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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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

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 Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: May 6, 2022

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In a nutshell

  • The standard rule with car insurance is that you should register and insure your car in the same state as your permanent residence
  • If you drive your car between states, check the local laws to see if you need to register or insure your car there
  • Exceptions to the rule of thumb are students attending college out-of-state, seasonal residents who move homes in the winter, and military members stationed in another state

Like other insurance policies, car insurance can be tricky to standardize. You must abide by the minimum requirements set by your state, but there are also different coverage options to choose from, depending on how much protection you want.

What if you have homes in different states? Perhaps you work in one state and live in another. You might wonder if you can have car insurance in two different states in such cases. Your car can only be insured and registered in one state, but the rules aren’t always straightforward.

To help you understand the nuances regardless of the car insurance company, here’s more about how car insurance works if you live in two states or work somewhere else.

Do you ever need car insurance in two different states?

The general rule with car insurance is that your car should be insured and registered in one state — specifically, where you legally reside. If you insure your vehicle in a different state from where it’s registered, you can get into legal trouble.

So if you move to a different state, you’ll need to transfer your car insurance and registration accordingly. Failing to notify your insurance company about the move can be considered insurance fraud, so it’s essential to learn the proper procedures beforehand.

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Out-of-State Coverage for Car Insurance

While you buy your car insurance in a particular state, your policy generally covers you throughout the United States if the out-of-state trips are domestic and temporary. For example, if you go on an interstate trip or vacation and get into an accident there, you’d still be able to use the insurance coverage from your home state to recoup costs from the accident.

U.S. car insurance policies won’t cover you if you drive to Mexico. So you’ll need to buy a Mexican insurance policy to secure coverage once you cross the border.

Scenarios Where You Might Want Car Insurance in Two Different States

While the general rule seems straightforward, things get complicated for people who split their time between states. In such cases, it’s not as clear where you reside, raising the question of where you should register or insure your car. Read more about each scenario below to better understand how things will work in such cases.

Car Insurance in Multiple States: Living in Two Different States

If you have residences in two states and drive different vehicles in each place, you’ll need a separate insurance policy per car. Of course, each policy must comply with the laws and requirements set by the state where the car is registered.

However, if you drive the same car between states, you might be wondering if you can have car insurance in both states. In this case, it’s important to learn about each state’s rules on what constitutes a resident since this will affect whether you need to register and insure your car there.

For example, you’ll need to register your car in Arizona if you live in the state for over seven months a year. However, in Connecticut, you’ll already be considered a resident if you spend 183 days there in a year. Some states may require you to register your car even if you’re just a temporary resident.

Regardless of your circumstances, remember that you can only carry one insurance policy per vehicle. Think about where it would make more sense to register your vehicle, depending on your time in the state or where you use your car more often.

Snowbird Exception

One exception to the case of driving your car between homes in different states is the snowbird exception. It applies to seasonal residents who move to a state with warm temperatures like Florida or Arizona to spend the winter months. In this case, you’ll only need to register and insure your car in the state where you spend most of your time.

However, there may be nuances depending on the local state laws. For example, if you stay in Georgia for 30 days or more, you’ll need to register your car there even if you aren’t a resident. To address this, you may need to purchase insurance in the state you’re currently living in, then cancel it and buy a new policy when you return to the other state.

Car Insurance in Two Different States: Working in Different States

Another common scenario is when people live in one state and work in another. If this applies to you, you only need to keep the one policy from the state you live in since this is where you keep your car most of the time. So your policy’s out-of-state coverage applies when using your vehicle to commute to and from work.

For example, if you live in New Jersey and work in New York, you should insure your car in New Jersey since you go back home and leave your car there overnight. The only exception is if you have two vehicles — one for your home and one for your workplace. In this case, you’ll need policies in both states.

Car Insurance in Two Different States: College Students

If you’re studying in a different state from where you live, car insurance regulations vary based on local state laws. For example, Idaho allows you to keep your out-of-state registration. However, Michigan requires you have a no-fault insurance policy if you drive the car in the state for more than 30 days in a year.

Another possible scenario is if you’re using a family vehicle insured by your parents. It is common since car insurance for college students tends to have higher rates. So you should be able to stay on the policy if you’re still living in your parent’s home and use the car to drive back home.

You’ll likely need to buy a separate policy if you plan to live on campus or out of state in general. The specifics vary based on who owns the car, so it’s ultimately best to work with your insurance company to discuss how you should arrange your car insurance policy.

Car Insurance in Multiple States: Military Members

Generally, most states allow you to keep your car insurance coverage in your state of residency even if you’re stationed in another state. However, if you plan to make a permanent change of station, you’ll need to register and insure your car in that state. It is essentially the same rule as moving your residence to a different state.

Car Insurance in Two Different States: Key Takeaway

While you need to have car insurance to comply with state requirements, it’s not clear where you should insure your car if you move around. So can you have car insurance in two different states? The answer depends on several factors.

If you have two different vehicles, you need two policies to insure each. However, if you’re working with just one vehicle, you should understand the local state laws to know what constitutes a resident and whether you need to register your car.

Whatever the case, remember to shop for policies beforehand to find the best deal and price.