You can always tell when summer has finally arrived – there’s a proliferation of caravans on motorways and trunk roads. If you happen to be stuck behind one as opposed to actually towing one, there’s a good reason why it’s going at that speed.
Cars towing caravans (or trailers, for that matter) are limited to 50mph on a single carriageway and 60mph on a dual carriageway or a motorway. And as with any speed limit, that’s a ceiling, not a target – many caravans will be towed at much lower speeds, especially in inclement weather. So be patient!
Tour de force
There are around 500,000 touring caravans on UK highways, plus a growing number of motorhomes. And if you’ve spent several thousands of pounds on a tourer (a typical price for a decent new model is £9,000), it makes sense to arrange appropriate insurance in case something goes wrong.
Back to basics
The first question that crops up with caravan insurance is usually – is it mandatory to have insurance in place? The basic rules are that any self-propelled vehicle must be insured to a minimum of third party cover. So a touring caravan doesn’t by itself need insurance, but a motorhome does. But that’s only part of the issue. If a caravan is being towed, it becomes a risky proposition – you can easily imagine the problems it might cause in a pile-up or if it became detached. Many people work on the basis that their car insurance will provide cover for their caravan, but don’t go out on the road without confirming the details:
- Don’t assume your car insurance covers you for towing a caravan
- If it does, check if there is a size/weight restriction
- If you have a tow-bar fitted or have an existing one strengthened, check with the insurer to see whether this counts as a ‘modification’. Changing the original specification of a car might attract an additional premium, and the premium might be declared void if you have an accident but didn’t tell the insurer about the work you’d had done
- Check what level of cover you have – it will probably be third party cover, taking care of your legal liabilities to others, but not protecting you against damage to your own vehicle. You might be able to increase this level of cover by paying more
- Think about the replacement car section of your car insurance, if it has one: will the replacement car be up to the job of towing your caravan?
Even if your car policy covers you for towing, it won’t cover you for theft of or from your ’van, and other associated risks. For that you need a specialist caravan insurance policy. Theft is a common problem – about 4,000 caravans are stolen every year. Then there’s the risk of weather damage, vandalism or even fire. And if you don’t have insurance in place, you could end up with a big bill. A number of insurers offer caravan and trailer cover, and it’s worth looking at the features of the policy as well as the premium. You might think a low-cost plan is a good deal, until you make a claim and realise the limitations of the cover.
Storm and theft
A caravan policy will cover theft and attempted theft, as well as storm, flood, fire and accidental damage. You should also make sure you have public liability insurance of at least £2m.
You can then typically add a number of extra benefits, though you might have to pay an additional premium. European cover is often included as standard up to a certain number of days. You can increase the cover period if you are planning an extensive trip on the Continent. Or you can add worldwide insurance if you are travelling further afield.
Friends and family Do your friends and family occasionally make use of your caravan? If so, you should find out whether they are automatically covered on your policy and upgrade your plan benefits if necessary.
Loss of use Some insurers cover loss of use if, for example, you have to cancel a trip following flood damage to your caravan. It can be a valuable benefit, but check the restrictions. Most policies will pay out only up to a certain amount a day for a limited number of days.
Contents cover Many of the more basic plans do not include the caravan contents or equipment, which means expensive kit such as your awning would not be insured. The level of contents cover also varies from insurer to insurer, with some firms refusing to insure valuables.
New for old If your caravan is up to five or sometimes 10 years old, the policy will probably provide cover on a ‘new for old’ basis. In other words, if the caravan is written off or stolen and not recovered, you’ll be able to claim for a new one. Older vehicles tend to be insured at their market value, so the insurer will pay out the going rate at the time of the incident. You can sometimes arrange an agreed value with the insurer if you caravan is tricky to value, but agreed value policies are less common and typically more expensive.
Policy exclusions Caravan and trailer insurance does not usually cover business use or permanent residence. Some insurers also exclude loss or damage from any site that was not approved. If you’ve got a static caravan, you’ll need a separate, specialist policy that provides additional cover and does not include what might be termed ‘road risks’. But you’ll need to arrange cover if you move the vehicle to another site.
No claims If you are worried about the cost of caravan cover, think carefully before you make a claim. Most insurers allow you to build up a no claims discount, just as you would on a car insurance policy – although this will probably only go up to 45% - 50%. You might also be able to increase the excess in return for a lower premium.
Road safety Safety should be a top priority when you are on the road. Safety measures can obviously help to reduce accidents, but they can also help to reduce premiums as many insurers offer discounts if you fit approved safety devices.
Mirrors and cameras By law, anyone towing a caravan must be able to see 20 metres behind them and four metres either side, which usually involves fitting towing mirrors. And what about a camera? Cameras aren’t a legal requirement but they can be particularly useful in heavy traffic or when changing lanes.
Learn to manoeuvre Stabilisers that help prevent the caravan from snaking from side to side can improve road safety. In addition, some owners enrol on manoeuvring courses to boost their skills.
Flat tyres It’s worth considering ‘run flat’ or safety tyres. You might also want to install a tyre pressure monitoring system that is ISO 21750 compliant.
Caravan security It’s essential to keep your caravan secure. You might also find that some security measures are a condition of your policy. Many firms, for example, insist on wheel and hitch locks. It might also be a condition of your insurance that your caravan is registered with the Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme (CRiS), which acts as a central database for touring caravans. Most insurers offer some sort of discount for security devices, though the size of the discount will vary. The insurer might also waive the excess if your security is of a high enough standard.
Alarms and immobilisers Alarms and immobilisers are pretty standard. A tracking device can also help to recover a stolen caravan. Then there are wheel locks, which deter thieves and make it difficult to tow away the caravan. You can also fit hitch locks that prevent a thief from hitching the caravan to another vehicle without your consent.
Ground anchors Ground anchors fix the caravan to the ground and are ideal if you are leaving the caravan at home while you are away. Alternatively, a security post cemented into the ground can protect your caravan from thieves. Or, you could store your caravan at a special site, preferably run by the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CSSOA). You should then benefit from additional security such as CCTV cameras or on-site staff. Your insurer would also probably waive any excess if the caravan was damaged or stolen from a CSSOA site.