Does insurance cover off-roading?

12 minute read Published on Apr 18, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Closeup photo of big car wheel going offroad.

Car insurance can be comprehensive, but even the most comprehensive plans don’t cover everything. If you frequently drive your vehicle off-road, or if you are looking to insure an off-road vehicle, such as an ATV or snowmobile, then you may be wondering whether your insurance covers you. That’s exactly what we are discussing today. Keep reading to learn more about off road vehicle insurance.

Will my car insurance policy cover off roading?

It depends. Typical car insurance policies cover “normal use.” The tricky part is that what constitutes “normal use” varies between insurance providers. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your off-road incident coupled with the extent of the damage, your car insurance plan may cover you. That said, basic auto insurance plans generally do not protect against damages that occur off road. So if your car rolled over while accelerating on a steep gravel trail, you shouldn’t expect to be covered. To better understand the terms, conditions, and limits of your auto insurance policy, speak with an insurance broker today. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can review your policy and confirm whether your policy covers off road incidents or not. If it doesn’t and off road insurance is something you would like, a broker can suggest ways of upgrading your policy to maximize your coverage. Lastly, it is worth noting that off road vehicle insurance might be necessary for a wide range of cars, including some passenger cars. Though you might think this type of insurance is only suited to ATVs, motorized dirt bikes, or snowmobiles, it can be useful for off-road vehicles like Jeeps (learn more about Jeep insurance by contacting BrokerLink).


What does car insurance cover?

Off road car insurance policies are not one and the same. Therefore, what they cover varies. In addition, each policyholder gets to select the coverage, limits, and deductibles they want, which leads to greater diversity between off road vehicle insurance policies. On paper, off road car insurance doesn’t look too different from regular car insurance. The only difference is that one covers the off road use of a car and one covers the regular use of a car. In fact, off road vehicle insurance coverage is often the same whether you’re driving an off road passenger vehicle, a dirt bike, or an ATV (get in touch with BrokerLink for more information on what you need to know about ATVs). Using Ontario as an example, the following is a list of coverages that are available to both off road drivers and public road drivers. Please note that the following coverage is all mandatory in Ontario, no matter what kind of vehicle you drive:

Liability insurance

Liability insurance is intended to protect policyholders from third party claims alleging property damage or bodily injury following an accident. Third party liability coverage can be claimed if the policyholder was liable for the accident. It can pay for everything from medical and vehicle repair bills to legal fees, including both defence and settlement fees.

Accident benefits insurance

Accident benefits insurance is a type of insurance coverage that pertains to bodily injury. If you get into an accident, and that accident causes physical harm to another, whether it be a passenger, pedestrian, or another driver, the accident benefits portion of your policy can help cover their medical care. Accident benefits typically pay for medical expenses not covered by one’s healthcare insurance, such as prescription medication or rehabilitation.

Direct compensation - property damage insurance

Direct compensation - property damage insurance pertains to property damage, which can be extensive in off-road accidents. With this type of coverage, if you get into a collision that damages your vehicle, you can be reimbursed for the cost of repairs by your insurance company directly.

Uninsured automobile insurance

Uninsured automobile insurance is vital, no matter what kind of car you drive or whether you drive it on off roads or public roads. The purpose of this type of coverage is to protect you financially if you get into an accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or anonymous driver, in the case of a hit-and-run.

A word of caution about off road vs. regular car insurance: First, do not assume that your standard car insurance policy covers off road driving. Read the terms of your policy carefully or have an insurance broker read them for you. Second, never lie to an insurance company. In other words, if you do not have off road vehicle insurance coverage but you drive your car off road anyway and you get into an accident, do not lie to your insurance company about the circumstances of the incident (e.g. where or how it happened). Your insurance company is likely to uncover the truth, and if they do, you could face serious consequences for making a fraudulent claim, including having your policy cancelled.

Recommended off road insurance coverage

The insurance coverage mentioned above is mandatory for all drivers in Ontario. Therefore, whether you buy a regular car insurance policy or an off road vehicle insurance policy, your policy will need to feature that coverage. However, beyond the compulsory coverages listed above, there are a few optional coverages that may be particularly worthwhile for off road drivers. They are as follows:

Comprehensive insurance

Comprehensive insurance can be important for off road drivers since it protects against damage to your car that is not caused by a collision. For instance, if your off road vehicle is damaged while parked, is involved in a rollover incident, or suffers body damage, comprehensive insurance may cover you. The specific types of damage that your car is protected against depend on the perils you choose to include with your policy. Some of the most common perils include vandalism, theft, water damage, windstorms, fire, and more. You may also have the option of choosing all perils coverage for the greatest protection. If you regularly drive your vehicle on off roads, we recommend speaking with an insurance broker before settling on a list of perils. A licenced BrokerLink advisor can recommend the perils that make the most sense for your needs and driving habits.

Collision insurance

Collision insurance offers additional coverage against property damage to your vehicle. It works like this: If you get into an accident, whether it is or isn't your fault, your insurance company will help cover the cost of repairs. Collisions are not only with other vehicles, some collisions can be with an animal or another object, so even if you are driving off-road alone there is still risk of a collision. Note that if the other driver was at-fault for the accident, the necessary repairs to your car (or off-road vehicle) might be covered under their third party liability insurance.

Accident forgiveness coverage

One final type of optional car insurance coverage popular among off road drivers is accident forgiveness. Accident forgiveness is additional coverage that can be added to your off road car insurance policy as an endorsement, to protect your driving record and to help prevent your auto insurance premiums from increasing if you have an at-fault accident claim. Note: coverage varies by province.

What is not covered by off road vehicle insurance

As with any car insurance policy, off road vehicle insurance coverage has its limits. Beyond any optional coverages you choose to exclude from your policy, most off road car insurance plans do not cover the following:

Illegal activity

If you were doing anything illegal at the time of the incident, your insurance company will not cover you. For instance, if you were involved in an off road street race, stunt driving, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or engaged in distracted driving behaviour, like texting and driving, you will be forced to pay for the damage out of pocket.

Unapproved modifications to your off road vehicle

Unapproved modifications are an important insurance exclusion for off road drivers. Many off road motorists like to trick out their vehicles with various modifications, but this can spell trouble when it comes to your car insurance policy. Most insurers have a list of approved modifications that drivers can make to their cars. Before you change anything, make sure the modification you want to make is on the approved list. If you make an unapproved modification, like adding oversized tires to your all-terrain vehicle, you could have a future claim denied.

Mechanical failure

If your off road vehicle suffers a mechanical failure that does not arise from a crash or an insured peril, like water damage, your insurance policy won’t cover you. Off road drivers must be aware of this, especially given that the larger engines common in off road vehicles can be extremely expensive to fix. It’s always smart to keep an emergency fund for situations like this since even the most comprehensive off road vehicle insurance plans won’t cover you.

General wear and tear

General wear and tear is not covered by most insurance policies. Unfortunately, a little wear and tear is inevitable, even with regular maintenance. Wear and tear is especially common in off road vehicles due to the rough driving conditions they face. An insurance broker can discuss this in more detail, but generally speaking, off road car insurance will not cover wear and tear to your vehicle, such as rust or interior decay.

Tips for purchasing off road vehicle insurance

A few tips to help you purchase off road vehicle insurance are as follows:

Buy a separate car insurance policy for your off road vehicle

As mentioned above, most regular car insurance plans do not cover off road use. Thus, BrokerLink’s number one tip for purchasing off road vehicle insurance is to purchase an entirely separate policy for your car. This way, you can have peace of mind knowing you are financially protected should something happen to your vehicle while off roading.

Bundle multiple insurance policies to save

The more insurance policies you buy from a provider, the more likely you are to receive a discount. For example, if you purchase an off road car insurance policy for your off road vehicle and a second regular car insurance policy for your passenger vehicle at the same time, you could receive a discount of 15% or 20%. If you only have one car, you could even combine car insurance with home insurance or business insurance.

Speak with an insurance broker about modifications

Insurance policies cover your vehicle exactly as it is at the time the policy is purchased. So if you make any modifications to your vehicle, even if it is on your insurer’s approved modification list, you still need to notify your insurance company. Depending on the modifications made, your existing coverage may need to be updated. For example, an insurance broker may recommend adding a rider or endorsement so that the new parts are covered.

Ensure other drivers are covered (if applicable)

Off road vehicles are exciting. Unlike your typical passenger vehicle, your friends and family might be chomping at the bit to take your off road car for a spin. If you anticipate this happening, speak with a broker about the insurance that may be necessary for additional drivers. If you would prefer to avoid the hassle and cost of adding an extra driver to your policy, just make sure that you do not let anyone drive your vehicle.

Shop around and compare your options

If you want to get the best rate for your off road car insurance policy, it would be a mistake to purchase the plan you find on the internet. Instead, we recommend getting in touch with a trusted insurance broker who can shop around and compare policies for you. This way, you can rest easy knowing you’re getting the best possible coverage at a competitive price.

Maintain a clean off road driving record

Your record as a driver is one of the biggest factors that an insurance company will use to determine your off road vehicle insurance premium. Therefore, keeping it clean is crucial. Drivers with lots of traffic tickets or infractions, such as DUIs, may face higher rates or even find it difficult to purchase a policy. A BrokerLink insurance advisor can provide more information on how your driving record impacts your rates and can even offer some safe driving tips that may help you qualify for a safe driver car insurance discount.

Call BrokerLink to learn more about off roading insurance

Still have questions about off road insurance? BrokerLink can help. We have an entire team of car insurance specialists that is dedicated to helping our customers find the right auto insurance plans for their needs. We can provide further insight into the differences between off road vehicle insurance and regular car insurance, offer expert advice on which coverages are worthwhile for your off road vehicle, and make sure you have a firm grasp of any applicable exclusions. Even better, we can help you find an off road car insurance policy at an affordable price. By shopping around for you and comparing rates, you will receive great coverage at a competitive price. What more could you ask for? Get in touch with BrokerLink to speak with a licenced car insurance broker today or keep reading to have your off roading car insurance questions answered.

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FAQs on car insurance off-roading

Do I need insurance for my ATV?

Yes, if you drive an all-terrain vehicle, you need to purchase ATV insurance. ATV insurance coverage varies between policyholders but can include financial protection against property damage, bodily injury, liability claims, and more. Please note that ATVs are not typically covered by home insurance policies, which is why a separate off road vehicle insurance policy for your ATV may be necessary.

Do I need insurance for my dirt bike?

Insurance requirements for dirt bikes vary by province. That said, most Canadian provinces require off road vehicle insurance for dirt bikes. In addition, you will need to register your dirt bike with your province’s Ministry of Transportation and carry proof of dirt bike insurance with you at all times.

Do I need insurance for my snowmobile?

Yes, snowmobile insurance is compulsory in all Canadian provinces and territories. Snowmobile insurance is designed to offer comprehensive financial protection in the high-risk environment that snowmobiles are driven in. Most policies include coverage against property damage, third party liability claims, and personal injury.

Does driving my vehicle off road void my car insurance policy?

The answer to this question depends on the car insurance policy you have. If you have a regular car insurance plan and you engage in off road driving, and an accident occurs, your insurance company may deny your claim. However, your coverage may not be voided entirely, especially if you drive a car designed for trail use, like a Jeep. Your coverage could be voided if you make an unapproved modification to your car or participate in an illegal activity while off road driving. Meanwhile, if you have an off road insurance policy for your vehicle, then you will likely be covered (though it depends on the exact circumstances of the incident).

Will my off road car insurance claim be denied?

Depending on your existing insurance coverage and the circumstances surrounding the incident, your claim could be denied. The best way to find out if a certain type of claim will be denied is to have an insurance broker review your policy and clearly explain its limitations. This will give you a better idea of what types of claims are likely to be approved and which are likely to be rejected. Note that if your claim is approved, you will first have to pay the deductible before your insurer steps in. Meanwhile, if your claim is rejected, you will need to pay for the cost of the damage entirely out of pocket.

Can I bundle off road car insurance policies?

Yes, and bundling off road car insurance policies is a fantastic way to cut insurance costs! Terms and conditions apply to most insurance bundles, and these will vary by the insurance provider, but in most cases, policyholders have several options when it comes to bundling. For instance, you could purchase an off road car insurance policy and a regular car insurance policy, or a car insurance policy and a home insurance policy, or even a car insurance policy and a business insurance policy. Combining two or more insurance products can save you 15% to 20% per policy. Contact an insurance broker to learn more about the advantages of bundling insurance.

How can I keep my off road car insurance rates low?

If you’re looking for cheap off road vehicle insurance, check out the following tips:

  • Sign up for an approved defensive driving course.
  • Install a telematic device in your off road car or use a mobile application.
  • Have an insurance broker review your coverage before it is up for renewal.
  • Install an anti-theft device in your car.
  • Buy a hybrid or electric off road vehicle.
  • Choose an annual payment schedule over a monthly payment schedule for your off road car insurance policy to avoid monthly fees.
  • Make your insurance payments on time and in full, and schedule a meeting with your insurance broker if you’re falling behind.
  • Drive safely at all times and maintain a clean driving record.
  • Inquire about other car insurance discounts, like employer, education, or volunteer organization-based discounts.
  • Enlist the help of an insurance broker when buying an off road car insurance policy and have them compare rates on your behalf.
  • Minimize how much time you spend on the road.
  • Make sure your off road vehicle has winter tires during the cold months.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.