Are riding lawn mowers covered by homeowners policies? This is a pretty broad question. For the purpose of this post, I’m talking about homeowners (HO) coverage for injuries to third parties. So, are such injuries covered by HO policies? Here’s the usual insurance coverage answer: It depends. It really does.

Google “riding lawn mower injury statistics.” They are very sobering. Riding lawn mowers can cause catastrophic injury such as amputations and even death. The insurance claims can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars, even a million dollars or more. And one estimate is that about 87 MILLION consumers own a riding lawn mower or garden tractor. So, if a consumer owns a riding mower, are there policies more suited to that exposure than others, all other things being equal? Yes.

In fact, even if you’re talking about the “same” policy, the edition date can make a difference. For example, using the ISO HO 00 03 policy as a guide, here is the applicable wording from the last three editions as to what kinds of riding lawn mowers are covered:

1991 HO 00 03
Motor vehicles “Used to service an ‘insured’s’ residence”

2000 HO 00 03
Motor vehicles “Used solely to service an ‘insured’s’ residence”

2011 HO 00 03
Motor vehicles “Used to service a residence”

So, let’s say you are mowing a part of your neighbor’s yard between your two driveways. Or you’re mowing the lawn at your church. Or you’re pulling a small wagon with kids around the neighborhood on Halloween. If your use of the riding lawn mower results in your legal liability for injury, death, or property damage, here’s how each of the policy editions above would respond:

1991 HO 00 03
As long as you sometimes use the vehicle to service your (or any insured’s) residence, you’re covered.

2000 HO 00 03
You have no coverage… once you EVER use that vehicle off a covered residence premises, your coverage vanishes forever.

2011 HO 00 03
Use to mow your neighbor’s grass strip between the driveways is covered because coverage extends to ANY residence, not just to a residence of an insured under your policy. If you are mowing the church property, there is no coverage unless you are mowing the lawn of the parsonage (“a” residence). If you are driving down the street, no coverage.

Policy language DOES matter and you can see how the difference in a single word in an insurance policy can make the difference between coverage for a million dollar claim (if your limit is high enough) and bankruptcy. Insurance policies are NOT the same. Do not believe what you hear or see in advertisements.

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Bill Wilson

Founder at InsuranceCommentary.com
One of the premier insurance educators in America on form, coverage, and technical issues; Founder and director of the Big “I” Virtual University; Retired Assoc. VP of Education and Research from Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. Reprint Request Information