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When To Buy Snowmobile Insurance

By Aaron Crowe

Renting a snowmobile or other recreational toy while on vacation can be a lot of fun, until you crash it.

Whether it’s a jet ski, snowmobile, ATV or other recreational vehicle, you’ll want to have insurance for it. That can come either through extra insurance you buy from the rental company, or can be an extension of an insurance policy you have on your snowmobile or other toy you’ve left at home.

The rental contract is often a lengthy contract that will most likely ask you to waive any liability claims if you’re injured, and may explain your responsibilities if you damage the equipment or injure someone else. You may be liable for more than the cost of the toy, and should have your insurance agent review the contract to make sure you’re covered or if additional insurance is needed.

If the rental company sells insurance, check that it covers more than minimal coverage, such as only for damage caused to the vehicle and not to you.

If you rent recreational vehicles often, you may want to buy an umbrella policy to cover a wide range of such toys.

Snowmobile insurance

If you’ve left your snowmobile, motorhome, boat, jet ski, ATV, RV or other recreational toy at home, you still may be covered when renting a separate toy while on vacation. However, this coverage won’t come from your home insurance policy, which usually doesn’t provide supplemental coverage, says insurance expert Cristofer Pereyra.

“The extra insurance that the rental companies sell is very much necessary,” Pereyra says. “When renting a regular personal vehicle, however, coverage would extend from your regular auto insurance policy, under most policies.”

Check with your insurance agent to see if your auto insurance carries over to a rental. If it doesn’t, then what you’ll need is a separate policy for the snowmobile. Part of the coverage will carry over to rentals.

Most likely, the liability coverage on a snowmobile will carry over when renting another snowmobile. This can include bodily injury liability, which protects you if you cause an accident and someone’s hurt, typically covering the other person’s medical expenses.

Property damage liability may also be transferable, protecting you if you cause an accident that damages someone’s property, home, or vehicle.

What’s not covered

Collision and comprehensive coverage will not usually carry over. Collision coverage is for hitting another object, such as a tree, and comprehensive protects from damages to your snowmobile due to flooding, theft, vandalism or other reason not involving a crash with another vehicle.

If the machine is wrecked, you’re not covered. If you injure someone, you probably are covered.

A good rule to remember is “insurance follows the snowmobile.” Some states allow insurance to follow the operator, but the vast majority of states require coverages to follow the snowmobile.

If you’re riding a snowmobile that’s uninsured, or if you’re riding a snowmobile without the owner’s permission, then you’re most likely riding without any insurance protection.

Supplemental insurance

For only $13 per month on average, snowmobile insurance is a type of supplemental insurance that can protect a snowmobile. It protects you, your passenger, your snowmobile and someone else’s property. You’re even covered if your sled is in storage, needs a tow or need custom parts replaced.

Coverage can include bodily injury liability (if you cause an accident and someone’s hurt), property damage liability (you cause an accident and damage someone’s property), collision coverage (repairing your snowmobile after a collision), and comprehensive coverage (damage to your snowmobile from anything other than a crash with another vehicle, such as flooding, theft and vandalism).

Supplemental insurance can also be bought for a low monthly price to cover other off-road vehicles such as All-Terrain vehicles, or ATVs, golf carts, dune buggies, go carts and trail bikes that aren’t typically covered by homeowners and auto insurance policies.

To avoid accidents, it’s smart to know how to properly use a snowmobile and to check that everything is working correctly. Carry an emergency kit, know the local laws for riding, and only ride in areas where it’s permitted.

Also remember to wear a helmet, gloves and a windproof jacket to keep you warm and safe, and to take a break every few hours so you don’t get overly tired and have slow reaction times. It’s also smart to tell others your plan before leaving, don’t drink alcohol while operating a snowmobile, and drive slow at night so that you don’t over drive your headlights.

To make sure you have proper insurance, review your policy for your recreational toys at home and check with your insurance company before hitting the trail with someone else’s snowmobile — especially if you’re renting it.

Aaron Crowe is a journalist who covers the auto industry for