Why you need renter’s insurance

As you get close to your first solo, your flight instructor may talk to you about buying renter’s insurance (also called non-owned insurance). While it’s never fun to contemplate an incident or accident, this is an important discussion that deserves some careful study. It’s also surprisingly affordable to protect yourself.

First, though, you may be surprised that you even have to think about insurance at this stage. After all, you don’t own an airplane, so why do you need a policy? Can’t you just rely on the flight school’s coverage to protect you? Unfortunately not. Here’s why:

  • The flight school or fixed base operator’s (FBO) insurance policy is designed to protect their assets, not you (the renter).
  • The school/FBO controls the insurance coverage and available limits, which may or may not be sufficient for your situation.
  • You don’t know their policy form, so are you comfortable that you won’t violate the terms of their insurance, and have an uncovered claim?
  • What if the school/FBO cancels the policy or lets it lapse? They have no obligation to notify you that coverage is no longer in force.
  • You will “share” their limits, which can significantly reduce the dollars available to protect you in the event of a claim.

Even while flying with a CFI, you could be held liable for bodily injury or property damage arising from an aircraft accident if you were manipulating the controls.

Cessna off runway
Even a minor runway excursion can lead to significant expenses for a renter.

A renter’s policy is designed to cover you for bodily injury and property damage you become legally obligated to pay arising from your use of an aircraft you do not own. That covers more than you might know.

The following additional benefits are significant:

Loss of Use. If you damage the aircraft, not only could you be responsible for the actual physical damage to the aircraft, but also “loss of use” while the aircraft is down for repairs and out of service. If you buy liability for Damage to Non-Owned aircraft coverage, not only does this provide coverage for actual physical damage to the aircraft that you are liable for, but loss of use is also covered. There could be very little damage, but it’s going to take two weeks to get the part in to put the aircraft back in service. That means a loss of use claim against you could be significant.

Defense costs. In addition to your limits of liability, your insurance carrier will provide a legal defense on your behalf, at no additional cost to you.

Medical Expense Coverage. Medical expense coverage is designed to pay for medical expenses (up to a nominal dollar limit, i.e. $3,000) necessary to provide immediate medical treatment to those involved. This is available regardless of fault, since often this is utilized before liability has even been established. The ability to provide some immediate resources, regardless of fault, can help avoid or mitigate a larger claim against you.

At the end of the day, an accident or incident is unlikely, so hopefully you’ll never need that renter’s insurance policy. But the reality is that accidents can be devastating, both emotionally and financially, so it’s important that you don’t risk your financial protection on what someone else may or may not be providing. With your own policy, you control, understand and benefit from protection created specifically for you.

Renter’s insurance isn’t just for student pilots, obviously. If you’re a regular rental customer with an FBO, or if even you’re a member of a flying club, you should also consider coverage. Policies start at under $100, and go up from there depending on coverage options and limits.

To check prices or to buy renter’s insurance, visit Sporty’s Insurance Center for an instant online quote.

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John knows how lucky he is to go to work every day at an airport. As Vice President of Sporty’s Pilot Shop’s Catalog Division, he says, “I get to hang around airplanes all the time, flying regularly and testing new products for the catalog.” Coming from an aviation family, John grew up in the back of small airplanes and learned to fly as a teenager. Ever since, he has been hooked on anything with wings and regularly flies a Citabria, a Pilatus PC-12 and a Robinson R44 helicopter. Despite his love of low and slow flight, John says, “I love the challenge of IFR flying in the system. Seeing the runway lights as you break out on approach is a thrill.”