Buying travel insurance is a no-brainer if you’re flying somewhere. But how about if you’re driving? Do you also need travel insurance for your next trip if you’re going by car?
You do, say experts like Michael Lowe. He says travel insurance is “a necessity for those traveling.”
“I’ve seen hundreds of cases where individuals are seeking compensation for their travel arrangements when they haven’t even bothered to cover themselves from the start,” says Lowe, who edits an auto components website.
And that applies to road trips, too. For drivers, travel insurance may be the most critical component of all.
Yes, you need travel insurance for your next trip
“Before pulling out of your driveway to hit the road this summer, it’s a smart move to put travel insurance on your pre-vacation checklist,” says Daniel Durazo, a spokesman for Allianz Travel. “Travel insurance may reimburse you for covered losses faced on the road such as trip cancellations or interruptions due to hurricanes and other weather-related events, to injuries or illness.”
The next months — and maybe years — will be huge for driving vacations. A recent survey by MMGY Global, a travel and tourism marketing agency, found that as the coronavirus pandemic starts to loosen its grip, 68% of consumers feel safe in their cars. Hankook Tire’s latest Gauge Index says 60% of Americans will take more trips by car as a result of the pandemic, probably because Americans currently feel more comfortable traveling by car than by plane.
And a Pilot Flying J survey in honor of the upcoming National Road Trip Day (May 22) suggested that COVID-19 is inspiring road trips this summer, with 65% of Americans increasing the number of trips they plan to take over the summer.
Travel insurance companies are scrambling to meet demand. Seven Corners recently unveiled a new insurance policy called Armor, which covers your family and the vehicles you leave back home, as well as illnesses and accidents. “The plan also covers the cost and arrangements for an emergency medical evacuation if you were at a medical facility that could not provide the care you needed,” says Jeremy Murchland, president of Seven Corners.
And Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection is about to launch a new insurance product called ExactCare Lite, designed for summer travelers. It protects the policyholder from losses related to nonrefundable lodging reservations, attraction tickets, and disruptions caused by traffic accidents.
And that raises the question: What does travel insurance cover if you’re driving?
Why you need travel insurance for your next trip if you’re driving
Here are the ways travel insurance can cover you if you’re on a road trip:
- You’re renting a car.
- You’re crossing the country in an RV.
- You have an unexpected cancellation or interruption.
- Your car breaks down.
- There’s a hurricane.
- You have a problem with your vacation rental.
- You have a car accident.
Travel insurance can cover your rental car
Some policies do, and some don’t, says Juan Fernandez, the Operating Partner of Elli Travel Group, a Virtuoso-affiliated boutique luxury travel agency. He recommends checking with both your auto insurance and your credit card to see what’s covered. “We had a client this winter who had a fender bender while in Steamboat; they rented their car using their Capital One credit card, which covered the $1,500 in body damage — no questions asked,” he says. It may also make sense to look into a separate car rental insurance policy through a company like InsureMyRentalCar.com.
Travel insurance can protect your RV vacation
Whether you rent or own a recreational vehicle, travel insurance can help. Trip cancellation and interruption benefits can reimburse you for nonrefundable, prepaid trip costs, such as RV rental costs and campground reservation fees, according to Allianz Travel. Also, it can help if you need to cut short your trip for a covered reason. But check the maximum trip length for your plan before you buy.
Travel insurance covers trip cancellations and interruptions
Bahar Schmidt, co-founder of VR Travel Agency, says travel insurance can protect you if you have to cancel a trip for a covered reason. He’s been recommending Travel Guard’s policies for his road trip clients. The high-end policies even cover more than your loss. For example, for trip interruptions, they cover 150% for the “preferred” and “deluxe” policies. “Travel insurance provides peace of mind,” he says.
Travel insurance can cover you if your car breaks down
Here’s another reason you need travel insurance for your next trip: Insurance can cover you if you run into mechanical problems, says Katia Lervasi, a travel insurance expert with Finder. “If your car needs repairs, your policy may help to cover the costs of accommodation, food and other traveling expenses while you wait,” she says.
Travel insurance provides medical coverage and 24/7 assistance
Some basic health insurance plans may not cover care received outside your home state. But travel insurance does, as long as your road trip is taking you more than 100 miles away from home. Companies like Arch RoamRight also provide access to a 24/7 emergency assistance line that puts trained emergency travel assistance providers at your fingertips. “Travelers should think about what happens if they have a health emergency while traveling domestically because it can be just as frustrating to be stuck in a hospital a few states away as it is to be stuck in one halfway around the world,” says Mike Hallman, CEO of Medjet, an air medical transport and travel security company.
Travel insurance can protect you from a hurricane
You also need travel insurance for your next road trip to protect against weather-related problems. “Most travel insurance plans offer cancellation and interruption coverage for hurricane-related reasons,” says Stan Sandberg, co-founder of TravelInsurance.com, a travel insurance site. “Some plans will also provide trip cancellation and interruption coverage if the roads to your destination are closed for more than 12 hours, preventing you from getting there.” That’s a significant benefit as the first named storm of the season has formed.
Travel insurance can cover a canceled vacation rental
During the coronavirus crisis, many travelers lost deposits for vacation rentals. Travel insurance can protect you, as long as you cancel for a covered reason. “Vacation rentals can be a big expense for road trippers,” says Rachel Coen, a spokeswoman for G1G Travel. “Think about a road trip to the Outer Banks or Miami. Week-long rentals can cost upwards of $1,000. Cancellation policies are often left to the rental agency and are more strict than travelers realize. Things like hurricane warnings or a family member becoming ill and needing care can be cause for cancellation, and travelers can be left with the costs.”
Travel insurance can cover expenses related to car accidents
You need travel insurance for your next trip because accidents can happen. “Driving may feel safer than flying these days,” says Lisa Cheng, a spokeswoman for World Nomads. But it isn’t. More than 4 million drivers were involved in car accidents in the United States last year that required medical attention, according to the National Safety Council. That makes medical coverage important, even on short road trips. Look for a policy that covers the basics, such as accidental death and dismemberment, which pays out a beneficiary such as a family member, should you get hurt in an accident or die during your travels.
Wait! Don’t buy your policy yet
Ready to buy a policy? Before you do, you have to know two things, according to experts.
First, you might already be covered. “You have to verify existing coverage,” says Pamella Seay, who teaches law at Florida Gulf Coast University.
Among the questions you should ask in determining if you need travel insurance for your next trip:
- Does my auto club cover any of that?
- What about my auto insurance and health insurance?
- Does this coverage extend to any of my family or other travelers with me?
Second, you have to read the policy carefully to determine what is – and isn’t – covered.
“Each policy varies on what is not covered, notes Sara Routhier, the managing editor for 360 Quote. “Like any other insurance, travel insurance does not cover everything. They may not cover cancellations for everything, there may be a pre-existing condition clause you are required to sign, and there are certain exclusions.”
Experts like Janice Holly Booth, author of the book Only Pack What You Can Carry, agree. Careful research is vital.
“Read the fine print and talk to an agent before you buy,” she says. “Get what you can to protect yourself and your loved ones, keeping in mind the limitations.”
Need travel insurance for your next trip? Consider a “cancel for any reason” policy
If you’re looking for a sure thing, you can spend more for a cancel for any reason policy. I wrote about these policies and how you can use it after the pandemic in a recent story.
“Travel insurance has a long list of covered reasons for trip cancellation, but coronavirus-related concerns would not be one of them,” explains Damian Tysdal, host of the Safe Travels podcast. “A cancel for any reason policy lets you cancel your trip up until 48 hours before departure, for any reason, and get up to 75% of your trip expenses reimbursed.”
A cancel for any reason policy is particularly important if there’s another coronavirus outbreak.
“Many of the unprecedented impacts on travel related to COVID-19 are not covered by standard insurance policies, like stay at home orders and border closures,” warns Kasara Barto, a spokeswoman for Squaremouth.com. “The best cancellation option during this time of uncertainty around travel is still a cancel for any reason policy.”
Bottom line: You need travel insurance even if you’re just taking a road trip this summer. The right policy can protect you from losses that result natural disasters, accidents and medical problems.