Do you need extra auto insurance on your next road trip?

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Do you need extra auto insurance on your next road trip?

When you're getting ready to leave on a road trip out of state, you're probably busy plotting stops along the way and finishing up your last-minute packing.

Chances are pretty low that you're thinking about your car insurance policy and whether your coverage is intact while driving across state borders. This is no surprise as most people only think about car insurance when they buy it, pay the premium, or have to deal with a claim.

If I travel out of state does my auto insurance cover me?

The simple answer is: generally, yes. 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 clear across the nation.

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.

For example, say you purchased the minimum amount of bodily 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 would also take into account that you may need additional coverage 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, your insurance company will typically extend coverage to you to pay for any injuries you sustain in an accident for this particular incident.

A few situations when your car insurance won't cover you out of state

For the most part, you can embark on that 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:

• You are moving to another state. For example, if that road trip you are taking is for the purpose of relocating to another state, your current insurance may cover you in the short-term as you drive to your next destination. But, you will need to buy a new insurance policy in your new home state to satisfy insurance requirements there.

• Your travel plans take a detour south of the border into Mexico. In this case, your auto insurance likely won't cover you and you will need to buy some type of insurance for driving in Mexico. Most insurance companies, however, do cover you if you drive north of the border into Canada.

Check your policy before you go

If you have the time before you hit the road, 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.

Photo: Robert Couse Baker