If you’re among the snowbirds who flee to warmer climates each winter, there are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for car insurance coverage.
Nearly 1 million people from northern states escape to Florida during the colder months, according to University of Florida research, whereas an Arizona State University study found that more than 300,000 snowbirds call that state home each winter.
Some leave their cars up north for the winter and keep another vehicle at their second home. Others use one vehicle to drive back and forth. Both are good options but it can complicate things when it comes to auto insurance.
How much coverage you need will depend on a few factors.
First, are you driving your car south? Or are you keeping it up north? If you’re taking your car with you, you’ll need to make sure you meet insurance requirements in both states. Your policy in Ohio, for example, may not meet standards set in a no-fault state like And some states like Florida require part-time residents to insure and register their vehicles there. So even if your current coverage already meets state insurance minimums, you must still buy Florida insurance from an agent licensed in the Sunshine State.
But don’t worry: If you’re covered by a large auto insurance company, your agent can likely recommend a colleague in Florida to talk to.
If you’re leaving your car at home, it may be tempting to reduce or suspend coverage until you return. However, most states require all registered vehicles to carry liability insurance, so suspending coverage generally is not a viable option.
In some states, like Florida, if your car is paid off you can drop coverage on the vehicle stored there by surrendering the license plates and registration when you leave. If you still carry a car loan, your lender no doubt requires you to carry collision and comprehensive coverage. And you’ll have to get new insurance and re-register your vehicle each time you return, which can be a pain. However, registering a vehicle in Florida generally costs less than $200, so it could be worth your time if you’re looking to save some money.
Florida law requires anyone staying 90 days or longer (it doesn’t matter if the days are consecutive) to register and insure their vehicle there. In Arizona, another popular snowbird refuge, this standard applies if you plan on staying seven months or longer. So be sure to check your destination state’s laws before getting an auto insurance quote.
What about driver’s licenses?
Fortunately you won’t have to get a new driver’s license, assuming you’re a U.S. citizen. If you’re Canadian, it depends on the state. Florida passed a law in 2012 requiring some foreign drivers to carry an International Driving Permit, but repealed it the next year following confusion and outcry among Canadian tourists. In Arizona, you’ll need a state driver’s license if you live there seven or more months out of the year, similar to vehicle registration requirements.
Escaping the icy clutches of winter for warm weather each year is one of the best perks of retirement. But make sure your auto insurance needs are covered to avoid problems, both at home and down south.
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