Canadian Underwriter

Why brokers and lifestyle customers should already be thinking about winterization

August 26, 2021   by Canadian Underwriter


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Even though summer is not yet over, customers with motorhomes, watercraft, trailers, and cottages should already start thinking about fall and winter.

In recent years, more people have taken an interest in lifestyle products, notably the younger demographic, with many purchasing these products for the first time or upgrading to newer, bigger options. This means all leisure and lifestyle product owners should expect some competition when it comes to booking their end-of-season maintenance and winter storage this fall, says James Reid, product development manager in lifestyle for Aviva Canada.

“As soon as the weather turns, there will be plenty of clients booking appointments with marinas and motorhome dealers. Customers, particularly newer customers, need to plan ahead to beat the rush to make sure their product is protected before it’s too late,” says Reid. “After the first freeze, which in recent years has been as early as mid-October, there could already be unknown damage to their product and that could lead to issues down the line, even if it’s winterized correctly after that.”

According to Reid, one of the biggest challenges regarding winterization is the lack of awareness from customers about their policy, how their coverage works and what is and isn’t covered for winter and weather-related losses. While it depends on the specific claim, customers may find they aren’t covered if their product is damaged due to lack of maintenance or winter preparation. Insurers focus on what the root cause of damage is rather than the end result.

Reid adds, “Of course there are many factors an adjuster considers when assessing a claim, but as an example: if the roof seals on a trailer aren’t redone or if the trailer it isn’t properly sealed with a tarp before the winter months and snow or ice gets into the frame and causes water damage, it’s likely that this wouldn’t be covered. But if a tree fell on the trailer and caused water to get into the frame and cause damage, that would likely be covered. The end result of the damage is the same, but the root cause is very different.”

In fact, Aviva sees that one in five customers don’t properly maintain their motorhome or trailer seals, which often results in an uncovered loss. This is why it’s essential for clients to winterize their product correctly to mitigate uncovered damage or losses. For many lifestyle products (like watercraft), proper winterization also includes engaging a professional.

Since clients typically don’t need to tell their broker that their cottage will be empty or their trailer will be stored, it can be difficult to remind customers about the importance of winterizing their product correctly. But the fall months are an excellent time for brokers to go the extra mile to connect with clients to help them understand what is and isn’t covered by their policy and how they can protect their product and prevent damage over the winter months.

For cottagers, they should plan to not only drain the water from their pipes, but also their appliances (like fridges or dishwashers) too, Reid says. If things go wrong and there’s a leak, it could be months until it’s detected, which could lead to significant damage that likely wouldn’t be covered. Cottagers should also remove all food items, including dried or canned goods. These can attract rodents who can cause substantial damage.

Watercraft should be taken out of the water and stored, since customers won’t be covered if their boat is left in the water over the late fall and winter months. As most boats are constructed of fiberglass, ice can wreak havoc on hulls, rendering them completely unusable. It’s also critical that boaters hire a professional to winterize their engine – instead of doing it themselves. All the water needs to be completely drained from the engine, otherwise it will freeze and crack the engine block. If this happens, most insurers wouldn’t consider this sudden and accidental damage, since professionally winterized engines won’t have this issue. So, owners wouldn’t be covered, leaving them on the hook for very costly repairs or replacement costs.

Like boats, many motorhomes and trailers are also made from fiberglass and plastic. This, combined with their flat roofs, means they’re not designed to bear a heavy load of snow and ice for months at a time. This can stress the frame, which leads to cracking, leaks and then mold, Reid says. So, customers shouldn’t leave their motorhomes and trailers at the campground or out in the elements and should make sure to get them professionally serviced and cover them completely to prevent damage from water and rodents.

“While winter may seem like a long way off, it’s essential for customers to start thinking ahead. Brokers can help their customers enjoy their products again next spring with no hassle by encouraging them to take the right steps this fall,” Reid says.


Feature image by Plahutar

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