Properly Insuring Rented Equipment

Properly Insuring Rented Equipment

Written by Tom Dunn

Just as employees are the valuable life blood of a successful tree care company, the equipment that is used to complete the production work is also a critical piece of the puzzle and insuring it properly is of utmost importance. Your equipment is typically covered under an Inland Marine/Contractor’s Equipment insurance policy, which is a pretty straight forward insurance policy until you start renting or borrowing equipment to or from others.  We’re going to go over some of the coverage concerns that you need to be aware of when you rent or borrow to or from others. 

Renting/Borrowing Equipment From Others

There will certainly come a time due to unforeseen events like equipment breakdown or theft or just not owning the right piece of equipment to complete a specific job requires that you lease, rent or borrow a piece of equipment to meet your tree care business needs. Your Commercial General Liability will pay for injuries or damage you cause while using a rented piece of equipment, however, the actual rented equipment itself likely will not be covered. Most insurance policies exclude property that is temporarily in your possession. 

So how do you insure the physical damage to the piece of rented equipment? If you are renting from an established equipment rental business, they may offer equipment rental insurance. We often recommend tree care companies to take the rental insurance if it is available depending on the cost and terms of the coverage. 

If you do not choose to purchase the rental agency’s coverage, or they don’t offer it, then you need to look to your current Inland Marine/Contractor’s Equipment policy for coverage. There may be a small amount of coverage (usually only $25,000) for this automatically built into the policy. Check with your insurance agent to learn what your policy covers automatically for rented equipment. If the piece of equipment is under that automatic coverage limit, then you should be just fine. 

When the value of the rented equipment is more than the automatic coverage limit, then you will need to add coverage for the rented equipment directly on the policy. For a short term rental, this is done with selecting a limit of coverage that is equal to the value of the piece of equipment. For a long term rental, you may be able to add the exact details of the machine onto your policy. Depending on how your insurance coverage is set up, there may be a reporting condition that requires you to report the total amount of expenditures for contractor’s equipment that is leased or borrowed from others within 30 days from the end of your policy. This could create an adjustment to the overall premium. 

Another word of caution. If you are renting a piece of equipment and are required to sign a rental agreement make sure you read and understand your obligations. The contract may say that you are responsible to replace the piece of equipment with a brand new, similar make and model. The majority of rented equipment insurance policies only provide coverage on an Actual Cash Value (ACV) basis, which means they don’t pay for the replacement cost, but rather the value of the machine in today’s world. There can be a significant difference in these two amounts and therefore could create a number of associated out of pocket costs. 

Equipment Rental contracts also usually have some form of indemnification/hold harmless language that has someone agreeing to hold another harmless for certain claims, losses and damages. While these are commonly used, there is no standard language used and some indemnification clauses will be more one sided than others.

Renting/Borrowing To Others 

On the flip side, what if one of your valued employees asks if they can “borrow” a piece of equipment to do work at their own property? As soon as your equipment leaves your care, custody and control, your Inland Marine/Contractor’s Equipment policy will stop and there will be no coverage for the physical damage to that piece of equipment. Because there likely is not going to be a contract in place for this equipment with whoever you borrow to, you will not be reimbursed if the equipment is damaged or stolen. 

Your liability exposure from the borrowed piece of equipment would likely be covered under your General Liability policy, however as a business owner, you are increasing the exposure unnecessarily not to mention also increasing the wear and tear on the equipment. Unless you are going to have the employee sign a contract and provide rented equipment coverage for the damage to the equipment, our recommendation is to avoid this situation and don’t rent/borrow your equipment to anyone.   

To conclude, here are three takeaways for insurance concerns and rented equipment:  

  1. Before you need to rent equipment, make sure you understand obligations of any rental contract. 
  2. Talk to your agent to see if you are adequately covered under your contractor’s equipment policy.
  3. Avoid the practice of letting employees borrow company equipment for their personal use. 


If you have any other insurance related questions, please connect with an ArboRisk team member today. We have many resources that can help you with this, in addition to our Thrive Risk Management Program, which can provide one-on-one help to take your business to new heights.

Tom Dunn