A Cautionary Tale for Full-Time RVers. Are Your Belongings Really Covered by Your Insurance?
I am sharing this story, partly because I am annoyed at Progressive Insurance and want to get it off my chest, but also because I am sure we are not the only people who had a poor understanding about what their insurance covers.
Our bicycles were stolen from a rack attached to our trailer a few weeks ago in a Las Vegas parking lot. We have always been aware that theft was a possibility. We knew when we embarked on our journey that things like this happen, especially in cities. Honestly it's just a hazard of this, and actually any, lifestyle. That is why we bought insurance. Getting our stuff stolen was a shame, but frankly our insurance company refusing to pay out, when they specifically said we were covered is what really frustrated us.
Until recently (we are in the process of canceling this policy) we had a Full Timers Policy with Progressive and we paid extra for our Personal Effects to be covered. We chose this not because we have that much of value but we knew that loss and theft of our belongings was a real possibility. We specifically asked the Progressive representative whether by adding this coverage, we would be insured if our bicycles were stolen. The agent simply said yes. He did not give any exceptions or exclusions. When we tried to process our claim we asked Progressive to review the recording of our original call. They did find it and acknowledged that yes, we were told that our bikes would be covered on the back of our trailer. But they said that the agent was not specific about the small print in the policy, which is very selective as to exactly where they would be covered.
Actually what our policy says, and why our claim was denied, is that theft of property is only covered when it is from "inside" our RV (attached and locked to the trailer, as in our case, doesn't count) or outside, if our RV and our property are in an area that is "reserved for our exclusive use". I think it is disputable as to what "reserved for our exclusive use" actually means but I have to assume we were not covered in a boondocking location, an overflow site, the side of the road or any parking lot when stopped while in transit. We were also not covered if we were out on a bike ride, or had the bikes on our truck, not our trailer.
I should say I am not naive, I am mad at Progressive, but insurance companies are insurance companies. It reminds me of the old tale about the Scorpion and the Frog. Wriggling out of paying you is what insurance companies do, it's in their nature. So what's the alternative? It's odd that our natural instinct when we find out something is not insured is to increase our coverage - genius - no wonder insurance companies are so profitable. Actually we did consider whether it was even worth insuring our personal effects at all, given how little the insurance companies are willing to pay out. But when we thought about it, a total loss of all our personal belongings in an accident or fire/flood type instance would be expensive to replace.
So we decided to investigate alternative insurers. This time we were smarter and went with an agent. We are switching to a policy with National Interstate that covers personal effects even if they are not inside the RV or secured location. The price is actually about the same, and (just like a Scorpion) I am sure their nature will be to fight with us if we have to claim, but at least we now have items insured when they are away from our RV.
You may think that the lesson from all of this is to make sure you read the small print of your policy - but really it is ridiculous to think that anyone would read 42 or more pages of legal copy. Trusting what Progressive told us on the phone, when all they really wanted was to sell us a policy was our mistake, and thinking that if we proved they told us that, it would make a difference. Our learning is that we should have used an agent. Yes an agent wants you to buy insurance but they aren't backed by a multimillion dollar advertising campaign, they trade on their reputation and word of mouth. They care about customer service which at least makes them more accountable than a faceless company who make so much money that they don't care whether you remain a customer or not.