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Finding Cheap Car Insurance Is More Complicated for RVs

June 8, 2015
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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An RV holds the promise of exploring the country and finding new adventures. But first you need to protect your investment, and that involves more than finding cheap car insurance.

An RV is both a home and a vehicle, so you need a policy that covers aspects of both. Recreational vehicle insurance is geared to the unique needs of RV owners and provides the options to protect your home on wheels, whether you live in it full time or use it only for trips.

Required coverage

Like auto insurance, RV insurance includes several types of coverage, and some are mandatory. All states except New Hampshire require registered vehicle owners to buy minimum amounts of bodily injury and property damage liability insurance, which pay for damage and injuries to others in accidents you cause.

Some states also require vehicle owners to buy uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance, which pays your medical bills after a crash when the driver who is at fault doesn’t have any or enough liability insurance. (Uninsured motorist property damage coverage, which pays to repair or replace your vehicle if an uninsured driver causes an accident, is not mandatory and isn’t available in every state.)

And in some states, you must buy personal injury protection insurance, or PIP, which pays for your medical expenses and loss of income if you’re injured in a crash, no matter who caused the accident. A similar type of coverage, called medical payments, is available in other states.

Collision and comprehensive insurance are optional as far as state laws are concerned, but they’re critical for protecting expensive vehicles. Your lender will require them if you financed your RV. Collision insurance pays to repair or replace the RV if it’s damaged in an accident. Comprehensive insurance pays for repairs or replacement if the RV is stolen or damaged by causes other than traffic accidents, such as storms, vandalism or floods.

RV policies can include extra services that you might also have for your car, such as towing and roadside assistance coverage.

Protecting a home away from home

Because an RV is more than just a set of wheels, RV insurance policies feature special options you can’t buy for cars. They include coverage for:

  • Your belongings, such as clothing, laptops, cooking supplies and outdoor gear stored in the RV. A standard auto insurance policy doesn’t cover belongings; you’d have to file a claim on your homeowners or renters insurance policy to get reimbursed for anything swiped from your car. But RV insurance typically includes coverage for personal belongings up to a certain dollar amount, with an option to purchase additional coverage. This is critical if you live in your RV full time and don’t have homeowners or renters insurance.
  • Equipment attached to the RV, such as satellite dishes, awnings or antennas. An auto insurance policy would provide no coverage for these items, which could get damaged in an accident or storm.
  • Travel expenses if you have a covered claim out on the road. This coverage would pay for hotel expenses and transportation to get there if your RV is wrecked in an accident or other covered event.
  • Liability when the RV is parked. This pays medical bills for anyone who is injured in or around the RV when you’re using it as a residence.

Saving money on RV insurance

RV insurance premiums depend on the amount of coverage, the make and model of the RV, safety equipment, garaging location and your age and driving experience. You’ll need less coverage — and, as a result, pay less for insurance — if you use your RV for occasional trips than if you live in it year-round.

Discounts vary by insurer. Typically you can save money by insuring your cars as well as your RV with the same company or by bundling other policies, such home or life insurance, with the same insurer.

Some companies also offer discounts for taking a state-approved RV safety course or belonging to an RV association.

As with regular car insurance, you keep premiums low by keeping your driving record clean, paying your entire premium upfront instead of in monthly installments and raising the deductible for collision and comprehensive coverage. Also, ask your agent if you’re getting all your available discounts.

Barbara Marquand is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @barbaramarquand.

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