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 insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Oct 13, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • If you’re going on a road trip in your vehicle, you must be sure to have sufficient car insurance coverage
  • When crossing state lines, it’s not possible to satisfy all states insurance requirements at the same time
  • When driving in the U.S., your insurance will provide you with at least a minimum amount of coverage as required by law
  • It’s wise to carry Medical Payments and other first-party coverage when you’re driving for long periods of time
  • If you’re renting a vehicle, check to see how your coverage will extend and consider buying supplemental options

The growing popularity of air travel has changed the way that Americans travel. Since you can get across the country in just hours rather than days, more and more travelers are electing to hop on a plane when they’re going long distances.

While you might think that Americans aren’t hitting the road anymore to go on trips, that couldn’t be further from the truth. Americans are taking more frequent road trips, they’re just shorter.

Whether you’re hitting the road to visit a neighboring state or you’re going cross-country, it’s critical that you prepare in advance for the best experience possible.

Part of that preparation should include using an online comparison tool to find the best price for car insurance. Enter your zip code above to compare rates.

Tidy your car up, get a thorough inspection, top off your fluids, map out a few routes, and stock up on things to occupy everyone’s time. It’s also important to verify that you have enough insurance in place:

Does your current insurance cover you when you’re on a road trip?

You need to verify that you have your registration, your license, and your insurance documents neatly in place before you leave. Hitting the open road without insurance isn’t just frowned upon, it’s against the law.

Fortunately, if you’re venturing off in your car and it has insurance, that existing coverage will follow you.

Not all states have the same insurance legislation. Since insurance laws are enacted by the state legislature, what’s required in the eyes of law will change every time that you cross over state boundaries.

As you’re mapping out the different routes that you might take, keep the insurance requirements in the forefront of your mind.

There are two basic forms of auto insurance systems.

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What type of coverage do you need in tort states?

You probably either live in a tort state or will be passing through one when you go on your road trip. If you do, you’ll have to carry at least some third-party coverage to be in compliance with mandatory insurance laws.

Here are some mandatory coverage options you’ll have to carry:

  • Bodily Injury Liability required to pay for medical bills incurred by others
  • Property Damage Liability – required to pay for property damage expenses incurred by others
  • Uninsured Motorist may be required in some states to pay for your own medical bills incurred when involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist

What type of coverage is required in a no-fault state?

The no-fault coverage requirements are unique. Most states have some type of modified system in place because there’s no pure no-fault system. Most of the time, you have to carry both liability and no-fault protection.

Other states strictly require only Personal Injury Protection (PIP). PIP will cover the following:

  • Reasonable and necessary medical expenses
  • Funeral expenses
  • Income replacement coverage per week or month
  • Rehabilitation cost coverage
  • Loss of services coverage

What happens if your limits don’t satisfy state requirements?

If you cross over state lines and there’s a different coverage requirement or limit requirement, you don’t have to run to the phone and change your insurance.

Your auto insurance must stay in the state where the car is registered so switching coverage or buying another plan doesn’t make sense.

You don’t have to fret because your coverage is designed to protect you when you’re on a road trip and you’re driving out-of-state.

If you’re carrying basic coverage or minimal limits, your limits will go up to meet the minimum state requirements as soon as you cross over to a new territory.

Your provider isn’t so friendly if you’re crossing the border. If you’re going on a road trip outside of the United States, it’s an entirely different story.

Your existing coverage might extend 10 to 15 miles past the border for protection to your car, but none of the other coverage is valid.

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What type of coverage do you need if you’re going to Canada or Mexico?

If you’re going to South America through Mexico, you have to have Mexican car insurance that pays for potential liability losses. You can buy Mexican car insurance online before you set off on your adventure or you can buy it on the border from a provider there.

If you’re traveling up north and you’re going to experience Ontario or Winnipeg, you have to buy a Canadian car insurance plan before you can get a permit to take your car over the border.

You’ll need permission to take financed cars at either border if the car is financed.

Does your insurance protect you while you’re driving a rental?

If you decide it’s best to take a car serviced and maintained by a rental agency, you still have to be committed to building the right insurance portfolio. Your insurer protects you in a rental in the U.S., but supplemental coverage is necessary.

Consider buying:

  • Supplemental Liability Insurance
  • Personal Effects Coverage
  • Damage Waiver
  • Personal Accident Coverage

Technology has made it possible to avoid a lot of potential hazards while you’re on a road trip. You can map your route and even find the lowest gas prices.

Believe it or not, you can even use technology to go online and get multiple car quotes at once to find the best rate for sufficient coverage before your trip.

Get free quotes now by entering your zip code below.


  1. https://www.thebalance.com/understanding-minimum-car-insurance-requirements-2645473
  2. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2012/06/04/should-you-purchase-rental-car-insurance
  3. http://time.com/3998949/road-trip-history/
  4. https://www.askmen.com/top_10/cars/top-10-road-trip-checklist.html
  5. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-harrow/upcoming-road-trip-there-_b_12591580.html
  6. https://www.rmiia.org/auto/steering_through_your_auto_policy/Tort_Auto_Insurance_Basics.asp
  7. https://www.consumeraffairs.com/travel/carrent_ins.html