How to Insure Your Renovated Vintage Airstream

Airstream In Front of Lake at Sunset

After putting together an exhaustive cost breakdown of our 1972 Vintage Airstream renovation, a few people made some claims like, “I would sure like to see where you got it appraised. Bet it wouldn't hold up for insurance purposes,” and “no insurance company will ever take into account all of this work.” Spoiler - they're wrong :)

We managed to fully cover what our Airstream is worth, not just what we put into it. In fact, it appraises at nearly double our investment.

What I didn’t anticipate is that it would be one of the most difficult parts of the renovation. Turns out renovating a 45+ year old trailer into a real deal, gorgeously decorated home isn’t that common. So most insurance companies have no idea what to do with it.

What you want is a policy that will pay you back what you could sell the trailer for in the event that it is totaled or stolen.

There are two basic policies available, and it’s important that you choose the right one.

  1. Actual Cash Value - this means that the insurance company determines the value of the trailer based on blue book type statistics. I think ours was worth like $1,500 according to them. Obviously this is not the way you want to go.
  2. Agreed Upon Value - this means that you prove to the insurance company what the trailer is worth via a certified appraisal from a 3rd party. This is the plan you want, and make sure to be clear about your wording - “Agreed Upon Value” is not the same as “Stated Value” so double check that in the contract.

Something else to keep in mind is coverage while you’re renovating. When we first brought it home to start the work, we just had it covered for what we paid for it ($13,500). Then later in the process as we added things like new axels, air conditioner, solar panels, etc… we upped it as high they would go ($40,000). We had to show them receipts to get that coverage.

To get past that threshold we would need an appraisal and a company to actually do an Agreed Upon Value plan at the numbers we needed.

And this is totally where we got stalled. We were on the road for 3 months with that minimal $40k coverage before we found the right people to help us.

Thankfully nothing happened during those 3 months, but obviously it wasn’t an ideal situation! So hopefully I can save you some time here and tell you how to get your renovated trailer fully covered.

Airstream Bedroom

Step 1: Get your Airstream appraised

The comments above were true about one thing. Without an appraisal by someone who is well-versed in the vintage trailer market, no insurance company will cover what it’s worth.

But once you have that document in hand and a number from a licensed 3rd party, it becomes easier.

We worked with Polk & Associates - they are accredited by the American Society of Appraisers and they made the process easy to understand.

You’ll have to provide a one-time fee (ours was about $300), detailed write-up of all the work done, receipts of major items purchased, and pictures of everything! Once they have that info they’ll look at the market and come back with an appraisal price.

The document they give you will be in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practices so your insurance company should accept it.

Step 2: Find an insurer familiar with vintage trailers

Honestly, this was the part that took us forever. Our local insurance agent basically told us he couldn’t help. I even called the Progressive corporate office and didn’t get anywhere. It wasn’t until we talked to FCIS Insurance that they not only said they could cover it, but explained all the confusing conversations I was having with other agents.

Agreed Upon Value policies have a clause that talks about anything 10 years old converting to a Actual Cash value policy automatically. Most agents took this to mean that since our trailer was older than 10 years old, we could only get the cash policy. But the agent at FCIS Insurance explained that it actually means after 10 years of coverage it converts to a cash plan. So once you’ve had the plan for 10 years you’ll have to get it appraised again and “renew” it.

Either way, FCIS should be able to get you a Progressive policy that covers your vintage trailer for what it's actually worth.

You’re probably wondering how much something like this costs. Well, it’s not cheap! We pay around $165/mo to keep our Tiny Shiny Home covered in case of an emergency. Obviously your mileage will vary based on how much your renovated trailer is worth - and what kind of deductible you want to pay.

Kitchen and Kids Bed

See? Two easy steps to getting your vintage trailer covered for what it’s actually worth. The last thing we want is for you to be stressing about getting proper coverage after you’ve spent all that time lovingly restoring it.

So get covered and sleep easy tonight!

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Jonathan Longnecker

About the Author

Jonathan Longnecker is the strongly opinionated tattooed and bearded half of Tiny Shiny Home. He loves making music, designing brands, building websites and exploring the outdoors. Currently his jam is renovating a vintage Airstream.

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Posted November 29, 2018


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