Look at any sales listing for classic RVs and you’ll see they’re a hot commodity on the open market. Unfortunately, obtaining vintage RV insurance coverage that reflects their rising values is difficult. If you’re buying your first vintage trailer and want full “comprehensive” coverage that fairly compensates you if a total loss occurs, don’t sign any insurance papers until you follow these three steps that will have you covered from roof to axles.
Step 1: Get an Appraisal
A vintage RV has lots in common with things like your grandma’s antique diamond wedding ring. That’s because your vintage RV’s cost was fully depreciated long ago, but today it’s worth even more on the open market. For example, let’s say a restored vintage RV sold for $5,000 in 1975, but now people are willing to pay $15,000 to $25,000 because it’s a classic. If you bought that rig as a fixer-upper for $7,000 then put another $3,000 into it after the sale, most automobile insurance companies will usually only insure your RV for the original purchase amount of $7,000.
“They look up the year and basically pay you junk value or your purchase price – if you have a bill of sale – in case your trailer is destroyed,” says vintage trailer expert April Wantiez of Fort Collins, Colorado. She adds that each insurer is different and a good agent can clarify what’s covered and what isn’t.
In all fairness, insurance companies have good reason for such minimal coverage. Unlike antique automobiles, there are no official guidebooks to determine the current value of a vintage RV. Rigs over 20 years old aren’t listed in NADA Guides or the Kelly Blue Book and restoration quality varies wildly, leaving their claims adjusters to guesstimate a vintage RV’s current value.
The good news is that you can prove to your insurance company what your trailer is worth and get a policy that reflects it. “In order to cover a vintage or antique (auto or trailer) for its true higher value, you have to find a provider who will insure it for an “Agreed Upon Value,” says Wantiez, who adds that you’ll need to do your homework to obtain a number your insurance company will accept.
First, get a vintage RV appraisal from a member of the American Society of Appraisers (ASA). These specialists understand how to determine real market values of individual vintage RVs by comparing yours to others on the market. Since there aren’t very many of these appraisers, you’ll find them by:
- Talking to people who own the same rig. Join groups like Air Forums or Tin Can Tourists to get referrals to vintage RV appraisers.
- Visiting vintage RV dealers. If you’re buying from a dealer, be sure to ask if anyone on staff does ASA appraisals. You might be able to get one included in your purchase.
- Contacting well-known vintage RV appraisers like Heintz Designs Vintage Trailer Restorations, Lance Lambert or Polk and Associates or others recommended by Tin Can Tourists.
Step 2. Find Companies That Write Vintage RV Insurance Policies
We don’t know any insurance companies that only insure vintage RVs but there are those who will write policies for them. Based on vintage RV forum discussions like this one and vintage RV insurance research compiled by Tin Can Tourists, companies willing to write vintage RV insurance include RV Advantage and Progressive Insurance.
Step 3: Obtain an “Agreed Upon Value” Policy
Insurance companies will automatically offer liability coverage for vintage RVs. That just means you’re covered if you hit someone. Some will offer full “comprehensive” coverage vintage RV insurance but only cover up to “Actual Cash Value” – the amount you paid for it. For maximum coverage, get an insurance policy that covers you for a designated “Agreed Upon Value” of your vintage RV. This ensures your rig will be repaired or fully replaced for it’s current market value if you file a claim.
- Agreed Upon Value means that you and the RV insurance provider have reached an understanding about what your vintage RV is really worth. Thanks to your certified appraisal, the insurance company will cover you for that amount if you have a total loss of the RV. You want your policy to have this phrase in it.
- Actual Cash Value means that the RV company determines the value, which is zero for vintage RVs. Don’t buy a policy with Actual Cash Value.
Finally, whatever you do, don’t confuse either of these terms with “Stated Value.” According to Tin Can Tourists, “Stated Value” simply means you’ve told the insurance provider what your rig is worth, but there is no real basis for that number. In the event of a loss, the true value of your vintage RV is open to interpretation.
Vintage RV insurance sounds complicated but it gets easier once you obtain coverage for the first time. Good thing, because once you buy that first retro rig, odds are good that you’ll become addicted and add others to your vintage RVing lifestyle.