Finally, summer is here. Our long-awaited vacations are just around the corner, and those of us with summer toys like boats, campers, and ATVs have already started checking them over to be sure they are ready to go for the season. But before you head for the hills with your camper or hit the waves on your boat, be sure you’ve purchased the correct insurance policy.
The type of insurance you need to consider depends on your recreational toy of choice.
Driving across country with your camper: Before you hitch your camper to a car, be aware that you might have liability coverage on your homeowners policy only as long as your camper is unhitched on your property. Physical damage coverage is usually excluded from most homeowners policies.
In most states, the camper is covered under the auto insurance policy connected to the car towing it. If you plan to hitch the camper to a friend’s car and tow it to your destination, be sure to find out if your friend has adequate liability limits. If the camper gets unhitched while driving and causes property damage or injury to others, you will need your friend’s auto policy to cover you.
Once you arrive at your destination and the camper is unhitched, the auto policy no longer covers the camper. If there is an accident that occurs while you’re using the camper as your temporary vacation residence and you are found liable for damages, you will need vacation liability coverage under a separate RV/camper policy to protect you. This is true whether you’re staying on a camping ground or your own lakefront property.
Comprehensive and collision coverage (also known as physical damage coverage) is also included on the RV/camper policy. This covers you if a tree falls on your camper during a storm or if the camper is in an accident while being towed.
Enjoying the water on your boat or personal watercraft: Just like a camper, the auto policy of the towing vehicle covers your personal watercraft (such as a Jet Ski), sailboat, or motorboat when it is being towed. However, once it is unhitched and ready for the water, you will need a separate watercraft policy to cover your investment.
A watercraft policy covers your water toy for physical damage and personal property, and it can even include towing coverage. It also includes liability coverage to protect you and your assets from property damage and/or injuries for which you or any drivers are liable while operating your boat or other personal watercraft.
Sometimes, insurance companies require owners to take safety/boating classes so they have proof that you have some training when it comes to the traffic rules on the water. Taking these courses may also reduce your premium.
Four-wheeling at your vacation home: In most states, as long as you drive on your own property, the liability coverage of your homeowners policy will protect you if you are responsible for injury or property damage to others. However, your homeowners policy will not cover any physical damage to the ATV.
Once you leave your own property, you are no longer covered by your homeowners policy. If you intend to use the ATV on roads that require motor vehicle registration, you must purchase a separate ATV policy to cover you in the event an incident occurs while you’re on the road. An ATV policy also offers comprehensive and collision coverage, as well as liability that will protect you should you wish to ride your ATV with your friends on someone else’s property.
It is important to keep in mind that in some states, it is difficult to add any personal watercraft or ATVs to your umbrella policy because they have proven to present great liability risks. If that is the case in your state, you may want to consider purchasing the highest limits of liability available on these separate polices.
Having a good driving record may help you keep your premiums down. It has been proven that people who are safe drivers are less likely to wreck their watercraft, boats, or ATVs.
I certainly do not want to take the fun out of your summer plans. Please contact your insurance agent before you leave on vacation. Your agent may not be able to guarantee good weather, but he or she should can give you peace of mind and help you have a relaxing and enjoyable vacation.
Heidi Petschauer Fox graduated from St. John’s University in Queens, N.Y., in 1983 with a B.S. in management. She joined her late father’s firm, Petschauer Insurance, in 1982, became principal in 1995, and now shares ownership with her partner and cousin, Erwin Petschauer. She received her Certified Insurance Counselor (CIC) designation in 1997. She currently facilitates the professional and creative development of the entire Petschauer team and manages the personal lines and social media departments.