Car Insurance for Road Trips – Do You Have Enough Coverage?
Last Updated on August 31, 2020
So you’re going on a road trip. Naturally, you’re concerned about car insurance. Things can go wrong on a road trip, and car insurance protects you.
Do you need to update your car insurance coverage before a road trip? Should you raise or adjust your car insurance coverage before you go? Should you get new coverage, change your existing coverage, or add roadside assistance?
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about car insurance and road trips, including whether to update or change your coverage before going on a road trip.
Car Insurance Covers Road Trips
First, let’s make one thing clear: standard car insurance covers a road trip. You buy car insurance to cover you when driving. Car insurance covers you when driving to work. It also covers you when driving on a road trip or driving your car for virtually any other reason.
A standard car insurance policy covers you when driving in every state in America. If you have legal car insurance in your state, then that car insurance will rise to match the legal limits of any other state in which you’re driving.
Car Insurance Rises to Match Each State’s Minimum Limits
If you have bare minimum car insurance in your state, then that car insurance will rise to match the minimum required limits in any other state.
Let’s say you live in California and want to take a road trip to Oregon.
In California, drivers are required to have $30,000 of bodily injury liability per accident and $5,000 of property damage liability per accident. Oregon has higher minimum car insurance requirements. In Oregon, drivers must have $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage and $20,000 of property damage coverage per accident. Oregon also requires $50,000 of uninsured motorist coverage and $15,000 of personal injury protection.
Because Oregon has higher car insurance limits, your car insurance policy rises to match those limits when you drive in Oregon. Yes, you still have a bare minimum insurance plan – but your insurance limits have risen to match the state in which you’re driving.
A standard car insurance policy covers you in every state in America. Wherever you go in the United States, you should have (at least) the minimum required car insurance coverage.
Most Insurance Covers Road Trips to Canada and Mexico
Are you driving to Canada or Mexico on your road trip? Most car insurance companies cover America’s two neighboring countries.
Virtually every major car insurance policy in the United States covers road trips to Canada. Most (but not all) insurance companies also cover road trips to Mexico.
Contact your insurer or check your policy to verify international coverage. Some insurance policies – particularly policies from cheaper providers – do not extend coverage to Canada or Mexico, which means you could be uninsured when crossing the border.
Beyond these two countries, you may or may not be covered. If you plan to drive your car further south than Mexico, for example, then you may not be covered. Or, if you rent a car overseas, then you may or may not be covered. Contact your insurer to verify.
Consider Adding Roadside Assistance Before a Road Trip
Roadside assistance covers flat tires, fuel deliveries, vehicle lockouts, and other situations. Some people have roadside assistance on their policy automatically. Others pay extra to add it. You might pay AAA an annual fee, for example, for roadside assistance coverage. Or, you could pay your insurer a few extra dollars per month for roadside assistance.
Roadside assistance is particularly valuable on a road trip. If you get locked out of your vehicle at home, then you could phone a friend to pick you up so you can grab a new set of keys. Or, if you run out of fuel a few miles from your home, you could ask someone you know to deliver fuel.
Things change on a road trip. What happens if you get a flat tire in the middle of the desert? What happens if you run out of fuel on a mountain pass? Who do you call when your vehicle won’t start on a cold winter morning?
Roadside assistance can help you avoid unexpected (and costly) situations. Consider adding roadside assistance to your policy before your road trip. It may cost just a few extra dollars per month, but roadside assistance pays for itself with a single claim.
Should You Increase Coverage Before a Road Trip?
Most people do not adjust coverage before a road trip. Unless you’re driving to a high-risk area, a road trip should not significantly change your risk of making a claim or accident.
However, some drivers adjust coverage for added peace of mind.
Let’s say you have a bare minimum liability plan for normal commutes. You work from home and spend limited time on the road, so you’re okay with minimal coverage. However, you’re taking a road trip across the country and want added peace of mind. You contact your insurer before your road trip and increase coverage.
Some states require just $5,000 of property damage coverage, for example. If you have a bare minimum liability insurance plan in California, for example, then you have just $5,000 of property damage coverage.
If you cause an accident and damage someone else’s property (like their vehicle), then insurance covers this damage. $5,000 of coverage, however, isn’t enough to cover most vehicle damage. Even a minor collision could cause 10x that amount of damage. You are still required to pay for this damage – but insurance will only cover you up to the limits of your policy.
Car Insurance Coverage to Add Before a Road Trip
Consider adding all of the following coverage options before a road trip:
Collision Coverage: Collision coverage is optional in every state. It covers damage to your own vehicle after an accident. If you cause an accident on your road trip, and you don’t have collision coverage, then insurance will not compensate you for vehicle repairs. Consider adding collision coverage before your road trip.
Comprehensive Coverage: Comprehensive coverage covers vehicle theft, vandalism, hail damage, environmental damage, and other claims. It’s optional in every state, but it may be helpful for a road trip. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, for example, and someone steals your vehicle, then insurance will not compensate you.
Roadside Assistance: Roadside assistance covers vehicle lock-outs, fuel delivery, flat tires, and other claims. It’s optional, but it could quickly pay for itself on a road trip with a single claim.
Trip Insurance: Most insurance companies sell trip or travel insurance. This insurance covers the cost of canceling your trip for unexpected events. It could extend helpful coverage to other parts of your trip – like roadside assistance.
When Does Car Insurance Not Cover Road Trips?
Car insurance covers standard road trips. However, there are some situations where car insurance will not cover a road trip.
Business Trips: A standard car insurance policy covers personal use of your vehicle. It does not cover business trips. If you are doing a road trip for your employer, for example, to deliver a product from one city to another, then you may not be covered by your personal policy. You may need to buy special business insurance for work-related road trips. Or, some employers have special insurance for this situation.
International Trips: A standard American car insurance policy covers trips to Canada. Most policies also cover trips to Mexico. Beyond these two neighboring countries, however, drivers may not be covered. If you continue driving south from Mexico into Guatemala or Belize, for example, then you may not be covered. Check your policy to verify international coverage.
Rental Car Road Trips: Let’s say you’re flying somewhere, renting a car, and then going on a road trip. Standard car insurance policies cover rental cars and some credit cards do too, so you should have insurance for this road trip. However, some policies exclude rental car coverage. Most policies also have a 15 to 30 day limit. If you’re renting a car for longer than 15 or 30 days, for example, then you may not be covered.
Final Word on Car Insurance for Road Trips
It’s up to you to decide whether or not to update car insurance before a road trip. Some people have adequate coverage and are fully protected during the road trip, while others need to update coverage.
If going on a road trip to a new state, car insurance will rise to match that state’s minimum legal limits, if necessary. If driving to a different country, car insurance should cover trips to Canada and Mexico – although not all policies cover international travel.
Check your policy or contact your insurer, then decide whether or not to update coverage before your next road trip.