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Ask the Home Insurance Expert

I live in a van down by the river. Do I need home insurance? What about flood insurance?

No, you don't need home insurance, because insurance companies don't consider your van a home, even if that's how you use it. And you don't need flood insurance, which is for homes and businesses. But you might want to consider full car insurance coverage, or perhaps RV insurance.

All states except New Hampshire require you to buy minimum levels of liability auto insurance, which pays for injuries and damage you cause others in an accident. Some states also require PIP, or personal injury protection, which pays the medical bills for you and your passengers if you're injured in an accident, no matter who is at fault. Some also require uninsured motorist coverage, which pays your medical bills if an uninsured driver crashes into your car.

But purchasing only what the state requires would not protect your van against damage from fires, floods and other natural disasters, as well as vandalism. Nor would it pay for repairs to your vehicle if you caused an accident or were involved in an accident in which no one was at fault.

For financial protection in those instances, you need collision car insurance, which pays for damage caused by traffic accidents, and comprehensive car insurance, which pays for damage caused by factors other than traffic accidents. Both are optional forms of coverage.

Beware, however, that full car insurance doesn't cover your personal belongings inside the vehicle. If you lived elsewhere and had renters or home insurance, that coverage would extend to personal belongings in your car.

Many insurance companies offer RV-specific policies, which combine protection for the vehicle and your belongings. Talk to an insurance agent how to get the best financial protection in your situation.

For more, see Road trip! Auto insurance for RVs.

Last updated: Feb. 16, 2012