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

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

Find Cheap Auto Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Currently insured?

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 to match your new residence. 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, like college students or snowbirds who spend the winter in warmer climates.


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

For shorter road trips of a few days or weeks, almost all car insurance policies will cover you anywhere in the United States, regardless of how far you travel or how frequently you make the trip. This includes vacations to other states as well as commuting from one state to another, such as if you live in New Jersey and drive into New York City for work.

Additionally, if you have the minimum legal coverage for your state and get in an accident while on an interstate trip, your insurance policy will function as though you had the appropriate minimum amount of car insurance for the state in which the accident occurred.

For example, if you live in Tennessee and get in a crash in a no-fault state, you would be able to use personal injury protection (PIP) coverage to pay for your medical costs after the accident, even if you don't have that coverage.

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

You shouldn't assume your car insurance policy is valid in other countries, even if you can drive there. Some car insurance policies will protect you if you're driving to Canada but may not in Mexico or other countries south of the U.S. Check with your insurance company before you go on a road trip, as they can confirm whether your policy will cover you. If you don't already have coverage, your auto 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 your state of residency. Therefore, 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 insurer finds out, it will likely cancel your coverage and deny any pending claims you have. Every state has its own definition of residency, but typically, if you continuously live in a state for more than a few months, or live and work full time there, you are considered a resident.

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

Since every state has its own definition of what constitutes a resident, that means the requirements for who must register their vehicle will depend on the state you will be living in part-time. For example, Arizona requires drivers to register their car with the Arizona DMV if they live in the state more than seven months per year. But in Arkansas, it's only six months.

Additionally, 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 attend school in a different state than where they grew up may or may not need to buy a new policy — it depends on the laws of the state. For example, students going to college in Idaho are specifically allowed to maintain out-of-state registration, while Connecticut students are not. Some states, like Massachusetts, allow out-of-state students to maintain a primary registration elsewhere, but they must notify the local police department of the vehicle.

You might be required to purchase student car insurance in the state where you go to school if you live in that state year round and don't typically go home for breaks, and 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 are required to update your policy.


Car insurance for seasonal residents and snowbirds

Homeowners with multiple homes who split their time among them will generally have to register their vehicles and buy insurance in whichever place 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, and that policy would cover you in both states.

Keep in mind that some states require you to register your car even if you're residing in that state temporarily. For example, people who stay in Georgia for more than 30 days at a time must register their car with the Georgia DMV, even if they are not residents. Additionally, if you have a vehicle you keep at your secondary home year-round, you'll need to buy coverage for the state the car is located in.


Car insurance for military drivers

Most states allow members of the military to keep their car registration and insurance in the state where they maintain their legal residence, even if they are stationed in a different state for months or years at a time. You'll need to check your state's residency laws, as well as verify with your insurance company that you have enough insurance. It can also help to get a policy from a car insurance company that specializes in military benefits, like USAA or Geico.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.