If you’ve converted a van or purchased a converted van, you’re probably aware of how frustrating it can be trying to get it insured as a camper, either because you’ve heard other people talking about it or you’ve tried yourself and heard lots of no’s or received confusing information from insurance companies.
When we purchased our Sprinter van it was just an empty shell so we insured it as a cargo van. After we converted it though, we obviously wanted to insure it as a camper van so that all the extra items and work we put into it would be covered. If you have a van that was professionally converted into a camper (for example, by Mercedes Benz) it’s pretty easy to insure, but becomes a lot more difficult when it’s a DIY conversion like ours. We did a bunch of reading online but found so much mixed info that we were just as confused afterwards as when we began. We decided to write to a couple of van accounts on Instagram we knew had successfully insured their DIY vans as campers to see what insurance company they’d used and were told AAA by one and Allstate by another, while a friend with a DIY Sprinter conversion told us he’d insured it as a camper through Geico.
Dropped By Progressive
Our Sprinter was insured as a cargo van with Progressive, so since we were already looking at switching insurance companies, we decided to just give them a call and see if they’d switch it to a camper. The risk in doing that with an insurance company is if they won’t insure it as a camper but know you’ve made modifications to the vehicle, they’ll probably drop you, which is exactly what happened to us. Justin called and the lady sounded pretty reasonable and said she’d talk to a supervisor about it. Almost an hour later, after getting put on hold a bunch and going round and round, she asked if our van had been professionally converted. When Justin explained that it was a professional quality conversion but hadn’t been done by a company, she announced that they couldn’t insure it and were immediately dropping it from our policy. We knew that was the risk when we called, but it still sucked since we could no longer drive it until we got it insured as a camper by someone else. Sure, we could have called anyone and gotten it insured as a cargo van, but if you do that and get in an accident and the claims adjuster sees that you’ve modified the vehicle and they were unaware, they’re apt to refuse to pay out.
A Big No From AAA
The next day I started the insurance hunt by calling AAA and was immediately told that they don’t insure any kind of converted van. The person I spoke to wasn’t very friendly and stated that the reason they won’t insure converted vans is “because of the weight” which seemed like an odd and unlikely reason. When I asked for clarification on the weight issue he simply re-stated that they don’t insure converted vans “including box trucks” and that was that. They may be one of those companies where if you speak with a different person on a different day you’ll get a different answer.
State Farm Saves The Day
While I was on the phone with AAA I was fortunate enough to stumble across this article by The Wayward Home describing how a couple with a DIY van got it insured as a camper with State Farm. The article suggested speaking with a local agent versus someone on the main company line, so I called a local office and the agent said she’d insured something similar just a few weeks prior and didn’t foresee any issues getting it insured as a camper, even after I made her aware that it hadn’t been converted by a company. I called two more agents and was told the same thing. Long story short, our Sprinter was insured the next day by State Farm as a Class B camper ($414 for a year) with conventional comprehensive coverage and the only thing we had to provide were a couple of photos of the interior and a photo of the outside. Something else you might be interested to know is that our van was not registered as a motorhome when we insured it with State Farm. The agent never asked us once about the registration.
Take Away Tips
If you’re going to ask your insurance company about switching your van to camper van/RV/motorhome coverage post-conversion, be prepared to get dropped.
Try State Farm. If you’ve been turned down by other insurance companies, it’s a pretty safe bet that State Farm will cover your van as a camper. I ended up calling three different State Farm agents in New Mexico and California and all three told me without hesitation that there shouldn’t be any problem insuring our van as a camper.
Call a local agent. All the local agents I spoke to were friendly and seemed more knowledgable than the numerous insurance people I’ve spoken to over the years after calling the main company line. Since local insurance agents get commissions, I’m pretty sure they’re more motivated to help you figure something out than the bored person answering calls on the company main line.
Be prepared to give a post-conversion value for your van. The agent we spoke to asked us for our van’s post-conversion MSRP and we told her $35,000. That value will obviously be vastly different for each van owner based on year, model, and cost of conversion.
Have some nice interior/exterior photos ready to send to the insurance agent. As I mentioned, the State Farm agent who set up our policy asked us to email her some photos of the inside and outside of the van. We only sent three photos and she didn’t ask for any more. The two photos of the inside showed the bed, sink, stove, and fridge and the photo of the outside showed the solar panels. We don’t have a toilet and she didn’t ask for a list of features.