RVers would incur a serious financial loss. And even if you buy additional RV contents coverage from the carrier, there’s still a gap: The contents coverage only covers the items in or immediately around your RV. It won’t protect you against damage or loss of items you have in storage.
Furthermore, many auto carriers design their policies assuming that their customer has personal liability insurance from their homeowners’ policy; but if you don’t have a permanent fixed residence anymore because you live in your RV, that's no longer the case! Yes, your auto insurance liability policy will help protect you against liabilities arising from vehicle-related incidents, but it generally does not provide broad personal liability protection beyond that. These policies aren’t designed to do so. If you don’t have personal liability protection via a homeowners or renters’ policy, you’ve got a hole in your insurance protection strategy that you can drive an RV through!
Use of RV as Permanent Residence
Occasionally, there are cases where individuals keep their RV coverage with a car insurance company that does not handle home insurance – and then transition to full-time RVing without telling their carrier. In these cases, some carriers presented with a claim may move to limit or deny coverage. The reason: They may argue that the customer did not disclose that they planned to use the RV as a permanent residence.
If you are a full-timer and you buy a full-time RV insurance policy, the carrier cannot argue that you did not disclose your intentions. Your claim is that much safer.
How to Plug The Gaps
If you’re a full-time RV resident (you live in your RV at least 75 percent of the time), it may be worthwhile to consider upgrading your policy to a full-time RVer’s insurance policy. You’ll probably want to go to a company with a strong specialty and long experience insuring the RV community.
Fortunately, there are specialty carriers that cater specifically to the RV community that understand this – and offer policies that are better suited to the full-time RV resident.
What qualifies as a full-timer?
Broadly speaking, the insurance industry defines a “full-time RVer” as someone who lives in his or her RV at least 75 percent of the time. Additionally, RV insurance underwriters generally divide the community of full-time RVers into three categories:
◾ Classic full-timers. These are typically retired and spend most of their time traveling in their RV.
◾ Working full-timers. These individuals use their RVs to travel from job to job. They are commonly construction workers, medical professionals, ministers and evangelists, and other highly mobile workers. If they are self-employed, independent contractors or business owners, they may have a separate requirement for commercial liability coverage attached to their RV, in addition to personal liability coverage. They may also need to buy additional contents coverage to cover inventory, tools and work supplies, in addition to their personal effects.
◾ Fixed full-timers. These individuals live full-time in their RVs, but in a fixed location, such as a motorhome or trailer park. Some RV insurance carriers do not cover people in this category. Speak with your agent about your specific situation.
Depending on the carrier and circumstances, your full-timers policy may come with the option to add additional personal liability coverage, medical payments to others' coverage, or loss assessment coverage, which helps protect you from unexpected special assessments imposed by community association boards, should you be a member of such an association.
Vacation Liability Insurance
Vacation liability, which is sometimes called ‘campsite liability,’ provides personal liability protection for RVers while at their campsites. While your auto liability will cover you against liability for damages caused by your RV if it’s moving, vacation liability helps protect you against claims that arise if you are stationary. This optional coverage kicks in to protect you if someone gets hurt at your campsite, or in your parked RV. This is particularly important if you own a dog: The average dog bite claim amounted to over $32,000 in damages in 2014, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Essentially, vacation liability coverage provides similar coverage to most full-timer packages, but does not include coverage for items in your storage shed.
Not every insurance carrier offers a full range of RV specialty coverage appropriate for full-time RVers. Indeed, there are only a handful of companies that will offer a full range of policies designed specifically for the full-timer or frequent, serious camper.
That's it! Those are my top 10 tips for buying an RV. Oh, and don't forget to test drive the unit. I guess that's an obvious one, right?