One of the most important things we recommend families do before undertaking a road trip is to take out travel insurance. In fact, it’s the #1 item we recommend on our family road trip essentials checklist.
So why is it so important?
And are you asking don’t I have other insurances which cover my car for a road trip? Let’s take a closer look at exactly why your family road trip needs a specific travel insurance policy.
Does travel insurance cover road trips?
Even if you think “I’m not going that far from home”, never underestimate the importance of taking out travel insurance. We ordinarily think of big overseas flights and fancy package holidays when taking out insurance to cover our travels.
Travel insurance can cover you away from home, no matter your mode of transport.
Whether the drive itself is the vacation or driving is a means to an end destination, travel insurance can cover any mishaps and unexpected turns along the way. This includes your vehicle, your belongings and the health of your family.
Doesn’t car insurance cover me for road trips?
If you are taking your own vehicle from home with you on a road trip, it’s highly likely that your ordinary car insurance policy will only cover damage to your vehicle, or caused by your vehicle.
What if as a result of an accident you’re delayed getting to your next destination, or need to curtail your whole trip and head home? What if you are injured during your trip and need specialist treatment far from home?
Car insurance is for cars and any damage they may cause; it does not cover every aspect of a road trip.
What about my roadside assist service?
Roadside assist is sometimes covered within your car insurance policy, or could be an added extra that you purchase specifically to assist in the event of a breakdown – think things like a flat tire, dead battery or locking your keys in the car.
Roadside service policies may well be of use when you’re on short road trips from home, within your own state or country. It’s highly likely if you are crossing state or country borders your roadside assist service will no longer cover you.
Travel insurance may well include some of these things too, but your roadside assist still will not be of help for trip interruption as a result of breaking down.
What might I need road trip insurance for?
So now we know not all eventualities can be covered by existing insurance policies and roadside assistance services, what exactly WILL be covered by travel insurance for a road trip?
Unexpected medical emergencies on the road
Most accidents and emergencies are just that; they are hard to predict and you never know when they could happen.
Your ordinary health insurance may not cover you when you are a certain distance from home or need to use out-of-network health care providers – think ambulances to emergency dental care or a trip to a hospital A&E department.
You travel insurance will cover gaps in emergency medical coverage. Whether this is a simply doctors visit or something more serious, even needing to be checked into a hospital or medevacked home.
This could be a family member falling ill immediately prior to your trip commencing or being called in for jury service. Any pre-paid expenses that you will incur that cannot be refunded can be covered with road trip insurance, if you take your policy out at the time of booking in your road trip.
Protection for stolen belongings and baggage
A common issue for campers particularly. As long as you have taken steps to keep your items secure, in the event of theft or damage to any of your personal property on the road you can claim for the replacement or reimbursement value of these items (usually up to a maximum value limit).
Families beware how much this will cover in total. Frequently there are overall limits on how much can be claimed on items such as electronics. Check that your insurance will cover the entire replacement value of the goods you will be bringing with you.
Rental car insurance for vehicle damage
One of the heftiest hidden costs on a family road trip when you’re renting your vehicle can be the damage protection insurance required on top of the hire charge; or more importantly, the excess they will insist you have to pay if the vehicle does receive damage during your rental period.
Don’t feel obliged to take the insurance that is being offered by the rental company!
If you have a travel insurance policy with a rental car damage protector clause then you are covered for these sorts of incidents and do not need to pay twice for this protection.
Road trip interruptions and delay
This is when things go wrong en route; and probably the most important one for road trippers. It doesn’t need to be directly connected to your vehicle and driving, just incidents that happen away from home.
From minor breakdowns that delay you on your journey through to more serious scenarios such as your driver becoming incapacitated and you can’t get your vehicle home. This can also cover incidents such as your route becoming unpassable or problems with getting to your pre-booked accommodation.
Any sort of delay or cancellation to your trip, your travel insurance can cover your costs until you are back on track or help you recover any pre-paid and non-refundable trip expenses that you’ve had to forfeit.
It’s always worth checking the policy fine print. They will likely stipulate a certain number of hours your trip has been delayed by before a claim can be made or the reason for the disruption; natural events such as bushfires changing your route may NOT be covered.
Emergency assistance at any hour of the day
Access to a 24/7 Emergency Assistance team is one of the most invaluable features of having a travel insurance policy for your road trip. Accidents and emergencies invariably seem to happen when you are away from familiar faces and places and don’t know who to turn to.
With an emergency assistance team, no matter where you are in the world insurance companies will have an international network of mechanical and medical experts to help you out of whatever sticky situation you find yourself in.
Watch for exclusions of road trip travel insurance
We’ve already touched on a few of these above but it’s worth drawing your attention to some of the common exclusions in road trip travel insurance policies.
- Not all insurances treat your road trip vehicle the same. Read the fine print if there is a limit on rental car damage, perhaps they’ll only cover a standard family sedan or SUV but not high-end sports cars, campers and RV’s.
- Health coverage may exempt you from anything considered a pre-existing condition, including illness, disease or other medical condition for which you’ve previously shown symptoms or been treated for prior to your coverage starting.
- Any incidents that may be deemed a result or reckless or irresponsibly behavior such as being intoxicated or under the influence of drugs.
- There may be limits on the value that’s covered for particular items such as high end sports equipment, musical instruments or professional tools.
But I’ve never had an issue before!
Never say never, right? Remember the finance ads on TV, “past performance is not a reliable indicator of future outcomes”.
In the world we live in today, more than ever, we have seen just how quickly things can go wrong and emergency situations can arise.
Don’t assume because you’re not heading far from home or you’re not traveling internationally that you don’t have something worth protecting.
Who do we recommend for road trip travel insurance?
This can somewhat depend on where you are based and where you are travelling to.
For international travelers, it’s hard to look past the traveler-focused brand of World Nomads.