A Guide to Finding the Best RV Insurance

Oct 26, 2020 | Rigs

A Guide to Finding the Best RV Insurance

Owning an RV can be a lifelong investment that needs to be protected. Here are a few things unique to RVing to keep in mind when purchasing RV insurance.

By Ed Perkins

If you’re familiar with auto or truck insurance, you know the basic principles of RV insurance. You have a high-value asset that can suffer unexpected damage or loss and that can cause harm to someone else if you lose control. RV insurance can be even more important, because the asset value is often greater than the asset value of a car or truck, and the items inside are typically more valuable. When looking for RV insurance, keep these two insurance principles in mind:

  • You need to have enough to cover your potential losses or at least to limit your financial risk to an acceptable level.
  • Make sure you don’t pay more than necessary to cover your risks—and that you don’t pay twice for the same coverage.

The Basics of RV Insurance Policies

As an RV driver, you face two main classes of risk: liability for damage you might inflict on someone else’s person or property, and damage to or loss of your own person or property.

Man driving an RV as seen from behind

Liability Insurance

RV liability insurance typically covers the same three basic risks as conventional auto liability insurance:

  • Physical damage to someone else, including other vehicles, structures, or property, where you’re the responsible party.
  • Personal injury to someone you might injure or kill where you’re responsible.
  • Medical payments to someone you might injure, regardless of fault.

In addition, specialized RV insurance adds liability coverage for someone injured while in your RV or at your campsite—this is especially important for full-time RVers. 

Most insurance for motorized RVs includes liability coverage, and your regular auto or household policy may or may not cover your RV. You don’t want to buy duplicate coverage, but you definitely need to be sure you’re covered.

How Necessary? 

The need for liability coverage isn’t confined to RV driving. Given the high amount of money involved in injury awards these days, financial experts generally recommend that anyone who drives a vehicle should have an “umbrella” policy providing at least $1 million of all-purpose coverage. Fortunately, beefing up the sort of liability insurance you normally get with household, auto, or RV policies to $1 million usually costs comparatively little extra—about $20 a month. A true umbrella policy covers just about any contingency you can think of, including contingencies not covered in any RV, auto, truck, or household policy. 

Damage and Loss Insurance 

Collision insurance covers damage to your RV in an accident for which you are responsible. You can arrange coverage of RV and associated equipment either as a separate RV policy or, for some RVs, an add-on to your regular auto or truck coverage. You can also insure for a variety of loss levels. The most expensive approach is “total loss replacement,” generally limited to relatively new RVs, which covers up to the cost of an equivalent new RV. Less expensive options cover up to the current actual cash value of the RV, based on published used vehicle data. Absent such data, you can specify an agreed value when you buy the insurance. 

Presumably, you already have that coverage as part of your regular auto insurance, but some policies may require extra coverage when towing an RV. Similarly, you may need separate insurance for a vehicle towed by a motorized RV.

Personal property insurance covers damage, loss, and theft of personal effects in your RV. You almost certainly keep some personal property in your RV—lots of it if you’re a heavy or full-time RVer. You’ll want to insure that property against damage, loss, or theft. Many standard household and auto policies automatically extend to an RV, and this is another case of making sure you don’t pay for the same coverage twice. But you do need it once, so check to see whether you’re better off with a special RV policy.

Uninsured motorist insurance covers damage to your RV that is the fault of another driver when that driver does not have insurance. Although insurance is almost universally required, many drivers out there don’t have it—typically drivers who don’t have enough in the way of assets to pay for the damage they cause.

Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your RV for which nobody is responsible, such as pothole damage and windshield cracks. 

Permanent attachment options to RV policies cover customized accessories and attachments such as a satellite dish, awning, storage bins, special hitch attachments, and other additions. RV insurance can cover damage, loss, and theft to these items as well as the RV itself.

Storage insurance options cover your RV when it’s stored and not in use.

How Necessary? 

Unless you can walk away from a big bill for damage to your RV and associated assets, you need damage insurance. But damage insurance—notably collision—typically includes a deductible or $500 or more, so RVers whose equipment has only a low present cash value often decide that damage insurance isn’t worth the cost. 

Emergency Expense Insurance

RVers potentially need roadside assistance at least as much as auto and truck drivers. Although AAA and many credit cards and motor clubs offer some form of roadside assistance as an enhancement, these options typically do not cover the high costs of towing or servicing a large RV. Thus, you may prefer a specialized RV policy.

Blown out tire on an RV pulled over on side of the road

You might also need a special kind of emergency insurance that auto and truck drivers typically do not carry: coverage for the unexpected costs if your RV is disabled while on the road and you need to get home before it can be fixed. Return policies typically cover some combination of temporary food and lodging expenses, along with return home for all members of your travel party, associated vehicles, and even pets. 

How Necessary? 

Lots of RVers don’t have emergency expense insurance, but it doesn’t cost much and can come in handy in a serious accident.

Full-Time RV Insurance

If you live in your RV permanently or for more than five months a year, your various risks loom larger than those weekenders face. You will probably need the same type of coverage that you would get as a homeowner. Specifically, that means extensive coverage for liability and for personal effects and permanent attachments. Most RV insurers typically offer policies designed for full-timers.

How Necessary?

Since the risk is much higher than for those who don’t use their RV all the time, most full-timers find insurance coverage absolutely necessary. 

RV Rental Insurance

If you rent rather than own an RV, your regular insurance policy’s liability probably covers you—especially if you have an umbrella policy. The rental company will likely require that you provide insurance for damage, loss, loss of use, and diminished value. And it will certainly try to sell you its collision damage waiver (CDW)—at prices grossly inflated over the actuarial risk. It will also try to sell you on additional liability insurance and accident insurance, again at inflated prices. 

It’s important to make sure you have collision coverage. Your regular auto insurance may cover some RV rentals, but it probably excludes more expensive RVs—especially motorized varieties. Your insurer, however, likely offers extra-cost additional RV coverage. The “free” rental car collision coverage included with many credit cards typically does not cover RVs. 

Man inspecting cargo holding area of toy hauler RV
Photo: Andy Murphy

Third-party collision insurance typically costs less than half of a rental company’s CDW charge. Rental platforms (like RVshare) will offer a collision protection policy with the RV rental, however, it’s often pricer than what you would find if you go through a third-party insurer. The main drawback to third-party insurance is that if you damage a rented RV, the rental company will automatically hit your credit card for the full value, which you later claim. As a last resort, the rental company’s CDW lets you walk away from any damage.

How Necessary? 

Collision and liability insurance is essential in a rented RV. Your main challenge is not to overpay.

RV Insurance Companies

Most giant auto insurers also specifically cover RVs. They include AAA, AARP from The Hartford, Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, and Progressive. Policies typically cover the same items and are similarly priced. Among them, AAA tends to score above the others in Consumer Reports (CR) ratings for auto insurance; the rest fall into the same relatively high rating category. Other outfits, including Explorer RV and Good Sam Club, offer specialized RV insurance. CR has not rated them recently. Some RVers, especially full-timers, prefer using an agency like FCIS Insurance to find plans that meet their specific needs.

Both Progressive and Good Sam allow you to develop a complete and firm quote online. Other insurers may take your information online but refer you to a local agent for a firm quote.

The RV rental platform Outdoorsy has its own RV insurance company, Roamly. The company offers both commercial and personal policies which caters to those who rent out their RV on the platform and own multiple rigs.

You should definitely include both groups when you compare options. Specifically, RVers often find it more economical to bundle their RV insurance with their auto policies. 

RV Insurance Cost

RV insurance can run from $300 to $3,000 per year, according to experts. Rates will depend on the value of your RV and associated assets, the coverage you choose, how much you use the RV, where you store it, where you live, your driving history, and other factors. It all gets combined in the rate mix when you request a quote.

The table below shows the yearly premiums for six different RVs, varying in size and age. They represent premiums for a senior man, widowed, buying an RV outright, owning a home, living in Oregon, and with a clean driving record. You will find variances when you enter your own data. 

Table comparing insurance cost and coverage for motorcoach RVs
(a) coverage per person/per accident/property damage (b) per person/per accident
Table comparing insurance cost and coverage for travel trailers

Figuring Out the Best Type of RV Insurance for You

Buying optimal RV insurance is a five-step process.

  1. Figure out your financial exposure—what your RV, associated equipment, and personal effects you keep in the RV are currently worth.
  2. Decide what kinds of coverage you want. Separate what you have to have, especially liability, from what you might want to have, and how much of your total dollar risk you want to cover.
  3. Figure out how much of your preferred risk coverage that you might already have through auto, household, roadside, and other insurance.
  4. Get quotes for the coverages you want from several different suppliers—you will likely find differences. Include bundling RV insurance with your current auto insurance.
  5. Buy the deal you think is best.

If you’re still paying for your RV, the lender will likely specify minimum insurance requirements. But you can still shop around for the best deal.

insuranceowning an rvRentalsSafety

Ed Perkins

Ed Perkins is an influential consumer advocate on travel issues and a regular contributor to several travel websites. Ed lives in Ashland, Oregon. Although nominally retired and a senior, Ed continues to travel extensively.