Getting insurance for your campervan isn’t one of the most exciting parts of van life, but it’s an essential one. Imagine spending all that time and money on your van conversion and then getting in an accident and finding out that the build isn’t actually covered – you certainly don’t want that to happen. So in this guide, we talk all about RV insurance for campervans and van conversions to give you the information you need to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Campervan insurance can be a complex topic because there are many factors that affect your coverage options. We’ll focus on some of the most important ones that are essential to keeping you and your investment safe and protected.
Here’s everything you need to know about campervan insurance for your van conversion in preparation for van life.
Types of Campervan Insurance
First, it’s important to note the difference between an auto insurance policy and an RV insurance policy.
Auto Insurance Policy
A standard auto insurance policy only covers the vehicle itself, not any type of build inside or any of your personal belongings. If you were to insure your van with a standard auto insurance policy, just like your regular car, the van would be protected in the event of an accident, theft, or damage depending on the specifics of your auto insurance plan. Again, this does not include coverage of any type of build or conversion inside or any personal effects inside.
RV Insurance Policy (Class B)
If you want the build and the stuff inside your campervan to be insured, you’ll need to get a Class B RV insurance policy. If you didn’t put much money or time into your van conversion, then maybe this isn’t a big deal and you’re ok insuring it with regular auto insurance. But if your van has a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and money put into it, I suggest going with an RV insurance policy so you’re protected in all events, including if the van is totaled or broken into.
I have a Progressive RV insurance policy. I’ve been with Progressive for over 5 years now and used them to insure both my first Sprinter van and my current Sprinter van. They are one of the few major insurance companies that I’ve found that offer coverage for converted vans. However, Progressive only insures professionally converted campervans, they do not insure DIY van conversions.
Can You Insure Your Van as a Campervan?
Different insurance companies have different requirements and definitions around what makes a van a campervan. If you have sleeping and cooking facilities in your van – sometimes this can be as basic as a mattress and a camp stove – some companies consider that van being used as a campervan. Other companies require the van to have running water, power, and even a toilet in some cases to be considered a campervan. Check the definitions that the insurance company you’re getting a quote from uses to define what a campervan is and what can be insured as a Class B motorhome. These requirements can vary by state as well.
Should You Retitle Your Van as an RV?
Some campervan owners do retitle their van as an RV once it’s converted into a campervan. Progressive, who I have my Sprinter van insured with, does not require a converted van to be retitled as an RV, so I haven’t personally gone through that process. Some people say that retitling your van as an RV can help lower premiums but I’d recommend checking with the specific insurance company you’re looking to do business with to find out more about this before jumping through those hoops.
Insuring a Campervan Conversion
One thing to mention is that insuring a DIY camper van or a custom van conversion is generally more difficult than insuring a standard RV or turnkey converted van with a set layout.
For example, Storyteller Overland builds turnkey, adventure-ready campervans with a set layout that has been proven and tested to meet safety requirements, best practices, and industry standards. This, and the fact that their vehicle designs and overall value are well documented, makes it easy for insurance companies to assess and insure their full value. Turnkey RVs and campervans like this are the easiest to insure with RV insurance.
A professionally converted van whether customized or using a standard layout is generally insurable with RV insurance as well, just be sure to save your invoices, receipts, and/or billing statements from your professional camper van conversion as well as the proof of purchase that shows the total purchase price.
Insuring a DIY van conversion with RV insurance so the build is covered is doable, it just takes more effort along with carefully documenting what goes into your conversion. One of the reasons that DIY campervan conversions are difficult to insure is that it can be difficult to put a value on the overall build and the time you put into it. There’s also no guarantee of the quality of the work so that’s another reason insurance companies may be more hesitant. Overall, some companies are willing to insure DIY van conversions and some aren’t so you may have to shop around a little.
What You’ll Need to Get RV Insurance for Your Campervan
In order to be adequately covered in case of a claim, insurance companies want to see a paper trail, otherwise, they’ll have no idea how to assess the value of the hard work and material costs that went into your conversion. Here’s what you’ll need to get insurance for your campervan.
Receipts and Invoices
Keep all your receipts and invoices throughout your build process and make sure to track the labor hours you put into the van if you’re doing a DIY conversion.
Having detailed photos of the van, inside and out, including photos of the valuables inside that you travel with is helpful in case something happens and you need to file a claim. I also recommend making a spreadsheet of the valuables you travel with and the price you purchased them for. Keep all of this data stored safely online in case you ever need it for a claim. I use Google Drive so I can access the files I need from anywhere.
RV coverage requirements vary state-by-state so you’ll need to check with the state your van is registered in. The insurance company you’re getting a quote from may need certain information from you, like VIN numbers, emission testing, a statement explaining the conversion, the van’s gross weight, and more.
Some states have specific requirements that need to be met in order to consider a van an RV or motorhome, like running water, a bed, or an electric refrigerator, so look into these ahead of time especially if you plan on having a very simple build.
Tips For Choosing A Campervan Insurance Policy
Unfortunately, a lot of people report difficulties in getting their self-built campervans insured for a reasonable cost. Some have had success, but many have not. It’s dependent not only on the company and state but also on circumstances. Some travelers have had luck when they’ve explained their situation in person to an agent after being declined by the same company online or on the phone.
Insuring campervans, whether professionally converted or not, is still a newer concept to many insurance companies and it seems like they’re still working out the processes and exactly what they’re able to cover on their end, so this process requires a little patience.
Here are some helpful tips to help you prepare for your campervan insurance search:
Define Whether You Are “Full-time” or “Part-time”
Different policies define “full-time” differently, so check and see if you are considered full-time or part-time with the company you are considering. With Progressive, for example, full-time is defined as using your RV as your full-time, permanent residence, or if you live in it more than 6 months out of the year.
I travel in my van about 6 months out of the year and am home in Salt Lake City or traveling elsewhere the rest of the time, so the RV insurance policy I have is for part-time.
Full-time RV insurance is more comprehensive compared to a part-time policy and can cover liabilities, injuries, and certain losses that occur around your campervan or RV. However, some companies won’t insure your campervan if they know you live in it full-time and it’s your primary vehicle; this is dependent on the company and the policy so you may have to shop around a bit if you’re a full-timer. I do know that Progressive does offer full-time RV insurance as an option but don’t currently have any personal experience with this.
Choose Fair Market or Full Replacement Value
If you have the opportunity to choose between fair market value or full replacement value, I personally recommend full replacement value. It will make a huge difference in your policy cost.
The fair market value determined by your insurance company is based on the number of miles on your van and might not equate to the real fair market value based on how well some of these vans actually hold their value.
Explore Coverage Options
You’ll want to review all the different coverage options that the RV insurance company offers. In most cases, Liability insurance is the bare minimum you’re required to have in order to register and drive a car in the U.S., but you’re going to want additional coverage to protect yourself and your vehicle as well. In addition to Liability, you’ll likely want Comprehensive & Collision coverage, Roadside Assistance, and Total Loss Replacement at minimum. You can read about the RV insurance coverage options I went with for my van here.
Decide About Personal Effects Coverage
Another thing to think about is whether you want Personal Effects coverage on your RV insurance policy. If this isn’t an option offered by your RV insurance provider, I suggest looking into personal property insurance policies.
Getting personal effects coverage is usually an easy process that requires submitting photos or receipts of your valuables to your insurance company before you take off, and an annual policy is usually pretty affordable. Different coverage levels are generally available so tally up the cost of the valuables you travel with to decide how much coverage you might need.
Consider Whether You’ll Be Doing International Travel
If you plan to travel internationally you might need a separate travel or country specific insurance policy. Inquire about this possibility with your agent and explore all your options.
I do know that if you have Comprehensive & Collision coverage with Progressive, physical damage protection while traveling in Mexico is included as well, as long as you purchase a Mexico liability policy for your trip. This could come in handy if you plan on traveling in Baja California or any other part of Mexico with your campervan.
I encourage you to shop around and get quotes from different companies to see what they can do for you. Ideally, you want a comprehensive plan that will insure the people, belongings, build, and vehicle for a fair price.
Are you shopping for RV insurance for your campervan? Have you had trouble obtaining it? Share your questions, tips, and experiences down in the comments, and make sure to sign up for van life updates here.