Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • If you are storing your vehicle for a season, make sure to review your insurance needs before you cancel anything
  • You may be able to file your car as a Planned Non-Operation vehicle to save money on your registration dues
  • You can only remove insurance from your car when you change your registration status or you’ll be fined
  • It’s beneficial for vehicle owners to keep insurance on stored cars to avoid having lapses in coverage
  • You can keep comprehensive insurance on your car when you suspend your insurance for damage protection

When winter hits, wise vehicle owners winterize their property so that it doesn’t suffer too much damage as the air freezes. While homes and other dwellings are at risk of sustaining damage, vehicles are most vulnerable.

Damages to vehicles include:

  • tire pressure going down
  • the tire material hardening
  • motor oil thickening
  • engine running less efficiently
  • consuming more fuel

When the temperatures go down, the risk of vehicle damage goes up.

One of the best ways for concerned vehicle owners to retain value in their cars is to store their cars during winter months.

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By parking the car in a garage until the temperatures start to rise and the melting snow washes away the salt, you can avoid damage. If you’re planning on storing your car, don’t cancel your insurance. Here’s a guide to help you:

You Must Insure Cars Even When They Are Parked

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If you own a car and it’s registered to be driven on public roads, you’re not exempt from carrying insurance on the car just because you’re not driving it at the present time.

You might be excited to remove insurance from the car so that you can save money over the winter, but don’t call your agent until you’re sure that you’re allowed to cancel your coverage.

Buying insurance isn’t just a recommended or standard practice, it’s actually state law. There are statutes and codes that say that people who own cars must buy at least motor vehicle liability insurance on them since the owner would be liable if they got into a car crash.

As long as you have a valid registration and plates, you’ll need valid insurance.

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What happens if you don’t insure a car when it’s stored?

Since carrying auto insurance is a mandatory law in most states, it could cost you a small fortune if you decide to let your policy lapse.

When you live in a state with some type of compulsory or financial responsibility law, you must have insurance from the moment you purchase a car and register it, to the moment that you sell it.

As soon as you remove coverage from a stored car that’s still registered, you’re violating the law. You might think you’re only at risk of being caught if you drive the car, but that’s not the case.

Many states have real-time verification systems in place. If your insurer electronically reports that your coverage has canceled, like they are required to do, the DMV will immediately take action.

The consequences of owning an uninsured car can be severe. They vary by state and sometimes they can also vary by region. While some states don’t have a huge problem with uninsured motorists, those that do tend to have more strict penalties.

Some of the consequences of terminating your coverage on a car include:

  • Suspension of your plates
  • Requirement to pay a reinstatement fee to get your plates back
  • Having your vehicle towed by the parking authority when it’s parked in a public place
  • Mandatory vehicle impound and a recovery fee to get your vehicle released
  • A citation and a mandatory court appearance for driving the car while it’s uninsured
  • Loss of your driver’s license for multiple offenses
  • A sentence of up to six months in jail if you’re caught driving without insurance
  • Requirement to file an SR-22 through the DMV for a three-year period

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Don’t Remove Coverage From a Car That’s Financed

You’d assume that your finance company would be happy that you’re being a responsible car owner and your forward thinking about what winter could do to your car.

After all, the car belongs to the finance company until you’ve paid them back plus interest. By putting the car in storage, it shows that you don’t want anything bad to happen to the property.

It’s a good move to make, but you still can’t remove coverage from the car just because it’s sitting parked in a garage somewhere. The contract still says that you have to maintain full coverage on the car.

The only time it would be acceptable to remove full coverage is when you notify the lender that the car is in storage and you’ve filed the right paperwork. If the lender says it’s okay, you can remove everything but comprehensive from the car.

What paperwork do you need to file with the DMV to legally cancel your insurance?

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If you’re adamant that you don’t want to pay insurance premiums while your car is sitting for one, two, three, or even four months at a time, you need to take the official steps through the DMV.

The only way to avoid the insurance requirement is to change your registration status.

Instead of having a car with plates, you need to surrender the plates and file the car as Planned Non-Op. You’re given the option to do this when you renew your registration, but you can request the change if you’re in the middle of the registration period.

Doing this says that you legally can’t drive the stored car so you don’t need liability coverage.

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Should you cancel your insurance or just suspend it?

You can cancel your insurance policy but it’s better to suspend the coverage. By requesting that your coverage is suspended, you’re essentially putting the policy on hold until you need it again.

You’ll keep loyalty credits, discounts, and insurance experience. You can even keep comprehensive on the policy for protection while the car is sitting.

When you do terminate your old contract you’ll be forced to shop for a new policy when it’s time to get back on the road. The last thing you want to do after being holed up in your home all winter long is to shop for insurance.

You can easily price the cost of coverage by getting online, entering your personal information, and comparing insurance rates. Use our free comparison tool to get started.