In some parts of the country, the word “cabin” might elicit a mental picture of a small, rectangular log structure with smoke coming out of a rock chimney. But those of us who live in the Northland understand that cabins come in all shapes, sizes, styles and values. As best I can figure, what makes a cabin a “cabin” is where it is located (typically on a lake or other desirable vacation spot) and how it is used (usually as a getaway retreat or a summer home). Of course, this definition is further stretched when folks retire, sell their main home and move full time to their “cabin”!
Given how different cabins can be from one to the next, insurance needs and premium may vary considerably. So here are a few factors that may affect what coverage may be available and how much that may cost.
Because a “cabin” could be anything from a single room rustic structure to a million-dollar contemporary home, we should start by saying that the condition of the cabin will make a big difference in the type and price of coverage available. Cabins in good condition with newer roofs and modern or well-maintained siding will be easier to insure than a cabin with thirty-year old shingles, a weathered wood exterior and a rotting deck or porch.
In addition, whether it has full house-like amenities will affect insurance as well. In other words, does it have central heat, modern electricity and full modern plumbing.
If your cabin is well maintained and features full home amenities, usually we can insure it like we would your primary residence, on a Homeowners policy which will give you the best coverage and value for your money. However, if there are maintenance issues or maybe no central heat or no plumbing, it’s not likely to qualify for this level of coverage and we’ll likely be looking to insure it on a more basic Dwelling Fire policy.
In some cases, a Dwelling Fire policy might cost less than its Homeowners policy counterpart, but don’t assume that means that it is a better value. Dwelling Fire policies may insure on an actual cash value (non-replacement) basis and may provide coverage against only a few things that could go wrong. They also may provide less peripheral coverage – such as coverage for other structures or personal property.
Beyond condition and amenities, the location of your cabin will also pay a big role in how much it will cost to insure. By and large, most cabins aren’t located close to fire departments. The further your cabin is from fire protection, the more your insurance is likely to cost.
Another factor could be the presence of wood heat – a feature found in many cabins. A wood stove could limit your insurance options and drive your rates higher. Of course, whether the stove is UL approved and property installed (with appropriate clearances and the safe chimney components) may also make a big difference.
If you are in the process of buying a cabin, your first insurance call should probably be to whoever is insuring your primary residence. This is because many of the most competitive insurance companies only insure secondary or seasonal residences when they are also insuring your primary residence. Combine that with the discounts which may be available for bundling, and it is quite possible that the carrier insuring your primary home may be able to offer you a better value than anyone else.
On the flip side, you could also find that your primary carrier cannot insure your cabin for one reason or another. Or they might come back with a sky-high quote. In either case, you’ll probably have to look further at that point.
It’s worth mentioning that you shouldn’t be terribly surprised if you find that your cabin costs more to insure than your primary residence worth two or three times as much. Insurance carriers are looking at the level of risk. The distance from the fire department, age and type of components and just the fact that you aren’t there all the time to watch over the home can all make a big difference in the insurance cost.
Here’s a couple of tips on protecting your cabin. First, don’t rely on insurance coverage alone. Consider installing a monitoring system to provide an alert if something goes wrong when you’re not there – such as burglary, fire or drop in temperature. For example, knowing right away that your furnace went out mid-winter could make the difference between a simple mechanical repair versus thousands and thousands of dollars in water damage from frozen/broken pipes.
Secondly, don’t compare insurance alternatives for your cabin based on their price tag alone. Insurance for cabins is often much less standardized than for a primary residence, and you need to know if you are comparing an apple with another apple or an apple with an onion. Taking the lowest quote may appear to be a good value when you aren’t aware that it only provides a fraction of the coverage that came with the higher quote you could have accepted.
I hope I answered a few of the questions you might have about coverage for your cabin. If do you have questions or would like help with comparing different quotes, I’d love to hear from you. Give me a call at 218-444-9360 or email me at email@example.com.
Ken Cobb is owner of Pine Country Insurance and has been active in the insurance industry for over 15 years. Meet Ken.
Coverage descriptions found in this blog are summaries provided for general educational purposes and cannot fully detail the terms, conditions, limitations or exclusions of a specific insurance policy. Please read your policy carefully.