Ask the Expert: How should Scouters handle insurance for troop trailers?

Ask the Expert: What happened to Bugling merit badge?Insurance: You don’t need it until you need it.

For units that own trailers, insurance, well, insures that both the trailer itself and its contents are covered in case they’re damaged or stolen.

Is this insurance part of a driver’s normal auto coverage, is it provided by the Boy Scouts of America or is it a separate expense?

That’s what Randall Cox, Troop 70 assistant Scoutmaster, asked me last week. He writes:


For years we’ve been told that our troop trailer is insured by the vehicle that tows it. My troop has discussed upgrading our trailer to a dual axle with brakes, and the discussion turned to getting separate insurance for the trailer and contents so the Scouter who stores the trailer won’t be hit with a claim should something happen. We can’t store the trailer at the chartered organization’s location.

Imagine my surprise when my insurance agent informs me that the trailer is not covered by the tow vehicle unless 1) the tow vehicle is insured by this company, and 2) the trailer title is in the tow drivers name.

Does BSA offer supplemental trailer insurance, which is good across a number of different tow vehicles? How do other troops deal with this situation?

Yours in Scouting,


Here’s the response from the expert, Phillip Moore, risk management administrator with the BSA:

The question does not specify what type of insurance they are asking about. In an attempt to answer the question I will address both auto liability coverage and property coverage.

Generally, in the event of a motor vehicle accident, the auto liability coverage is provided by the vehicle towing the trailer; however, this could vary by state laws. The BSA commercial general liability insurance policy provides excess coverage over the registered or nonregistered volunteer’s auto coverage. It is also recommended that whoever pulls the trailer maintains adequate physical damage limits for non-owned trailers.

The trailer itself and/or the contents should be insured by property insurance. Generally the property insurance should be taken out by the trailer/contents owner. Usually the Chartering Organization is the owner since the unit cannot “own” property.

The BSA does not provide property insurance for the owner or the Chartering Organization. Specific answers relating to individual states’ coverage should be discussed with an insurance professional with knowledge of the coverages in the unit’s jurisdiction.

Thanks to Phillip for answering the question and to Randall for asking. Learn more about BSA insurance coverage here, and remember to follow Phillip’s recommendation to check with an insurance professional in your area to learn of local regulations.

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31 thoughts on “Ask the Expert: How should Scouters handle insurance for troop trailers?

    • The PTA can take out property coverage on all their property including the trailer. AIM Insurance provides various coverages to PTAs all over the country.

  1. Philip Moore’s answer is spot on. The trailer and contents belong to the Charter Partner – it is the one that has the “insurable interest” in a legal sense. However, in most states, it must either be specifically listed on the policy or a separate policy taken out. Your Charter Partner ought to be willing to pay the premium as part of its obligations under the charter agreement; if not the unit will need to reimburse the charter partner for the expense ( sell that popcorn!). i am a lawyer, former Charter Org Rep and have been the trainer on the Charter Org. Rep course ( as well as a veteran Scouter).

  2. Our Charter Org. is a Church – and our Troop Trailer and Equipment are covered by the Church’s Insurance Company. 11 years ago, we had a fire in the church, and lost most of our equipemnt, and the church’s insurance covered the replacement of this equipment. As for the trailer, the church’s insurance would be primary coverage and the insurance of the vehcile towing would be secondary.

    • So this is all great info, but when my troop talked to the insurance provider of our CO, they informed us the property was covered only when the trailer was at the CO site. The trailer and contents was not covered when on a road trip or camp out. On camp outs the trailer was on the policy of the vehicle pulling it. We were told when off the CO property to not leave the trailer unattached to a vehicle. When not attached and off property, the trailer and contents would be uninsured. From what I can tell, If the trailer gets stolen or emptied out while sitting at a campsite without a vehicle, than we are SOL. 😦

      • You received TERRIBLE information as you are describing it. I am a licensed insurance agent in SD, ND, MN, IA, NE, CO, and AZ. Auto insurance LIABILITY extends from the towing vehicle to the trailer while you are pulling it, so if it collides with another vehicle and damages the other vehicle, or injures someone while it is connected, the liability comes from the towing vehicle. THIS IS NOT coverage for damage to the trailer or it’s contents. There is no extension of coverage for damage to the trailer or it’s contents. The info provided earlier on this thread is correct, the church would need to insure it. As you have described (where they said it was only covered while on the church property) means that the church does not have a commercial auto insurance policy, or if they do they have chosen not to insure the trailer on it. Get the church to insure it on their commercial auto policy and you will be covered for the trailer. The contents would be covered by the church insurance regardless of where they are at.

        • you are SOOOooo right. I have seen a Troop raise money for a simple trailer. (let’s say $1500). They did add the policy to the church commercial auto ins. One thing they did wrong though was to have a deductible of $1000. So in reality, the only claim that they would use it for would be a total loss. Over time, the Actual Cash Value of the trailer went down below $1000. They kept the policy as is. So now they were giving free money to the insurance carrier. In the event of the total loss the adjuster would determine the ACA is less than the deductible and hence nothing needs to be paid out. WHY HAVE THE COVERAGE? Be sure to look at what you are covering and what your coverage is. Contents are not usually covered under the Auto policy. If the value of the trailer drops below the deductible, then drop the coverage or decrease the deductible. The later will increase the premium. Sock the money away that you would have paid to the carrier to take care of any damages and maybe the future purchase of a better/bigger trailer.

  3. Each Scouter Must review their own individual insurance policies and make sure they have coverage to tow a trailer. More specifically, some insurance companies actually exclude trailers from your coverage. SO check your insurance policy and speak to your insurance company prior to towing your Troop Trailer.

  4. I would also recommend the troop complete an inventory of its equipment. In the event of a loss such as a fire or theft you have a list of items and value to substantiate a potential claim.

    • I would suggest taking digital pictures of the contents as well. This should be done all at once and as equipment is purchased. The QM scout and an adult helper can work with them.

  5. When I first registered with my current troop in 2002 I asked the committee if anyone knew the value of the troop trailer and contents. I got a lot of shoulder shrugs. So I set out on a mission to do a equipment inventory. After much counting I searched the internet and found the items and the prices of the inventory. To replace all the items in the trailer at retail came to a whopping $26,000. That included the replacement of the trailer as well. The committee had no idea the trailer and contents had that kind of value.

    The cost to insure the trailer and contents was somewhere between $1,500 and $2,000 per year. That only covered loss of the trailer and the contents. It did not cover road hazard due to collision with another vehicle during a transportation of the trailer to and from a campout. We did not do the insurance.

    We do maintain the trailer for tires, breaks and lights. The troop has a very safe place to store the trailer between campouts. The road hazard is very troublesome.

    I was not aware the Charter Organization is the owner of the troop equipment, trailer and contents. The ownership of the troop equipment is not mentioned in the charter agreement. Somebody should explain why a unit may not own its equipment. National should amend the charter agreement to include the ownership of the troop equipment.

    • Technically every unit does not own anything, including any funds raised by the unit, etc. Having gone through a nasty breakup with a CO in the past we learned quickly that they have the right to take everything that is not and individuals personal property. So the trailer, the troop bank account, the stoves, etc are all the property of the CO and when they reminded of that fact they most become willing to help or take over insurance as a part of the obligation.

  6. Went through this before with a unit and Phillip is correct. The Chartered Organization owns the trailer and the contents. Regardless of who donated money or sold popcorn to buy the trailer and contents, it is the Charter that needs to add it to their CGL/Property and Inland Marine policies. Check with your state, but in Illinois, the liability coverage of the towing vehicle extends to the trailer. This does NOT cover damage to the trailer. It covers damage that the vehicle/trailer caused and is liable for. Hence the name. Physical damage to the trailer is covered by Comp/Collision coverage. This still does not cover the contents. Just like your laptop stolen out of your car is not covered by the Auto policy, the contents of the trailer are covered by the Property section of the Chartered Organization’s. If you need to list specific items in the trailer (or in the building) that belong to the unit, then you go into an Inland Marine section and those are then treated different than just unlisted misc. items. The extra cost of the insurance could be paid by the Charter, the unit or both. Some units have titled the trailer in the name of the Chairman and then he/she has to insure it. This is risky as most people do not buy commercial insurance and even if they do, the unit has just given legal ownership of the trailer to a person with no strings attached. I am not sure of other states, but Illinois seems to be a “sue you/me” state. With so many people looking to save money in the hard economy, they are finding that when they need the insurance, they do not have the right insurance and then are stuck.

    • So this is all great info, but when my troop talked to the insurance provider of our CO, they informed us the property was covered only when the trailer was at the CO site. The trailer and contents was not covered when on a road trip or camp out. On camp outs the trailer was on the policy of the vehicle pulling it. We were told when off the CO property to not leave the trailer unattached to a vehicle. When not attached and off property, the trailer and contents would be uninsured. From what I can tell, If the trailer gets stolen or emptied out while sitting at a campsite without a vehicle, than we are SOL. 😦

  7. I looked into this issue for a local BSA scout troop as well. As a licensed insurance agent I agree with what is said above, in most cases there will be liability, but little or no physical damage coverage. The unfortunate situation we found is that – at least so far – we have not been able to find an insurance company that will insure a trailer for physical damage, without insuring a vehicle. Since our charter organization doesn’t have a vehicle and therefore doesn’t have vehicle insurance, and our troop doesn’t own any vehicles (just a trailer) we have not been able to insure the trailer for physical damage. Maybe the BSA could find an insurance company that would work with us on these issues.

    • ” Maybe the BSA could find an insurance company that would work with us on these issues.” Best suggestion yet! Seems like it would be the best solution since it is such a struggle for almost every unit and seems most are going without…

    • We were able to get a rider to the church’s general property policy, even though the church ( like yours) did not have a vehicle. This may have to do with a glitch in Ohio law that does not require a certificate of title ( although a motor vehicle license is required0 for trailers under 1500 lbs.

      The Chartered Organization Representative Guidebook

      Your answer is on page three. As the language is written, the unit is a part of the CO. So if you are chartered by the First United Methodist Church of Anytown, USA then your unit is owned by the church. So any property (tents, flags, bank accounts) that your unit owns, the FUMC owns as well.

      You may be thinking, and you would be right, that this guide does not specifically say anything on property or money. That is true, and that may be an issue for consideration. However, the topic of property ownership (and liability insurance) does point at this document for clarification on who owns whom. And that relationship is where we get our answer.

      This makes sense as the charter for troop WXYZ is written for your chartering partner. And if the CO wants they can take any action they desire as long as it does not violate the BSA’s or their respective missions and standards. If the church wants the youth minister to be the Scoutmaster, then they are Scoutmaster, or if they want their name on the troop trailer then it needs to be on there.

      • While the unit is part of the CO the document you have referenced does not specify the ownership of the unit’s equipment. The Guide book is not a legal document for the purpose claiming ownership of a unit’s equipment. The Guide book could not be used in a court of law in the event a unit charters with different CO. The losing CO could not require the unit to give up the units equipment.

    • Our Troop is chartered by a fire company. The bylaws of the fire comapny, and I believe the state laws of PA require the fire comapny to only purchase equipment that is directly related to fire/rescue requirements. The Troop and our equipment do not fall under that category. So, the Troop owns all of the equipment in our possesion, including the Troop trailer. We purchased it, and the committee has had discussions on insuring it. We are still debating this issue, as we store our trailer off-site. So, jsut to keep everyone honest, not all CO’s own Troop equipment.

      • the whole meaning of the Charter is that that own the unit and the property of the unit. If the Fire Company declares that they do not own anything that is for the unit, they need to re-look at the Charter agreement and the unit may need to find a new Charter. Unfortunately, some CO’s have signed the agreement without actually knowing what all it means. The Charter rep needs to have a meeting with the unit and the Charter and possibly the DE to go over the CA.

        • Dave. I would refer to the comment left by rickchappell about the ownership. Let’s look at the church ladies sewing group. They do not own anything. They are a group within the church. If they hold a fundraiser for sewing machines. They do not own the machines…the church does. If a fire destroys the church and it’s contents, the insurance of the church is responsible for the machines and their replacement. The group or in your case the unit does not exist. There is no tax ID # for the unit. They cannot title or plate a trailer. There needs to be a legal number assigned to them. If they register the lic plates of the trailer under a person’s name and ss# then that person has all legal rights to sell the trailer as they now own it. You gave it to them. On the down side for them is that when they go to register the plates, they had to pay tax title and lic on the trailer even though they did not buy the trailer. They would also have to insure the trailer and any claims made against the trailer fall under THEIR insurance policy and therefore affects their claims history. Bottom line is, the group is under the ownership of the CO and therefore all items bought by the group are owned and insured by the CO. If the CO refuses to follow the CA, then it is time to find a new CA.

  8. There should be a specific write up of this in one of our BSA manuals cuz a couple years ago we were dealing with this issue and trying to find a workable solution.

    • Pets to Go, you’re right, as Andrew mentioned, that it doesn’t specifically say anything about ownership, but it does spell out the nature of the relationship – along with the Annual Charter Agreement. It does not need to identify ownership, as the unit is not an entity that can own something. By it’s nature, the unit is only a group within the Charter Organization that is, upon agreement (the charter agreement), using the BSA program. In other words. a troop is just what you call that group of people in the CO running the program.
      It seems a lot of people have little, or even an incorrect understanding of the charter and what it is. The term “troop” or “Pack” is merely a program function. A unit cannot by definition charter with a different CO, because the unit only exists due to the charter. So “a unit charters with different CO” is not possible. At best, the members of the unit can leave the CO, and go to another CO or create their own, in which case they create an agreement with BSA and then a unit is created as part of that agreement.

  9. This was a topic at a recent roundtable in our district. Since the trailer is technically owned by the chartered organization, it’s in their best interest to cover the trailer with their insurance company. It also depends on where the trailer is stored. If stored at the chartered organization, it is clearly covered in this case. If the trailer is stored at a troop member’s home, it may not be covered on the CO policy. Rates will be lower if the agent can see it is, for example, stored indoors or if stored outdoors, the gear is stored in a locked building. Different companies will have different policies which cover trailers, so it’s best to check with the insurance company and do what they recommend. If the CO doesn’t have the extra money to pay premiums on the trailer, it is appropriate for the unit to cover the additional premium.

  10. One question I have that our troop has been mulling over. Who should actually register the trailer with the state. The Troop or the CO?

  11. Auto Liability Insurance extends from the tow vehicle IF the Tow Vehicle has such coverage. There are Insurance Companies that will write a policy with tow vehicle “trailer ” coverage removed for a low premium / coverage. Each Scouters must review their coverage with their insurance provider to insure that they have proper coverage before towing a Troop Trailer. Also ask to see the registration and yearly inspection sticker. Each State is different so check your locality… A word to the wise because the “I thought I had coverage or I thought the trailer was inspected ” does not cut it when lawsuits start flying because the trailer you are pulling causes an accident and someone gets hurt

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