Insuring your camper trailer: what you need to consider
Camper trailers are for those who want to experience the great outdoors and want mobility to travel from one great spot to the next. It’s the next step up in camping that provides some of the creature comforts like comfortable beds and functional kitchens but still holds true to the outdoor lifestyle. They come in all shapes and sizes and as anyone who’s purchased a camper trailer knows, it’s a major investment – one that absolutely requires adequate insurance. Yet for many Australians, insuring their camper is an afterthought, which is odd when you consider that few vehicles on our roads need insurance more than camper trailers and caravans. They are large and many people who buy them are unaccustomed to having them as a travelling companion, they spend a lot of time outdoors – in all sorts of weather – and we tend to take them to unfamiliar places. So, having comprehensive insurance to cover all scenarios is a must, but here are some things to consider when choosing a policy and an insurer.
There are relatively few companies that specialise in insuring this area of the market and most car insurers offer only basic cover as part of their suite of products. Those who do specialise offer policies that are similar, but with factors like where you keep you camper, how and where you travel, and any additional safety or tracking features you may have on your fitout affecting the total premium price, its worth seeking out those that will provide discounts for different features. Like a discount for securing your car in a lockup garage as opposed to parking it on the street, some insurers will lower the price if you store your trailer under cover and locked up rather than left unguarded on the vacant block next door. The best way to approach shopping for a policy is to make a list of your camper’s amenities – kitchen, fridge, generator etc. – the canvas, annexes and all the contents you typically travel with. That way you can tailor the product to suit your needs.
Almost every policy encompasses coverage which includes loss or damage of the camper, legal liability and some cover for your contents. Additional benefits associated with towing, accommodation and emergency expenses if you find yourself far from home and without a roof over your head will usually cost extra – especially if you want to upgrade from the basic level of coverage – and will ultimately affect your premium. There are also some differences between each insurance company’s definition of contents. Some will only cover items directly related to the use of your camper such as linen, kitchenware, fridges and camp equipment like tables and chairs. Other items like iPads, cameras or generators may not be covered or will require a higher amount in the contents section of your policy to be covered. Furthermore, some insurers will suggest that expensive and desirable items – that are more likely to be stolen – be listed under your house insurance instead. It is also worth checking if contents are covered when they are in the annexe and whether the annexe or camper needs to show signs of forcible entry to qualify for a claim.
Always insure the trailer for its full purchase price and be aware of the company’s policies towards depreciation and market value. Most insurers agree that campers depreciate around 5% per year, but if your camper is maintained in top condition, they may waive this clause and give you full market value in the case of total loss. Camper trailers tend not to lose their value as quickly as cars, but it is still imperative to understand how your insurer will handle depreciation. If you have purchased your trailer new, from a dealer, then most companies will provide new for old replacement within two years of registration.
Numerous places you go and explore will expose you and your camper trailer to a wide range of climatic conditions such as storms, hail, fire and flood and many caravan parks and campsites are situated in low-lying and heavily forested areas that make these conditions more likely to occur. Ensure the policy you choose covers you for any of these events and check the amount of personal liability coverage that is included in case your trailer unexpectedly comes unhitched or your awning takes off in a storm and does some damage to someone else’s gear. Similarly, some policies offer alternative accommodation if the extent of the damage to your camper means it is no longer functional – which will allow you time to make alternative arrangements to get home again – and the amount allowed for recovery and storage until it can be delivered to a repairer will also vary in both the monetary amount paid out and the distance you must be away from home before some clauses apply. Double check that the policy covers towing and recovery of both your tow tug and the trailer.
Be aware that your towing vehicle is not covered by your camper insurance if it breaks down or is damaged by your trailer. You will need separate vehicle insurance for this. Furthermore, most companies will deny insurance or refuse to pay a claim if the camper is overloaded relative to the ATM or ball weight for that style of trailer or if it is towed with a vehicle that is not rated for its laden mass. If the weight of the load or the way it is loaded interferes with the proper control of the towing vehicle or the camper trailer you will be on a slippery slope to trouble with not only your insurer in the event of an accident, but the authorities as well. There are weigh stations in many suburbs and towns and it is your responsibility to know your camper trailer’s laden weight and keep within it’s limits and the limits of your vehicle.
Get the best camper insurance you can afford as it is relatively inexpensive compared with the replacement cost of your trailer – and the inconvenience that damage can cause you – plus you can always reduce your premium and minimise risk by fitting safety and anti-theft devices as well as storing it securely. With the right insurance you can rest assured that you’ll be covered no matter where you are and the regular weekend break or that trip of a lifetime will be sure to go smoothly, safely and worry free. But remember, as with any insurance advice, read the Policy Disclosure Statement (PDS) from your chosen insurer to make sure the policy is right for you.
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