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Living the van life? Better check your auto insurance coverage

May 5, 2022
3 mins
A camper van is parked on a lake's edge with mountain views

The “van life” movement has surged as a popular alternative to conventional living around the world, and Canada is no exception. Search the internet, and you’ll find hundreds of blogs and news stories about “vanlifers” who traded their pricey city apartments for converted vans and adventurous life on the open road.

Van dwellers move from one provincial campground to the next in camper vans and recreational vehicles (RVs) configured for full-time living. The movement is largely made up of millennials who are open to non-traditional lifestyles and can make a living as artists, freelancers or remote workers. Many have embraced van life for financial reasons, whether they want to save money or have been priced out of homeownership.

As exciting as the notion of living such a free-wheeling life may be, an important question comes to mind. How do van dwellers insure their vehicles and their things?

The perils of van life

Van life may look glamorous on Instagram, but it isn’t always as easygoing as it seems. Vanlifers forgo many conveniences, such as daily showers, private bathrooms, and plentiful wardrobes. Many vanlifers travel with their spouse or partner, and the lack of privacy can be a point of occasional strife.

But more than that, they tend to rack up lots of miles on their vehicles, contending with constant maintenance, frequent oil changes, and potential breakdowns. Collisions are an ever-looming possibility, so van dwellers need to prepare for any contingency. Moreover, vanlifers risk returning to their parking spot to find that someone has stolen their home (van) and their earthly belongings.

Related read: How to insure a tiny home in Canada

Van life insurance options

Van life is a relatively new concept, which means it can be challenging to find a comprehensive insurance solution that protects your vehicle and your stuff. That means many vanlifers will need to consider a few different options.

First and foremost, vanlifers will need to have an auto policy that protects the vehicle and provides medical coverage for its inhabitants in the event of a collision. However, auto policies generally will not cover personal possessions inside vehicles.

That leaves van dwellers with a couple of different options for covering their belongings. If they continue to own a home or rent an apartment, the personal property in their van could be covered by a home insurance policy or tenant insurance policy. But most vanlifers don’t have a home or apartment, choosing to live and travel in a van full time.

The next best choice depends on the value of the personal property they need to cover and the cost of the premium and deductible they’ll have to pay. One option is to take out a travel insurance policy for personal property. Another option would be to cover certain individual items, say a laptop computer, with a specialty gadget insurance policy — similar to an extended warranty covering theft or accidental damage. Suppose the insured’s vehicle is an actual RV instead of a converted van. In that case, they may be able to add full-time liability coverage to their existing RV insurance policy to cover their personal property.

If you are thinking about joining the van life movement, your best bet is to be upfront with potential insurance companies about your plan so that they can provide you with the best options. Compare auto insurance quotes and alternative policy options, such as travel insurance, to ensure you have the right coverage for your next adventure.

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The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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