When Do I Need to Buy Out of State Car Insurance?

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Your car insurance policy will cover you for temporary trips out of state. But for long-term stays, you may need to update your policy. In general, you should buy car insurance in the state where you spend most of your time. You can't live in one state and buy car insurance in another. However, there are special considerations for part-time residents, such as college students and snowbirds, who spend winter in warmer climates.


Does my insurance cover me when I'm traveling out of state?

For shorter road trips (a few days or weeks), almost all policies will cover you anywhere in the US That's regardless of how far or frequently you travel. It includes vacationing and commuting to other states, like living in New Jersey and driving into New York for work.

Also, if you have the minimum legal coverage for your state and crash in another state, your insurance policy will function as though you had the appropriate minimum amount of car insurance for that state.

Say if you live in Tennessee and get in a car accident in a no-fault state. You'd be able to use personal injury protection (PIP) to pay for your medical costs, even if you don't have that coverage on your policy.

Does my car insurance cover international travel, such as Mexico or Canada?

You shouldn't assume your car insurance is valid in other countries, even if you live near the border. Some policies will protect you in Canada but may not in Mexico or other countries south of the US.

Before you go on a road trip to confirm whether your policy will cover you. If it doesn't, your insurance company will likely be able to sell you a temporary endorsement to cover you while traveling.


You can't live in one state and have insurance in another

In general, you need to buy car insurance in the state where you live. So you should transfer your car insurance and registration if you move to a new state.

It's typically illegal to live in one state and register your car in another. Plus, if your insurance company finds out, they'll likely cancel your coverage and deny any pending claims. Every state is different. But if you continuously live in a state for more than a few months or live and work there full-time, you're usually considered a resident.

For people who split their time between states, such as snowbirds who own a winter home in a warmer climate and students who attend college out of state, the answer is a little complicated. In general, you must register and insure your car in the state where you're a legal resident.

The requirements for where you must register your vehicle depend on the state you will be living in part-time. For example, Arizona requires you to register your car with the Arizona Motor Vehicle Division if you live there more than seven months per year. But in Arkansas, it's only six months.

Also, some states, as well as Washington, D.C., require you to register your car with the DMV even if you do not qualify as a legal resident. So check with your area's DMV to see what you need.


Car insurance for college students who attend school out of state

College students who go to school in another state may or may not need to buy a new policy, depending on the laws of the state. For example, students in Idaho are allowed to maintain out-of-state registration, but Connecticut students are not. Some states, like Massachusetts, allow out-of-state students to keep primary registration elsewhere. But the student must notify the local police department.

You might be required to buy student car insurance in your school's state if you live there year-round and don't typically go home for breaks. This also applies if you legally own your car and aren't on your parents' insurance.

In either case, check with your insurance company to see if you need to update your policy.


Car insurance for seasonal residents and snowbirds

Homeowners who split their time between multiple homes generally have to register their vehicles and buy insurance wherever they spend the majority of their time.

For example, if you live eight months out of the year in Connecticut but spend four winter months in Florida, you would buy insurance in Connecticut. That policy would cover you in both states.

Keep in mind, some states require you to register your car even if you live there temporarily. For example, if you stay in Georgia for more than 30 days at a time, you must register your car with the Georgia Department of Driver Services, even if you're not a resident. Additionally, if you keep a car at your secondary home year-round, you'll need to buy coverage in that state.


Car insurance for military drivers

Most states allow members of the military to keep their car registered and insured in the state where they maintain legal residence, even if stationed in a different state for months or years.

You'll need to check your state's residency laws and verify with your insurance company that you have enough coverage. It can also help to get a policy from a car insurance company that specializes in military benefits, including USAA and Geico.

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