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Being a member of the U.S. military is certainly challenging under the best conditions. However, when it comes time for deployment, special issues can arise, which further complicate the life of the soldier and his family; issues like vehicle registration and insurance. To help answer some of your questions about your insurance, we have compiled a list of three things you can do with car insurance for deployed military.
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The three things we talk about in this article have to do with your options for car insurance and registration in the event you’re deployed outside your home state. If none of these options works for you, there may be others available to depending on your circumstances and where you live. Talk with your supervisors and fellow soldiers to get their input. Somewhere out there is a solution that will meet your needs while causing the least amount of inconvenience.
Option 1 – Take Your Vehicle Completely off the Road
If you are being deployed overseas for a few years, taking your vehicle with you will probably be impossible. Yet unless there’s someone back home, who will be driving and maintaining it, it’s also senseless to pay the expense involved in keeping it registered and insured. You’re better off canceling your insurance policy, turning in your registration, and storing the vehicle until your overseas tour comes to an end.
The one downside to completely taking your vehicle off the road is the fact that some insurance companies will impose a financial penalty for canceling a policy before its expiration date. Obviously, whether you’re charged a fee will depend on your car insurance company’s business practices.
Some insurance companies make special exceptions for military personnel and are willing to waive the penalty if cancellation is the result of being deployed.
If you do decide to take your vehicle completely off the road, be sure to check with your state regarding how that process is completed. As an example, New York is one of those states in which plates do not remain with the vehicle for its entire life.
Should you cancel your insurance policy you’ll be required to surrender both your plates and registration to a local DMV office prior to the cancellation date.
Option 2 – De-Insure Your Vehicle
Some states, like Arizona, allow for something they call de-insuring. To de-insure a car is to take it off the road for repair, restoration, or storage purposes while still maintaining your registration plates.
In Arizona, drivers do this by completing a form and affidavit available from the Arizona Department of Transportation. Once these forms are filed you can legally cancel an insurance policy without penalty. But you’re not allowed to drive the vehicle on public roads until you lift the de-insurance certificate.
Keep in mind that even if your state does allow de-insuring there may be a time limit involved. In other words, if you expect a three-year deployment in Europe you may not be allowed to de-insure for that long. Check with your state to see if 60-day, 90-day, or 12-month time limits are in effect. If so, you’ll have to find another option.
Should you determine de-insuring is the right option for you, the time you’re away provides a great opportunity for friends or relatives who might enjoy working on cars to get some work done on yours. As long as they have garage space and the right tools, you could hire them to do things like change your oil, replace your brakes, and do a tune up. This will save you quite a bit of money while also allowing friends and family members to feel as though they are contributing to a greater cause.
Option 3 – Continue with Your Current Registration and Insurance
Some states allow military personnel to keep their insurance and registration intact even if a deployment forces them to take their vehicles out of state for an extended amount of time. Yet this can be a tricky situation depending on the location of the deployment.
For example, consider the fact that Colorado requires military personnel to register their vehicles if they are deployed in the Rocky Mountain State for more than 30 days. Part of that registration is a requirement for insurance from a company licensed by the state of Colorado.
This can be complicated because most states will not allow a vehicle to be registered as long as there is still a valid registration for the same vehicle in another state. Navigating through these individual state laws may require quite a bit of effort on your part. It may be easier for you to simply make sure your insurance will be valid in your new state and then just get a new registration upon your arrival.
Spouses and Children
It goes without saying that any decision you make regarding car insurance and registration has a lot to do with a spouse and children. If you’re currently married, and your spouse will be deployed with you, any decision you make will be a bit easier because you don’t have two sets of circumstances to worry about. But if your deployment separates the two of you, and each of you drive your own vehicle, you have to work out what’s the most convenient option for you.
Whatever decisions you make should be with the understanding that the spouse staying at home is going to have responsibilities that require a vehicle and driving. At least keep one car on the road for such purposes. If you can’t afford to keep both on the road then perhaps consider maintaining the insurance and registration of the least expensive vehicle while storing the other.
Be sure not to let your car insurance lapse while you’re away on duty.
If your car insurance lapses it is the spouse at home who’s typically left with the task of trying to straighten things out. That’s a hassle nobody needs.
Choosing Your Insurance Company Wisely
Because active-duty military personnel do have special needs, there are small handful of insurance companies who serve only this segment of the American population. In terms of service and flexibility, they tend to be much more suitable for military families. That being said, they don’t always offer the best rates. You still have to do some comparison-shopping in order to determine who is giving the best deal.
Companies that don’t cater specifically to the military may still be a good option from a financial standpoint. That’s especially true when you’re talking about a company that offers special military discounts. Before you choose one of these companies, be sure their customer service is up to the task.
If you do decide to settle, a military focused insurance company is likely they will have a list of resources that will answer questions regarding insurance and deployment. They will probably also have knowledgeable customer service personnel who can help answer your questions online or over the phone. In either case, your insurance company and its representatives are the experts in the field. Be sure to pick their brains when you’re trying to reach a decision about your insurance in relation to deployment.
Inform Your State DMV as Well
Prior to the effective date of your deployment be sure to contact your state Department of Motor Vehicles or insurance division, whichever is responsible for car insurance. You need to inform them of where you’re going, how long to be gone, and what your plans for your vehicle. This is important in order to avoid suspension of your driver’s license and registration and the subsequent fines and reinstatement fees that might apply in the future.
Just as an example, the state of Florida will allow you to maintain your Florida registration and still drop your insurance coverage as long as you are taking your vehicle with you on an overseas deployment. But you must inform the state of your plans and provide proper documentation. Taking advantage of this type of exception gives you an advantage in that your registration will still be intact upon your return to Florida.
All you have to do to get your vehicle back on the road legally is obtain a new insurance policy.
Most states are very lenient in terms of insurance and registration for military members as long as they are kept fully apprised of your plans. They aren’t out to punish members of the military; rather, many are willing to bend over backwards to help as long as they are aware of the circumstances.
Prior to your deployment check with your state DMV, ask for input from your peers and superiors, and talk with a representative from your insurance company. Between the three, you should be able to make an informed decision.
If you’re a military member in need of new insurance for your deployment, get started right now by entering your ZIP code into our FREE search tool!