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Check Your Homeowner’s Policy for Coverage on Your Special Vehicles

Millions of Americans own special vehicles for recreation, personal assistance, property maintenance, and for other purposes. Residents and visitors in snow belt regions use snowmobiles. Golf carts cruise around golf courses and around many residential communities. Individuals with limited mobility use motorized wheelchairs and scooters. All-terrain vehicles and dune buggies are always popular. These vehicles can be expensive to purchase and can become involved in accidents. Individuals who own and use them need insurance protection when something goes wrong. Fortunately, the standard homeowner’s insurance policy provides some of the coverage users need.

The homeowner’s policy does not cover legal liability resulting from the use of motor vehicles that are registered for use on public roads or property or that the law requires to be registered for use at the place where the accident took place. However, it does provide some coverage for vehicles designed to be used off public roads if either the user does not own them or if the accident occurs on an “insured location,” as the policy defines that term. The term includes the place where the person named on the policy (the named insured) resides, other residences he acquires during the policy term, premises he doesn’t own and where he temporarily resides, vacant land he owns or rents, land he owns or rents where he is building a residence, and other premises he occasionally rents for non-business use.

Therefore, the homeowner’s policy will cover him for liability resulting from the use of:

* A motorized wheelchair at his home and surrounding property

* A dune buggy at a beach house he’s renting for a week

* A snowmobile he owns on vacant land he owns

* An ATV he rents while he uses it on someone else’s property.

It will not cover him if he takes a vehicle he owns off an insured location.

The policy contains special provisions regarding golf carts. It covers the person’s liability for use of a golf cart he owns that is designed to carry at most four people and is not designed to go faster than 25 M.P.H. on level ground. Coverage applies only if the accident occurs at a golfing facility or at a private residential community where golf carts can legally travel on its public roads, subject to the authority of a property owner’s association, and where an insured person has a residence. Therefore, an individual has coverage if he strikes a person with his golf cart while driving from one hole to another or if he lives in a gated community and damages a neighbor’s deck with his golf cart. He does not have coverage if he takes out a mailbox while driving a golf cart down a public road.

The policy covers certain vehicles if the insured person uses them solely to service his premises. For example, he would have coverage for a riding lawn mower that he uses on his own property, but he will not have coverage for it if he also uses it to cut a neighbor’s grass. The policy covers vehicles designed to assist the handicapped, but only while they are being used to assist a handicapped person or while they are parked on an insured location. A healthy 15 year-old who takes a handicapped person’s scooter for a joy ride does not have coverage.

Because coverage for these vehicles is so situation-dependent, people who own them should discuss the best way to insure them with a professional insurance agent. In some cases, policy changes may be available that will improve the coverage for an additional premium. All motorized vehicles carry a risk of accidents, so it is important to have the right insurance protection in place.