In this post I’ll be talking about why you should have insurance on your camper van, how to get insurance on your camper van, how to title your van as an RV, who I ultimately chose to insure my van and why I specifically chose them.
You’ve spent a lot of time and money building out your dream home on wheels; it’s only natural that you want to make sure all of that time and money wasn’t wasted should anything happen to your van along the way. One goal of vanlife is to maximize your adventures and experiences, so it’s important to be prepared for anything. Houses, cars and personal property are insured for theft, unforeseeable circumstances and accidents…so your van should be too!
Let’s be honest, insuring your van isn’t exactly the most exciting facets of vanlife. However, getting insurance on your van is a necessary part of the process so you can hit the road with the peace of mind knowing your van is covered in the event that something goes wrong. I’ve seen a good friend total their van when they hit an elk and luckily they were insured for the full value of their van and build out. Insuring your vehicle in the event of a theft or accident ensures you will be able to continue vanlife, no matter what issues arise on the road ahead.
Living in a van comes with a different set of challenges than a “sticks and bricks” home – whether it’s finding a safe place to sleep, seeking out a hot shower, repairs & maintenance, or simply finding wifi or cell signal to get some work done. One of the first challenges you might encounter is finding someone to insure your van. Unfortunately, most standard insurance companies haven’t really caught on to vanlife and don’t yet have solutions for self-built camper vans.
At this point you might be asking yourself, what’s the difference between simply getting auto insurance vs. getting RV insurance or camper van insurance? The main difference between standard auto insurance and RV insurance is that RV insurance insures the build out of your rig in addition to the liability and collision coverage you’d get with a standard auto policy. In some cases an RV policy can even cover personal property such as furniture, camping equipment, and other belongings inside the vehicle.
Technically a camper van is a “class B RV”, but the problem with RV insurance is that it’s usually only for RV’s specifically built by large corporate build companies like Thor or Winnebago. For custom built and DIY camper vans, you’re going to need something a little more tailored to “vanlife”. I recommend shopping around and talking to agents so you can find the policy that best fits your needs and “understands” the DIY camper van world.
I’ve already shopped around and have found one of the best solutions for insuring your camper van on the market. Before I get into the boring steps of how to get insurance for your campervan, I want to save you a little bit of time and let you know why I ended up choosing Roamly, the company that I ultimately decided to insure my camper van with.
Roamly is a subsidiary of Outdoorsy. If you don’t know about Outdoorsy, it’s an platform similar to Airbnb or Turo that allows you to rent your camper van or RV for extra cash. This is important to know because Outdoorsy (and thus Roamly) actually understands vanlife and the needs of vanlifers.
I found that Roamly was the best insurance option on the market specifically for vanlifers and skoolies for a few reasons.
First of all, Roamly’s policies were the most competitively priced (I also called Allstate and State Farm) but more importantly, they were the most flexible in terms of working with me on what they required to get the policy bound.
Second, Roamly was by far the easiest solution and had the least amount of hoops I had to jump through. Roamly is the only insurance carrier in the country that is insuring self-built (DIY) vans* that aren’t built by a professional van building company. Every other insurance company that I spoke to wanted an invoice from a professional van building company or an established RV company. Other companies I talked to simply didn’t offer insurance (Geico & Progressive) for converted cargo vans or kicked back the policy when they realized that my van was a self-built camper van. Other companies, (Allstate and State Farm) wanted way too much in terms of paperwork and photos and they were only willing to insure vans built by professional, established van building companies. The process with Roamly was super simple and the agent Melissa was very sharp and extremely familiar with vanlife and had all the answers to my questions.
Lastly, another huge bonus benefit of insuring through Roamly is that they are able to provide van/RV owners with a personal policy that allows them to rent out their van on a rental platform (Outdoorsy for example). Most personal insurance carriers have exclusions in the policy documents saying that you void your personal insurance policy if you rent out your vehicle even though the rental platform is what actually covers anything that were to happen during the rental.
Important note: Roamly is currently live for self-built (DIY) vans registered in Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Ohio, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Oregon, Georgia and Tennessee (and will be in Texas very soon). However, they are still binding policies as a broker in the other 37 states through their non-Roamly carrier partners. In those other 37 states, you’ll need a build invoice from a professional van build company. Roamly assures me that they are working on bringing their insurance product for self-built (DIY) vans online nationally very soon.
Generally speaking, there are a few things that are good to have when choosing insurance for your van. Those include:
Learn About Laws in Your Specific Location.
Some insurance companies require more details based on state laws such as the van’s weight, a statement on the vehicle conversion, or specific testing. Make sure to look up state laws or ask your insurance agent for a list of requirements. I hope to aggregate all of this into a another post blog post one day, but it will take a lot of time and may change too frequently to be worth it.
RV title (Title your Van as an RV if possible)
With your newfound knowledge on what your state requires, you will want to title your vehicle as a motorhome if possible. Although not every insurance company requires it, many do. As mentioned above, most states have hoops (procedures/paperwork/red tape) you must jump through in order to title your van as a motorhome. Each state varies in regards to the amount of hoops you need to jump through to title your vehicle as a motorhome. Some states require a statement, an inspection, photos, a weight slip or all of the above. You’ll need to do research on your specific state, here are some examples.
- In Florida for example, you need to submit proof of insurance and a “Conversion Affidavit” that certifies that you converted (or had your vehicle converted by someone else) into a motorhome. The letter states that you added a 110v electrical system, a plumbing system OR propane system. You’ll also need to bring the original title, your driver’s license and proof of insurance. That’s all you need to submit in addition to paying Uncle Sam his money and you can walk out the same day with a motorhome title. I did not need a weight slip or anything else! The details are spelled out in this form.
- My friend Ken has written a good post about how to register your van as an RV in California.
At the end of this blog post, I have provided a link to each state’s vehicle registration authority to help you with your research. I also suggest a web search along the lines of “Your State RV or motorhome vehicle title” to find the the laws regulations pertaining to the licensing and registration of home-built campers or RV conversions in your particular state.
Take Photos for Security and Documentation
Take detailed photos all around your van including the exterior, interior, and your personal property. Most insurance companies will want to see these photos before binding your policy. Keep these photos stored somewhere you can access such as Dropbox or Google Drive just in case if you wind up needing them to submit a claim.
Keep Your Build Receipts
A good paper trail of everything you purchased for your build and, ideally, anything you store in your rig is crucial for documentation. Most insurance companies will want to see a list or invoices before binding your policy. The list of paperwork insurance companies ask for sometimes can be a little over the top. This includes invoices throughout the building process, labor hours, and a list with receipts of all belongings inside the vehicle. Luckily with the minimalistic lifestyle of vanlife, this isn’t as extensive as property in and stored in the cloud.
Consider Investing in an Anti Theft System
I have an aftermarket anti theft system installed in my van for multiple reasons. In addition to the obvious protection against your van being stolen, it’s nice to have a “panic button” next to you in bed, in case you hear someone lurking outside your van. Also, in many cases it can reduce your insurance premiums enough to pay for itself. There are many options on Amazon and I recommend the Viper security system without remote start because it’s less expensive and less complicated to install. If you want a security system with a remote start or don’t want to install the system yourself, it might be a good idea to get it done at a local shop.
Use a GPS tracker
Having a GPS tracker hidden in your van and paying a monthly subscription might seem like overkill, but once you have one you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it. You’ve invested thousands of dollars in your home on wheels, why not have something that lets you know where it is at all times. Imagine coming back to your van after a few days away and it’s not where you left it. How would you feel? Now imagine being able to look on your phone to locate it and letting the police know exactly where it is…sounds like a much better outcome. While not as stealthy, if you use a phone as a hotspot like our recommended Visible internet service, you can use the “find my phone” feature to also find your van!
I do a lot of backpacking and often trek quite far from the van and it gives me a warm fuzzy feeling to be able to look at my phone and know where my van is. I personally use the Tracki which is inexpensive and has great reviews. The monthly subscription is pretty competitively priced as well at around $12/month and it may pay for itself if your insurance carrier offers a discount on your premium for having it.
List of Licensing Authorities for all USA States
Alabama Department of Revenue–Motor Vehicle Division
Alaska Department of Administration–Division of Motor Vehicles
Arizona Department of Transportation
Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration
California Department of Motor Vehicles
Colorado Department of Revenue–Division of Motor Vehicles
Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles
Delaware Division of Motor Vehicles
District of Columbia
DC Department of Motor Vehicles
Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
Georgia Department of Revenue–Motor Vehicle Division
Hawaii Department of Transportation–Public Affairs
Idaho Division of Motor Vehicles
Illinois Secretary of State–Vehicle Services Department
Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Iowa Motor Vehicle Division
Kansas Department of Revenue–Division of Motor Vehicles
Kentucky Transportation Cabinet–Division of Motor Vehicle Licensing
Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles
Maine Department of the Secretary of State–Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Maryland Department of Transportation–Motor Vehicle Administration
Massachusetts Department of Transportation–Registry of Motor Vehicles
Michigan Secretary of State
Minnesota Department of Public Safety–Driver and Vehicle Services Division
Mississippi Motor Vehicle Commission
Missouri Department of Revenue–Motor Vehicle Titling & Registration
Montana Department of Justice–Driver Services
Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles
Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles
New Hampshire Department of Safety–Division of Motor Vehicles
New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission
New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division
North Carolina Department of Transportation–Division of Motor Vehicles
North Dakota Department of Transportation
Ohio Department of Public Safety ‐ Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Oklahoma Tax Commission–Motor Vehicle Information
Oregon Department of Transportation ‐ Division of Motor Vehicles
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation–Driver and Vehicle Services
Rhode Island Department of Revenue ‐ Division of Motor Vehicles
South Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles
South Dakota Department of Revenue and Regulations–Motor Vehicles Division
Tennessee Department of Revenue–Vehicle Title & Registration
Texas Department of Motor Vehicles
Utah Division of Motor Vehicles
Vermont Agency of Transportation–Department of Motor Vehicles
Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles
Washington Department of Licensing
West Virginia Department of Transportation–Division of Motor Vehicles
Wisconsin Department of Transportation ‐ Division of Motor Vehicles
Wyoming Department of Transportation
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