A guide to campervan insurance
A good campervan insurance policy is a specialist product designed specifically for the needs of campervanners. It’s not an adapted car insurance policy, but rather covers things like enhanced personal possession cover, breakdown cover for larger vehicles, repatriation, enhanced windscreen cover, reduced mileages and extended periods away from the UK.
If you own a classic VW campervan or perhaps a self-build, companies like Just Kampers offer additional benefits, such as agreed value cover, like-for-like modification cover and salvage retention, too.
Do your homework on campervan insurance
We advise always using a specialist broker and only using comparison websites as an initial research tool. Don’t just accept the first quote but do shop around. Have a list of your specific needs and ask questions about the cover to compare like for like as, if you don’t, you could end up without crucial benefits. Specialist brokers will ask all the relevant questions, too, so make sure you have all the details of the campervan, drivers and the intended use before you call.
Ask who the underwriter is. As Craig Thompson of Caravan Guard explains:
“A well-known underwriter can provide reassurance your claim will be paid and dealt with efficiently. Caravan Guard’s policies are underwritten by Royal & Sun Alliance, a leading UK insurer and a company with roots dating back over 300 years. Also look at what other owners have to say about their experience of an insurer online, on customer review websites like TrustPilot and Review Centre, as well as on social media forums.”
Don’t rely too heavily on price comparison websites initially, either, because not all companies are on those. And don’t just fill out a form online – give the insurance company a call as they might be able to offer a better deal on the strength of a conversation.
To illustrate the point, Craig says: “Caravan Guard offers a range of discounts that a price comparison site wouldn’t necessarily flag up when you’re entering your information. For example, we offer a 5% discount on vehicles fitted with Tyron bands, which help a driver maintain control in the event of a tyre blowout, preventing a more serious accident. We can offer the same discount on vehicles fitted with tyre pressure monitoring systems such as TyrePal, to help reduce the likelihood of a campervan being driven on incorrectly inflated tyres; reversing cameras are rewarded, too.”
Also think about getting a policy that includes breakdown insurance, but make sure it provides recovery of a vehicle that is the size and weight of your campervan. Caravan Guard’s UK roadside assistance cover (which comes as standard) even offers recovery if you get stuck in mud on a campsite. A good policy will also compensate you for any extra accommodation costs while your campervan is being repaired. Consider whether you’ll be going abroad and, if you’re staying in the UK, then say so, as this should mean a cost saving, especially if you only drive a limited mileage each year.
Whatever your needs, ensure that you’re completely honest when answering questions and don’t be afraid to ask your own questions; a good sales person will know the product and will guide you through everything.
How use and mileage effects campervan insurance
A noticeable trend of late is the number of younger enthusiasts who are getting into campervanning. This is, in part, thanks to the ready availability of finance, which has helped a new generation get into the hobby. A lot of traditional motorhome, caravan and even car dealerships are branching out and selling campers, too.
Another factor is that Volkswagen has been selling significant numbers of its California each year, and with Mercedes having introduced the Marco Polo a couple of years ago, there are now a few on used forecourts.
This greater availability of used campervans to choose from suits the younger generation of 30-something families perfectly. However, these campervans aren’t just reserved for the odd weekend away as they’re very likely to be used on an everyday basis, perhaps even for commuting.
But, as Mark Reynolds of Just Kampers explains: “Lots of insurers only cover campers for social and domestic use. So, if you drove it to work or to the station to commute, you’d find you’re not covered. At JK Insurance, in 99% of cases, we can tailor the policy to suit your unique circumstances, including using it for work.”
Not all insurers can cover this risk, though, and those that can will often have a relatively low annual mileage limit in place of about 8,000, so be sure to ask if this applies to you.
Another issue is that campervan conversions vary widely and can be very bespoke, especially if they’re self-builds. For this reason, and because they’re a lot smaller than motorhomes, insurers are cautious about the fact that the lines between leisure and everyday vehicles are often blurred. As a result, it’s important that you're clear with your insurer from the start regarding the mileage and use of the vehicle to ensure you have the correct cover in place.
On the plus side, while the DVLA continues to turn down applications for campervans, deeming them a ‘van with windows’, insurers are by and large accepting that converted vans are still campervans. You’ll probably be asked to send in the same photographic evidence that is needed for the DVLA – such as proof that the van has a cooker, a bed, a table, etc – but you’ll then be eligible for specific campervan insurance.
Mark says “A large amount of the vehicles we cover are self-build campers, and we’ll always find the right policy to suit you and your vehicle. We cover the vehicle for what you tell us it is, not what the DVLA has it down on the log book as. For example, you may have a converted van that has a rear seat/double bed, cooker, sink and fridge, but decide you don’t want side windows for security, as you want to carry high value bikes inside. Or you may have a fully converted camper with pop-top, full kitchen etc, but the logbook still says ‘van’. That’s fine, we cover all that.”
Be honest and realistic about value, too. We hear of people trying to under-insure their ’vans just to pay a slightly smaller premium and avoid having to fit security measures such as a tracker or alarm but, especially on a new-for-old policy, you stand to be thousands of pounds out of pocket in the event of a claim – and all for the sake of saving a few quid.
If you’ve got a classic or self-build, establishing what it’s worth to you is very important. As Mark explains, “Agreed Value is a big topic. We offer a proper agreed value policy, not just for classics, but potentially any campervan. The customer fills in a form and sends in photos, and we agree a value. Then, if they have to claim, there’s no haggling about the value as it’s all pre-agreed.”
Finally, make sure you’re familiar with the terms and conditions of your policy. For example, people often take their spare set of keys with them on holiday, just in case. That’s not a problem if you keep them on you, but if you leave them in the camper when unattended and it gets stolen, that’s likely to void the terms of any insurance policy.
Fortunately, when someone unwittingly breaches the terms of their policy, most reputable insurers will try to help in some way, even if it’s just a contribution – note the use of the word ‘unwittingly’ here. Remove that from the equation and the claim becomes fraudulent, so that’s a different matter entirely.
Security and campervan insurance
Invest in security. Good security is a must to protect your campervan from theft and it also attracts discounts with some insurance companies, as alarms and tracking devices make theft less likely. Moreover, while you may get a discount on your premium if they’re fitted, some companies will insist on this before they will even provide cover.
Many new campervans already come with trackers pre-installed but, if your model doesn’t, then get one fitted as an aftermarket option – there are lots of companies around that offer a fitting service, and a good insurer may also be able to offer advice.
Also use visible deterrents like steering wheel locks and clutch claws, as anything that deters or impedes thieves is a good thing when it comes to insurance.
Craig says: “We advise owners to look at Sold Secure soldsecure.com and to invest in steering wheel locks with a gold rating. Clutch locks and wheel clamps are also good options as an increasing number of theft claims are for vehicles taken from driveways nowadays.”
In the past few years, Ford and Fiat-based campervans seem to have been particularly prone to being stolen. Partly because there are lots of them around but also because there’s a huge demand for used Fiat and Ford parts across Europe, with items such as engines and gearboxes very easy to sell on. As a result, a lock for the OBD port that stops thieves plugging their own device into your campervan’s brain, enabling them to steal it without the keys, is also worth considering.
Where you store your campervan is an important factor regarding insurance, too. Parking your vehicle on the street, compared with keeping it in a secure storage facility, will make a big difference to your premium and some insurers will refuse to cover campervans that are left on the street.
We’d always advise trying to keep a vehicle out of sight of prying eyes, if possible. If not, consider adding driveway security such as driveposts or locked gates, or even keeping your campervan in secure storage. Look for storage sites that are members of the Caravan Storage Site Owners’ Association (CaSSOA).
While it’s an old cliché, people have a tendency to think that it won’t happen to them. But things do happen, which is why it’s a good idea to do everything you can – not only to save a few pounds by being eligible for discounts and better insurance cover, but for your own peace of mind. By taking any precautions you can and disclosing everything at the time you take out cover, at least you won’t be left out of pocket should the worst happen.
Visiting Europe and campervan insurance
If you’re visiting Europe, as Craig explains: “Not all policies include EU cover as standard; Caravan Guard’s doesn’t because it would be forcing a large chunk of our policyholders to pay for something that they wouldn't use, which is why it’s an optional add-on. Only about half of our customers ever leave the UK, so we can offer them a useful saving.”
Mark says: “Most Just Kampers policies include 90 days' European cover for free. We also offer a great breakdown policy that covers virtually every part of Europe, including many Eastern European countries that are normally excluded.”
Of course, everything could change next year when Britain leaves the EU. At the moment, it’s not known what the outcome of Brexit will be in terms of its impact on campervan insurance.
Craig reckons: “It’s possible that anyone travelling to Europe will have to carry a green card along with an international driving permit.” A green card is a document that’s recognised at border crossings showing that a driver is insured to drive their vehicle.” And green cards never went away for those keen to drive in countries like Andorra, Albania, Macedonia or the Faroe Islands, which sit outside the EU.
Craig clarifies: “Our green cards last for up to 270 days at a time, so you can easily sort it out before leaving the UK. We don’t charge our customers if they arrange green cards through our website, but we levy an admin fee if it’s done over the phone.”
It's likely that pets will need special or additional documentation, too. If you take pets abroad with you, ask what happens if your ’van can’t be fixed and you’re in the south of France, for example. Some policies will repatriate you and your campervan to the UK, but not all will cover pets, so check.
Other campervan insurance factors to consider
Don’t forget to consider the actual contents of your campervan – specialist policies generally cover the items inside your campervan, but it’s worth checking what the maximum value per item is. If they’re covered by other policies (such as home insurance), then they may not be covered by the campervan insurance.
As Mark points out, “Many policies sound cheap, until you read the small print.”
So, do double-check and ask about higher-value items such as laptops, cameras, TVs, etc. Mark says, “JK’s can include £2,000 of cover for contents, including awnings, bikes, etc. Make sure you mention all this at the start so you get the right policy.”
It’s worth thinking about areas such as gas and explosion cover, too. While such incidences are very rare, they can happen, so make sure you are covered. Then there’s new-for-old cover, which is a very important benefit if you’ve purchased your campervan from new. If you’re going to tow with your camper, remember to ask who covers the towed vehicle and also the trailer. And, if you want to lend your camper to family or friends or even hire it out in an Airbnb-style service, then ensure it’s fully insured for this.
Don’t forget your no claims bonus, either. As Craig explains: “No claim discounts can greatly reduce the cost of campervan insurance. If you’re selling a car to buy your campervan, it’s possible to transfer your no claims bonus from your car policy to your new campervan policy. If you’re not selling a vehicle and have no policy to transfer no claims bonus from, it’s still possible to qualify for an introductory no claims bonus by taking into account your motor insurance claims history, driving experience and driving convictions.”
Last but not least, you can also join a club – being a member of a major club, like the Camping and Caravanning Club, often attracts a discount.
In addition, the two larger clubs – the other being the Caravan and Motorhome Club – have their own insurance services.
Campervan insurance - contacts
Be Wiser Insurance
Peter Best Insurance
Shield Total Insurance