BE SURE AND INSURE

Think every thing in your RV is fully insured? You just might be surprised! We bust the biggest myths in this huge insurance guide

WORDS AND PHOTOGRAPHY BY GRANT HANAN AND LINDA BLOFFWITCH, ADDITIONAL PHOTOGRAPHY BY CARAVAN AND MOTORHOME ON TOUR

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With RV insurance, how many of us really take the time to study what we are paying for in our insurance policies? More often than not, you find out exactly what you are covered for only when you need to make a claim.

When it comes down to it, doing the tough research to find the right insurance policy is just as important as researching to find the right size solar panel or generator, or even finding your dream van. Sign up for the wrong policy, and you may as well not have signed up.

To help you on your way to the right insurance policy for your setup, we’ve put in those tough research hours ourselves. When you look at the fine print, you’ll be surprised at just what is, and what isn’t covered.

Before we get started and compare a few different insurance policies, let’s start by taking a look at five simple scenarios that you could assume to be covered for in an insurance policy, yet are not.

INSURANCE POLICIES COMPARED!

We’ve done the homework by taking a snapshot of five popular RV insurers to see what’s on offer. We answer who has the best deals, and what questions you should be asking your own insurer at the time of renewing your current policy, and so much more. It’s been a time-thirsty exercise, but we believe that some answers will surprise many of you, but not necessarily delight!

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THE SCENARIO

For the purpose of this exercise, our aim was to obtain insurance on a tandem axle caravan being towed by a 2010 NT Auto Diesel Mitsubishi Pajero. Here are the details:

Caravan: 21ft tandem axle 2009 caravan – Agreed Value $52,300. The caravan is fully self-contained and set up for long term travelling, including travelling on dirt roads.

Annexe: Soft sided canvas annexe manufactured in 2010. Agreed Value – $2,500

Contents: $1,000 (standard amount included in the policy by most insurers)

5 THINGS YOU THOUGHT YOU WERE COVERED FOR!

KING TIDE

You are camped close to the beach and the tides change. A King Tide approaches that now has some of your van exposed to sea water. Not Covered!

ROADSIDE COVERAGE

Your RV has a flat tyre and you don’t have a spare. You unhitch your van and leave it roadside to go to the nearest town to have the tyres repaired. Upon return you find your van has been broken into and thieves have helped themselves. Covered BUT open for interpretation. Some insurers have an “Abandonment” clause…you need to be able to demonstrate you have secured your RV before leaving it. The length of time your RV is left unattended is also considered when making a claim.

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GENERATOR

Your generator is sitting on the A frame and is plugged into your van to keep the air conditioner on. You fall asleep and someone decides to unplug it and steal it. When you wake, you find it’s gone. Not Covered!

PORTABLE FRIDGE UNDER AWNING

The portable fridge you keep under your awning is plugged into your van. It has a cable lock looped through one handle and an RV wheel. Overnight, thieves unbolt the handle, unplug the fridge and take it with them. Not Covered!

HAPPY HOUR

You’re just about to catch up with friends for happy hour. It’s a hot day, and as you will be close to your RV, you decide to leave your door unlocked to allow the breeze in. Someone sneaks into your RV unnoticed and helps themselves to your laptop and tablet. You return to find them stolen. Not Covered! Insurance policies only cover contents where forcible entry is evident.

THE INSURERS

We selected five mainstream, well-established insurance companies to provide us with a quote for the above scenario. Here’s who we chose:

CIL – Industry specific insurer of RVs, caravans and camper trailers

AAMI – A general insurance provider specialising in vehicles and lifestyle

Allianz – general insurance provider

CGU – general insurance provider

YOUI – A relatively new insurer with a strong advertising campaign

To have the strongest position when obtaining quotes, all insurers’ Product Disclosure Statements (PDS) were downloaded and analysed prior to making any phone calls.

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WHERE ARE YOU COVERED?

Simply put, all insurers provide coverage Australia wide provided you are legally allowed to be at that location. Park in a no-go area and you run the risk of voiding your insurance.

When obtaining a quote, YOUI took the time to explain that although your RV is covered to travel on dirt roads, they do look to see that it is “fit for purpose”. This is based on the manufacturer stating that the RV is suitable for going off road. When leaving the bitumen, none of the PDS documents specified the types of roads/tracks they would cover. If you intend travelling off road, clarify this question with your insurer.

WHICH COVER IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

As expected, all five insurers offered Comprehensive coverage. But only YOUI offered Third Party Property cover. With a yearly saving of $200 with Third Party coverage only, would you choose this option?

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WHAT ARE YOU COVERED FOR?

It could generally be expected an insurance policy would cover accidents, theft, fire, storms, and hail. But it can easily be misinterpreted! Cover for flood and cyclones was not straightforward in all PDS documents and needed clarification. When obtaining a quote, check how the policy treats these scenarios if you plan travelling to regions that are prone to floods or cyclones.

Another scenario to consider involves leaving your RV unattended for a period of time when travelling. Some insurers have a clause that stipulates criteria for how long and where your RV can be left unattended. Look closely at the PDS for this information.

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ANNEXE COVER

There aren’t too many RVers that wouldn’t request insurance cover for their annexe. But you may be surprised to learn that you could be left high and dry expecting to be covered for your annexe contents! Check the PDS fine print as most insurers limit coverage to the annexe itself despite your efforts to make the contents secure and “theft proof ”.

This means the annexe canvas walls, poles, spreader bars, and general hardware items are the only items repaired or replaced in the event of a claim. But that’s not all. As the annexe ages, the insurance companies apply depreciation at varying rates.

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INSURING AN ANNEXE – IS IT WORTH THE MONEY?

Sheree S: It’s worth every cent to insure… we lost our awning in a huge storm a couple of years ago… never found the front wall! It was a $5,500 custom annexe, so worth it in our opinion. We travel full time and it’s like our pergola area.

CarolAnn H: They are expensive to replace and easily damaged. We definitely have ours insured.

Russell S: I don’t insure my annexe – the cost is not worth it.

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WHAT IS CONTENTS COVER?

You are probably thinking that Contents Cover will cover anything you pack in your RV, right? Think again! To see exactly what you get covered in the premium, you need to read the fine print.

Three out of the five insurers offered some level of contents cover in the base price of their premium, with the exception of Allianz and CGU. Both coverage limits and individual item limits varied between insurers. These days, $1,000 won’t buy you much, so ensure you add up all your items before locking in your contents’ insured amount.

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GETTING THOSE EXTRAS

All insurance companies have their own way of labelling “extras”. It’s often here that their marketing kicks in aiming to “up sell” the policy by offering bonus deals. Although offered standard with the policy, it’s worth asking whether they can tailor the policy for your circumstances.

Before selecting your preferred insurance company, take a close look at what they offer. If something is missing, try negotiating to have it included in the standard price of the policy.

Look carefully at how they treat remote situations where you may need towing and accommodation assistance. In this scenario, costs can mount up quickly if insurance won’t cover you.

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EXCLUSIONS

With all insurers differing with coverage, the PDS is the best way to identify exclusions. It can be a time consuming process, but it is a well worth exercise if you have some specific requirements. In the PDS, look for the “Exclusions” or “What We Don’t Cover” sections as the list can be lengthy!

THE RESULTS!

So how did they all stack up when we refer to our original scenario? Let’s take a look at the results.

PREMIUMS

Between the highest to the lowest insurance premium, there’s a variance of nearly $500. We even double checked this to make sure it was right!

EXCESSES

Between the companies, the standard excess varied between $100 and $650. Although that’s a significant difference, YOUI at $650 would waive the excess if the accident/incident was not your fault. In addition to the standard excess, both CIL and AAMI charge an off road excess. CIL was the only insurer to then add another excess for an annexe claim. All of these excesses can soon add up, subject to the type of claim.

AGREED VS MARKET VALUE

Imagine making a claim and finding yourself arguing with a loss adjuster over their perceived value of your RV compared to what you think. This is exactly the type of scenario that could play out when choosing Market Value. Let your alarm bells ring loud with this one! Aim for a policy that has Agreed Value.

PREMIUM PAYMENTS

Paying your premiums monthly rather than yearly may suit your circumstances, but be aware some insurers add fees of up to 7% to your payments.

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KNOW WHERE YOU STAND ALAN BELL – CARAVANS WEST

CHOICE OF REPAIRER

Some insurance companies will force you to use a repairer of their choosing. Sometimes that repairer can be unsuitable as they are not caravan specialists. Insurance companies do this to save money but it can result in poor quality repairs and unhappy customers. Remember… caravans are little houses on wheels, they’re not cars!

IGNORING DAMAGE

Most consumers are unaware that by ignoring small areas of damage, even slight hail damage, that they are in breach of their policy cover. Insurance companies won’t insure “damaged goods”. You are obligated under your policy to keep your caravan free of damage. When a customer comes to trade in their van or sell it privately, every bit of damage devalues the caravan. Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes…would you buy a damaged caravan or keep looking for one in better condition?

UNDERSTANDING YOUR POLICY ALAN BELL – Caravans West

AGREED VALUE

Without this feature, the consumer has no comfort in his/her policy. In the event of a claim or total loss, you are at the mercy of the loss assessor’s valuation/ opinion as to the van’s worth.

INSURANCE POLICY FEATURES

It is very important to have the right cover for your needs. Some policies offer a wide range of additional features such as emergency accommodation in the event of a major claim. Read the Product Disclosure Statement or ask a broker for advice.

UNDERINSURING YOUR ASSET

Many consumers don’t notice their insurance value has been devalued on every renewal. This can result in the van being underinsured in the event of a claim. A caravan should be insured for its replacement value. In other words, what is the cost to purchase another van of the same brand, model and size, and fitted with similar options. An independent dealer can always advise customers on the probable replacement value. If necessary, a van can be inspected and a valuation can be supplied for insurance cover purposes.

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THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW BUT DON’T GET TOLD

CHOOSING AN INSURER

Avoid selecting an insurer purely based on price. Take into consideration their claim management process, and in particular, their processing timeframe. When it comes to repairs, clarify whether you have a choice of repairer. If you’re not satisfied with their claim process, what escalation process do they use?

UNDERSTANDING THE TERM ‘VALUE’

Insurers will use different techniques to value the level of insurance they offer for your RV. It is important you understand the terms that are on your policy as not all insurers treat them the same.

ASSESSED VALUE

When you add accessories or upgrade your RV, the insurer’s original specification may not take these into consideration. To ensure the cost of these additions is reflected in your policy, you may request for an assessed value when you believe your RV is worth more than the market value. Insurance companies will request that your RV be inspected by a qualified RV valuer.

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HIGHER PREMIUM vs HIGHER EXCESS – WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU?

Not all insurers offer a facility to lower your premium by increasing your excess. For those that do, it might sound good on the surface. But do your sums to calculate what can be a small saving on a yearly premium against the likelihood of your making a claim. For as little as $100 excess and a higher premium, you can make some real savings when needing expensive repairs. It really comes down to evaluating the risk.

SAVE BIG DOLLARS ON YOUR PREMIUMS

• Many insurance companies use “risk profiles” to calculate premiums. Part of the profile includes the postcode for where your RV is regularly stored having a bearing on your premium.

• Bundling both your RV and tow vehicle with the one insurer can pay dividends. Should you need to make a claim where both insured items are involved in an accident, you only need to pay one excess, and not an excess for each policy. Not all insurers offer bundling.

• Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is a relatively new concept. CIL see the benefit and offer a 10% discount provided your ESC meets their criteria.

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SUMMING UP

Insurance is all about managing risk. Take the time to review your policy, ask questions and get advice. Buying the right insurance protection for you and your RV can make a huge impact on your travelling lifestyle if you submit a claim and then find out you’re not covered. It’s one less worry to have when out on the road – and who doesn’t love that!

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