Whether you’re moving, road tripping or just need to tow a load, there are a few things to consider when it comes to towing a trailer. Not only do you have to worry about reversing with it, you also need to make sure you have the proper insurance. But, does your personal auto policy include coverage for a trailer or is extra insurance required? And how does this differ if you’re buying or renting a trailer? We’re here to talk about what coverage exists for your trailer, plus a couple of other trailer topics, so you’re ready to hitch up and drive off.
Here, we’re referring to a trailer as a non-motorized vehicle that is towed (or in other words, moved) by another motorized vehicle. This could include a travel trailer, storage trailer, or any other trailer that is hitched to your car.
When it’s attached to your vehicle, a trailer can have some coverage under your standard auto policy. As for how coverage applies, this can vary by province. It’s best to check your provincial policy wordings and your auto policy to see what limits or exclusions exist.
As a summary, here’s how your auto policy could cover a trailer:
- Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI – When any trailer (whether you own it or not) is hooked up to your car, your auto policy treats the trailer and your car as a single vehicle when it comes to
liability, accident benefitsand uninsured automobile coverages. In other words, when attached, a trailer is covered for these three coverages
- On the other hand, when it comes to Direct Compensation – Property Damage and physical damage coverage, your trailer and car will be treated as separate automobiles in determining your deductible and how much is covered in the event of a claim. It’s worth pointing out here that no physical damage coverage will extend from your auto policy to your trailer. However, in regards to Direct Compensation – Property Damage (which covers your car when you’re in a not at-fault accident), coverage will only extend to a trailer that’s not listed on your policy if:
- • You own it.
- • It isn’t designed or used for living in, carrying passengers, or for commercial purposes.
- • It is used or normally used with a vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight (GVW) rating of no more than 4,500 kg.
- Alberta – Any trailer used in connection with your car will be treated as one vehicle and covered for liability and accident benefits coverage by your auto policy. The two will be treated as separate automobiles in regards to the limit(s) of liability under your physical damage coverage. Again, no physical damage coverage will extend from your auto policy to your trailer.
- Quebec – When a trailer is connected to your car, they will be considered as one and the same vehicle under your auto policy for liability coverage. This means that if damage is caused by the vehicle or the trailer, a single amount of insurance will apply. In regards to physical damage coverage, if an attached trailer and vehicle suffer damage as part of the same claim, the two will be viewed as separate vehicles and their own coverage and deductible will apply.
- As for damage caused to a trailer that you don’t own, if the trailer is attached to a car used for personal purposes and has liability coverage, you’ll be covered as long as the trailer isn’t designed or used for living in, carrying passengers, demonstrations, sales, or as an office. This also applies if the non-owned trailer is not attached to a car used for personal purposes, but is usually hooked up to such a vehicle.
As mentioned, your auto policy does not come with physical damage coverage for an owned trailer. In other words, if you’re at-fault for an accident that causes damage to your trailer or if the trailer is stolen or vandalized, you’ll need to pay for this out of pocket. In order to secure physical damage coverage (aka
Insurers consider trailers to be miscellaneous or recreational vehicles. Not every insurance company offers specific insurance for a trailer, so you may need to do some shopping around (but comparing quotes is always a good idea anyway!). Just keep in mind, you will likely need to also insure your towing vehicle with the same insurance provider as your trailer.
As for a trailer you are renting, speak with the rental company to see what coverage is available.
Like personal belongings in your car, contents in your trailer are not covered under your auto policy if they are damaged or stolen. However, depending on the circumstances and the value of the loss, you may have coverage for these stolen or damaged items under your home policy.
Under a standard home policy, there can be some coverage already included for your boat for personal use only. This also includes the boat’s furnishings, accessories and equipment. Take a look through your home policy to see if you have coverage for your boat (and its trailer) and what exclusions and limits apply – you may need to add extra coverage to your policy to ensure your boat and all its accessories are properly insured.
On top of wanting to have the right insurance, there are a few other things you should keep in mind when picking and using a trailer. These considerations will help ensure everyone stays as safe as possible:
- Towing capacity. You’ll want to check your vehicle’s towing capacity before selecting a trailer. This will help make sure you’re not about to tow a trailer that’s too heavy for your car. Also, don’t forget to take the weight of your load into account too. It’s also a good idea to check if there are any weight restrictions on your auto policy.
- License class. The gross vehicle weight (GVW) of your trailer also plays a part in what license class you need in order to tow it. Check with your province to see what driver’s license class is cleared to tow the trailer you’re looking to haul – you may be good to go with your current license as is or you may need to add an endorsement; you might even need to get a higher license class in some cases.
- In Ontario, for example, to tow a trailer with a GVW of up to 4,600 kg, you need to have a valid G1, G2, or G driver’s license, or a higher class of license.1
- Registering your trailer. If you own your trailer, you’ll want to register it. Review what is required in your province to get your trailer properly registered and road worthy.
- Attaching a trailer. Make sure that you know how to properly attach your trailer to your car and that it is totally secure each time before driving off. The last thing you want is for your trailer to come unhitched while driving down the highway. Also, make sure that your trailer lights are working so others on the road know where you’re going. If you’re looking to add extra safety measures, consider using weight distribution hitches and sway bars.
- Loading a trailer. If your belongings aren’t secured on or in your trailer, they could end up damaged or damaging something (or someone) else. You also don’t want to open your trailer only to have things fall out. Take the time to strategically load your trailer. Pack most of the weight (but not all) at the front closest to your car. Also, don’t overload your trailer.
- Driving with a trailer. Towing a trailer can take some getting used to if you haven’t done it before. Just like learning to drive for the first time, it’s worth getting in some practice before hitting the road. When driving with a trailer, be sure to allow more room for breaking and be prepared to take wider turns.
- As for reversing with a trailer, this will be different than reversing without one. In order to get your trailer to where you want it to go when backing up, you’ll need to turn your steering wheel in the opposite direction of what you’re used to. One trick to make this a little easier is to hold the bottom of your steering wheel while reversing. To turn your trailer to the left, with your hands at the base of your steering wheel, turn clockwise (up to the left). Turning counter-clockwise (up to the right) will make the trailer go to the right.
No matter if you’re driving with or without a trailer, take the time to make sure you have the coverage you need. Get familiar with your auto policy and don’t hesitate to reach out to your insurer if you have questions.
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