Anyone who lives in a climate with a true winter knows how useful, and how much fun, snowmobiles can be. Whether you’re getting around after a blizzard, accessing the back country on a ski outing, or simply enjoying the crisp air on a beautiful day, a snowmobile can be an amazing tool any time there’s snow on the ground. But few things can throw a wrench in winter excursions like a broken-down snowmobile or, even worse, a snowmobile accident. That’s why there’s snowmobile insurance.
The modern snowmobile, sometimes called a “sled” or “snowmachine,” can typically carry one or two people. Some snowmobiles can weigh between 500 and 1,000 pounds and move at speeds well over 100 miles per hour (the record is 172.2 mph). The combination of such masses and speeds can cause expensive damage to both property and people. Even a scrape against a tree can cost hundreds of dollars to repair.
Fortunately, you can buy snowmobile insurance to cover all or most of the costs if any of these risks become realities. Snowmobile insurance is a form of personal auto insurance. Snowmobile insurance can cover everything from medical bills to replacing your favorite snowmobile accessories. That’s why more and more Americans are discovering the benefits of snowmobile insurance.
Snowmobiling can be a risky venture. From minor scrapes to broken bones, injuries are unfortunately something that far too many snowmobilers know about firsthand. But what happens if you injure someone else (or multiple people) while riding your snowmobile? You might be liable for their bodily injuries and be forced to pay their medical expenses.
As everyone knows, the bills from a serious injury could be enough to take a chunk out of your personal savings or even bankrupt you. That’s why many snowmobile owners have purchased Bodily Injury Liability insurance. If you have Bodily Injury Liability coverage, then your insurance company will cover the other person/people’s medical expenses so you don’t have to.
Bodily Injury Liability policies are available with different dollar amount limits that you can choose from. These limits apply to the maximum amount paid per person injured and the maximum total amount paid per accident regardless of the number of people injured. For instance, a relatively inexpensive Bodily Injury Liability policy might have a $10,000 limit per person, and a $25,000 cap overall. That would mean if three people were injured in the crash, only a total of $25,000 would be paid out by the insurer for all of the medical expenses, and no more than $10,000 could go toward any one individual.
Similarly, Property Damage Liability coverage will provide you with financial protection if you’re at fault in an accident that causes damage to someone else’s property such as vehicles, fences, or buildings. If you don’t have this insurance in place, you could be held liable and forced to pay to repair or replace the other person’s vehicle, fence, or building. Many insurance companies bundle Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability coverages into very affordable policies.
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage
What if you collide with someone else, you are injured and your sled is damaged, and the collision is the other guy’s fault? If the other guy has adequate insurance coverage for Bodily Injury Liability and Property Damage Liability, then his insurance company should cover your medical bills and the repair costs for your snowmobile. Unfortunately, the other guy might not have enough liability insurance (underinsured) or he might not have any liability insurance at all (uninsured).
Fortunately, you can purchase Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage to protect yourself from just this type of scenario. Depending on the policy you choose, Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist insurance can cover the costs related to your bodily injuries, your property damage, or both.
Protecting Your Investment
Snowmobiles can cost anywhere from $3,000 for a youth model to more than $15,000 for a high performance racer. There are many ways a snowmobile can sustain damage resulting in costly repairs. With a combination of Collision coverage and Comprehensive coverage, you can protect your investment and eliminate or reduce any potential repair costs.
Collision coverage is designed to reimburse you for any snowmobile repair costs that result from a collision with another vehicle or object. Whether it’s hitting a big rock hidden under fresh snow, scraping against a tree, or running into another snowmobile, there are many types of collisions that could damage your snowmobile. With Collision coverage, you can enjoy your ride while protecting yourself from the financial risk of collision damage to your sled.
For people who are far enough off the beaten path to use a snowmobile, there are a lot of things that could happen to your sled for which Comprehensive coverage will provide crucial protection. When it comes to snowmobile damage that doesn’t involve a collision, owners should have Comprehensive coverage in place.
If your snowmobile is stolen, good Comprehensive coverage should reimburse you. Comprehensive coverage will also provide financial protection in case your snowmobile catches on fire, is vandalized, or is crushed under an avalanche.
Snowmobiles across the country are damaged every spring as the snow melts. Parking a snowmobile next to your house may seem like a smart and convenient idea. But occasionally ice can come cascading off a roof and if your snowmobile is in the wrong spot it can sustain immense damage. Comprehensive insurance should cover these repairs.
Snowmobiles are sometimes parked on a hillside that seems completely stable in the middle of winter, but when the snow melts away the snowmobile could end up rolling down a hill and crashing into something. As far-fetched as that may sound, it has happened to snowmobile owners in the past, and it will almost certainly happen to some unlucky owners in the future. Without the protection of Comprehensive coverage, these owners would need to either pay for their repairs out-of-pocket or go without their snowmobiles.
Custom Parts and Accessories Coverage
Damage to a snowmobile can obviously be an expensive problem without the right insurance coverage in place. For many outdoors enthusiasts, damage to the bells and whistles that go along with the snowmobile can be very costly as well. From communication devices and stereos to trailers and windshields, many snowmobile owners like to add extras to customize their ride. Such items can be extremely expensive, which is why many owners buy insurance policies that cover Custom Parts and Accessories.
People who go a step above when customizing and accessorizing their snowmobile should consider using a similar approach when shopping for insurance. Everything from handle bar muffs, GPS systems, sled covers, cameras, and even exhaust-heated food-warmers (yes, these actually exist) can be covered with the right Custom Parts and Accessories policy.
Some of these policies will also cover damage to safety gear. A proper helmet is among the most important tools to protect the physical safety of snowmobile riders. Moving at high speeds and with few restraints, there are many opportunities for head injuries on a snowmobile. However, many riders are unaware that a helmet’s protective ability can be compromised after one crash. Even those riders who know that helmets aren’t effective after a crash may decide not to purchase a replacement due to the price tag of new helmets. Because safety is always a high priority when it comes to snowmobiles, having insurance that covers helmet damage can make a big difference in the long run.
Some snowmobile owners use their sled to clear driveways or parking lots with a snowplow attachment. Because so much force is constantly being put on the plow blade, it is one of the parts of the sled that is most frequently damaged. A Custom Parts and Accessories policy may cover the cost of repairing the plow and will help to put the snowmobile back in use.
For many passionate snowmobile owners, the customization and accessories are what truly define not only the ride but also the rider. Because every sled owner has different needs with their Custom Parts and Accessories coverage, these policies are sold at varying levels of coverage. A more basic snowmobiler might be content with insurance limited to a few hundred dollars worth of coverage, while a devoted enthusiast might want their limit set at several thousand dollars. Insurers require customers to document their custom parts and accessories in different ways. Make sure to tell any potential insurers about your snowmobile’s custom parts and accessories to find out how you can get adequate protection.
When shopping for snowmobile insurance, don’t forget to inquire about any potential discounts that may be available to you. Many insurance companies offer a discount if you complete a snowmobile safety course. From the insurer’s perspective, providing insurance for a cautious person is often cheaper in the long run than providing insurance for a reckless person. Progressive offers discounts for snowmobile owners “if you have no at-fault accidents during your previous policy period” or if you’ve had “no accidents or violations on your driving record for the last three years.” These safety-oriented discounts have the dual benefits of rewarding the most responsible individuals while encouraging everyone to ride and drive as safely as possible.
The Dangers of Snowmobiling Under The Influence
Any article about protecting against snowmobile risks should at least mention the problem of riding under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Despite public policies and common sense, far too many people attempt to operate snowmobiles while intoxicated every year. As a result, alcohol is a prominent cause of snowmobile crashes, injuries, and deaths.
According to a study for the Wisconsin Medical Journal:
“From 2002-2004, 51 snowmobile-related fatalities were reported to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources… Alcohol played a substantial role in the fatalities, with 63% of those who died having a blood alcohol level (BAL) over the legal limit for driving in Wisconsin, and an additional 14% having some alcohol measurable in the blood.”
These statistics are only from a few years in one state, but they are a good illustration of the serious dangers that come from mixing alcohol and snowmobiling.
Every snowmobile owner and user should keep in mind that driving a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol is illegal across the country. In many states the same exact laws hold for snowmobiling as for driving a car while intoxicated or under the influence. Even in states where the snowmobile and car laws diverge, there are still laws regarding the use of such a large and heavy vehicle while on drugs or alcohol. With regard to insurance, it’s also worth noting that if you are convicted of driving a car or riding a snowmobile while under the influence, there is a very good chance that your insurance premiums will increase significantly for both vehicles.
Snowmobiling is popular in a number of states, but every state is different. Let’s take a look at a few of the differences that snowmobilers should keep in mind.
If you live in a state with a significant amount of snow, most big insurance companies are aware of the potential customer segment and thus prepared to provide you with snowmobile insurance. However, if you are a resident of Hawaii, Florida, Georgia, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, or even several of the more southern midwestern states, it can be difficult to find snowmobile coverage. As snowmobiles are less popular in these areas with typically mild winters, this usually doesn’t pose much of a problem.
There are some residents of warm states who like to spend part of the year in the cold states so they can enjoy snowmobiling and other winter activities. If you are one of these winter travelers, you can almost certainly purchase snowmobile insurance as long as your snowmobile is registered in the state in which it is being used. A quick discussion with an independent insurance professional can help determine the best solution for any southern snowmobile enthusiasts.
Registration and Insurance Requirements
Most states that have ample opportunities for snowmobile use require that owners register their sleds with the state. State registration fees are usually relatively inexpensive (usually under $100). As state laws are constantly in flux, it’s always a good idea to double-check the requirements with your relevant state agency.
Importantly, a few states (e.g. Vermont and Pennsylvania) require snowmobile owners to carry some minimum level of liability insurance coverage to ride on public grounds or certain state property. For instance, according to the Vermont Snowmobile Manual:
“All individuals operating a snowmobile in Vermont on the statewide snowmobile trails system, shall have a liability insurance policy or bond in the amounts of at least $25,000 for one person and $50,000 for two or more persons killed or injured and $10,000 for damages to property in any one accident. Persons caught operating a snowmobile without the required liability coverage are subject to large fines.”
It is impossible to see into the future, but it would not be a major surprise if more states were to follow this model and make it a legal requirement to carry liability insurance for snowmobiles.
Riding a snowmobile is an exhilarating activity that many people are engaging in all across the country. As with almost everything fun in life, there are associated risks that come with it. While practicing safe snowmobile riding techniques is essential, you can never completely eliminate all risks. With the right insurance in place, you can ensure that these risks will have a minimal effect on your life, so you can continue snowmobiling for many years to come.
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