Motorhome Basics | FMCA
The same diligence used in selecting a motorhome also should be used to evaluate which insurance will best protect your motorhome and your motorhoming lifestyle.
Although individual states mandate the minimum amount of coverage required to register your motorhome, there are many other coverage features to consider to ensure that your motorhome is fully protected.
RV specialty insurance
Insurance companies that specialize in RV insurance offer motorhome-specific policy features that standard auto insurance policies do not. RV insurance companies price their coverage based on the recreational use of the RV rather than treating RV risk the same as auto risk. RV-specific policy rates take into account that RVs are not used with the same frequency as commuter vehicles.
RV-specific insurance coverage is comparable to and often less costly than standard auto coverage but provides more protection. Rates are determined by the state in which you register, the value of your motorhome and, in the case of full-timers, how often you use it. Insurance agents who offer RV-specific policies understand the mobile RVing lifestyle and have tailored a variety of coverage to match RVers' specific needs.
Having claims handled by someone who understands how motorhomes are built and the values involved can give great peace of mind. Awnings, antennas, satellite dishes, towed vehicles and other attachments that are included in your coverage won’t surprise a motorhome-experienced adjuster — a big comfort if you're negotiating the cost of damage to your motorhome.
Basic auto vs. specialty RV policies
At first glance, a standard automobile insurance carrier may seem sufficient to provide coverage for your motorhome — the company has a reputable name, they’ve done a great job insuring your home or autos, and they’ve offered all the state-required liability limits. But a motorhome is not just a big car; it's a "home on wheels."
Consider the most basic part of any vehicle insurance policy — liability coverage. This pays for bodily injury and property damage you may cause to others while operating your vehicle. If you add your motorhome to your auto policy, you’ll typically have the same liability limits for both vehicles. While that limit may be appropriate for a car, it may not be enough to cover the accident damage that a large motorhome can cause. A specialty RV policy provides broader liability protection than basic auto limits.
Standard auto policies do not account for the amount and variety of contents you keep in your motorhome. Clothes, dishes, sporting goods and computer equipment are all unusual items to keep in your car. Although homeowner policies provide coverage for many of these contents, there are typically limitations and restrictions if the items are away from the house.
Homeowners’ coverage also usually excludes damage caused by a collision. Deductibles on homeowner policies can be much higher, and many exclude items that are kept permanently in your motorhome. Full-timers without a homeowners’ policy to fall back on will have to replace items out of their own pocket if they’re destroyed.
Protecting your investment
One of the most unique and valuable protections offered by RV specialist agents is Total Loss Replacement (TLR). RVs lose value the moment they’re driven off the dealer’s lot. TLR provides you with a comparable new motorhome if you have a total loss in the first five model years, protecting you from significant depreciation. If a total loss occurs anytime after five model years, you’re paid the purchase price of the vehicle. On the other hand, what you typically get with a basic auto policy — the actual cash value — often is not enough to pay off a lien, much less get a brand-new replacement vehicle.
Professional bus conversions and classics
A unique insurance problem for owners of converted buses is difficulty proving a vehicle’s worth when there is no standard market value. RV insurance policies can provide a solution by offering Agreed Value Coverage, which locks in the value of the vehicle based on the bill of sale or professional appraisal. If a total loss occurs, your insurance will pay the agreed-upon amount without having to haggle over the current value of the motorhome.
Another convenient and cost-effective feature of most RV specialty policies is free towing and roadside assistance, complete with a network of service providers that know how to service motorhomes. Your motorhome will be taken to the nearest facility qualified to perform repairs. And you typically do not pay anything out of pocket — you simply sign for the service rendered.
Your motorhome serves as both transportation and as a hotel when you’re out on the road, so if you have an accident, you could easily be left without transportation or a place to sleep. RV specialty insurers may offer Emergency Expense coverage, which provides lodging and transportation if your motorhome is incapacitated due to a fire, accident or other covered loss.
For those who live and travel in a motorhome full-time: Look for motorhome-specific coverage that takes into account that if your vehicle is damaged, you have not only lost your primary mode of transportation but have been forced out of your home. Emergency expense allowance should be available to help defray the costs of a hotel, rental car or airfare in case an unexpected situation occurs.
Most full-timers no longer have the comprehensive personal liability coverage that a homeowners policy provides. This coverage offered by RV specialty insurers would protect you, for example, if you accidentally hit someone with a golf club or if someone trips on your campsite and you’re liable. Further, since the majority of full-timers store belongings while out on the road, a specialty RV policy can expand your coverage to include contents kept in storage.
Disappearing deductibles is another feature that some specialty RV policies offer. Drivers are rewarded with a discount on their deductibles for every year they’re claim-free. After four years without claims, the deductible reaches zero, meaning you pay no deductibles for your next claim. As you earn credit, you can increase the amount of your deductibles to lower your overall premium.
When shopping for insurance, ask if discounts are available if you take a safe driving course or if the motorhome is equipped with anti-lock brakes, a supplemental braking system or an anti-theft alarm system. Some companies may offer discounts if you are a member of a motorhome club, such as FMCA.
Choosing an insurer
Besides determining the type and amount of insurance coverage for your motorhome, finding a knowledgeable agent is important. Talk with friends and look for motorhome clubs' endorsements. It's a good idea to shop around, because rates and coverage may vary by insurance company.
A good agent can be a powerful advocate in case you need additional attention when dealing with a claim or need to consult with experts about your coverage. Choose an agent who knows motorhomes and the motorhome industry. For ease of doing business, ask what other insurance products the company offers, such as auto or umbrella liability coverage.
Select a company with stability and a proven track record. The right coverage means peace of mind and many years of enjoyable motorhoming.