Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: May 13, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • When you’re a snowbird or you go between states for business, you have to plan for your auto insurance needs
  • You need to buy auto insurance that complies with the state laws and maintain it at all times while you’re the owner
  • If you’re living in two states, you need to maintain coverage from a carrier in the state where the car is licensed
  • You can’t buy two different auto insurance policies on a single car because of the unjust enrichment rule
  • If you own two cars that are each registered in a different state, you can purchase car insurance in two states

Life can be complicated enough when you’re living between states. Not only do you have to maintain two different households and cover twice the living expenses, you also have to familiarize yourself with different state laws and procedures.

If you’re planning on driving cars in both states, maintaining your auto insurance portfolio can be complicated.

Whether you have two cars or you’re driving a single car from state to state, it’s your duty as the owner to follow the state insurance rules.

You might not be an expert on the laws and auto insurance contracts, but there are resources that you can reference online before you start to compare premiums.

Enter your zip code above to get auto insurance quotes right away.

Where are you supposed to register your vehicle?

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While it’s not common, some people do live in one state for half of the year and another for the remainder. If this is the case, you could actually be a resident in both states as opposed to just one.

It’s not typical to hold residency in two states but if you own property in one state and you work in another for more than 184 days of the year.

While you’re not technically a full resident in both of the states, if you meet the definition of part-time resident it can create some confusion.

You’ll have to decide where you’re going to register your car based on where you’ll be living more or where your car will be driven the most.

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Where do you need to insure the vehicle?

Where you insure your car is all dependent on where your vehicle is registered. If the car is registered in your primary state, it needs to be insured in that state.

If you’re a part-time resident in each state, you’ll have to comply with the state laws where the car is registered.

When you don’t comply with the mandatory laws in the state and you have a vehicle licensed there, you could face penalties.

What happens if you don’t comply with insurance requirements?

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There’s a long list of penalties that you can face if you’re not carrying your insurance in the right state. What’s unfortunate is that you can be penalized if you have coverage when the insurer isn’t licensed to sell auto policies to drivers in the state.

Always check the laws in your state before you apply for coverage.

Some states have more stiff penalties than others because of the growing rate of uninsured motorists. You’ll have to look at the penalties that judges and motor vehicle agencies can assess in your state just to see how serious the consequences are.

Here’s a list of some of the most common monetary and criminal penalties:

  • Fines for citations issued to vehicle owners who are driving without insurance
  • Suspension of registration for failing to maintain your auto insurance on a licensed vehicle
  • Suspension of your driver’s license
  • Mandatory court appearance and 40 hours of community service
  • Court-ordered vehicle impound
  • Imprisonment for not more than one year for habitual offenders

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What type of insurance is mandatory?

Not all types of insurance will be mandatory for your vehicle. If you’re looking to buy only enough coverage to avoid the penalties above, you must purchase a basic policy with the requirements.

Every state has its own compulsory laws, but usually, you’ll have to carry at least:

  • Bodily Injury Liability (must buy in tort states)
  • Property Damage Liability (typically required in both tort and no-fault states)
  • Personal Injury Protection (only in no-fault states)
  • Medical Payments (must sign a waiver in some states)
  • Uninsured Motorist (may be able to sign a waiver in some states)

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Can you buy insurance in both states to be safe?

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There are states with the common fault-based systems and 12 other states that have a form of no-fault system in place.

If you live in a no-fault state and a tort state part-time, deciding where to register your car and buy insurance can be a difficult task.

You might think that buying insurance in both states is the best way to safeguard yourself, but doing this is typically against the rules because of unjust enrichment contract provisions.

What does unjust enrichment even mean?

Auto insurance is a financial contract. The coverage you purchase is meant to help restore you to the same financial position you were in before the loss. Your coverage isn’t meant to enrich you to a better situation than you were in pre-loss.

If you carry two different auto policies in two different states, there is a risk that you can collect for one claim two times.

Since this is illegal, insurers would prefer that you don’t even carry two policies to avoid the issue.

Also, you can’t have insurance in a state where your car isn’t licensed.

Can you have two cars registered in different states?

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If you’re in the group of people who can technically be classified as a resident of two states, it’s possible that you could own two cars that are licensed in different states.

When this situation happens, you will have two different insurance policies on the cars, each from carriers licensed in the state where the car is tagged.

It’s possible to carry auto insurance in two different states, but not if you’re only insuring one vehicle. If you’re trying to decide where to tag your vehicle, start comparing the costs first. It could be helpful to check out the premiums on your vehicle in each state as well.

To do a cost comparison, use our online shopping tools and get instant quotes in a matter of minutes.