If you’ve just splashed out on a brand new caravan that needs insuring or your current insurance policy is coming up for renewal, get the facts on what’s available before you sign on the dotted line.
For most of us, the day we pick up our new caravan is pretty darn exciting – and for some of us nerve-wracking as well. But in your state of adrenaline-infused euphoria, be sure you’ve got the caravan insured well before you hitch it up. There are a lot of companies out there offering insurance, but depending on how you travel with your caravan, some may cover your assets, while others might leave you high and dry.
Picking a caravan insurance policy
The main thing to remember when shopping around for a policy is that not all policies are the same. If you're involved in an accident or your caravan and/or the contents are stolen, the type of policy you purchase is far more important than whether or not you save $20 per month on the premium.
Almost every policy encompasses ‘comprehensive cover’ which basically includes loss or damage of the caravan, legal liability, contents cover and additional benefits for towing, accommodation and emergency expenses. But every policy approaches each aspect of the policy differently, and on top of your yearly cost, there are also excess fees associated with making a claim. These too differ depending on the policy and the type of damage/loss. If you look at the policy brochure or product disclosure statement, it should describe these parts of the policy in greater detail. And every policy should include a legal liability minimum of $20 million.
The best way to approach shopping for a policy is to make a list of your caravan’s amenities (kitchen, fridge, generators, etc.), the canvas, the annexes and all the contents you typically travel with. When you gather quotes, ask the customer service rep how they handle your type of caravan and the type of contents, and make sure this works in your favour, not theirs.
Annexes and contents coverage
The main areas where policies seem to differ are how they insure the annexe, the canvas extension of the caravan, and the contents. When you call to gather information and get quotes, we suggest you discuss how the policy covers these areas, as the wording in product disclosure statements can be very vague. Find out things like whether or not contents are covered if they are in the annexe, and if the annexe or van needs to show signs of forcible entry.
And how each company defines contents varies. Some only define contents as the stuff inside your caravan including linens, flatware, dishes, pots and pans. Other companies will not cover anything electronic, such as cameras, TVs, computers or radios, whereas some will. One policy we researched even suggested that all expensive contents be listed in your homeowners’ insurance policy and not covered by the caravan policy at all. And another policy had different amounts they pay for the contents unless you take out additional insurance and list each item and its value.
Depreciation is insurance lingo for market value based on the idea that with age and use, your caravan will lose value. We all know that most caravans don’t lose their value as fast as cars and some don’t seem to lose much value at all. How the insurer handles this should be a major concern
We spoke to one company that said it depreciated the caravan at five per cent a year (which seems to be the industry standard) but that if you called in and told them that your caravan was still in great condition, they would waive the five per cent. Most companies just left it at five per cent per year except for one company that said the underwriters would determine the depreciation value, and there was no way to determine what that would be across the board.
So, if you have a caravan for three years and your insurance company thinks its value is 20 per cent less than its purchase price, when actual the cost of replacing it is more than that, you may have a problem. Insurance companies won’t always reimburse you for market value (what it would cost to replace your caravan in your local area) so it might be a good idea to go with a company who understands how caravans really depreciate
Caravan insurance companies
For the purposes of this article, I’ve focused on companies who understand caravans and people who use them. As I mentioned earlier, just how you’re covered is what you should focus on. When you are involved in an accident, the last thing you want to deal with is a confused customer service representative, so my advice is to stick with the experts presented here in no particular order:
Since 1962, CIL Insurance has covered the insurance needs of the caravan industry. They offer a range of insurance products for caravans, campers, and motorhomes. CIL offers a really great product designed to cover caravan owners.
TCIS offers specialised products to the transport and tourism industries, the recreational 4WD community and historic motoring clubs.
Caravaners Complete Insurance
CCI offers policies specifically designed for the caravan/caravan industry.
MHIA (Manufactured Homes Insurance Agency)
MHIA has been providing insurance for owners of touring vans, motorhomes, caravans, onsite vans, relocatable homes and other homes since 1990.
APIA provides a variety of insurance policies, and a very good caravan policy, for pensioners. You must be over 50 and working no more than 37 hours per week to qualify.
It’s a good idea to consider what type of coverage your local automobile association has on offer. We talked to the RACV. They don’t specialise in caravans, but they do offer a pretty good policy.
For your local automotive association agency, visit www.aaa.asn.au.