TechnomadicsVagabonding Europe

Having just bought a motorhome, the past few days have been primarily spent navigating the maze that is the world of insurance. With my efforts and those of my virtual assistant Louise, at least 15-20 man-hours have been spent on the problem, so I thought I’d summarise our findings.

Firstly: Insurance is an absolute bastard when you’re different. This is, of course, no particular revelation, but I hadn’t realised the magnitude of the bastardness.

Update: This article mentions an insurer called Downunder Insurance, who we were insured with for a year. If possible, avoid Downunder at all costs: Their customer service is negligent and appallingly bad — while enquiring about a claim, I was ignored, emails never answered, calls not returned, for example — and they are documentation-shy (a dangerous thing for an insurer to be), refusing to offer anything to support my no-claims status to the insurers we moved to.

We started with an article I found on Australian motorhomers travelling in Europe, which discussed just how tricky insurance is for us. It mentioned Downunder Insurance as one very expensive but available option, but left us with no other options. We were aware of the weird dealer ‘leaseback’ thing for buying in Europe, where the dealer registers and insures the van in their name, having leased the van back from the buyer, and then sub-leasing it back. Dodgy and leaves us vulnerable to dealer shenanigans.

I didn’t want to admit defeat there, so: Louise trawled websites of insurers with our situation in mind, and for the first pass, concluded that the original article was basically spot on, and that no one would be willing to help us aside from Downunder. The main problems were that most insurance companies only support actual use of a motorhome for about 90 days in a year (useless for ‘fulltimers’), and that UK residency is required.

The latter residency problem was a slightly vague limitation, so I dug a little deeper, assisted by advice from Steve, the dealer we bought our motorhome from, who suggested that getting British licences may help. Louise heard that registration with a UK doctor can make a big difference, something which didn’t turn out to lead anywhere, so I moved on.

I spent a few hours on the phone; It turned out we could get British licences, within 15 days or so. I spoke to one insurer, Coversure, who were happy to keep talking to me after I said I’d recently moved to the UK and was about to get a British licence. They wouldn’t give us more than 60 days of cover in a year, so it didn’t lead anywhere, but it was promising. If I could find an insurer who would similarly accept us and offer 365 days/year cover, we’d be set.

More time on the phone, with lots of no’s, and I was thrilled to find Safeguard insurance, who would cover us for 365 days, as long as we had Brit licences, and were enrolled to vote. I had a niggling feeling about the feasibility of the latter and so felt very smug when I discovered that, in fact, Australians, as Commonwealth citizens, are entitled to enrol to vote immediately upon settlement in the UK! We picked up the paperwork with no troubles, and found out that as long as we got licences and enrolled within 30 days, we could take out an insurance policy with Coversure immediately!

So, I called up and started the application process, which went smoothly until everything went downhill, and Coversure decided that no, actually, they wouldn’t help. It turns out the size of our motorhome is a mite bigger than they will happily insure us for. Wish they’d thought of that before we ran around town collecting forms.

At this point I was fairly desperate, so I asked a few more questions of Coversure, and found out that our recently-arrivedness was the problem – when they put ‘lived in UK 1 year’ into the computer, it said yes.

So, anyway, defeat snatched from the jaws of victory, I reluctantly called up Downunder insurance, and forked over £840 (about $1750 AUD) for a year of comprehensive insurance. If we don’t have some kind of major catastrophe that costs a few million to fix, I’ll be very upset.

Next year, I’ll call up Coversure. Till then, we’ll get Brit licences ASAP, so we can say we’ve held them for a full year next time.

I wish I had better news for fellow travellers, but it looks like the insurance world doesn’t like us very much!

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7 Responses to On motorhome insurance

  1. Neerav says:

    Wow that is really a rollercoaster soap opera style tale of insurance hell

    If it cheers you up at all at least the exchange rate is good for you at 1 GBP=2.08 AUD

    When i was based in the UK during 2003 1 GBP=2.40/2.50 AUD :(

  2. Michael says:

    Whew, that’s a good point, Neerav – makes me feel much better. Saved us about $5000 AUD there, with our motorhome!

  3. john bryant says:

    Hi On our way to the UK (arriving mid June) to buy and use a motorhome for 3 months and then ship it back to NZ. Checked with Downunder a while ago their quote was expensive but at least available. After reading the above article.I have just rechecked to find that they are no longer offering Motorhome Insurance. So, I guess we are in the POO! With many years of no claims bonuses to our names and no one will cover us, and to think we turned down a good camper swap (we have done 2 previously which worked out great) prior to deciding on buying a camper in the UK. Anyone want to do an exchange with us we have a 2004 Elddis 400 4berth only done 7,000miles,

  4. Michael says:

    Oh, no! That sucks, John – I had no idea they’re no longer doing motorhomes. I actually thought that was their main business operation.

    That doesn’t bode well for us either, if what the other insurers said about being able to insure us after a year turns out to be false.

    Best of luck doing what you can to make the best of this crappy situation!

  5. Jay says:

    John and Michael, just to let you know Downunder does still do Motorhome insurance. It’s just there website quote engine which is being re-built so quotes can only be got over the phone.

    They say the motor quote engine will be back up and running by the end of October.

  6. Michael says:

    Oh, that’s good to know, Jay. I did call them recently and they offered to send me a quote form… I couldn’t be bothered because they really screwed us around last year, but it’s good to know they’re still an option for those who are desperate =)

  7. Jay says:

    I know what you mean Michael, other people I know had the same experience but we used them recently and found then quick and efficient. I do know they changed underwriters last year, perhaps they had a few teething issues.