'Snowbirds' Can't Flee From Florida's Auto Insurance Requirements


By Crawford Frazer

Florida's weather may tempt Northerners to act like birds and head south when fall and winter set in. If you like it enough to live in the Sunshine State for part of the year, you're probably going to need a car.

Such a move, however, can't be treated like vacation -- you'll need to purchase Florida auto insurance.

Florida auto insurance requirements

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) states the law simply: "If you own a vehicle with at least four wheels and are registering it, you must have Florida insurance."

The minimum liability coverage amounts for Florida drivers are $10,000 in property damage liability and $10,000 in personal injury protection.

Florida is a no-fault insurance state, which means that your policy will cover your injuries suffered in a crash up to your policy limits -- regardless of who was at fault.

How does state residency affect car insurance?

Your residency doesn't matter. Any vehicle with Florida plates and registration must be covered by a Florida insurance policy for the entire time that it is registered, according to DHSMV. Consider the following scenarios:

  • You have insurance in another state. This is inadequate. You need Florida auto insurance.
  • You keep your Florida car in storage most of the year. Even if you live outside of Florida for most of the year, you have to keep the minimum liability insurance requirements as long as your car is registered in Florida.
  • You come to Florida for work at various times of the year. If you're in Florida for more than 90 days during a 365-day period (even if those days aren't consecutive) and you want to drive, you need to purchase Florida auto insurance.

There is another option for snowbirds. When you head back north, you can surrender your license plate and registration, according to DHSMV.

When you return to Florida, you can re-register your car (after purchasing Florida insurance, of course).

Florida drivers can face fine, suspension for wrong insurance

If you're caught driving in Florida without the proper auto insurance, your license will be suspended for up to three years or until you show proof of insurance. Reinstatement isn't free; you'll have to pay at least $150 and as much $500, depending on how many violations you have.

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A University of Florida study found that temporary residents had an average stay of about five months. During the winter, the state took on about 920,000 temporary residents (roughly 5 percent of the state's population), most of them from New York, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Canada.

In other words, Florida has a lot of snowbirds who stay for several months at a time. Without these rules, there would be thousands of drivers who don't meet the state's auto insurance requirements.

See how much you could save today on car insurance by getting a free auto insurance quotes today.

Editor's note: This is an updated version of an article originally published on Dec. 31, 2013.