Clearing your neighbor’s driveway during winter is a kind favor, but the favor can present some unanticipated risks. Find out what the risks are before you plow yourself into trouble.
Am I Covered if I Snowplow a Neighbor's Driveway?
Like most insurance issues, whether you are covered if you snowplow your neighbor's driveway depends on the specifics of your situation.
Personal auto insurance vs. commercial snowplowing insurance
Trucks with plows can be covered on personal auto or commercial snow plowing insurance policies. Which type of policy is on the truck doing the plowing will determine whether there is coverage or not.
Personal auto insurance may cover a pickup truck with a plow* if the truck is owned and insured by an individual or family but not a business.
(*As a side note, if you own a plow that attaches to the truck, you would want to notify your insurance agent to ensure you have the additional coverage necessary should the plow get stolen or damaged in a covered loss.)
There is not typically a coverage issue if you use your personal truck and plow to take care of your own driveway.
Commercial snowplowing insurance can likewise be structured to insure many different snow removal vehicles. For example, a commercial snowplowing policy might cover large plows and salting trucks. It also can cover a pickup truck that has a plow.
Thus, whether personal or commercial coverage is needed doesn’t depend so much on the equipment used. Which insurance is needed instead primarily depends on whether the plowing services constitute business activity.
Businesses get paid for their services
Whether plowing services constitute business activity normally depends on whether money exchanges hands. Anyone who’s paid likely engages in business activity, whereas personal favors usually don’t require payment.
When this principle is applied to plowing a neighbor’s driveway, there are three likely potential scenarios.
Scenario 1: You run a snowplowing business
If you run a snow removal business, you should already have a commercial snowplowing policy. This likely applies regardless of whether you have multiple pieces of heavy machinery or just one pickup truck and plow.
In this scenario, whether you need a commercial snowplowing policy for your neighbor’s driveway is probably a moot point. You likely already have any needed commercial coverages through your business’ policy.
Scenario 2: Your neighbor doesn’t pay you
If your neighbor doesn’t pay, you likely don’t need commercial plowing insurance. Your personal auto policy will likely provide protection in this situation. That said, it is wise to check with your insurance company to confirm.
However, payment doesn’t necessarily have to be monetary when it comes to neighbors. Receiving an in-kind favor or gift might also constitute payment in some situations. To eliminate any potential confusion, it’s often best to plow your neighbor’s driveway without asking for a return favor.
Scenario 3: Your neighbor pays you
If your neighbor pays you, you should have a commercial snowplowing policy.
Your truck's personal auto policy probably won't cover plowing your neighbor's driveway since you're paid for the service. Having only personal auto insurance could leave you unprotected if you're in an accident while backing out of the driveway, sliding into their garage, or otherwise injuring someone or causing damage.
Of course, you may understandably not want to purchase a commercial snowplowing policy if your neighbor is your only paying plow job. Therefore, it makes sense to forgo insurance and ask your neighbor not to pay you.
Alternatively, you may have enough revenue to purchase a commercial policy if you’re plowing several neighbors’ driveways.
Get help insuring your truck and plow
An insurance agent who specializes in commercial snowplowing policies can help you determine whether you should have a personal or commercial policy. The knowledgeable agents at HPM Insurance will be able to explain the risks that your situation presents and recommend the best policy to protect against those risks.
If you’d like to speak with an agent who knows snowplowing insurance well, contact us at HPM Insurance. We’ll work closely with you to make sure that your truck and plow are protected wherever you use them.