Last week while trimming bushes in my yard, I turned at the blast of motors racing down the road in front of our home and glimpsed two ATV’s as they shot by. Their drivers were small, thin, and crowned by large helmets, their appearance resembling bobblehead toys. They were neighborhood kids, no doubt, eager to escape the coronavirus lockdown and get some fresh air. I had to smile because I too, at their age, enjoyed riding dirt bikes and was guilty of periodically hopping onto public roads to get between riding areas.
But now, biased by years of working in the insurance industry, my perspective has changed. As these youngsters blasted by, I couldn’t help but think, “Do their parents know the huge liability that just rocketed down the road in front of my house?” And today, ATVs aren’t only for kids. Now the toys are larger, faster, and often carry adults at twice the speed and equal amounts abandon.
Before we dive into answering how to insure non-licensed vehicles and the liability they create, we should first answer the skeptic. Like myself, many grew up behind the wheel of one motorized conveyance or another, recklessly blasting through fields, forest, and streets. What can go wrong?
- Golf carts are legal in your jurisdiction, so you and visiting relatives take in the sights while driving one around town. You fail to yield at a stop sign, causing an accident with a car and injuring not only your passengers but also several pedestrians.
- Your daughter, while driving in a group of ATVs with other friends, makes a sudden turn in front of another, causing it to wreck. GoPro video documented the entire event in high definition. The parents of one of the injured kids sues for medical bills.
- Friends visit and you allow them to run around the property on your snow mobiles. The vehicle breaks, injuring one of the passengers and they sue, alleging inadequate instruction and gross negligence evidenced by poor maintenance practices.
In fact, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, in 2018, the most recent year analyzed at the time of writing this article, 81,800 people were treated by emergency rooms in the U.S. for ATV-related injuries, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Golf carts performed better, but still scored 147,696 emergency room-treated injuries during a sixteen-year study period. However, the trend for golf cart injuries is rising due to their growing popularity and use on public streets.
Thus, the largest risks of non-licensed vehicles is not wrecking the vehicle or even damaging someone else’s property, but rather injuring other people.
First, standard auto insurance does not cover non-licensed vehicles or vehicles designed primarily for use off public roads. A few insurance companies will endorse (add to) a personal auto policy to cover limited use of golf carts or ATVs. However, because this coverage is limited in nature and exposes your auto policy rates to increased risk, we recommend this coverage only under limited circumstances. Further, most home insurance policies exclude liability for any such vehicle when operated away from the home.
Instead, the best way to protect yourself and your financial well-being is with a separate specialty policy. Whether you enjoy driving a golf cart, ATV, UTV, ROV, snowmobile, or any other non-licensed off-road vehicle, specialty coverage is available. Starting at only $100 per year, these policies are quite affordable and offer broad coverage designed specifically for the risks of your vehicle. Pricing can be higher depending on your specific vehicle, its value, and the coverages provided.
Insurance for golf carts, ATV’s, snowmobiles, and more is similar to auto insurance. Protections can include:
- Liability for Bodily Injury and Property Damage: Covers harm to others or their property. Does not cover injury to your passengers.
- Medical Payments: Coverage for medical bills of the vehicle driver and your passengers.
- Personal Injury Protection: Extended coverage for the vehicle driver and passengers, including lost wages. This coverage varies by state and is not available in all states.
- Collision: Coverage to the vehicle for damage from an accident with another vehicle.
- Comprehensive: Coverage to the vehicle for damage caused by something other than an accident, such as theft, fire, or vandalism.
And don’t forget about your personal umbrella liability policy! Ensure your umbrella extends coverage over any golf cart/ATV insurance policy.
Please contact us with any ATV or golf cart insurance questions. Not a client of ours? Let us compete for your business! Each client is assigned a personal agent in our office, given their email address, and provided a phone number that rings right on their desk.