LETS TALK: INSURANCE
As far as we’re concerned insurance isn’t optional – it’s mandatory. And in fact we’ve made claims on every single one of the insurances that we have other than ambulance cover (EDIT: Nope, we've used that one now too!!) so far on this trip, so they’ve all well & truly paid for themselves. And one important thing to note about insurance? Cheapest does not equal best!! I can’t stress that enough. It’s worth paying the extra dollars to make sure a policy meets your needs and will adequately cover you if the worst happens.
So let’s breakdown the cover that we have to help you get started:
Now chances are you already had a car (probably a 4x4 if you’re towing) before you left, so you’ve probably already got this insurance covered. But now is a good time to check it out and make sure it’s appropriate for your travels, particularly if like us you have a 4x4 with lots of additional modifications (think bullbar, suspension, winch, roof racks etc.) And particularly if you plan to hit a few dirt roads on your travels.
For us when we left we were too busy thinking about all the other things we needed to do to hit the road to worry about double checking our car insurance. But partway through our travels our insurance was up for renewal and we quickly realised that the insurance we left with was nowhere near adequate for our needs – the value they had put on the car wasn’t even close to what it would cost us to replace and they had clauses about off-road travel that made us a wee bit worried. Not only that but it had never occurred to us to let them know that we were travelling full time – we’d just given them our parents address for mail and off we went. But as it turns out many insurance companies simply won’t cover you if you’re on the road full time, or if you have an accident on the dirt.
So we sat down and did what we should have done before we left – we asked for recommendations from fellow travellers, we researched which companies would provide the best cover in our situation, and then we called them all, asked lots of questions, and got detailed quotes so we could choose the best option.
Some of the important questions to ask include:
I’m travelling full time, will you still cover me?
Will you cover my bullbar/winch/suspension/other mods? Can we come to an agreed value on what the vehicle is actually worth?
What happens if I have an accident off-road? Or if I get bogged on a river crossing? Or stuck halfway up Big Red, or in the middle of the Simpson Desert? Or roll my 4x4 on the Tele Track?
Will you cover my personal effects? Up to what value? Remember you’ll likely have a lot of stuff in your car so mention the big ticket items and make sure they’re listed – laptops, cameras, drones, solar panels, fridge etc
So who did we choose?
For us Club 4x4 was by far the best option. They were pretty much the only company able to answer all of the above questions to our satisfaction, they had good recommendations from everyone we asked, and we have since gone on to claim with them on two occasions, both of which have been seamless and easy.
If you want to get in touch with them for a quote you can check them out here.
Camper Trailer/Caravan Insurance
Equally as important as excellent 4x4 cover is covering your caravan/camper trailer. Particularly if you’re travelling in it full time – this is your home after all. If it gets written off in an accident you may find yourself essentially homeless, so it’s important to choose wisely here as well.
Now there is something to be said for choosing the same insurer for both car & camper – if you have an accident involving both you only have to deal with one insurer & likely only pay one excess. BUT there are some problems there because an insurer that will cover both likely won’t do either one particularly well, or will have some limitations. For example we looked at getting our camper insured with Club 4x4 as well as our car, but unlike with the car they won’t cover a camper/caravan if you’re travelling in it full time (although if you’re going for less than a year and still have a home base they’re worth considering). So that was the end of that. And CIL only cover RV’s, they won’t cover a car. So for us we’ve found it best to go with the two different options – a specialist 4x4 insurer for the 4x4, and a specialist RV insurer for the camper trailer.
We’ve been with CIL through a campervan and 3 camper trailers, and we’ve claimed with them a few times (including when our camper trailer was written off last year) and we honestly cannot fault them.
Again, there’s a couple of really important questions to ask:
I’m on the road living in my RV full time, will you still cover me?
If my RV is in an accident will you cover my accommodation until I get it repaired/replaced? (VERY IMPORTANT!!) If so, how long will you cover it for, and what will my daily limits be?
Will you cover all my important items like fridge, solar panels, and other valuables if they are damaged or stolen? What are the conditions here? Again, make sure all your big ticket stuff is itemised on your policy.
If you have a new RV make sure they offer new for old replacement (which is what we got when our camper was written off). And as with your car insurance check all your agreed values are up to scratch!
Breakdown Cover/Roadside Assistance
This one is also so important. If your car breaks down in the middle of nowhere, with your caravan attached, and needs a tow I can assure you it will cost an absolute fortune if it has to come out of your own pocket. Breakdown cover isn’t expensive, and can be worth it’s weight in gold.
The first year of our travels with our previous car (which was a bit of a lemon) we called RACV (or RACQ as the case was as we were in QLD most of the year) more times than I remember. And in the last year with our new (to us) car we’ve called them not a single time, but at least we know they’re there if we need them.
Let me tell you about a time we needed breakdown cover the most on a previous trip.
We were travelling from Kalgoorlie to Yulara (Uluru) on the Great Central Road (dirt pretty much all the way). About 180kms before we reached Yulara we felt a little shudder, looked out the window, and saw a wheel go sailing by and off into the desert. Needless to say we came to a rather sudden stop on the side of the road, jumped out & discovered the wheel of our previous soft floor camper trailer had sheared completely off the axle (& disappeared in the desert!).
Now we were seriously in the middle of nowhere, and being young and stupid we didn’t carry a sat phone (we do now!!) so we couldn’t call for help. And we’d seen barely a soul on that road for days. But nek minnit a family pulls up, jumps out to help, and offers us the use of their sat phone (what a bunch of legends – we still keep in touch with them and caught up with them again on this trip!). So we called RACV, gave them the low down, and within a few hours the camper was getting loaded on a tow truck bound for Yulara. And then we just had to decide if we’d bill RACV or CIL for or accommodation costs while we waited for repairs. Everything was covered, and we were only $5 a night out of pocket because accommodation is so bloody expensive at Yulara. Thankfully we were just within the towing limits of the policy we had at the time.
On this trip we’ve had roadside assistance come out multiple times, we’ve had the car & camper towed, and we’ve had a hire car for a week when the turbo on our previous car was being replaced. All covered by RACV.
Now again there are lots of companies to choose from here and there are important questions to ask, particularly if you’re towing a large caravan:
I’m travelling full time, will you still cover me?
Will you cover me if I’m towing?
My caravan is x dimensions. Will you still cover me?
Will you cover accommodation costs and car hire if I break down?
Will you cover me Australia wide?
What are your towing limits/accommodation limits/car hire rules?
I’ve got a family. Will you cover a taxi if we won’t all fit in the tow truck?
What if I’m off-road? Will you still cover me?
And that last question raises another important point, particularly if you like to travel on the red dirt as much as we do. What if you get stuck in the absolute middle of nowhere down a little 4x4 track? Recovery here can cost an absolute mint, and regular breakdown cover is unlikely to cover the full cost (if at all!). If this is something you foresee as potentially being in your future then have a chat to Club 4x4 and consider adding their off-road recovery option in addition to your regular insurance and breakdown cover. They offer $1500 worth of recovery as standard, but you can increase it to whatever value you think you might need.
Health insurance is something of a controversial one, and perhaps may not be quite as mandatory as other insurances. However for us, it’s something that we’ve chosen to have, and I’ll explain why.
Firstly let me tell you that I’ve worked as a nurse in both the public & private systems, and going private over public does not mean you’ll get better care. Particularly in a genuine emergency situation – chances are the public system will be more than adequate and likely even better than going private. What it does mean is that you’ll get much quicker care in the non-emergency situation (and your idea of an emergency may be very different to the health care systems idea of an emergency!) and you’ll likely have a lot more choice as to where you go for treatment.
And that is the reason we choose to have it. Because if I get a gallstone or a kidney stone I want it fixed asap. I don’t want to be put on a waiting list and then be in travel limbo (and pain!) for months waiting for it to be sorted.
So let me tell you a story about when I needed to use my health insurance on this trip.
The day before we left home, way back in Jan 2016 I had a call from my GP to inform me that the pap smear I’d had just before Christmas (and only had because I was at the GP with Ryan and took the opportunity to get it done before we left. Believe me it wasn’t my top priority at that time) was showing some high grade abnormalities. SHIT. Not what you want to hear at any time let alone when you’re currently homeless and about to leave to travel full time. I was going to need to see a specialist and very likely need surgery, and the last thing I wanted was to be on a public waiting list – that would have been the end of our travels before we’d even begun. So instead I called some friends in Brisbane, got a recommendation of a good gynecologist, and made an appointment to see him around the time I thought we’d be passing through (my GP gave me a generic referral that could be used with any specialist I chose). I saw him and sure enough I needed surgery. So we made a date for the surgery around a time that suited me, and I utilized my private health insurance to cover the costs. Thankfully the surgeon was a stand up bloke and didn’t charge me any out of pocket fees, so the only cost was my excess, some small out of pocket fees for the anesthetist (those poor underpaid fellows) and it was well worth it for the convenience of making things happen in my own time.
Now I could have just paid for the surgery myself rather than having insurance, and that is always an option. But private hospitals cost an absolute fortune so if this is an option you’re considering then you need a bloody good amount of back up $$’s in your bank account. And remember if you go in for surgery in the private system self-funded and end up in ICU your expenses will absolutely steam roll to monumental amounts. Personally I’d rather insurance took that risk than my bank account.
Now again, you need to do your research here. The world of private health insurance is a murky one and it can be extremely hard to get accurate information to compare policies. So you’ll need to ask a lot of questions to make sure the cover you get is right for you, and actually worthwhile. Policies that only cover emergencies are pretty much a complete waste of time and money, as in an emergency you will always be covered by the public system anyway. And for us we chose not to get extras as we didn’t feel the outlay was worth the return – we rarely use the services covered by extras and when we do the costs tend not to be excessively high so we’re happy to pay them. But as health insurance is so personal, you’ll need to navigate this one yourself. Good luck!
It’s also worth noting that many surgeons will charge ridiculously high costs above and beyond what your insurance will cover. So if you do need to have a procedure make sure you know exactly what they will charge and don’t be afraid to negotiate! Nathan had to have some surgery in Cairns early in our travels and the surgeon was charging a stupid amount for a minor procedure. I told Nathan it was ridiculous and we weren’t paying it – so he went back and negotiated and the surgeon took $1000 off the price he was charging!!
Mandatory and so important. We’re from Victoria so we’re with Ambulance Victoria. It costs about $90 a year for a family, covers us Australia wide and is well worth having. (And as of recently we've now had to use it!!)
We do have cover through our private health policy, but I’m a bit wary of it as I’ve seen other people get stung at work by private companies when it comes to ambulance cover. Many policies only cover an emergency ambulance, and only cover a certain amount per year (generally only 1 or 2) meaning you may not be covered for ambulance transfers between facilities. And the insurance companies idea of an emergency may be vastly different to yours.
So again, as with all insurance policies ask lots of questions including:
Am I covered Australia wide?
Am I covered for non-emergency transfers?
Do I have unlimited cover or is it limited to a few trips a year?
Is my whole family covered?
The world of insurance can be a tricky one to navigate. But when the worst happens and your 4x4 cracks a chassis, or someone writes off your camper, or you break down in the middle of nowhere, or your husband gets bitten by a snake and needs an ambulance, or you find yourself needing surgery 5000kms from home (all of which have happened to us and can happen to you too!) you’ll be bloody grateful for the time you spent getting the right policy in the first place.
So if you’re thinking of hitting the road, or you’re already on the road and you’re not sure about your cover, take the time to get it right now. And if you’re lucky, you’ll never need it, but if you do you’ll be very glad you did.