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Fifth Wheel Insurance Policies: Everything You Need to Know


Photo Courtesy: skynesher/iStock

In an effort to save money and enjoy a flexible, freer way to connect with nature, many people take the opportunity to head out on road trips using recreational vehicles (RVs), campers, trailers and other forms of transportable shelter. When it comes to getting out and about and seeing the world, owning an RV can be a game-changer. But when it comes to your finances, these specialized vehicles can be both an asset and a liability.

While it’s true that RV travel is often more affordable than a traditional vacation — you’re taking your own lodging along for the ride, after all — these vehicles come with a number of costs you might not anticipate. To protect your investment, it’s necessary to purchase an RV insurance policy. Your regular car insurance probably doesn’t cover a recreational vehicle — or cover it at a level that keeps you more wholly protected. That’s why specialized fifth wheel insurance policies exist. If you’re in the market for RV coverage, it’s helpful to get to know some important details before you start applying for quotes.

All forms of insurance protect you as the owner of an asset against two forms of loss. First, the insurance protects you from loss associated with damaging the asset you’ve insured. Second, the insurance protects you from the loss that can happen if you injure another person or damage their property while using the asset. In the context of insurance, “loss” is damage or an injury for which you’re responsible. Purchasing insurance protects you against certain costs associated with these losses.

Fifth wheel insurance is named after fifth wheel trailers. A fifth wheel trailer attaches to a pickup truck using a special hitch that sits in the truck bed. Like other recreational vehicles, a fifth wheel trailer usually has a living space, kitchen area, bathroom and bedroom. Although the name is based on the fifth wheel trailer, fifth wheel insurance is often the term people use for any insurance for a recreational vehicle, whether it’s a trailer pulled behind a car or truck or a motorhome.

An RV can serve as both a home and a form of transportation. People who use RVs primarily for vacationing often store them for long periods, but some people also live in their RVs full-time. These vehicles are assets that can carry a large amount of personal property, and using them can also come with some unique liabilities. Because of this, fifth wheel insurance is sort of like a hybrid between car insurance and homeowner’s insurance. It protects your expensive asset that might be holding a lot of valuable personal property like you may have in your home, but it also protects against the kinds of liability that can come from a car accident. 

Types of Fifth Wheel Insurance Coverage

There are several types of fifth wheel coverage that are designed to address the unique circumstances of operating a large vehicle and living in it, temporarily or otherwise. For example, you can have storage insurance included in your policy to protect you against losses or damage that happen while the vehicle is in storage, perhaps in a commercial facility away from your property. Additionally, many fifth wheel insurance policies have higher limits for the cost of roadside assistance and towing. That’s because these larger vehicles require bigger equipment and a different level of expertise to service in the event of a breakdown. 

Liability coverage is another feature that’s common in fifth wheel insurance policies. It pays up to a certain amount for covered damages you cause to a person or another person’s property while using or because of your RV. Because RVs are larger than the average vehicle, they have a higher possibility of causing higher levels of damage and serious harm in accidents. That’s why fifth wheel insurance policies can also have medical payment coverage, which pays for the costs of treatment resulting from the accident that may exceed your regular terms of liability coverage.

Collision coverage pays to repair damage to your vehicle after an accident, regardless of who’s at fault — or it no one’s at fault. For example, comprehensive coverage on a fifth wheel insurance policy often protects against loss from fires and burglary. However, policies often exclude certain types of damage and won’t cover the cost of repairs resulting from those types of damage. It’s vital to understand these limitations of your policy.

There are also different types of coverage you can choose based on the way you use your RV. Sometimes, people permanently secure their fifth wheel vehicles to stationary structures. Because this isn’t a common use, some insurance companies offer special coverage for these unique setups, but coverage that protects people who live in their RVs full time isn’t standard. Insurance companies can provide a more robust form of fifth wheel insurance for people who make a recreational vehicle their permanent residence. 

Total loss protection is a unique form of coverage designed to either pay off the loan for a recreational vehicle or replace it with a similar vehicle if damage renders it unusable. Considering that some trailers can cost $100,000 or more, this form of insurance can be highly beneficial, depending on the value of your RV.

What to Consider When Buying Fifth Wheel Insurance

Just like car insurance, coverage for fifth wheel insurance is based on your RV’s specifics and the way you intend to use it. More expensive RVs have more expensive coverage because they cost more to fix. Heavier and longer vehicles generally cost more to cover because they can potentially cause more significant damage in an accident.

If you store valuable items, such as jewelry or expensive appliances, in your RV, you may need higher coverage limits for your personal property. Extensive content coverage may be especially important if you install state-of-the-art equipment in your RV or operate it for commercial or long-term use. For example, a musician who uses a fifth wheel trailer or another RV to transport instruments and sound equipment may want to obtain a policy with higher coverage limits for these expensive contents.

Insurance companies also consider your frequency of use when writing a policy. If you live in the RV for several months out of the year, you’ll need more coverage than someone who only spends occasional weekend vacations in their RV. Look into full-time coverage with your insurance company. There are often regional differences in the cost of insurance policies as well. As is the case with automobile insurance, your driving record also factors into the cost of your policy.

Fifth wheel insurance premiums can cost around $1,000 per year. Many insurance companies offer discounts and other incentives if you already have other forms of insurance with them. Say you already have home and auto insurance with one company; it may be able to offer you the most affordable coverage by bundling your new RV policy in with your existing policies. It’s a wise idea to call your current insurance company to learn more about its offerings before you get an outside price quote.

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