RVs are an attractive living option to millennials, but the segment has unique insurance risks and needs.
Affordability, high student debt and less loan availability are just a few of the reasons that millennials aren't buying homes at the rate of previous generations. The homeownership rate among millennials is around 8% lower than it was for Gen Xers and baby boomers when they were in the same age group, according to CNBC.
The unaffordability of home buying is creating previously unseen trends in both home buying and lifestyle. “Significant increases in home pricing throughout the country are offering a unique opportunity for people to live in and work from their recreational vehicles,” says Erik R. Schmidt, personal lines product manager, Farmers Specialty Insurance- Foremost, Casualty Products: Motor Home & Travel Trailer.
“One study recently estimated one million people are full-timers. These customers need more specialized coverages than a standard auto endorsement can provide, such as personal effects coverage, personal liability, and even adjacent structures coverage for the occasional shed or RV port,” he says.
“A continued trend in the RV market is that first-time buyers are younger and more diverse than ever before,” agrees Brook McGuire, specialty products, Safeco. “I think that says good things to independent agents about the long-term viability of the RV market and the needs of these customers for insurance.”
However, one risk associated with younger first-time RV buyers is the increased likelihood of a less experienced driver or owner damaging the RV and needing to make a claim. For example, “if someone buys their first pull-behind trailer, how do they learn how to back it up? How do they learn to make a right-hand turn and not clip a car or a mailbox?” McGuire says. “There's a lot of experience that new owners need to develop really quickly when they get their first RV.”
“Also, if you don't properly level your trailer or even your motor home, you could damage your slide-out,” McGuire adds. “I've seen people try to take them to drive through a window at McDonald's or something like that— there's a lot of embedded physical damage claims that happen with the new entrants as well.”
Meanwhile, “peer-to-peer RV sharing is becoming much more common, with companies facilitating the rental exchange between RV owners and those who wish to try the lifestyle,” says David Knapp, personal lines product manager, Farmers Specialty Insurance- Foremost, Casualty Products: Motor Home & Travel Trailer.
“Potential RV owners can use a peer-to-peer company to try out the lifestyle or different models to help make a decision,” Knapp says. If someone does decide to buy an RV, “owners are finding this option appealing as a potential income stream when they aren’t using their unit.”
However, many insurers don’t accept units which are being rented to others in a peer-to-peer situation. “Some carriers are beginning to respond to this, but agents must be aware of what each policy excludes and what usage types are eligible,” Schmidt explains.
Ultimately, “standalone RV policies provide much better coverage and versatility than an auto endorsement and some RV situations require specialized coverage,” he says. “For units that are being used full-time, either stationary or traveling across the country, specialized coverages are highly recommended.”
“There continues to be a significant shift towards ‘experiential entertainment’ in the millennial and Gen Z markets,” Knapp adds. “The RV experience is very appealing to these generations and their purchasing power increases each year—it wouldn’t be wise to ignore this group.”
Will Jones is IA managing editor.