Are you gearing up for an exciting road trip but unsure if your existing car insurance policy is enough? If so, you are not alone. Many drivers ask if they need to modify their car insurance for road trips.
Road trips can bring back childhood memories, allow bonding with friends and family, and explore new places. But having the right car insurance in place is equally important. Furthermore, different states may have different minimum coverage requirements for motorists to drive their vehicles there legally.
Read this article to learn how to protect yourself from risk when using your car for long-haul auto travel.
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Is Your Current Car Insurance Enough?
While all drivers will need some form of car insurance for road trips that involve crossing state lines, that insurance does not necessarily need to differ from what is required in your home state to drive legally.
States generally recognize the insurance coverage of visitors from other states. Police will not cite visitors for lacking insurance just because their coverage limits are lower than what is required in the state they are visiting.
However, drivers may encounter unexpected situations when traveling away from home. Therefore, exploring some of the different auto insurance products on the market may be a good idea to better insulate yourself from the unexpected.
In all US states except one, liability coverage is required to operate a vehicle on public roads legally. Therefore, unless you will be traveling exclusively to New Hampshire, travelers will need liability coverage to be considered street-legal.
Liability coverage pays damages if a covered driver is at fault in an accident. Ideally, drivers should have enough coverage to pay for the other driver’s injuries, and property damage should an accident occur. Any medical or repair expenses that exceed the coverage limits of the at-fault party’s policy become the responsibility of that driver.
Keep in mind that each state has different liability coverage limits. If you are traveling in a state with higher liability coverage limits than the one you live in and are pulled over, you likely will not be cited for driving without insurance. However, you are taking on a more significant amount of financial and legal risk than you would be if you had more coverage.
Uninsured Motorist Coverage
Uninsured motorist coverage is an optional coverage you can add to existing insurance plans. This coverage pays for the covered driver and their passenger’s injuries if the at-fault driver doesn’t have insurance. Those on road trips should consider uninsured motorist coverage because it could help ensure compensation if they are injured in an accident away from home.
Technically, if an uninsured driver injures you, they are still legally responsible for compensating you for your damages, regardless of location. However, if this situation occurs, holding them accountable could be more challenging than in your state of residence.
Collision auto insurance is a type of insurance coverage that helps to pay for damages to your vehicle if it is involved in an accident. It can be beneficial on a road trip away from home because it can help to cover any costs associated with repairs or replacement of your vehicle should it be damaged in an accident while you are away.
While many drivers have car warranty packages, some may be geographically dependent. Collision coverage, like most other varieties of car insurance, is valid regardless of where the accident occurs.
Roadside assistance is coverage that provides emergency support to drivers while they’re out on the road. This service usually includes tire changes, tow service, gas deliveries, and many other varieties of help drivers may need if they encounter the unexpected. Many insurance companies include roadside assistance as an add-on to existing policies. Other organizations, such as AAA, may offer roadside assistance independent of your primary insurer.
Roadside assistance can be of massive benefit to those on a road trip because it simplifies the process of getting help in an unfamiliar place. If you break down 1,000 miles from home, you may not know who the local tow company is or which shop to take your car to for repairs. Many roadside assistance providers have a pre-determined network of providers they rely on for services. Therefore, you can often get the help you need with one call instead of frantically searching for help on the side of the road.
Comprehensive coverage differs from other types of insurance because it covers incidents not necessarily caused by an accident with another driver. For example, if your car were damaged due to flooding or a hailstorm, comprehensive coverage would cover the cost of repair or replacement.
While comprehensive coverage may cost more than the other types of coverage, you would theoretically not have to consider adding additional coverage before a road trip.
What if My Car Insurance Is Insufficient in Another State?
The good news is, as long as drivers are insured with at least the minimums in their home state, their coverage will automatically switch to the minimums for whichever state they visit. Therefore, they should not have to purchase a new insurance policy for a road trip to be street-legal.
Understanding Minimum Coverage Levels
Every state has a different minimum coverage level dictated by the local department of insurance, with liability coverage being the main constant by location. Liability coverage is generally divided into multiple parts, such as bodily injury liability and property damage coverage. Each state has different thresholds for each part. However, the liability insurance you purchase from an insurer will generally bundle these coverages together.
For example, in California, the minimum liability coverage required by law is 15/30/5. This means you must have at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $30,000 in total bodily injury liability coverage for all people involved in an accident, and $5,000 in property damage coverage. However, your single monthly insurance premium will cover all three coverages.
Other states require drivers to provide more than just liability insurance. Florida requires drivers to carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage, which pays for medical expenses related to a car accident, regardless of who caused it, in addition to liability coverage. Regardless, as an out-of-state driver, you will not need to purchase additional coverage to conform with another state’s minimum requirements.
What if I Plan to Rent a Vehicle for My Road Trip?
Liability insurance covers a driver no matter which vehicle they’re driving. However, liability insurance only provides coverage if you damage someone else’s body or vehicle. If you get into an accident in a rented car, you will be responsible for its damages, regardless of who is at fault.
However, car rental agencies sell insurance to protect against those specific situations. This insurance is not mandated by law, but it could be a good idea unless you can compensate the rental agency for damages in the event of an accident. Remember that this coverage may not be necessary if you carry comprehensive and collision coverage, though that depends on the terms of your auto policy. Speak with your insurer to check whether or not rental car coverage is part of your insurance package.
Does Car Insurance Cover Out-of-Country Trips?
Most insurance companies extend their insurance coverage into Canada. Check with your insurance company before renting a car there, as the coverage may transfer differently than it does in the states.
Insurance companies typically don’t extend their coverage into Mexico due to it being seen as carrying a higher risk than Canada. Those that do will only cover within a certain distance of the US/Mexico border. However, some insurance companies partner with other companies that cover cars exclusively in Mexico. Contact your insurance agent for more information if you’re planning a family trip to Mexico.