Travel car insurance

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Most people use their cars primarily to drive in their area of residence — whether to work, to the grocery store or library, or to ferry their kids to games — and of course, car insurance covers you for these in-town and in-state trips. But what about when you travel outside of your primary residence? In most cases, whether you use your car or have a car from a rental company, your insurance will still be valid no matter where you go.

Does car insurance cover travel?

If you have a car insurance policy, you should have everything you need to travel within the U.S. There is no specific type of coverage called “travel insurance,” and even if you drive in multiple states, you will be covered by your policy.

Almost every state in the U.S. requires you to carry a car insurance policy in order to drive legally. Minimum coverage policies typically consist of bodily injury liability insurance, which covers the other driver and their passengers if you cause an accident, and property damage liability, which covers the other driver’s car or stationary objects.

Some states have additional requirements and many drivers also purchase collision and comprehensive coverage. A full coverage policy includes liability with collision and comprehensive coverage, which includes coverage for damage to your car in a covered accident or other covered incident, like a falling branch or vandalism.

But what happens when someone else is driving your car? If you’re traveling a long distance, you may want to switch off driving with someone else. In that case, there are additional considerations.

  • Named driver: If you have a policy that includes named drivers, then only those people are covered when they are behind the wheel of your car. This allows you to add a spouse or partner to your policy, as well any other drivers in your home, such as a young adult driver.
  • Permissive use: Permissive use refers to the practice of letting someone else who is not named on the policy drive your car. Not all policies include permissive use, so it’s a good idea to check if yours does. For example, if you are driving across the country with a friend and they are helping with the driving, check your policy documents or call your agent to make sure they are covered when behind the wheel.

Car insurance for travel out of state

If you are traveling temporarily to another state and have an accident, your auto insurance goes with you to cover you. You can also use optional coverage types you have added to your policy, such as roadside assistance, no matter where you drive in the U.S. The same is true for rental car insurance. Traveling out of state on a temporary visit doesn’t change whether you carry insurance.

In fact, your policy will most likely adjust to a new state’s minimum requirements if needed. Let’s say you travel from an at-fault to a no-fault state, where you are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. Your policy will most likely temporarily extend PIP coverage to you.

If you are moving to a new state, however, you will need to change your policy to reflect that state’s minimums once you arrive there. If you plan to stay with your current insurer, make sure they offer insurance in your new state.

Car insurance for travel out of country

Traveling outside of the country by car is a little more complicated than traveling out of state, but it’s still possible to manage. Some countries, such as Canada, typically allow you to use your U.S. driver’s license and consider your U.S. policy to be a valid form of insurance. In other countries, you will need an international license and separate policy coverage.

Mexico car insurance

Your regular U.S. car insurance will most likely not cover you once you cross the border into Mexico. Mexican law requires you to have a policy that is specific to the country in order to drive legally there. Your American insurer may be able to get you this coverage by working with a Mexican company, or you can purchase a policy from a Mexican provider. One exception is if you have rental car insurance. If you get your rental car in Mexico, it should have the appropriate coverage through the rental company.

Canada car insurance

Canada and the U.S. have reciprocal insurance laws, so you shouldn’t need a separate policy if you travel across the northern border. Your American policy will remain in force unless you are in Canada for more than 180 days. You will need to bring your proof of insurance card and may also want to have the declaration page of your policy with you, which lists your coverage limits.

Car insurance for other countries

If you are traveling somewhere other than Mexico or Canada, you are probably doing so with a rental car. That car’s rental company will usually have made sure that it had the appropriate policy for that country, although you can always ask to verify this is the case. You may also have the benefit of additional coverage if you pay with your credit card, since some credit card companies offer rental car insurance for travelling abroad. If you are driving abroad with your personal vehicle, your local agent may be able to help you, or you can find out more from the U.S. embassy in the country you’re visiting.

Frequently asked questions

What other car insurance can help during travel?

In addition to standard liability insurance, it’s a good idea to have collision and comprehensive coverage. Many insurers offer other add-ons that may be worth looking into, like roadside assistance, which can be invaluable if you get stuck, and umbrella policies, which give you added financial protection.

Are rental cars covered for travel?

Your policy will only usually cover a necessary car rental while your personal vehicle is being repaired or replaced following a covered incident. If your rental is for leisure or travel purposes, you can purchase coverage from the rental company. If you are traveling outside the U.S., it’s a good idea to get your rental car in your destination country so that it has the right coverage. For example, if you’re going to Mexico, consider renting a car once you arrive. If you rent it in the U.S., it may not have appropriate coverage for a trip to Mexico.

Does my policy cover a rental if I’m in an accident on a trip?

Depending on your coverage, your policy may cover a rental if your vehicle requires repairs or replacement after a covered accident. If the other driver caused the accident, their policy should help cover a rental. If you were at fault, you would need to be carrying rental reimbursement insurance for your policy to cover a rental car.

Written by
Mary Van Keuren
Insurance Contributor
Mary Van Keuren has written for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, Coverage.com and Thesimpledollar.com for the past five years, specializing in home and auto insurance. She has also written extensively for consumer websites including reviews.com and myslumberyard.com. Prior to that, she worked as a writer in academia for several decades.
Edited by
Insurance Editor