Insurance needs for your ATV

Michele C. Hollow

Whether they’re dune buggies, dirt bikes or snowmobiles, all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) – also known as off-road or utility vehicles – can go as fast as cars. And like cars, they have the potential to seriously injure drivers, passengers and passersby.

ATVs also can cause financial harm.

Many states require ATV insurance for vehicles driven on state-owned land, such as parks, according to Progressive. However, car insurance and home insurance policies normally don’t cover these vehicles.

Jeff McCarthy, manager of Harrington Insurance Agency in Massachusetts, says the danger that ATVs pose to you and others is a good reason to buy ATV insurance.

“The other (reason) is to cover the machine itself,” McCarthy says. “You can easily spend up to $15,000 on a high-end snowmobile. And other off-road vehicles can be pricey too. So, you need insurance to protect your investment.”

The ABC’s of ATV insurance

According to Progressive, ATV insurance is sold much like car insurance is. The types of coverage available are:

  • Comprehensive. This coverage pays for damage to your ATV that’s caused something other than a collision. If your ATV is damaged by fire, theft, vandalism, flooding or even an animal, comprehensive coverage will kick in, according to Progressive.
  • Collision. This coverage pays for damage to your ATV if you hit another ATV, a tree, a parked vehicle, a big rock, a stump, a fence post or some other obstacle, Progressive says. Keep in mind that collision coverage doesn’t pay to fix things like scrapes, scratches and minor dents.
  • Bodily injury and property damage liability. This coverage offers pays for injuries to people or damage to property caused by your ATV, Progressive says. Liability coverage also protects your assets in case you’re sued.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist. If the person at fault in an accident doesn’t have insurance or doesn’t have enough insurance, this coverage will pay for injuries and damages caused by the at-fault motorist, Progressive says.

Lee Schuett, a service technician for a milking equipment company in Wisconsin, owns an Arctic Cat dirt bike. Wisconsin doesn’t require insurance for the bike, but he has it anyway.

“This is my second ATV,” Schuett says. “I have insurance because trails are public roadways through the woods, which makes it no different than operating a car.”

Schuett pays $184 a year for ATV insurance. His annual deductible is $250. Prices for ATV insurance vary by the type of vehicle and state, but a premium of $300 to $500 a year is typical.

Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the nonprofit Insurance Information Institute, says homeowner’s insurance policies typically exclude ATVs because “they represent an above-average risk.”

“However, there may be coverage available under the homeowner’s policy if the ATV is owned by the homeowner and is used only on the property owned by that homeowner, such as snowmobiling on property you own behind your residence,” McChristian says.

ATV safety

According to the ATV Safety Institute, the U.S. has about 35 million riders who operate more than 10 million ATVs. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons says more than 150,000 in 2007.

In 2007, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, 766 died in ATV accidents in the U.S. More than one-fourth of the people who died were under age 16. More than 150,000 people in the U.S. were injured in ATV accidents in 2007.

The ATV Safety Institute offers these tips for safely riding an ATV:

  • Always wear a federally approved helmet as well as goggles, long sleeves, long pants, over-the-ankle boots and gloves.
  • Never ride on paved roads except to cross when done safely and allowed by law.
  • Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Never carry a passenger on a single-rider ATV, and no more than one passenger on an ATV that’s designed for two people.
  • Ride an ATV that’s right for your age.
  • Supervise riders younger than 16. “ATVs are not toys,” the institute says.
  • Ride only on designated trails and at safe speeds.

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