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Do Trailers Need Insurance in California?

Trailers serve various purposes in California, from hauling work supplies to transporting livestock and recreational use. However, when it comes to protecting these valuable assets, many trailer owners wonder whether they need insurance. In this article, we will delve into the world of trailers need insurance in California, exploring what it covers, the types of coverage available, the cost, legal requirements, and where you can purchase this essential protection.

What is Trailer Insurance?

Trailer insurance, simply put, is coverage that protects your trailer from various unforeseen events. Whether your trailer is involved in an accident, damaged by natural elements like fallen tree branches, or causes harm to others, trailer insurance can provide financial assistance to cover repair or replacement costs. It is crucial to understand that trailer insurance is separate from your personal auto insurance, and having the right coverage can save you from significant financial burdens.

Also Read: Does My Truck Insurance Cover My Trailer

What Does Trailer Insurance Cover?

Trailer insurance offers a range of coverage options tailored to your specific needs. Here are the main types of trailer insurance coverage:

  1. Liability Coverage: This is the fundamental coverage that every trailer owner should consider. Liability insurance covers the damages your trailer is responsible for in accidents involving other parties or their property. Without liability coverage, you could be personally liable for repair costs or medical bills, which can be financially devastating.
  2. Collision Coverage: Collision insurance pays for the repair of physical damage to your trailer when no other party is involved. For instance, if you accidentally back your trailer into a parked car, your collision policy will cover the repair costs for your trailer.
  3. Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive insurance protects your trailer from non-accident-related damages such as theft, vandalism, fire, and damage caused by natural disasters.

What Trailers Are Covered Under Insurance?

Most trailer insurance policies cover various types of trailers. Here are some popular trailer types typically covered:

  • Conventional Trailers: These are the most common trailers, including recreational trailers like travel, boat, and snowmobile trailers. They typically use a ball-type hitch.
  • Pop-up Trailers: These foldable trailers are easier to haul than full campers due to their collapsible roofs and walls.
  • Truck Campers: While not technically towed, truck campers are mounted directly to the vehicle bed, often featuring sleeping areas, kitchens, and bathrooms.
  • Fifth-wheel Trailers: Designed for heavy loads, these trailers are often too large for standard pickup trucks and feature a unique hitch configuration.
  • Horse Trailers: Used to transport horses or livestock, they come in various sizes and styles.
  • Toy Haulers: Enclosed trailers with ramps, designed to carry recreational “toys” like motorcycles, ATVs, or cars.
  • Cargo or Utility Trailers: Used for commercial purposes, these may be enclosed or open-top, often used in industries like moving and landscaping.

Regardless of the trailer type, ensure you communicate its specifics to your insurance agent to get the right coverage.

How Much Is Trailer Insurance?

The cost of trailer insurance varies based on several factors:

  • Type of Trailer: The specific trailer you own will influence your insurance premium.
  • Location: Where you reside and where you plan to use the trailer can affect insurance rates.
  • Your Age and Driving History: Your personal factors, such as age and driving history, can impact the cost.
  • Coverage Level: The extent of coverage you choose, including add-ons, affects your premium.
  • Insurance Add-Ons: Additional services like roadside assistance can also contribute to the overall cost.

California DMV Permanent Trailer Identification Program

California has a unique program called the Permanent Trailer Identification (PTI) program, administered by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This program is aimed at ensuring the proper registration and maintenance of utility trailers, promoting safety on the road.

Key details about the PTI program include:

  • PTI License Plates: When registering a utility trailer under the PTI program, the DMV issues a PTI license plate and a permanent ID card. These replace standard trailer plates.
  • Plate Retention: Trailer owners converting to the PTI program can retain their existing plate numbers or exchange their old trailer plates for PTI plates at no cost.
  • Fees and Exemptions: PTI trailers are exempt from various registration fees, including California Highway Patrol (CHP) fees, county fees, licensing fees, and weight fees. However, fees for special plates may apply during PTI trailer registration renewals.
  • Maintenance Service Fee: Owners of PTI trailers must pay a maintenance service fee or file a Planned Non-Operation Certification (PNO–REG 102) form every five years, starting with registrations that expired on or after December 31, 2006.

Utility Trailer Registration Process in California

Registering a utility trailer under the PTI program involves using the DMV’s form REG 4017. The registration process may also require completing specific sections of the form:

  • Paper Title: If you prefer a paper title for your utility trailer, you should complete and sign Side A of the REG 4017 document.
  • Ownership Transfer and Lien Release: Side B of the form is used when transferring ownership of the trailer without a paper title or when releasing a lien holder or legal owner.

Utility Trailer’s Certificate of Title

The issuance of a paper title for a utility trailer is not automatic. It typically occurs upon full payment of any existing lien on the trailer. California uses Electronic Lien and Titling (ELT) to facilitate this process. ELT allows for electronic notifications and paper title issuance when lien fulfillment is confirmed.

Key transactions available through ELT include:

  • Paper Title Release to Registered Owner: This process involves releasing the paper title to the utility trailer’s registered owner, even without a change of address.
  • Paper Title Release to New Legal Owner: When transferring ownership, the paper title can be released to the new legal owner, with a certificate of registration sent to the registered owner.
  • Lien Holder Branch/Location Change: Lien holders can request a change of branch or location, with a certificate of registration sent to the registered owner.
  • Paper Title Release to Lien Holder: If no changes are needed, lien holders can receive the paper title without requiring a certificate of registration.
  • Release to Dealers, Auctions, or Insurance Companies: Utility trailer paper titles can also be released to dealers, auctions, or insurance companies without the need for a certificate of registration.


According to the above detailed discussion, we concluded that in California trailer needs insurance. To make trailer insurance more affordable, consider bundling it with other policies offered by your auto insurance provider. You might also qualify for discounts based on factors like a clean driving history or loyalty to your insurer. Adjusting your deductible, shopping around for quotes, and comparing policies annually can help you find the best deal.

Also Read: Stationary Travel Trailer Insurance of 2023

Nyra Abigail

My Name is Nyra Abigail and in 2016, I made the decision to leave my traditional living situation and hit the road in a Dodge Ram Van. Since then, I've had the opportunity to camp in 48 states and hike in many of the United States' National Parks. My mission is to inspire and assist others in living an adventurous lifestyle, whether that be through van life or RV living. We provide a comprehensive resource to help guide and support individuals on their own journeys of discovery.

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