How to ensure sufficient car insurance coverage for road trips

If you’re driving your car on a road trip and have your own insurance policy, that policy should cover you throughout the United States. Your insurance will still work if you cross from one state to another during your road trip.  

How to ensure sufficient car insurance coverage for road trips

Planning for a road trip can be exciting. Where will you go? Which friends are coming? What road snacks will you bring? And the most fun question of all: how do you know if you have the right car insurance coverage? 

Okay, maybe only we find that question fun. But it is important to stay prepared when you travel. Knowing what type of car insurance coverage you need for a road trip helps you prepare, whether you’re driving your own car or renting one. 

Does my car insurance cover road trips? 

Road trips that cross into different states 

If you’re driving your car on a road trip and have your own insurance policy, that policy should cover you throughout the United States. Your insurance will still work if you cross from one state to another during your road trip.  

Will another person be sharing driving duties on your adventure? If so, you’ll need to check if your car insurance policy includes permissive use. Permissive use covers drivers who use your car but aren’t on your insurance policy.  

Some people should always be on your policy. If they’re not, add them ASAP to avoid liability and financial risks. These people include: 

  • You (the policy owner) 
  • Your partner, spouse, or roommate, if they drive your car  
  • Family members who live with you and drive your car 
  • Anyone else who borrows your car frequently 

A lot of road trip partners will come from this list. But what about your BFF who doesn’t live with you and usually drives her own car? If you have a permissive use clause in your car insurance policy, she’ll be covered too. Permissive use clauses add coverage to your policy for people who borrow or drive your car occasionally. To find out if you have this coverage type, contact your car insurance provider. 

International road trips 

So, you’re still covered if you cross state lines. You might not be covered if you cross international borders, though. Check the laws where you’re going ahead of time.  

Road trip to Mexico from the U.S. 

American driver’s licenses are valid in Mexico. Unfortunately, most American car insurance policies are not. Contact your insurer to see if they can extend your coverage to Mexico during your road trip. If they can’t, you’ll need to buy an extra short-term policy just for your trip. Considering Mexico’s amazing beaches, cities, food, and culture, it’s well worth it. 

Road trip to Canada from the U.S. 

Driving into Canada from the U.S. is simple when it comes to paperwork. American licenses are street legal there, and American car insurance is too. Make sure you remember your passport, and soon you’ll be sampling poutine and exploring Old Quebec. 

What if I plan to rent a vehicle for my road trip? 

Renting a car is a great way to level up your road trip. You could fly abroad and rent a car to explore a new country. Even within the U.S., you might rent a hybrid for better gas mileage or an SUV to off-road or fit extra passengers and luggage. When renting a car for a road trip, you need to make sure it’s insured. The process differs depending on whether you already have a car insurance policy. 

If you already have an insurance policy 

If you already insure your own car or truck, you can probably use the same policy to cover a rental car. Check with your insurer that your policy covers rental vehicles. If your regular car insurance extends to rental cars, you won’t need to buy insurance from the rental agency. 

If you don’t have a policy already 

If you don’t have car insurance – maybe because you don’t own a car – you’ll need to get rental car insurance for your road trip. Car rental agencies sell rental car insurance packages to go with the car you rent. 

Rental agencies’ insurance offerings must meet their state’s legal minimum coverage limit. They usually offer additional coverage options for more protection. You’ll always have liability coverage with rental car insurance, but you might look for collision damage waiver, personal accident, personal effects, or comprehensive coverage.  

Car insurance coverage types to know for road trips 

With so many options, it can be hard to know what coverage you need for a road trip. Ultimately, the coverage you choose depends on your specific needs and budget. To help you decide, here are some common types of car insurance coverage you might want for a road trip. 

Liability coverage 

Liability coverage helps pay for damage you cause to someone else during an accident. So, if you cause an accident, liability coverage pays for the other driver’s car repairs and medical bills. Almost every U.S. state requires drivers to have a certain amount of liability coverage, so don’t skip this one. 

Comprehensive coverage 

Comprehensive coverage protects you from non-crash damage to your car or rental. This includes things like theft, vandalism and weather damage. If you hit a moose on your way up north, you’ll want comprehensive coverage – it also covers collisions with animals. 

Collision damage waiver coverage 

Collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage helps pay to fix a rental car after a crash. You can get CDW coverage from the rental agency when you rent a car. First, check whether your credit card includes CDW coverage – some credit card companies offer it as a perk. 

Personal accident coverage 

Personal accident coverage or personal accident insurance (PAI) is similar to personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. PAI helps pay for medical coverage, death-related expenses, and ambulance bills from an accident in a rental car. Unlike liability coverage, which only covers the injuries you cause to others, PAI covers you and your passengers’ injuries. 

Personal effects coverage 

Personal effects coverage covers your belongings while you’re storing them in your rental car. It’s supposed to help if someone steals your luggage, wallet, or other valuables from the car. However, personal effects coverage isn’t usually worth it. If you have renters or homeowners insurance, it already covers your possessions. 

Roadside assistance 

Roadside assistance helps when car problems leave you stranded. It includes things like towing, spare tire installation, and jump-starting your battery. If you already subscribe to roadside assistance through your insurance or a program like the American Automobile Association (AAA), you’re all set. You don’t need to get roadside assistance as part of your rental car insurance, too. 

Car insurance coverage is an important part of any road trip 

Figuring out what car insurance you need for your road trip might not be as exciting as figuring out which roadside attractions you want to see (Saugus orange dinosaur, anyone?), but it’s worth it. If you have an accident during your trip, you’ll be glad you were prepared. And even if it’s a smooth trip, knowing you have the right coverage will make it feel even smoother. 

Car insurance questions? We’ll make it simple. Connect with Surround Insurance for help choosing coverage, understanding car insurance, or getting quotes.

This is general information based on questions our customers ask us. It may not be right for your specific situation. You should get some advice from a licensed insurance agent (like us!) before you make a decision on your own insurance.