When it comes to protecting your landscape business with the right insurance coverage, you might be feeling overwhelmed. The complexities of the landscape industry—as well as the number of ways in which an accident can occur—can lead to costly claims. But you don’t have to be on your own in the matter. We’ve rounded up advice from some pros to help steer you in the right direction when buying insurance for your lawn care and landscape business.
Don’t Shop On Price Alone
How many times have you been frustrated when you lose a job to a lesser-qualified company, all over price? You’ve probably advised your prospective clients not to shop on price alone—and the same should go for purchasing insurance.
“When buying insurance, don’t make the mistake of focusing solely on price and not purchasing coverage that meets your business needs,” says Bill Kampf, general manager at Progressive Insurance. “The old adage, ‘you get what you pay for’ is just as true in insurance as it is with other products. Using a trusted insurance advisor and being transparent about your business operations and risk tolerance, will ensure you get the right balance of coverage and price.”
Mark Borst, owner of Borst Landscape & Design in Allendale, NJ, says that it comes down to trusting that your agent will “steer you in the right direction.”
“It’s so important that you find the right agent and not just make it about price,” Borst says. “There are plenty of people who may lead you in the wrong direction just to get your business. Finding a cheaper price might look good but it might not be the coverage you need.”
Seek Out The Gaps, And Then Fill Them
Matt Simmons, CIC, vice president of Georgetown Insurance, which has locations in Maryland and Virginia, has worked with many green industry companies and found that these entities are quite frequently under-insured. Finding these gaps in coverage is important to ensure your company is fully protected.
One of those gaps is often in the area of auto coverage. Simmons says most landscapers do not insure their trailers. While it’s true that trailers attached to a vehicle are covered under the general auto insurance, what about when they’re not attached?
“I had one client whose trailer came detached while driving and hit another car,” Simmons says. “Had that trailer not been insured, that accident would not have been covered. Another time, a trailer was parked on a hill but without blocks. It rolled downhill and hit a car. It’s not expensive to insure a trailer and is worth doing.”
Kampf says that there are other areas of insurance that are frequently missed due to the varying services of a landscape business.
“In the landscaping industry there are several endorsements that are sometimes overlooked, but should be considered depending on your operations,” he says. “If you apply pesticides and/or herbicides, make sure your policy provides liability coverage. If you remove snow during the winter, you’ll want to make sure you’re adequately covered on your general liability policy.”
For landscaping businesses with employees, Kampf also recommends that a business owner strongly consider Employment Practices Liability coverage, which provides coverage if the owners of the business are sued by an employee for wrongful termination/hiring, harassment, and other employment related laws.
“And finally, if you have an online customer database where you store private information, consider purchasing cyber coverage, which provides peace of mind should you fall victim to a hacking incident,” says Kampf.
Work With Your Agent To Incorporate A Safety Program
Since safety and insurance claims are directly linked, it can be beneficial to find an insurance agent that will help to bolster your company safety program. Simmons says a good agent will help point out where the holes are in your existing program and suggest ways to implement change.
“GPS technology is an important part of a safety program,” continues Simmons. “Business owners often install them so that they [could] locate a stolen vehicle, but they have many other benefits. GPS can be used to monitor how fast your employees drive or whether they are hard stopping. Hard stopping is a good indicator that they’re on their phone while driving. This data can be incredibly helpful.”
Simmons says that a strong safety program can help your insurance agent “go to bat for you.”
“Say you have an accident, but we know that you regularly review your employees’ driving and that this has never happened before,” Simmons says. “This helps us fight for you. Or, say you’ve never had an accident and you can demonstrate all of the safety measures you have in place. This helps us secure the best rates for you. It gives you good cause to get a lower price. In my experience, landscape business owners who have strong safety programs in place can save as much as 20% to 30% on insurance over the long term.”
Don’t Be Naïve
At the end of the day, the worst thing that you can do for your business is to assume “that’s never going to happen to me.” Simmons says he’s heard that said again and again. But it can leave you paying out of pocket for a claim that could have been covered.
“I believe that the lawn and landscape industry is one of the most under-covered industries out there—and that’s oftentimes by choice,” Simmons says. “It’s that mentality that ‘nothing will ever happen to me.’ Unfortunately, in my line of work, I’ve seen it happen. If it can happen to another landscape company, it can happen to you.”
The best line of defense is an insurance agent that has your best interest at heart, says Borst.
“The most important tip that a landscape business owner should know about insurance is to find the right agent,” he says. “Even knowing whether a certain amount of coverage is too much—or not enough—is something that they should be able to advise you on. You have to find someone you can trust so that you can rely on their expertise.” Kampf concurs.
“Make sure you choose a reputable company for your insurance needs,” he says. “Whether you are a start-up or have been in business for decades, it is important to have an insurance company that will be there when you need them most.”
For Your Reference…
On its website, Progressive Commercial lists an overview of insurance needs for landscapers and other various lawn care businesses. These may be helpful as you navigate buying a new policy, renewing an existing one, or shopping the market for new coverage.
Basic landscaping/lawn care insurance.
General Liability: This is the most common form of landscaping liability insurance. It covers instances of bodily injury, property damage and other liabilities for which your business is responsible. Certain clients might consider this coverage a prerequisite to working for them.
Commercial Auto: If you use your vehicle to transport work supplies such as mowers, fertilizer and tools, you’ll likely need a commercial auto policy. Standard auto policies typically have coverage limitations or restrictions for vehicles used for work. We insure many vehicles common to landscapers including dump trucks, pick-ups, and utility trailers.
Other insurance for landscapers.
Business Owners Policy (BOP): Combines General Liability and coverage for commercial buildings and personal property into one package.
Workers’ Compensation: Protects your employees who become injured or ill while at work.
Getz is an award winning freelance writer based in Royersford, PA.
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