Insurance Brokers

LAST UPDATED ON 2005-December-19!



A truly surprising number of motorhome owners don't realize that the insurance that they are paying for on their rig is vehicular insurance only. Probably, it doesn't cover any of the motorhome's contents. Thus, in a catastrophic accident NONE of the household goods like cooking and eating utensils, food, clothing, linens, cameras, boom boxes and CDs, computers, tools, recreational items like fishing tackle, golf clubs and just about everything else carried in or on the motorhome are covered. Their insurance may not even cover the kitchen range, refrigerator or bed!

The average motorhome owner may brush aside the value of most of these items, but they're just fooling themselves. What those items are worth at the moment (e.g., at a yard sale) is irrelevant. Their true value is measured by what would have to be spent to REPLACE them! We challenge those of you who own motorhomes to do an in-depth inventory of all the "stuff" you carry. Attach a realistic replacement value to each item and add the whole list up. You should be sitting down before you do this!


Using this search string in Google

  • "recreational vehicle insurance" -pdf -rtf -doc
produced nearly 5,500 hits! If you don't understand that search string or need to know some simple tricks for whittling back the number of hits, visit our Google Search Tips page. Otherwise, you'd better put on another pot of coffee!


In fact, several weeks after we'd returned from Texas, Alberta Premier Ralph Klein's government froze automotive insurance premiums for a period of eighteen months to give the industry and the public a chance to cool off and stabilize. In the meantime, the Alberta government is considering other legislation to reform the automotive insurance industry and practices to prevent the state of affairs from recurring. As of this writing (See the date at the top of this page.) the issue is still open. No further action has been taken and the automotive insurance industry as a whole in Alberta lies in limbo. Until that freeze expires and new legislation is passed we can pretty much plan on the same old same old!


During casual conversations as well as for insurance purposes we are faced with the dilemma of how much the Dolphin is really worth. The truth is, we don't really know. Here are some measures for it, however.

NADA Guides
In September 2003 we ran the unit through NADA Guides' estimator. It was valued as US $90,870 (CDN $122,000) for "average condition." Because it was virtually unused (only 7,500 miles - 12,000 km - on the odometer) we judge this estimate to be significantly low.
MSRP (Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price)
Recently a local National RV dealership, Novak's RV, Inc. had a brand new, 2004 model of the same size and floorplan with a sticker price of CDN $180,000. Realistically, while they will adamantly deny the fact, they might be bargained down to CDN $160,000. If it doesn't sell very fast, maybe lower. But remember that while the usage and mileage is comparable, their unit is two years newer and therefore possesses several features not found on ours.

SHHHH! STATE SECRET! So, how much did we pay for ours? With airfare, rental car, doggy motel, meals, GST (Canadian Goods and Services Tax) and all the other miscellaneous expenses we incurred in buying it, less than CDN $126,000. But remember that we got our ideal retirement home for that. We can only hope you do as well!


In the world of business, any issues that span two pigeonholes almost always fall through the crack between them. Business doesn't like unusual circumstances. It's too difficult to estimate the risks of investment and any potential profits. Business is really spooky when it comes to risks and unknowns.

Motorhomes fall into this category. They're both motor vehicles and residential homes, especially for full-timers. They can be administered (at least in theory) by either of two sets of regulations, subject to two unrelated sets of perils, and covered by two disparate types of insurance plans. Because they can be insured as either or both, they span two pigeonholes. Thus, the insurance industry as a whole doesn't know quite what to make of them and tends to avoid having anything to do with them. Motorhomes fall through the crack.

You can insure your motorhome as a motor vehicle, but in the case of a serious accident the $10,000 worth of contents isn't covered because it's household goods and has no official, bureaucratic relationship to the vehicle. Or, you can insure your motorhome as a home, but then you're not insured when you take it out on the highway. Most states and provinces levy severe penalties for this practice. Besides, it's just plain stupid to drive without insurance.

So now you begin to understand our problem. We needed "public liability and property damage (PLPD)," comprehensive (e.g., vandalism, theft, fire, glass breakage) and collision insurance on the vehicle, but we also needed substantial insurance on the contents similar to renter's insurance or a homeowner's policy. Furthermore, we needed it on a motorhome that we didn't own yet!


Insurance companies advertise in recreational vehicle publications all the time. Pick up an issue of Motorhome, Travel Trailer, Escapees or Highways and every second page seems to be advertising either a loan company or an insurance agency. So, Stan started calling or E-mailing some of them. The unilateral response was "Sorry. We don't insure vehicles in Canada." American magazines, American insurance companies. Period!

With frustration hanging heavy in the air, Stan began asking them who in Canada insures motorhomes. We got several vague "Well, look in the Yellow Pages" type of answers or a simple and direct "I don't know." One company went so far as to ask us to report back to them when we get an answer so they'd know what to tell other Canadians!

Well, this is a real bummer!

There were several bright lights in the dismal fog, however. In visiting several of the specifically-RV-oriented hits we learned a lot about RV insurance and why we shouldn't simply get automotive insurance on our motorhome. We'll let you do the searching and reading (see the sidebar) so we can get on with this story. But, out of self-defense, you really should read them if you own an RV or are planning on acquiring one in the near future.


Stan did go to the Yellow Pages and began calling local Calgary insurance companies. Man! What an ear-full! Many wouldn't insure recreational vehicles at all. Several even told us they were seriously considering going out of business in Alberta altogether. Still others declared that they had placed a moratorium on new insurance policies of any kind at least until January 1st. The company that we insure our Malibu and camper van through refused to touch the motorhome, putting a $125,000 ceiling on the value of any vehicle!

What the Dickens is going on here?

It seems that Alberta is heading on a crash course for a complete automotive insurance meltdown. The insurance companies declare that insurance costs are skyrocketing so high so fast that they can't keep up. If you can't make some sort of profit, you'd better get out of the business, and that's what many were considering doing.

Insurance customers, on the other hand, were at the point of open rebellion. Insurance costs had been spiralling out of control and many people had reached the limit of their financial endurance.


We finally hit upon Al Dadswell at RV Direct Insurance, Ltd. We told Al what we planned to do (He probably thought us absolutely crazy. Maybe he wasn't too far wrong!) and gave him the statistics for the motorhome. Al looked it up in his books and said "My God, Stan! Do you know what the replacement value is for that unit? $180,000!" (Canadian dollars, of course!)

RV Direct, acting as an agent for Aviva/Elite Insurance, could offer us three different policies.

A modified homeowner's policy.
Under this scheme the motorhome and all it's contents would be insured for replacement value. The cost was somewhere in the neighbourhood of CDN $1312 a year. However, this did not include vehicular insurance. To drive it we would still require PLPD, for instance! That we would have to buy separately, possibly someplace else, and was an added expense. The final cost of full insurance on the motorhome would be significantly higher.
A modified auto policy.
Under this scheme the motorhome would be insured as a vehicle under an "all perils" plan, including its contents. But, it was merely a buy-out policy, meaning that in the case of totalling the motorhome, the insurance adjuster would determine the payout based on the unit's value as of a moment before the accident, not its replacement cost. And there was a CDN $120,000 ceiling on the insurance. If we totalled it they would take everything (coach and contents) and give us $120,000. Cost : CDN $1330 per year.
A "petit" homeowner's plan.
This plan was almost identical to the modified homeowner's policy but was limited to only a maximum of $120,000. Cost: CDN $1017 per year. Note that we'd still have to get PLPD somewhere else, in addition.
You will notice an interesting characteristic of these prices. While we were insuring a vehicle that was worth four to ten times what a late model, passenger car might normally be worth, the insurance rates were approximately the same. This results from the fact that motorhomes and similar recreational vehicles as a group are remarkably good accident risks.

None of the three options is perfect by any means, and Al is one of the first to agree! We chose the modified auto policy. At least we would be legally insured and some (hopefully large) portion of our investment would be covered in the case of a calamity.

We couldn't find any other insurance companies that were willing to insure the motorhome, especially as a motorhome.


As insurance renewal time approaches we will begin searching for better insurance. Hopefully, by that time RV Direct, Aviva/Elite and the Province of Alberta will all have had the chance to sort out their respective tangles.

The ideal insurance policy would cover the motorhome as both an automotive vehicle (collision, comprehensive and PLPD: a so-called "all perils" policy), as a home with full content's coverage, and all this for a reasonable price. Well, we can hope anyway!


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Copyright © 2004, Stanley A. Schultz and Marguerite J. Schultz.
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This page was initially created on 2004-February-14.
The last revision occurred on 2005-December-19.