Few vehicles on our roads need insurance more than our caravans, camper trailers and motorhomes for a number of reasons: they are large and hence vulnerable to damage; they are unaccustomed travelling companions for many who take them on holiday; we tend to take them to unfamiliar places; and they usually spend a lot of their life outdoors in all sorts of weather.
Yet for many Australians, insuring one of their major possession is an afterthought – a box ticked on delivery. That’s surprising when you consider our annual RV market is 20,000-plus vehicles, with many top-end caravans and motor homes costing $150,000-$200,000, sometimes more.
Equally surprising is that relatively few companies specialise in caravan insurance, with most offering fairly basic cover as part of their suite of products. The exception is CIL which, like its Shannons classic car insurance stablemate under the Suncorp umbrella, specialises in this market.
1. THINGS TO LOOK FOR IN A POLICY
Most caravan insurance policies are similar, but here is a hit list of things to look for when insuring your prized caravan, camper trailer or motorhome:
- Insure it for its full purchase price. Caravans and campers depreciate in value, but as you often have to wait months to take delivery of a custom-built caravan, there’s a ready marker of impatient buyers ready to snap up late model second-hand vans at near-new price. In any case, companies like CIL offer new for old replacement within two years of registration.
- Check your policy covers you for all the climatic eventualities you might strike on a big trip, such as storm, hail or flood cover. Remember that many caravan parks are located in low-lying land prone to flooding, where houses cannot be built. CIL, for example, goes one step further and will return your caravan to your home after repairs, accident or illness and will also send your van’s contents home after a total loss.
- Make sure your policy has personal legal liability cover if your caravan/camper unexpectedly comes unhitched or your awning takes off in a storm and does some damage. Go for at least $10 million cover, but $20 million should cost little or perhaps nothing more, depending on the insurance underwriter.
- Clarify whether your policy covers temporary accommodation if your damaged caravan cannot be towed. Look for at least $150 per day, but you can choose higher limits if the caravan is your usual home.
- Make sure your policy includes contents insurance for your caravan. Usually around $1,000 is enough for what most people carry, but if you are lugging a generator, an additional portable fridge, an iPad or two, laptop, a GPS, clothing, food supplies, a satellite dish, bikes on a bike track and perhaps a tinny and an outboard motor, you should consider somewhat more! Remember, things can easily ‘walk’ or get damaged in remote areas. However, be aware that, just like a household policy, you’ll probably pay extra to cover such items.
2. GETTING THE BEST INSURANCE DEAL
Some of Australia’s leading insurers offer price reductions for new or existing caravans fitted with AL-KO ESC or Dexter Stability Control (DSC).
For example, CIL Insurance offers a 10 per cent discount off their CIL Secure Caravan Insurance Policy if you have an AL-KO ESC system fitted to your caravan, while they offer a further five per cent discount for caravans fitted with a GPS tracking system, like AL-KO’s ATS.
It’s a more attractive proposition for them to insure a van fitted with a recognised anti-sway control, GPS tracking and wheel and hitch clamps, and one that is locked away securely at night rather than simply left unguarded in a vacant paddock. Some caravan insurers will provide discounts depending on particular added safety features.
3. WHAT WON’T BE COVERED
One question we are often asked is whether a company might deny insurance to someone who overloads their caravan relative to the ATM or ball weight on its ID plate, or tows it with a vehicle not rated for its laden mass. The answer is, yes.
CIL does have a policy exclusion that says: ‘We may refuse to pay a claim under this policy if your caravan, or the way it is loaded, interferes with the proper control of the vehicle towing it, or your caravan.’ That’s pretty wide ranging.
Victoria Police recently had a blitz where they stopped travellers, weighed their caravans and camper trailers and issued a warning to the owners of the majority whose vans were overweight, either on their ATM or ball. Meanwhile in New South Wales, caravans are often waived into Truck Weigh Stations for the same reason.
It’s your responsibility to know your caravan’s laden weight and whether it can legally be towed. There are weigh stations in many metropolitan suburbs and major country towns.
Also, be aware that your tow vehicle is not covered by your caravan insurance if it breaks down or is damaged by your caravan. You need a separate motor policy to cover it.
4. OUR TOP TIPS
- Get the best caravan insurance you can afford. It is relatively inexpensive compared with the value of your van and the cost and inconvenience that damage can cause you
- Make sure the policy on your tow vehicle covers towing and, ideally, recovery of both your tow car and the caravan/camper
- It’s also a good idea to take out a national roadside assistance policy for your tow vehicle as further backup
- Reduce your insurance premium and minimise risk as much as you can by fitting safety and anti-theft devices. You’ll not only save money on your insurance policy, but just as valuable, you’ll save all the time and worry that damage or a breakdown can cause to a treasured family holiday or that ‘trip of a lifetime’