Car Insurance for Snowbirds

January 19, 2016

Winter is in full swing and while our neighbors up north are shoveling snow and defrosting their cars, Zephyrhills and the surrounding Pasco County communities are brimming with snowbirds. Just drive around Zephyrhills in January and you are bound to see license plates from everywhere, especially Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Ontario, Canada. In the winter months, the population of Zephyrhills and the surrounding area swells to more than 80,000 residents!

For the many snowbirds who leave a vehicle in Florida for use during the winter, special arrangements must be made to make sure their auto insurance is in good order to assure that their auto insurance claims are covered.

Under Florida Law, anyone who has a vehicle in Florida for more than 90 days per year is required to register the car and meet the minimum state car insurance requirements. It is not sufficient to leave your Florida vehicle registered to your home state. If pulled over, you could receive a traffic citation for failing to properly register and/or insure your vehicle. Worse yet, your insurance company could deny coverage for failing to properly represent your vehicle’s location in the event of an accident.

What is required in Florida?
Florida insurance law requires minimum coverage of at least $10,000 of Personal Injury Protection (“PIP”), plus $10,000 of Property Damage Liability (“PD”) coverage. Certainly, you may wish to increase your liability limits to protect your property and assets. Talk to a Florida licensed insurance agent about coverages that are best for you and your family.

Why should I bother?
Let’s say your legal residence is Ohio and you garage your winter vehicle in Zephyrhills, Florida.Further, let’s assume you leave your Florida vehicle registered and insured in your home state of Ohio. In the event of an accident, it is possible that your Ohio insurance company could deny coverage for a claim citing a “material misrepresentation” about where the car was located.

What about dropping coverages in the summer?
If your vehicle is garaged in Florida year round, you can drop certain insurance coverages when you head back up North. While that may save you money on premiums, there are other pitfalls with this strategy.

Some snowbirds go as far as to surrender their license plate and vehicle registration when they head back up North allowing them to completely drop their auto insurance. In the event of a natural disaster (e.g. a summer hurricane blows through Zephyrhills), there is coverage for that vehicle.
A somewhat less drastic measure used by snowbirds is to keep their car registered but maintain only PIP and property damage liability coverage. This can be problematic as well if the snow bird returns to Florida and is involved in an accident before they have an opportunity to restore their full insurance coverage.

It is no secret that the volume of traffic in and around Zephyrhills increases dramatically during the winter months. With increased traffic comes more vehicle crashes and injury accidents. It is therefore vitally important for snow birds to make sure they are properly insured to protect themselves and avoid financial disaster.

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