By Maeve O'Donnell | Edited by Sam D
Britain's caravan club never stops moving - more than 550,000 are on the roads and if you've joined the craze then insurance is worth weighing up, and we've got a truck-load of cheap tourer tips.
Wherever you're heading, we'll help you hitch up to the right deal. Importantly, this guide is about caravans you tow on a car or other vehicle, not motor-homes which are a caravan and motor in one.
This is the first incarnation of this guide. Please tell us your experiences in the caravan insurance discussion.
In this guide...
Caravan insurance explained: The 8 need-to-knows
Caravan insurance is not a legal requirement, but if you're unlucky it can be costly to go without it. Our tips help you decide what to do.
By law you don't have to buy caravan insurance, but without it you won't be protected from theft or damage
To tow a caravan on a car, car insurance is enough by law on the road. If you damage someone's property or injure them, it pays out (see our Car Insurance guide for the best deals).
But just having car insurance only gives you third party cover which means there's no cover for your caravan if it is damaged or stolen so you'd normally have to foot the bill yourself.
We're not urging you to buy caravan cover. For many it is useful but if you're buying (or have been given) an old second-hand caravan you only plan to use once a year for holidays and don't mind a knock or two, you don't necessarily need to do anything else - it's up to you.
But if you've just spent thousands of pounds - or it's a pastime you spend most weekends on - specialist cover is worth considering as it could be a hell of a lot of money to lose if the worst happens.
As we explain below, some home insurance policies can cover your caravan while at home, and others can cover its contents anywhere you go.
You don't need any insurance by law when your caravan is stationary
Insurance (car insurance as a minimum) is only a legal requirement while it's on the road. It's up to you whether you want to insure it while it's stationary. If you don't, you won't be covered if it's stolen or damaged.
Do I need to tell my insurer I'm going to tow a caravan?
In almost all cases, yes. If you're new to caravaning and just stick with your car insurance, putting a tow bar on to your car counts as a modification - so it's vital to let your insurer know you've got one. Most car insurance policies don't cover attaching a trailer as standard so double-check - some may charge you a slightly higher premium.
I've got a motor-home, do I need specialist insurance?
Yes. You need specialist insurance before you hit the road in a motor-home - and you'll also usually need the appropriate driving licence. Also like a car there are three main types of policy - third party only; third party, fire and theft; and comprehensive.
A specialist caravan policy covers you for theft and damage
If you take out a standalone specialist policy, it will cover you if it's stolen or suffers damage and needs repairs, or is written off in an accident. You'll be covered for:
- theft outside your home / in a public place / at a campsite anywhere in the UK
- external damage (whether stationary or moving) outside your home / in a public place / at a campsite
- accidental damage inside the caravan (e.g. you start a fire during cooking which damages the inside)
- Public liability cover will also come as standard with most specialist policies. This means you'll be covered if your caravan causes damage to someone else's property or injures someone. For example, if your caravan tips over in bad weather and crushes someone's garden fence, or a caravan kitchen fire spreads to other caravans in a park, your insurer should pay out.
Contents within a caravan - how you're covered
Cover for theft or damage of personal items kept locked inside the caravan or equipment such as gas canisters and power generators often is NOT covered on a bog-standard caravan policy. For this you'll often need to pay extra.
Before paying extra, check if your home insurance already covers that. However, the excess (the amount of any claim you must pay) on a home insurance policy is usually higher than a caravan excess, while claiming can push up future home insurance costs too.
What's more, home insurance may not cover all items in the caravan such as frying pans or crockery as people do not usually take these outside their home.
Will I get a new caravan if mine is written off?
How your insurer will settle your claim depends on what you agree at the point of taking out your policy - and affect your premium. You'll be asked when filling in an application to pick from three replacement values: 'new for old', 'market value' or 'guaranteed or agreed value'.
New for old
New for old will generally only be offered for a certain number of years, for example up until the caravan is 5 years old. If your caravan needed replacing your insurer would sort out an equivalent, brand new caravan.
Depending on the insurer, you could find they only offer the equivalent replacement for 12 months - not much use if you've spent £20,000 and want to be sure of having a brand new model for at least five years in the event of an incident so make sure you check.
However, be aware that most policies will only actually give you a new caravan if it's cheaper than the cost of repairing.
This tends to be the most common option and will pay out what your caravan is worth at the time of any accident.
Guaranteed or agreed value
A few insurers will also offer an agreed value policy which just means that you'll get what you paid for the caravan (provided you've got a receipt to prove it). This is most likely to apply if you have a customised caravan.
I plan to take my caravan outside of the UK. Will I still be covered?
Yes. Most specialist caravan policies will cover you outside the UK but watch out if you plan to head overseas regularly each year. Some only offer as little as 30 days cover abroad while others will go to 180 - more than enough for even the most ardent caravanners. Make sure you grab the cheapest travel insurance before you go.
Can I lend my caravan to friends or family?
Lots of policies include cover so you can rest easy that if your friends and family borrow your caravan, you'll still be able to make a claim if anything goes wrong. But always double check, especially if it's something you plan to do regularly - search for family and friends in the Ts and Cs.
Am I covered if the caravan hits a pothole or suffers a puncture and can't move?
Most specialist caravan policies don't include breakdown cover. You'll have to rely instead on a breakdown policy for your car, which will usually extend to any caravan you're towing. Not all do, though, so double-check to be certain. So as a rule, if your caravan hits a pothole and damages its chassis (so it can't move), then your car breakdown policy will cover you for being towed home or to a garage.
We've bought a very old caravan made 30 years ago but it's in excellent condition. Can we get cover?
No. Most insurers won't insure a caravan built more than 25 years ago.
Am I covered if I use my caravan for work?
If you were planning on using your caravan to flip burgers for festival goers then the sort of insurance we're talking about won't be for you. Most policies have an exclusion for "business use".
Trick to turn annual cover into summer-only cover
You can only buy caravan insurance annually, so what if you just need it for a few months? Here's a canny trick (that comes with risks)...
Buy an annual policy to cover you for when you need to use it, then cancel when necessary and pocket the refund. You'll get a pro rata refund (minus a small exit fee, £25 say) which you could haggle anyway.
What's the risk?
You may save money but it's a gamble on these counts.
- If you've a cheap policy the cancellation fee may wipe out much of the saving.
- You'll be exposed if anything happens to your caravan when you don't have insurance, so make sure it's securely stored. Most home insurance won't cover you if it's stolen from your home, though it is possible to buy specialist cover as a home insurance add-on, often at a high price.
Your home contents could cover your possessions inside the caravan
Home contents insurance can also give you a degree of protection but only if you have the right type. A home contents insurance add-on - called 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' - covers valuable goods and clothing you take away with you outside the home, such as in a caravan. Check if you already have this in place.
This add-on gives cover for all valuables up to a certain limit - often about £1,500 - though you choose to buy more protection. Cover is for the likes of clothes, computers and jewelery. However, kitchen equipment and bedding may not be covered as it's not something people tend to take out of their home.
When we say contents of your caravan, imagine turning your tourer upside down and shaking it vigorously (yes, you'd need to be Superman, but you get the gist). You'll be covered for everything you take with you that falls out.
But most home contents insurance policies do NOT cover the caravan itself unless you buy an often pricey add-on for your caravan. It's rarely worth buying this over specialist caravan insurance because it is so expensive. What's more, to be able top buy the add-on you often need a high-end policy to start with, such as from the likes of Hiscox.
How to buy cover for items outside your home
If you're not already covered then call your insurer to find out the cost of extending your policy. But don't assume you have to pay that price.
Also find the cost of a new policy in case your insurer becomes expensive after the change, or if it was expensive to start with. See our full home insurance cost-cutting system to get a better deal (factor in a £50ish cancellation fee to change mid-policy).
Claiming on home insurance can push up future costs
As well as having to pay an excess, it could mean higher prices for up to five years following the claim. This is because home insurers will ask you if you've made a claim during the past few years, and if you have they'll consider you a higher risk, which could push up prices. You'd also lose any no claims discount too.
This affects your entire home insurance policy, yet if you claim under a caravan insurance policy there's no impact on your home insurance.
If your caravan's too heavy, it won't be covered
Government rules mean you can tow heavy tourers and trailers with a car but just how much you can pull depends on when you passed your driving test.
If you passed your test after 1 January 1997, as a general rule of thumb the total weight of your vehicle and trailer shouldn't be more than 3,500kg (though licence holders who passed before this are usually allowed a greater combined total weight.)
For your insurance to be valid, you must meet this criteria, though it shouldn't be a problem for most. Many family cars tend to weigh about 1,500 kilos (though that's an average and some will be more or less); and many caravans weigh a similar amount. You can usually find details of your vehicle weights in your car handbook, and in your caravan documents.
To double check if your car and licence is up to scratch Gov.uk has a handy tool for checking if you're road ready.
Important! If you passed your driving test after 1997 you'll also need to take an extra test to tow a caravan. Find out more.
Keep your caravan locked up in storage to cut the cost
How and where you store your caravan can make a difference to your specialist insurance premiums and could even give an insurer a reason not to cover you.
As a minimum insurers will expect, as a minimum, a wheel lock and a hitch lock (which prevents it being towed). These will set you back anything from £20 to over £100 each; prices will vary between retailers, so compare deals between stores or see if you can pick up a cheaper second hand one on eBay.
Not having these locks could mean your insurer won't pay out if your caravan is stolen so it's worth the investment. When it comes to storing your caravan, you've two options - either at home where you can keep an eye on it, or in a dedicated caravan lock up. Here are some more security tips:
Lock it up in storage
You'll pay a fee for a lock up, around £500 for the year depending on where the site is and the size of the caravan. If you haven't got the space at home or would just prefer to use a caravan lock up you can find a list of recommended storage sites here.
Make sure you check the terms of your policy as some will only cover "approved sites" which can either mean approved by the Caravan Storage Site Owners' Association (CaSSOA) or that it meets a certain standard of security given by the CaSSOA for example, that it's gold registered. You can find your nearest approved site here.
Keep it outside your home
If you're happy that you can keep it safely at home then it probably makes sense to save the money there. You can't just park it on a road outside your home; it'll need to be kept on a drive or on land (usually a small garden if not) by your property.
Is it cheaper to keep it outside your home?
There may be no higher cost to consider if you store it at home. From our research, some insurers didn't ask where the caravan is kept overnight so keeping it on your driveway shouldn't have any impact on your premiums.
However, given that some insurers do risk-rate the premiums for your personal circumstances, it'll be worth comparing different specialist prices.
Should I leave my caravan in storage and forget about insurance?
No, in fact you won't be able to leave your caravan in most storage sites without paying for your own separate specialist insurance policy.
The cost of keeping your caravan in a designated lock up doesn't come cheap - it tends to be about £400-£500 a year so most people will be better off storing their caravan themselves if possible.
Is there anything else I can do to keep premiums down?
Some insurers will say you have to have particular devices in place to keep your caravan from being towed off by thieves.
For example, when the caravan is parked up, they may ask that you use a hitch lock to stop the caravan being hitched to another vehicle, a ground anchor to fix the caravan to the floor and a security post to prevent the caravan from being moved.
Alarms can also help prevent unexpected thefts too and electronic tracking devices can help recover your caravan if the worst does happen. Some insurers offer a discount if you have these security measures in place so you might be able to save in the long run.
Get your towing mirrors in place
To comply with the law anyone towing a caravan must be able to see 20 metres behind them and four metres either side. Most vehicles will need to fit additional mirrors to meet this - towing mirrors cost around £15 or £20 a set. Safety on the road comes first - it'll help you to get better awareness of other drivers.
Register your caravan in case it's targeted by thieves
The Caravan Registration and Identification Scheme - or CRiS - allows you to register your caravan so that if it's stolen there's a better chance that the police will be able to reunite you with your caravan.
Most insurers say you have to be registered to get cover and while some newer caravans will be registered when you buy them if you're buying second hand you'll need to make sure it's registered in your name. So just be sure to double check when you buy.
Use a comparison site to find the cheapest policy for your caravan
Once you've brushed up on the basics from our top eight tips, if you've decided caravan insurance is right for you, it's time to visit comparison sites to get quotes. These sites zip your details to a number of insurer and broker websites to find the cheapest quotes. They don't all compare the same companies, so it's best to combine them.
What does insurance cost? Prices are typically £100-£600 a year, but can vary
To give you an indication of what kind of prices you should expect to pay for an annual caravan insurance policy, we tested four brokers for quick quotes which apply nationwide - none asked for a postcode or model of caravan.
For a £5,000 caravan, inclusive of £1,000 contents cover, between £110 and £160
For a £10,000 caravan, inclusive of £1,000 contents cover, between £200 and £270
For a £20,000 caravan, inclusive of £1,000 contents cover, between £420 and £600
All offered as standard letting up to three family members use the caravan; at least £1.25 million in public liability cover; 30 days of cover for holidays to Europe; and all have an excess of around £100. Remember, these figures are just indicative: the prices you get from a comparison site will be tailored to details of your caravan, its storage and security.
Step 1: The top comparison sites
Only two big ones compare caravan insurance premiums. For speed, it'll help to have your tourer's make and model, age, security/locks, details of where you keep it overnight and its size. You can find all this from your owner's manual or, if you've lost it, try CaravanTalk which has a handy list of model's details.
- Getting a quote takes five minutes
- Results are readily available for 'market value' or 'new for old' cover
- Voluntary excess automatically defaults to £150
- Box to opt out of marketing calls is not easy to find
- Getting a quote takes five minutes
- Box to opt out of marketing calls is not easy to find
- Getting new quotations is slow when revising cover
- Slow to quickly compare 'market value' against 'new for old' cover
Step 2: Also check the ones comparisons miss
Comparison sites let you compare insurers quickly but they don't capture the entire market. Some insurers do not appear on comparison sites at all and some deals are only available by going directly to an insurer's website.
Get a quote from The AA* and you can compare up to four levels of cover. The quote process is also one of the quickest.
For members of The Caravan Club* you have the option to select one of two levels of cover and can insure caravans up to 15 years old.
Crusader Insurance can provide quotations for caravans (on a new for old basis) aged up to 10 years old with Ageas or AM Trust.
Well-known breakdown specialist RAC* also provides caravan cover policy and is worth considering for value.
If you currently have a home or car insurance policy with this big insurer, LV*, you will also get a 10% discount if you insure your caravan with them.
Tourer Select provide a quick quote process and automatically provide up to 240 days cover a year.
How to make a claim on your caravan insurance
Claiming on your caravan insurance shouldn't be daunting and if you understand the terms and excesses on your policy you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks. Follow these three simple steps below in the event you need to claim.
If it's a theft, notify the police
If your caravan is stolen, you'll need to get a crime reference number to make a successful claim on a home or specialist policy. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.
Submit your claim as soon as possible
Contact your insurer as soon as you can to avoid any administrative hold-ups; if it's a complex claim, it may take a while to be processed so the sooner you start the better.
Keep your receipts
The loss of a caravan isn't normally queried by an insurer, especially as you'll have given it all the details when buying. But it'll always come in handy in any claim to be able to show proof of purchase if requested.
How to complain about your insurance provider
The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer-service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. Common problems include claims either not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then:
Free tool if you're having a problem
This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.
If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Important: If your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, then instead just let us know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org as that's usually quicker.