What Is a Motor Vehicle? Does It Differ From Off-Road Recreational Vehicles?

Under Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 90), motor vehicles are defined as "vehicles constructed and designed for propulsion by power other than muscular power." All land-based motor vehicles that are primarily used on public roads are required to be registered with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles and by law the owners of such motor vehicles are required to have compulsory automobile liability coverage. For more information on the registration requirements for such vehicles, you may wish to visit the Registry of Motor Vehicles' website at www.mass.gov/rmv . For information on the compulsory automobile insurance requirements, you may wish to visit the Division of Insurance website section on automobile insurance coverage at http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/insurance/vehicle/auto-insurance/ .

What Is an Off-Road Recreational Vehicle?

Under Massachusetts law (M.G.L. c. 90B), an off-road recreational vehicle is a "motor vehicle designed or modified for use over unimproved terrain if used for recreation or pleasure off a public way…and all legally registered motor vehicles when used off a [public] way,…[except for those] used for agriculture, forestry, lumbering or construction." Recreational vehicles are not permitted to be operated on any state, county, city or town road or public way or highway except in case of emergency or as permitted by state law or regulation.

Certain motorized vehicles, including snowmobiles, boats and all-terrain vehicles need to be registered with the Massachusetts Division of Law Enforcement's Registration and Titling Bureau's website at www.mass.gov/dfwele/dle. This guide is designed to discuss insurance for land-based off-road recreational vehicles. If you would like information on insurance for boats, please review the Division of Insurance's "Guide to Insurance for Your Boat and Steps to Reduce Your Insurance Cost" at http://www.mass.gov/ocabr/insurance/vehicle/auto-insurance/ .

It should also be noted that although not subject to registration with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles, motor-powered aircraft, motor-powered wheelchairs and motor vehicles that are primarily used on your property, including riding mowers, golf carts or similar vehicles, are not considered to be off-road recreational vehicles under state law.

Why Buy Insurance for My Off-Road Recreational Vehicle?

You may have paid a large sum of money to own your off-road recreational vehicle and you will want to protect against loss due to an unexpected event or accident. In addition, there is also the risk to your assets if you should have an at-fault accident and become liable for bodily injury or property damage to another party.

What Could Happen to My Off-Road Recreational Vehicle?

Just about anything. You could get into an accident and harm another person or damage someone else's personal property. Natural disasters, including hurricanes or fires, could destroy your off-road recreational vehicle. Your off-road recreational vehicle could also be susceptible to electrical fires, burglaries or lawsuits filed by other parties claiming negligence in the use of your off-road recreational vehicle.

Insurance is intended to address the costs of unexpected damages beyond your reasonable control. It is not intended to pay the expected repairs you need to maintain your off-road recreational vehicle such as by replacing worn out brakes. By purchasing the right insurance policy, you may be able to protect yourself from the financial costs of unforeseen losses.

Am I Required to Buy Insurance for My Off-Road Recreational Vehicle?

There is no law requiring anyone to purchase any insurance on your off-road recreational vehicle, but it is prudent to consider this coverage to protect your investment in your off-road recreational vehicle or to protect you from any costs you may be liable for from the use of your vehicle. If you need a loan to help pay for your off-road recreational vehicle, your lender or bank may not loan you money unless you buy and maintain insurance on your off-road recreational vehicle. If you drop coverage or stop paying for it, some loan agreements permit the lender to accelerate the loan and demand immediate payment of the entire loan balance.

You should be aware that even if your lender requires you to have insurance, the lender cannot require you to obtain the coverage from a particular insurer and cannot require you to insure your off-road recreational vehicle for more than its value. (The lender may, however, require you to maintain liability insurance as well.)