Taking to the open road on your next trip? Make protecting yourself a priority.
Most aspects of planning a trip overseas are amazing and fun. But overlooking or ignoring some of the more necessary aspects of your travels can result take down your careful planning fast.
The US is a big place. If you plan to see the sights beyond New York City or other metropolitan areas, you’re going to need a car. To legally drive, you may need short-term car insurance.
What is short-term car insurance?
Just like it sounds, short-term car insurance temporarily protects you against damage and injury if you’re in an accident in a rental, borrowed car or even your own car.
Unlike your typical car insurance policy that covers you from six to 12 months at a time, short-term or temporary car insurance is typically for a period of up to 30 days. You specify the exact coverage you’d like and the specific days you’ll need it.
In general, short-term car insurance will cost more than your typical policy. Pricing is based on the make and model of the vehicle and where you’re intending to drive, among other factors.
Do I need temporary car insurance?
The short answer: It depends. To legally drive in nearly all US states, visitors are required to carry at least minimum coverage.
You may be able to avoid picking up temporary car insurance on your own if:
- You’re insured in the US. Driving to or through a state you’re not insured in is perfectly fine and covered by your current insurance. In most cases, your car insurance will actually rise to meet the minimum limits of the state you are currently in, if that state’s minimum limits are higher.
- Your car insurance extends to the US. If you’re a resident of Canada or Mexico and currently carry car insurance, you may be covered for driving in the US under your current policy. Talk with your specific insurance carrier about what you’re covered for prior to your trip.
- You’re renting a car in the US. In the US, your rental car rate will typically include car insurance. If you’re driving a rented car in from Mexico or Canada, you may be able to extend your rental car’s coverage for a fee.
- You’re borrowing a car from a US resident. Generally, as long as they give consent for you to drive, your friends’ or family’s policy should cover your temporary, occasional use.
Call your current car insurance provider to determine whether you’ll need to purchase additional coverage for your trip to the United States.
Do I need temporary car insurance if I live in different states?
Snowbirds who head south for the winter might be wondering if they need temporary insurance in their vacation home. If you live in one state for part of the year and another state for the rest, your options for car insurance are a little different.
After moving to a new state, you’re required to register your car and get car insurance from the state you’re currently living in. You usually have a few months to establish residency, often 30 to 90 days. So if you stay in another state for a couple months, you don’t need to worry about buying temporary insurance.
For example, if you live in Ohio from fall to spring and stay in a vacation home in South Carolina for less than three months in the summer, you’d register your car and insurance in Ohio. Your insurance based in Ohio covers you for trips to towns like Charleston, Hilton Head Island and Myrtle Beach without the need to get temporary or additional coverage.
If you leave your car in one state and don’t use it for part of the year, you might be able to get discounts from your provider.
What about different car insurance requirements?
Your insurance should include the minimum coverage for both states if you use your car in both. Your policy in Ohio, for example, might not meet standards in a no-fault state, so check coverage and state minimums for both states you live in.
Some states like Florida require part-time residents to insure and register their vehicles there if you live there for more than 90 days. So even if you live most of the year in another state and your current coverage already meets state insurance minimums, you must still buy Florida insurance from an agent licensed in the Sunshine State. Other states like Arizona give you up to seven months of living there before you need to register insurance in that state.
Check the requirements and minimums for each state before deciding on a temporary vacation retreat in another state.
What if I’m at a college that’s not in my home state?
If you’re away from home attending college in another state, you might be wondering which state your car should be registered in.
Typically you’re required to get plates and car insurance from the state you’re currently living in. But what should you do if your school is in another state?
If your permanent address is at home, you should get coverage in your home state. Most insurers will let you stay covered under your home address instead of your school address, but you should check with them to see if they have any exceptions or unique coverage for college students.
Can I get temporary RV insurance?
For a camper, caravan or RV you only drive part of the year, some providers offer part-time RV insurance. Just tell your provider how many months you use it and what kind of coverage you need, and you’ll be billed for only the months you drive your RV.
Check with your provider on any special requirements, like how long your RV has to be parked or garaged before this kind of insurance kicks in. You might also need to update your insurance provider if your RV usage changes to make sure you’re covered when you actually use it.
Do I need an international driver’s license?
If you aren’t a US citizen and include driving in your travel plans, it’s a good idea to get an international driving permit (IDP) before leaving your home country.
An IDP allows you to drive a car — not necessarily insure it. The majority of insurance providers in the US will also require you to produce a driver’s license from your home country before they’ll issue a policy for your trip. If you are able to find a provider that requires only an IDP, they’ll typically charge higher premiums for the convenience. As soon as you book your travel, contact your local motor vehicle or automobile association to find out what’s involved when applying for an IDP.
How do I buy coverage?
Because so many factors go into determining the final cost of your short-term car insurance, a good rule of thumb is to check rates with at least three providers before making your final decision. You’ll find a few reputable providers that offer temporary coverage, including Geico, Allstate and Progressive.
Look for a short-term car insurance policy that provides:
- Liability coverage
- Collision coverage
- Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
- Medical payments coverage for passengers in your vehicle
You may also want to look into the advantages of adding comprehensive car insurance coverage.
Spontaneity is an amazing part of travel. But when it comes to driving in the US, you simply must plan ahead. Before embarking on your adventures look into getting an international driving permit, and compare quotes from at least three reputable insurers providing short-term car insurance.
Leave your “unplanning” to extending your stay, altering your plans or even splurging on that once-in-a-lifetime experience in the States. Bon voyage!