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Car insurance is essential protection that covers you if you’re at fault in a car accident — it can also pay for damage to your own vehicle, injuries to yourself or your passengers and even pay for repairs if your car is vandalized or damaged by hail or other extreme weather.
Your car insurance policy is specific to you and your current address — in fact, your insurance premium is calculated, in part, based on where your car is garaged, meaning where it spends most of its time.
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But that doesn’t mean your insurance coverage is limited to the state you live in. Your car insurance will cover you in every state — no matter where in the U.S. you drive. However, if you’ve permanently moved to a different state, or you’re driving to Mexico or Canada, the answer might be different.
Your car insurance coverage extends across the U.S., so you can drive anywhere in the country and know you’re covered
However if you drive across the border to Mexico you’ll need a new, temporary policy to cover you there
If you’re permanently relocating to another state, you’ll need to update your insurance policy with your new address
The simple answer is yes, when you have a valid auto insurance policy, it covers you no matter where you drive in the U.S. That’s true even when you’re driving in a state with different rules about insurance than your own. Car insurance coverage requirements vary depending on which state you live in. Although you purchase coverage based on your own state's coverage options, your insurance should protect you even when you're driving across the nation. Permanently moving to another state is another story, but your car insurance will cover you on:
Interstate road trips
Vacations in another state
Driving across state borders for work or school
In fact, if your insurance company doesn't sell policies in your destination state, you can still rely on your policy regardless of where you drive in the U.S. To that end, meeting the minimum insurance coverage in another state doesn't matter — so long as you carry the minimum in your home state.
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Yes, as we mentioned earlier, your insurance will cover you in any state, even if you get into an accident in a state with different car insurance requirements. For example, say you purchased the minimum amount of bodily liability insurance coverage in your state and get in an accident in another state where the requirement is $5,000 more than you have. It's logical to think that your insurance provider will pay out the amount you carry and no more. However, most insurers will make up the $5,000 difference and cover you for the higher limit amount.
Car insurance companies usually refer to the ability to increase limits as a "broadening clause." This clause also takes into account your additional coverage needs if you drive to a no-fault state that requires you to carry personal injury protection (PIP).
If you don't have this protection and get into an accident in a state where PIP is required (usually called a no-fault state) , your insurance company will typically extend coverage to you to pay for any injuries you sustain in an accident for this particular incident.
➞ Learn more about the different types of car insurance
For the most part, you can embark on a long road trip without giving a thought to your auto insurance policy. Yet, there are a couple of instances where your policy may not cover you and you should be aware if these situations apply to you:
If you’re moving to a new state, your current insurance may cover you in the short term as you drive to your next destination. But you will need to update your current policy or buy a new insurance policy in your new home state to satisfy insurance requirements there. You should start preparing for this as soon as you know when and where you’re moving.
If your current insurance carrier writes policies in your new state too, you can contact them and tell them you’re moving. Ask them how much a new policy at your updated address would be, and remember that you can buy a policy ahead of time and set it to go in forcethe date you want it to begin.
However, sticking with your current carrier may not be the best option. If they don’t write policies in your new state, you’ll have to shop around anyways, and even if they do sell insurance where you’re moving, they may not have the best rates. Work with an independent broker or do your own research to find out who can offer you the best coverage for your money in your new home state.
➞ Learn more about updating car insurance when you move to a new state
If you’re planning a road trip from the U.S. into Mexico, your auto insurance likely won't cover you, and even if your car insurance company offers limited coverage, Mexico’s requirements may not recognize it.
You will need to buy a type of special, temporary insurance for driving in Mexico. Many major car insurance companies partner with Mexican insurance companies to offer special coverage for tourists driving their cars south of the border, so you can even buy this type of coverage well in advance of your trip.
Even if your car insurance offers you some limited coverage in Mexico, the country requires drivers to have a minimum amount of car insurance through a Mexican provider, so you’ll still need to buy special car insurance for your trip. Most insurance companies, however, do cover you if you drive north of the border into Canada.
➞ Learn more about car insurance coverage in Mexico
If you have the time before you hit the road for an interstate road trip, it's a good idea to check your auto insurance policy or call your insurance agent just to make sure your policy has a broadening clause or will cover you for wherever you plan to drive and your particular situation.
You can contact your car insurance company in any number of ways, most carriers make it easy to reach a representative for questions:
Through a smartphone app
Over the phone
In person at a brick and mortar location of your car insurance carrier
You can find out if you have a valid insurance policy by calling your auto insurance company or contacting the DMV to help you do an auto insurance lookup. You may be asked to provide information such as the vehicle identification number (VIN), license plate number, and your license number.
In general, your car should be registered where it is garaged, typically where you live. It’s against the law to live in one state and register your car in another, so as soon as you move states, you should make it a priority to contact the DMV in your new state and register your car there.
You may be able to stick with the same insurance company when you move states, you’ll just have to update your address and handle any changes to your policy. Check with an insurance agent before you change states to see if they’ll cover you when you move.