What's in this guide?
- Vehicle insurance for road-worthy vans
- Insurance for different types of van life
- What van insurance add-ons should I consider?
- How to insure personal property while living in a van
- Van insurance challenges
- Compare insurance for van life
- How do I get cheap insurance for full-time van living?
- Bottom line
Vehicle insurance for road-worthy vans
To legally drive, vans have to meet the same minimum car insurance laws as other types of vehicles. Most states require bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, which pays for someone else’s car damage or medical injuries if you cause an accident.
Along with liability coverage, some states require:
- Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage to pay for your own damage if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance.
- Personal injury protection to take care of your medical injuries and possibly lost income, childcare or other expenses no matter who’s at fault.
Insurance for different types of van life
Let your car insurance company know which type of van you’re insuring. You could need extra coverage or a different kind of policy, depending on the body style and your own renovations.
You might have made some modifications to your van for full-time living. If so, you’ll need to tell your insurance company that you’re insuring a conversion van, listing the exact modifications.
For heavy modifications like modifying the engine, you might need modified parts coverage added to your policy. If you’ve transformed your van into a tiny home on wheels, you might need specialty tiny home insurance or an RV policy instead.
If you command a large passenger van like a Sprinter, your insurance policy should look the same as other vehicles, although with a higher cost. Big vans like the Sprinter have a higher insurance premium because they boast roomy cargo space and a powerful engine, hiking up the repair costs and insurance risk.
Cargo vans roll up in many different sizes, and large vans can cost more to insure than standard cars or minivans. Hiked-up rates for this van may reflect its ability to do more damage in an accident, a powerful engine size or its high repair costs.
What van insurance add-ons should I consider?
Think about adding extra coverage for sturdy protection while living in your van full time. You can prioritize what you need protection for the most, based on your budget.
- Collision coverage protects your car for accidental damage that you cause, like hitting another car or running off the road.
- Comprehensive coverage pays for damage from natural events like storms or from someone stealing or vandalizing your car.
- Roadside assistance helps you take care of minor repairs on the road like a flat tire or jumping your battery.
- Rental reimbursement pays for a rental vehicle if your van stays at the repair shop after an accident.
How to insure personal property while living in a van
If you canceled home or renters insurance, your belongings might not have the same protection as they did before switching your living situation. However, you can protect your personal items in several ways depending on what your insurance company offers:
- Personal effects add-on. Some car insurance companies offer this add-on or free coverage for items in your vehicle. Pay attention to the coverage limit, though, since it may not be enough to cover a car packed with your belongings. This add-on won’t cover belongings kept in a storage unit.
- RV insurance. An RV policy should cover most or all of your personal effects. You can choose a higher limit for contents coverage if you need it. However, an RV policy can be more expensive than a van policy.
- Personal property insurance. Look at insurance policies for personal items if you won’t be buying other property coverage. For example, you can get a policy for jewelry.
Van insurance challenges
Living in your van comes with its own issues, which may include:
- Parking laws. Each state and city has its own laws about overnight parking or parking on certain streets. Look up your local laws online or by calling the police station before parking somewhere or sleeping in your car.
- Parking safety. Finding a safe parking spot such as on private property can help you stay safe and avoid insurance claims for theft or vandalism.
- Driving underinsured. If you’re living on a tight budget, you might be tempted to lower vehicle insurance coverage to state minimums. Yet doing that could leave you paying out of pocket for repairs or liability claims after an accident. Driving without insurance could also mean a fine and license or registration suspension.
- Not including modifications. Tell your insurer right away about changes you make to your van. If you leave something out, a future insurance claim could get denied if a modified part isn’t covered or because of your dishonesty.
Compare insurance for van life
How do I get cheap insurance for full-time van living?
The main way to lower your insurance premium is to bundle your van and personal property policies together. A few car insurance companies offer discounts when you bundle any two policies with them.
Aside from bundling and other discounts, consider lowering coverage or raising your deductibles to fit your budget. Just make sure you can handle the out-of-pocket costs if you get in an accident with your van.
Resources to help you get back in a home
If you’re not a van dweller by choice, you don’t have to face the difficult situation of homelessness alone. Instead, look to local and national programs for help:
- For young people facing homelessness, call the National Runaway Safeline any time at 800-786-2929. You can also email or live chat from the organization’s website. Most local libraries offer free internet.
- Search for state-based assistance on your state’s community or housing department site.
- Worried about finding a place that accepts pets? Use ShelterList to find homeless shelters that accept pets along with their owners. You can also contact local animal rescues and shelters for help finding pet-friendly rentals or find a temporary pet foster home while you get back on your feet.
- Find local help by visiting the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website. Click Find Shelter at the top of the site to search for shelters near you.
HUD programs you might be eligible for:
- Emergency Solutions Grants Program can help with rent, childcare and other needs in emergency situations, including if you’re in danger of losing your home.
- Rural Housing Assistance Program can help with rent, mortgage or utility bills as well as emergency, transitional or even permanent housing options.
- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program offers vouchers for housing expenses to eligible veterans and their families.
- Federal Surplus Property program allows people without homes to use unused government property for housing if you’re eligible through local organizations.
For the most part, you can expect your van insurance policy to be similar to other vehicles on the road. However, look at policy extras to surround yourself with broad protection if you can afford it. Serious van conversions might need an entirely different type of policy with property coverage to cover van living.
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