Insuring Your Tiny House on Wheels

Tarsha Downing who is building a tiny house and keeps us updated on facebook and also her personal blog is coming right along with her build.

As Tarsha invests more and more into her home she was wondering what other owners with tiny houses on wheels have done for insurance? If it is possible to acquire it and how to approach an insurance company to insure the tiny house?

If you have had experience insuring a tiny house on wheels, please use the comment section to respond to Tarsha’s question. I will than post an update to share the knowledge with everyone.

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Diane - February 2, 2010 Reply

My husband and I insure our park model through Foremost Insurance, who specializes in manufactured homes. We pay about $500 a year for about $62,000 of full replacement coverage.

For a really tiny house, though, I might recommend looking into the type of insurance available for full-timers (those who live in their rv’s year round). I know there are some companies that offer such insurance with full replacement coverage for contents as well as the vehicle/trailer, though I’m not sure which companies those are.

Terry & Bess - February 2, 2010 Reply

on wheels house is rv. my 24 foot travel trailer is with geico 67.00 a 6 month span

    Kevin - March 25, 2015 Reply

    Did you tell Geico it was home made? Did they ask questions about a ‘make and model’ or were you as vague as possible? Just give them size and estimated value of structure and contents? Thanks

    Taryn Walker - March 25, 2017 Reply

    I would love some more information on your process with Geico. They insure my car. would love to keep it all with one company. what does 67. every 6 months cover?
    Thanks

Ann (ProtoHaus builder) - February 2, 2010 Reply

We were unable to find conventional insurance for ProtoHaus… all companies said that because there is no manufacturer that they could sue for damages that the under-writers would not accept ProtoHaus. We ended up with just a liability policy that covers my artwork (protohaus is technically my MFA graduate studio work) weather in the studio or on location…. However, if anyone has been successful finding traditional insurance I’d love to know about how and where they found it!

MoonStar - February 2, 2010 Reply

Our long time insurance company is Auto Owners. They will provide any type of property or liability insurance. We insured our RV for the purchase price and also insured the contents. Our total insurance policy is $30,000 and it costs us $25 a month. We have filed a claim and were happy to promptly receive money for repairs.

mike - February 2, 2010 Reply

will you be living in your house full time?you may be able to insure it as a cottage if you have land what state are you in may make a difference i havent checked into insurance on my little house as of yet its not finished but ill let ya know asap also yous is very good looking keep up the good work mike mm225490@yahoo.com

JT - February 3, 2010 Reply

I would just register and insure the tini house on wheels as a Home made Camper.

JT

Arlos - February 3, 2010 Reply

What has raised red flags for me looking at various projects are the use of fasteners normally used but designed for other purposes for attaching the housing to a trailer limiting its ability to get insurance, safety not withstanding. There do not seem to be a set of standards to adhere to and this is left to the designers and builders of tiny mobil homes. Manufactured homes adapted the UBC in the late 70’s but the frames were specifically desgned for this purpose and a lot of what I see is adapting the trailer to the house and most likely, never the intended purpose of the trailer.
In the early 80’s i rebuilt motor homes for my father in-law who’s body and frame business was over run with these where the owners had taking out the back and sides in back up boo boos and the general road rashes incurred during use. what opened my eyes was the uniform poor construction of nearly all. these for the most part were assembled from 2″ X2″ doug fir framing fastened with staples. and no shear but thin exterior skin was the only “protection.”
As nice as many of these projects are, none have been tested for safety and the constant battering, buffeting of winds, weather and the road have to take a toll not yet reported.
I have the great good fortune to have my father as the engineer who co-ordinated the construction of Disney’s, “House of the Future” what was truly amazing was when it was time to dismantle this attraction, a wrecking ball merely bounced off the sides of the home. This project also included his early work on seismic stability and the application here is the road offers the greatest challenge to buffer wind shear and loads at speed transfered to the home at the back of the car. I hope to see more evolution in the robust construction without compromising design and a uniform set of standards where insurance companies might find favorable.
I was thinking about this site yesterday morning while consulting on a 13 bath, 22 bedroom home near Los Gatos Ca for water quality issues. yesterday and thinking how is it this has become the pinnacle of life’s achievements, all the while thinking how can I downsizing my own life. Living small allows one to really live large.

    Ryan Mitchell - February 3, 2010 Reply

    You mentioned UBC: what is that?

    As for fasteners to the trailer, what would be better? How would one take steps to meet these stresses?

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      Arlos - February 3, 2010 Reply

      The UBC is the uniform building code. Materials for home construction are not intended for a mobil application. I saw a photo of one of Jay Shaffer’s projects where an angle clip normaly used to secure a rim joist behind a shear wall used to hold a floor joist to a plywood substrate on the trailer, clearly not the design of the fastener. What would be acceptable? this is an area wide open to an enterprising soul. this means design fabricate and have tested by a lab like UL. this has to take so many load factors and transfer that to another. Energy from axial loads due to winds, dynamic loads during a seismic event transfer energy to the ground or buffer it. This is such a young industry in it’s own right that it opens doors to new ideas. There is no one solutions. I know when I’ve had to design piping systems as an engineer for marine application one of the primary consideration is the movement based on conditions found under stress due to compression, tension and rotation and pressure. the life cycle of a fastening system has to be designed for this. One of the best modeling programs I’ve seen is offered by solid works where this can all be done without leaving the desk. another is the need for the formation of a standards council, specific to tiny homemade, kit made and 51% rule similar to what governs experimental aircraft. None of us wants more regulation not throwing the baby out with the bath water but we want improved aids in building our own tiny mobile lifestyle that we can be assured of getting from point A to point B.

Ryan Mitchell - February 3, 2010 Reply

I can see potentially insuring it via RV insurance but in reality I don’t think this will work. As Ann pointed out, there is no manufacture to go after if something happens.

This in addition to being so out of the box, mobile, and not sanctioned by code enforcement, I doubt it. You might be able to get contents only, which is valuable, I was able to get $50k of insurance for contents in my old apartment for $54 a year (apartment had sprinklers).

I think this is one of the biggest issues of the niche along with lack of applicable codes and safety.

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    Ryan Mitchell - February 3, 2010 Reply

    I forgot one point, I would say if you are going to even begin to get insurance, you should make sure to bring a person from the company out to the house in person. Have them take photos etc then go back to their manager. Whatever they tell you, get it in writing and signed.

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      Arlos - February 3, 2010 Reply

      Documenting your project would be invaluable in getting insurance as would having a structural or mechanical engineer participate on the project.
      Insurance is tricky. their job is to take your money and not return any. Any home built trailer is subject to a decline due to non conformity. I would be hard pressed to insure a homebuilt trailer when so many unknowns are evident. Most materials have specific limited warranty’s that state, must be used in accordance, etc. Fiberglass roof shingles were designed to be installed on a house and not one moving 3,600 miles across the country. In the event of a leak or material failure causing an incident behind them on a road, who is at fault, the manufacture, builder or trailer owner/operator?
      Every single fastener on a tiny mobil home is subject to a variety of stress’s and conditions not designed or implied in it’s original use and this offers not a problem but a challenge to overcome material limitation.
      Personally, I do not like seeing stick framing applied to a tiny mobil house. Weight is my first consideration. a good builder should question why are we building a trailer wall using 2″ X 4″ studs, 16″ on center for trailer construction. I see too much Monkey see Monkey do in this endeavor. It would be a great idea if this whole industry began with a clean sheet of paper…

        Carolyn Pearson - February 4, 2010 Reply

        I agree, there is way too much overkill in the wood framing on all I have seen. (and I have seen the inside sidewalls & roofs of RV Trailers, & that IS scary too) The floor is OK, but double top plates?, 2×4 16 OC, is for holding roofs with huge snow loads, second stories, etc.. On Martha’s Vineyard you should see what little framing was used on the old Campground houses of Oak Bluffs. With no plywoods, most were still standing after 100+ years & major hurricanes. And yes, there is need to use plywood if you are planning to put it on the road. but 1/4, 3/8″ is fine on 1″x4″ stock(Fir Decking?) Look to other woods for more strenght & less “wood” in places, Popular, Oak, Maple, etc.(all can be pick up at Lowe’s HD even). Glue & Screwed for the road. People are not going to do jumping jacks up in those lofts either, 2×6″ T&G roofers would work on a 7′ 6″ span, no support framing under(can always crown the boards too. I’m looking to use 1″ T&G Plywood with a cabinet or two in “places”.
        I’m using drilled 1/8″ thick steel plates to Trailer Frame) & 3/8″ carrage bolts to attach to trailer(do most people know there is different “Ratings” for steel bolts & plates, for sheer strength? (not to menton mine set up to be removable or cut “IF”,I may put it on a foundation. Has no one else thought of designing a V-Nose & roof for aerodynamics?

        Metal roofing lapped the right way should only be used. Some thought to balance of the weight too in design. Tougue weight to wheels.

        Yes I watched Nor easter push rain right through & under all the channels of a brand new Anderson sliding window. The “new” Fiberglass roof shingles in the 80’s, had to be redesigned after the first winter & Nor easter on Martha’s Vineyard, “fluttered” them right off. Added Lime stuff to stiffen & that’s why they now grow the black crap on them.

        Carolyn

Eric - February 3, 2010 Reply

Hello Tarsha,

I’ve heard of people insuring them as travel trailers.

Heather - February 4, 2010 Reply

I work for a major insurance carrier, so I feel that I can give some advice about insuring tiny homes.

Find an agent in your area that understands what you have. Meaning take pictures of your home inside and out. Ask the agent to come out to your property and take a look at what you have. If the agent isn’t willing to do these things walk out of the office and find another one. It’s important to feel that the agent is on your side and is willing to help you at all times.

Understand that insuring your home may be expensive because a lot of these homes are custom built it’s difficult to completely indemnity if there were to be a total loss. This means that owners will have to do several things to make sure their home is protected: 1. Take pictures. 2. Keep any and ALL receipts for building, upgrades, and repairs. 3. Understand that the claims process may take longer for a tiny home owner than someone who owns a McMansion.

I hope this helps.

    Carolyn Pearson - February 4, 2010 Reply

    Thanks for that info, it is a big heads up. I know I had a hard time insuring my “Park Trailer” (in the first years of them), As I install on 3 ares as a mobil.

    Carolyn

Mike M - February 4, 2010 Reply

A) Balance – The need for insurance with the duty to have insurance. You can get personal liability insurance for any trailer, I have the big “G” funny little sales guy, for a two axle 18′ trailer replacement value $2500 for about $49 a year. Now if I built a home on top of it. I would establish the value of the modifications and increase the value.

B) Quality – I have been in manufacturing for more than 25 years, I have toured more than 20 manufactured home, RV and motor coach plants and looked in to parts seldom seen. The motor coach guys, five, that I toured did not have a single engineer or have anything engineered. The front and rear caps( they are called) are simply decorative fiberglass – including the bumper.

The manufactured home industry – uses a combination of adhesives and screws for most assembly. But they only plan to move it once or twice. RV mfg use more glue, and metal for construction. Both of these guys use what ever meets the minimum performance and matches the budget. They use Pex tube for in wall hot and cold water. If you build to a standard like earthquake resistance, use Simpson brackets, to make connections, Lap joints and avoid nails unless the are ring shanked (to prevent pull out) and some glues/adhesives your probably better than most. I took apart a mobile home only to discover rusted sheet rock screws and rotten particle board through out. Use stainless steel screws near the edges of the building envelope, near the ground, and sources of water. Use products that will expand and contract going from hot to cold, blue poly foam sill strips etc. My home insurance excludes all forms of water damage so use that as a point to start – design and craft well the roof and water penetration points.

Maybe a series of method recommendations (prescriptive paths) could be posted here, a sketch and text to explain because in some cases water can run up hill. MM

Sara - February 18, 2011 Reply

We have the opportunity to purchase a tiny house (on wheels), but had nearly exhausted every insurance carrier option.

So far the only option we have found is Foremost: http://www.foremost.com/

There were three different agents/brokers working with Foremost and two out of three were successful… so if you don’t succeed with them once, try again.

I hope that’s a time-saver to someone out there.

Nico - February 22, 2012 Reply

Foremost insures the Rv that I live in, but when I told them I was interested in a tiny tumbleweed type house They told me they wouldn’t insure it. I’d be happy to hear if anyone has had better luck.

    Glady - September 13, 2012 Reply

    I also tried Foremost for insurance on a Cozy Cabin and was told that they do not insure those types at all. So maybe the folks who commented here got in while they still insured them. Once the agent I was speaking to sent a picture of our cabin to the underwriter (who recognized the structure right away) she returned with a definite ‘no’.

Lee - May 7, 2015 Reply

I work for an Allstate agency in Tallahassee, FL and recently had an inquiry for insurance related to a tiny house on a flat bed trailer. I was not able to offer her coverage through Allstate but in searching around it looks like Good Sam Club can offer coverage. Give them a call 1-888-664-2531. If you have a regular home, mobile home or auto and live in Florida, please give me call. 850-668-2468.

    Karen - September 29, 2015 Reply

    I tried this and they referred me to Foremost. They seem very confused by people who want to use their tiny house as a travel trailer. Insurance companies are missing out on a growing trend….Foremost was very friendly and helpful. They considered it a travel trailer.

      Karen - September 29, 2015 Reply

      Update — they want it certified as an RV before they will insure it. The person I talked to was a tad confused because I got the barn raiser. If you get the completed version, it’s already certified. If you build it yourself, they won’t insure it.

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