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By: Robert Janis

Insuring An ATV

We all are familiar with the concept of insuring our cars. However, are we expected to insure our ATVs; and, if so, what information do we need to provide to the insurance company? What factors affect the monthly premium you pay, and are there options you can take that will reduce the costs?

In order to answer these questions and more we have enlisted the help of agents who sell insurance for ATVs. They include Rick Stern of Progressive Insurance; Scott Kunz, vice president of ARS Specialty Insurance Services; and Lee Williamson of Williamson Insurance. Williamson is an independent insurance agent and broker who represents more than 33 different companies. He has been an active ATV'er for 30 years and belongs to eight different ATV clubs as well as the Pennsylvania ATV state association. Kunz has been riding motorcycles and ATVs for more than 20 years and enjoys spending free time riding with his family of five. Stern is a product manager with Progressive and is the company’s ATV expert.

It’s a State Issue
Insuring a motor vehicle falls under the jurisdiction of the states and basically, Williamson noted, the ATV insurance is an offshoot of the basic automobile insurance policy coverage's, forms, and underwriting criteria. “What most people don’t realize is that the ATV insurance policy is an automobile insurance program; and, therefore, has the same insurance protection as anyone driving down a superhighway in our state,” he said.

According to Stern, Kunz, and Williamson, most states do not require that off-road vehicles be insured. However, if the vehicle is used on public land or state maintained trails, then liability insurance is required. Moreover, Stern pointed out one’s homeowners insurance might not cover a rider if he or she rides the ATV off of private property, and owners would probably want to insure their machines against theft and damage. Kunz noted that states like New York require that an ATV be insured if it is also registered.

In Arizona, said Williamson, when you purchase an ATV, you elect also to purchase an off-road plate (dirt roads anywhere) or on road plate (limited to two lane paved highways and the ATV must have turn signals and brake lights). He added that the coverage also includes the ATV/automobile-based insurance coverage for the owner and others who ride it and medical and liability payments. “It’s really a simple plan.

“Then in Pennsylvania, let’s say you have a side-by-side ATV like a Yamaha Rhino that has a steering wheel, windshield, brake lights, and turn signals. If you are insured on an ATV/Automobile type policy, that should make it legal for any highway in the state and not be classified as an ATV, which is defined as a unit you straddle to operate. Chalk it up to antics of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources,” continued Williamson. “Whether mandatory or not, it is a good idea to have at least minimum liability insurance on an ATV.”

To start off, you will be required to give the insurance agent the make, model, and year of the machine as well as its Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and to fill out and sign an application form. You will also be required to give your driving history, social security number, and driver’s license number. “Insurance companies will do a credit check and motor vehicle check. Bad credit and/or bad driving experience will increase rates,” said Williamson.

Then, there are a number of factors which influence the coverage and how much the premium will be. Stern pointed out that Progressive Insurance requires that the ATV be owned by an individual, not a business, and that they be used exclusively for recreation. “Using an ATV to service your own property, like for snowplowing, for example, is acceptable. However, if you use it for business, it is considered commercial and cannot be insured.” Stern also explained that an ATV is not covered when it is being used for racing. “While your ATV might be covered by Progressive at all other times, it will not be covered for damage incurred during prearranged or organized racing,” he said.

“Most insurers will cover an ATV that is for personal use,” added Kunz. “Personal use includes recreational trail riding and using the ATV to work around the house. However, insurers typically have exclusions in their policies that do not cover organized racing or business use. If you plan to use your ATV in your business or for organized racing, make sure you tell your agent so he can find you a policy that provides coverage in these situations.”

Who Rides it; What’s On It
Other factors that can influence coverage of an ATV include who rides the machine and what is on it as far as its construction is concerned. It is well reported that children as young as three years-old ride ATVs. Also, pointed out Stern, there is a greater risk when a child operates any motorized vehicle. “Owners of an ATV can expect to pay more for insurance if a child also rides it. ATV owners should take this into account when deciding whether or not to purchase insurance and how much insurance coverage might be necessary. The age factor that we at Progressive use to calculate a rate is the same for a 10 year-old, eight year-old or six year-old child,” he said. Progressive does not have a minimum age requirement.

Kunz pointed out that Foremost Insurance, a company he represents, will insure drivers who are 10 years-old and older. “Other insurers have similar minimum age requirements for operators,” he said. He added that insurers support ATV manufacturers’ guidelines for minimum age requirements for ATV use, and he suggested that young children ride ATVs that they can control.

Williamson pointed out that you cannot purchase a policy that covers drivers under eight years-old. “Age eight is the minimum,” he said. “Basically the rates are the same between 8  and 12 for all intents and purposes.” However, Williamson pointed out a loop hole. He noted that the actual owner of the ATV can “load” up the ATV policy with uninsured and underinsured coverage's and medical coverage's so that the adult policy actually superimposes the child into the coverage. “Some companies frown on this,” he said. “But in this age of legalism and attorneys, one could make a good case.”

Insurance companies also encourage riders of ATVs to take a safety course. “In many states, Progressive offers a safety course discount of five percent on bodily injury/physical damage, medical payments, and collision if the rider has completed an approved safety course within the past three years,” said Stern. Kunz agreed. “Foremost offers discounts of five percent for a safety course taken within the last three years,” he said. “And being a member of the AMA (American Motorcyclists Association) or other group may also qualify the ATV for additional savings. It is good to ask your agent about available discounts.”

Williamson noted that a lot of organizations and manufacturers of ATVs stress safety. However, he said that out of 33 insurance companies he represents, only five actually offer a discount for participating in a safety course. “I believe this is coming as it is here with motorcycle insurance now, but in our state (Pennsylvania) and in the eastern USA, no insurance company offers discounts for taking a safety course to my knowledge,” he said.

“Personally, I have been very active with various companies trying to secure credits for this,” continued Williamson. “To date, at least in Pennsylvania, I have failed. Probably one reason why there are no credits is because the average ATV insurance policy is probably $90 a year compared to the average motorcycle policy of $300 a year. So, in ATV insurance, there is not a lot of room for credits and discounts.”

Kunz also said that one’s experience as an ATV rider can also effect coverage. “Operators with less than two years of ATV experience may have higher premiums than one who has more years of driving experience,” he said.

Williamson said that experience is a factor in the overall rate. “All applications ask about experience in and on ATVs,” he said. “For youth, rating inexperience is addressed in the overall rate. For adults over 25, a small credit of maybe 1 percent in the overall rate could be given. Operators under 25 are surcharged automatically within the entire rating program of each company. Although no one will confirm this, it is true.”

Of course, as with a car, the vehicle itself influences coverage as well. Stern explained that the design and engine size of an ATV can play a major role in the cost of coverage. “Utility-type ATVs are generally less expensive to insure than sports-type ATVs with large engines. The inherent risks between the two are much different, and our loss costs--and resulting rates--reflect this difference,” he said.

Kunz added that size of the ATV is also a factor. “Insurers, including Foremost, look at cc size in setting a premium for ATV coverage. Expect premiums to be higher for a brand new, high performance model compared to an older, standard model” he said. “Some insurers are also classifying ATV by body style and standard use and use that information in setting the premium.”

Williamson drew the comparison of a Corvette with a Chevy Nova. “Does it cost more to insure a Corvette than a Chevy Nova?” he asked. “Definitely.”

If you want to insure a customized ATV, be certain to tell the insurance agent about all the additional aftermarket items you have added and how much they cost. Stern pointed out that his company, Progressive, offers physical damage coverage (theft, fire, and collision) on the factory delivered vehicle. “In most states, we also provide up to $3,000 of additional custom parts and accessories coverage at no extra charge. If you have added more than that to your ATV, you should consider purchasing additional custom parts and accessories coverage. Progressive customers can purchase up to $30,000 of additional custom parts and accessories coverage,” he said.

Kunz agreed. “If you add optional accessories to an ATV, make sure your policy provides coverage. Some policies may only cover the stock ATV and not cover accessories. Foremost has optional equipment coverage available with its ATV policy. Safety apparel is also important. Make sure your policy provides coverage for helmets, riding gear, and other safety equipment. Foremost’s ATV policy provides $1,500 worth of coverage just for helmets and safety apparel when collision coverage is purchased,” he said.

Williamson said that some companies he represents automatically provide for $3,000 in accessories. “The better ones do, and I represent and recommend these,” he added.

Stern concluded that several factors will affect your insurance rates. “You can’t control all of the factors that apply to you, but there are a few things you can do. Ride carefully. If you have violations on your driving record or claims on your policy, your rates will be higher. Choose your ATV carefully. ATVs with higher displacement or those that are considered more aggressive machines typically cost more to insure based on the history of claims for those vehicles. Buy more ATVs. You will receive a discount if you insure more than one ATV on your policy,” he said.

“Not all ATV policies are the same,” concluded Kunz. “Talk with your agent about the coverage's you want and make sure he has a policy that meets those needs. If you need higher liability limits or medical payment coverage, make sure your insurer has these options. Also, ask about what coverage is provided for accessories, helmets, and safety apparel. The cost of coverage is affected by several items, including your driving record, accident history, age of riders, and where you live. Also, consider a higher deductible to help reduce the premium on a full coverage policy.”

Williamson recommended that you try and find an insurance agent who represents a lot of companies so you have more options. “It really takes a knowledgeable insurance agent to steer a customer right,” he said. “If the agent only has one program, like maybe State Farm or Nationwide or Allstate, they have to sell that product and that product may have limitations. But if you use an insurance broker, you get more options, more policies that provide better coverage for the same dollar.”

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