Thousands of Kiwis not covered by insurance for e-bikes, drones - report

man flying drone
If that drone falls out of the sky, this guy could be in for a nasty surprise. Photo credit: Getty

Thousands of Kiwi drone and e-bike owners are being warned to check their insurance policies, with experts cautioning the industry has not kept pace with the development of new technologies.

Recent analysis of home contents policies by one of the country's largest insurance brokers found that many e-bike and drone owners will be without cover for loss, damage or third party liability.

"When consumers purchase this type of technology they tend to think of it as they would for a model aircraft or push bike - as they are seen to perform the same function," says Simon Moss, partner services manager of NZbrokers.

 "The insurance company is looking at it very differently however - while they may cover your $5000 push bike, many will not cover your e-bike of the same value because of terms in the policy or the legal status of your e-bike.

"Similarly, a drone may be treated by insurers as a type of aircraft if it is capable of lifting more than its own weight - a criteria which is impossible for most consumers to measure."

This means your precious drone might be covered if you drop it while getting out of the car, but if it falls from the sky while in use, you're on your own.

"From the insurer's perspective, drones and e-bikes are an unknown risk and until they have an accurate picture of that risk they will tend to act conservatively," Moss says.

According to Statistics NZ there are now an estimated 40,000 e-bike owners in NZ, with some models costing almost $10,000. Similarly, there's now a wide range of recreational drones on the market, with some retailing at more than $5000.

The rapid evolution of the technology is contributing to a lack of consistency across insurance policies, creating uncertainty for consumers, Moss says.

He says once insurers start to see a claims trend it is likely that more exclusions and conditions will be applied to both e-bikes and drones.

"Historically we have seen a precedent for this type of model," he explained. "In the 60s and 70s insurers began to exclude sporting goods 'while in use' after they found themselves paying out for bent golf clubs and damaged windsurfers!

"Later, we saw a similar trend with laptops, after insurers realised they were replacing damaged technology with better equipment because you couldn't buy the same product with old software anymore. So anything over two-three years of age would then be replaced at its second hand value."

Moss says while there are no e-bike specific policies on the market at the moment, some insurers are starting to offer better cover for drones.

"Drones have a number of commercial applications and so we are seeing what amounts to mini aviation policies coming on the market now, but there are limited options for private or hobby drone users" he says.

Moss says consumers who are concerned about the level or type of cover they are receiving should consult a broker.

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