Off-Roading This Summer? Make Sure You Are Properly Covered

In case you didn't know, Canada is home to some of the best off-road trails in the world. Off-roading is the activity of driving a vehicle on unpaved surfaces like dirt, gravel, riverbeds and other natural terrain.

There is nothing quite like leaving the civilized world behind, and taking your vehicle into the wilderness for exploration and adventure. But before you take that detour, you might want to stop and think for a moment. Off-roading can be particularly dangerous, and the likelihood that your vehicle will get stuck or substantially damaged are much greater than if you were driving on a smooth, paved road. And if you think your regular auto policy covers your off-road hijinks, you better think again.

Do Regular Auto Policies Cover Off-Road Accidents?

If you are driving your truck or SUV down the road and are tempted to spontaneously venture into the wild, you had better resist the urge. That's because, as a general rule, auto insurance policies will not cover accidents that occur outside the realm of normal operation of a vehicle as intended. As soon as you take your car off the road and onto an unpaved trail, you are likely no longer covered by your insurance policy.

Of course, not all policies are the same and there might be some minor exceptions here and there. Check with your insurance provider to find out if you are covered for accidents that happen off-road, even when it comes to rural dirt and gravel roads. In some rural areas, you might have no choice but to go off-road to get to your property and should have a policy that protects you in those situations.

Insuring Off-Road Vehicles

While regular auto insurance won't cover off-road mishaps, there are specialty insurance policies available that specifically cater to off-road vehicles. In fact, in most cases, drivers are legally required to carry insurance for off-road vehicles.

Off-road vehicles in Canada, including snowmobiles, ATVs and dirt bikes, must have plates and be operated by a driver with a valid licence. They also need to be insured by an off-road vehicle policy that covers liability, accident benefits and property damage compensation. Coverage amounts vary by province. Without these three things, off-road vehicle drivers can be cited and fined by authorities.

However, insurance is typically not legally required when a driver, or household member, owns the land they are operating the vehicle on. The exception does not apply to guests operating off-road vehicles on private property. For example, if your friend wants to bring a dirt bike to ride on your land, they would need to have their own coverage.

When it comes to properly insuring a 4x4 vehicle such as a Jeep or truck for off-road use, you may need to shop around for an insurance carrier that will cover the vehicle for both highway and off-road use. Be sure to be upfront and honest about your intentions, that way you can be sure that you sufficiently covered in the the event of a claim. Make sure to get any promises to cover off-road incidents in writing.

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