Exceptions in Auto Insurance for Military Members
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UPDATED: Apr 23, 2019
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Being in the military can be quite challenging. For just the simple things that you and I take for granted, like car insurance and registration, satisfying the requirements of military service while making sure you’re current with state laws isn’t always simple to do.
Fortunately, there are some exceptions to most state regulations when it comes to auto insurance; exemptions designed to meet the unique needs of military members and their families.
Whether you’re stateside or preparing to return from overseas, you can start looking for auto insurance quotes right now by entering your ZIP code into our FREE search tool!
Before continuing it must be noted that, in discussing auto insurance for military members, we are referring to the private vehicles owned by these individuals. Vehicles owned by the military are not included here, as they are not subject to insurance requirements.
Any vehicle owned by one of the service branches and driven by authorized military personnel is automatically covered by the U.S. armed forces; no additional insurance is required.
Insurance Is Still Mandatory for Driving
Regardless of which branch of the military you serve in, or where you live within the United States, auto insurance law is still the domain of individual states. As such, it’s difficult for us to make any blanket statements regarding what may be required in your state.
Further complicating matters is the fact that laws are applied differently between military members and their non-military spouses, those who are deployed within the U.S. and those outside, and depending on who is the actual owner of a given vehicle.
Suffice it to say that, in states where minimum liability insurance is required in order to register and drive a vehicle, that much will not change for military members. All that changes is how the law is administered. We’ll use the state of Florida as an example.
Any member of the military driving a Florida-registered vehicle in that state must maintain a liability insurance policy. They are allowed to drive vehicles registered and insured in another state for as long as they are stationed in Florida. In fact, that’s one of the exceptions.
Military members don’t have to establish residency in Florida and have their registrations and insurance policies transferred.
They can keep everything in their home state.
Furthermore, if a military member gets transferred elsewhere and takes his Florida-registered vehicle with him, he’s no longer required to carry Florida insurance as long as he proves, with an affidavit, that his car is with him at his new location.
If the vehicle remains in Florida, with active Florida tags, the owner will have to maintain a liability insurance policy from that state.
Cancellation of Car Insurance
Some states use an automatic reporting method whereby insurance companies log onto a state database to electronically notify them of a canceled policy.
If your state requires that license plates and registrations be surrendered in the event of a canceled insurance policy, you’ll most likely get a letter from your department of motor vehicles informing you to do so as a result of your loss of insurance.
Other states, like Virginia for example, put the onus for reporting a canceled policy on the driver. So, a military member who decides to cancel his Virginia auto insurance policy because he’s being redeployed still has the responsibility of notifying the Virginia motor vehicle department.
According to its website, the department requires any active tags that were covered under the policy to be surrendered by the driver as well.
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Special Exceptions for Military Members
Some states have gone out of their way to pass special legislation providing extra benefits to military personnel. One such example is New York.
That state’s Patriot Plan is a law that was specifically crafted to provide extra benefits to those serving in the armed services, while at the same time alleviating some of the day-to-day hassles that result from military service.
Where auto insurance is concerned, it’s still required by law, but a military member whose policy lapses during a period of deployment may be able to avoid fines and penalties if he meets certain requirements upon returning to New York.
Another nice provision offered by New York is the automatic extension of driver’s licenses and registrations.
In other words, if a military member’s license or registration will expire during a period of deployment, the state automatically extends those documents beyond the expiration date until the deployment period ends.
This is done automatically through computerized records. The individual then has six months from the date of his return to renew his license and registration.
Licensing Issues for Military Members
One other thing to consider here is the relationship between auto insurance and licensing for military members and their families. Just as there are different insurance regulations from one state to the next, there are also different licensing regulations.
For a full list of what each state requires, you can go to the website of the United States Coast Guard Office of the Judge Advocate General.
It provides a state-by-state reference for licensing requirements.
Using Montana as an example, members of the military don’t need a license of any kind to operate government-owned vehicles for the purposes of official business. Those vehicles don’t need insurance either. If you’re a service member stationed in Montana, you don’t need a special Montana driver’s license.
Rather, you can get an exemption sticker to put on the license from your home state. That also means you can continue using an insurance policy issued in another state.
Spouses of service members are also granted the same residency-related benefits. For example, as long as they remain with their spouses in Montana, they are also eligible for the exemption sticker.
Those stickers, and the benefits that come with them remain in force even if a service member is deployed overseas.
How Much Insurance to Buy
When you’re ready to purchase an auto insurance policy, you may be eligible for certain military discounts from your insurance company. This will vary among providers so it’s important that you ask before you purchase a policy.
The good news is some companies offer very significant discounts to military members because they tend to be safer drivers and they drive their personal vehicles less often.
As for how much insurance you need to buy, that’s up to you and your circumstances.
At the very least, you’ll need liability insurance in an amount ranging somewhere between $15,000 and $50,000. This type of insurance is designed to protect other potential drivers you might injure in a crash you cause.
You may have to also add collision and comprehensive coverage if you still have an outstanding loan on your personal vehicle.
Collision insurance pays to repair or replace your vehicle after a crash on the road. Damage sustained in any other way, including fire, vandalism, and acts of nature, will be covered under your comprehensive policy.
These two types of insurance may still be a wise idea to carry after you pay off your loan if your car maintains a high resale value. You can find out what your car’s resale value is by utilizing the Kelley Blue Book or the NADA car buying guide.
Companies Specializing in Military Insurance
If you’re buying your first auto insurance policy you might want to ask your fellow service members how they get theirs. Why? Because there are about a half dozen organizations around the country that specialize in benefits and insurance policies for military members.
These organizations serve only military members and their families; no one else. Getting your insurance through one of them gives you several advantages.
First of all, company representatives are very familiar with military regulations and the military lifestyle. Their knowledge enables them to make customized insurance policies specifically to meet the needs of this unique group of people.
You don’t get the same sort of service from a run-of-the-mill insurance provider that merely adds an Armed Forces policy to its list of options as you do from a company that works with military members on a regular basis.
If you bundle your multiple policies with an organization of this sort you can achieve even greater savings. Think about bundling if you have life insurance or a homeowner’s or rental policy. Bundling may even be beneficial with an annuity as well.
Never Assume Anything
The only thing you don’t want to do is simply assume everything is fine with your auto insurance just because you are part of the military. While it would be nice if all military members and their spouses were exempt from regulations, that’s not the case.
It’s still required of you to find out the laws in your state and make sure your vehicle is properly registered and covered by appropriate insurance.
If you need help, you can always contact a local independent agent. You can also find information through your state insurance department or department of motor vehicles.
As a last resort, your commanding officer may be able to point you to military-based resources you might be able to utilize.
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