If you love to travel, you may be thinking of joining the millions of Americans who own an RV—and the many more who rent one occasionally. And if you want to live a nomadic lifestyle, you might be considering swapping your house or apartment for a home on wheels.
In either case, you will need insurance.
Sales of recreational vehicles (RVs) have skyrocketed over the last decade. The RV Industry Association reports that more than 11 million households in the U.S. own an RV. Everyone from millennials to baby boomers is investing in RVs for the flexibility and freedom to travel where they want, when they want.
But just like your house, apartment, or personal vehicle, owning an RV comes with certain risks, and these risks arise whether you’re on the road or simply parked in a campground. To protect your RV, and your financial responsibilities as the owner, you’ll need to purchase an RV insurance policy that satisfies your state’s requirements.
Is RV Insurance Mandatory?
“If your RV has its own motor and a steering wheel, the short answer is yes—RV insurance is required,” says Mark Petersen, founder and president of ARVIE, an online service that finds and books campgrounds, and an RV travel expert.
“Just like auto insurance, at least a minimum amount of liability and personal injury coverage is required for a drivable RV. It is important to keep in mind that different states require different levels of minimum coverage, and many also require coverage for collisions with others who are uninsured or underinsured,” adds Petersen.
Whether you live in an RV full-time or part-time, RV insurance is required in most states if you have a class A, B, or C vehicle.
RV insurance is mandatory in every state that requires private passenger car insurance. That means the only states that don’t mandate traditional RV insurance are New Hampshire and Virginia. However, that doesn’t mean RVers in these states can go without coverage. In place of traditional RV insurance, you must pay an uninsured motor vehicle fee or file a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22), which will cost you some money upfront.
If you plan to rent an RV for a short getaway, you will also need insurance. In this case, you have a few options. You can either purchase an insurance plan through the rental company, or you can get coverage through a third-party insurance provider. Keep in mind that credit cards offering primary insurance for rental cars typically do not extend that benefit to RV rentals, so insurance through a credit card is not an option.
What Qualifies as a Recreational Vehicle
Recreational vehicles are not one-size-fits-all. There are actually several types, or classes, of RVs available to rent or buy. It’s important to understand the different RV classes because they may come with different insurance requirements.
Class A RVs are often known as motorhomes. They are the largest type of RV, with the most features, and are also the most expensive. Class A RVs often look like a large bus and are usually accessible through a main side door.
Class B RVs are sometimes called campervans. These RVs have a much smaller and often less luxurious interior than their Class A cousins, and are also much easier to drive. Class B RVs typically have a raised roof and are accessible through a sliding side door, much like a van.
Class C RVs are built on a truck or van chassis, and have a traditional truck cabin where the driver sits. They also have a raised roof which extends over the cab and is used for sleeping or storage. Class C RVs are usually slightly bigger inside than a Class B campervan.
If you own or lease a class A, class B, or class C RV, you will need to carry a minimum amount of insurance to legally drive it.
The only exception is for towable trailers, like fifth wheels, pop-ups, and travel trailers, which are not legally required to be insured.
How Much Does RV Insurance Cost?
There are many different details that affect the cost of RV insurance. “Selected coverages, deductibles, garaging location, and the value of the RV are some of the major factors, along with the owner’s rating factors and driving record,” says Greg Martin, president of Think Safe Insurance.
Another consideration that affects RV insurance rates is how often you use the vehicle. Full-time RVers will pay more for RV insurance than part-time RVers, or individuals who only use their RV a few times per year.
Fortunately, there are ways to get cheaper RV insurance. Many insurance companies offer discounts for bundling your policies, being a member of an RV association, taking a defensive driving course, having no accidents or claims on your record, or having an RV with certain safety features, like an anti-theft device and anti-lock brakes.
What Kind of Coverage Is Available for RVs?
“RV insurance usually covers the same [incidents] as auto insurance, like damages incurred through an accident or natural phenomenon, fire, falling objects, and water damage. It also protects you from an accident with people who don’t have insurance,” says Nick Schrader, insurance agent at Texas General Insurance.
If you own your RV, you’re only required to carry standard liability insurance, as well as personal injury protection if you live in a no-fault state. If you lease or finance your RV, however, it’s likely that your lender will require you to carry a full coverage policy, which also includes comprehensive and collision coverage.
Similar to car insurance, you have the option to add endorsements to your RV insurance coverage. Some of the most common optional coverages are towing, roadside assistance, and personal effects coverage, which will pay to replace the personal belongings in your RV if they get damaged or stolen.
If you plan to travel to Mexico in your RV, you’ll also need a special type of coverage. Most RV insurance policies exclude coverage in Mexico, but if you drive into Canada, your regular policy will still apply.
Also, keep in mind that the RV insurance requirements are different for part-time vs. full-time RVers. As you might imagine, full-time RV residents need more coverage because their RV is serving as their permanent residence.
“Part-time RV insurance is an insurance policy that covers RVs that make short-duration trips. It covers damages, liabilities, and accidents that happen with the RV during the trip,” Schrader says. “On the other hand, full-time RV insurance is more extensive and covers the RV for a longer time frame. It resembles homeowners insurance because it is indeed your second home.”
If you’re not sure whether you’re considered a full-time or part-time RV dweller, most RV insurance companies determine the classification based on how many days in a given year that you live in the RV. “The number of days before classifying usage as full-time can vary by company, but the general rule is 150 days,” says Petersen.
If you live in an RV, either full-time or part-time, you need to have some type of insurance coverage. The only exception is for towable trailers. RV insurance includes many of the same coverages that you’ll find on a standard auto policy, but you can’t rely on your car insurance policy to protect your RV.
To find the best RV insurance company for your needs, take some time to shop around, compare providers, and get multiple quotes. Keep in mind that you can usually get a discount on RV insurance if you bundle it with another policy, like home or auto insurance.