Everything snowbirds need to know about their insurance before heading south

Everything snowbirds need to know about their insurance before heading south

If you’re planning to head down to the United States to avoid our long, cold, Canadian winter, you’ve probably planned your flights or route to drive, what you’re going to pack, and what you’ll do when you get there. But it’s important to think about your insurance before you leave as well. We’ve broken down three of the areas of insurance you should discuss with your broker before you leave.

Auto Insurance:

If you don’t already have a policy, you should get one.

Whether you’re driving down or flying and renting, you will probably be operating a vehicle in the US. It’s important to have higher limits of liability, family protection coverage, and loss of use coverage when you’re travelling away from home, especially in the US, where litigation is common and can result in high liability claims. There are plenty of other benefits at home and on the road with a standard policy too; for example, if you’re renting while you’re there, your policy gives you the added benefit of covering your vehicle back at home and the rental you’re driving.

If you plan on taking a side trip down to Mexico, your auto insurance won’t cover you there.

While your driver’s license and insurance coverage will follow you to the US, neither your SGI plate nor policy insurance will cover you in Mexico. If you’re going to be driving there, you will need to purchase insurance in advance or at the border from a Mexican insurance company. If you aren’t sure where to start, a number of large American companies partner with recommended Mexican insurers. For purely financial reasons, however, you may opt not to take your vehicle, as short term or daily coverage can be almost as expensive as a full year policy.

If you travel down to the US regularly and leave your car there, you may have to import it. Though your SGI insurance doesn’t require you to bring your vehicle back to Canada once a year to maintain your insurance, you do have to follow the rules of other jurisdictions you’re in. The USA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that federal rules require anyone who leaves their vehicle in the US for longer than 12 months to import their vehicle into the US or face steep fines for not doing so.

Home Insurance:

Know your insurer’s rules for water damage during the heating season.

As a result of the increased chance of pipes freezing and causing huge water losses during the heating season, insurers place certain eligibility criteria on these kinds of losses that are designed to mitigate the risk. Most insurers offer a couple of options that may include having someone check on your home, turning the water off and draining the pipes, or having a monitored alarm for temperature. We can help you figure out what expectations your particular insurer has to make sure you’re properly covered.

Know the property limitations of your policy.

Your home insurance policy will cover stuff that you take on vacation with you, anywhere in the world. However, some items have limitations on the amount that will be paid out if they’re stolen, such as jewelry and bicycles. Make sure you review the special limits of coverage on your policy so you know what’s safe to take and what should be left at home. You should also be aware that belongings stored permanently somewhere other than your home aren’t covered on your policy unless you purchase specific coverage for them, so if you leave stuff in the US year round, it likely needs additional coverage.

Evaluate your liability limits

You’re probably aware that higher auto liability limits are a must when you’re travelling, but have you considered your personal liability limits as well? This coverage is included in your home insurance policy, and covers you for any other kinds of injury or property damage you may cause. When you consider that claims made against a Canadian policy are paid out in CAD, a US claim could easily exceed your basic limits of coverage. For even more coverage, a personal umbrella will provide additional risk coverage and/or higher limits. 

Travel Insurance:

Buy before you board (or cross the border)

We all know that travel insurance is a must have coverage when travelling to the US, as medical bills can easily add up to tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands!). But did you know that once you’ve crossed the border, you’re ineligible for coverage? Give us a call or visit before you leave and we’ll ensure your policy is in place.

Consider all your options

Travel insurance can be as bare bones as just emergency medical, or it can include all kinds of other coverages suited to your particular travel needs, like trip cancellation or interruption, baggage, extreme sports coverage, and even pet coverage. If you cross back and forth over the border often, consider a multi-trip plan. It takes the hassle out of purchasing multiple plans and gives you convenience and flexibility in your schedule.

Read the fine print

Whether you have coverage through a group plan, a credit card, or a travel policy, read the policy wording and understand what you’re covered for- and more importantly, what you’re not. Common travel exclusions include pre-existing conditions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and extreme sports.

If you follow the guidelines above, you’ll be able to take off for your trip feeling a bit more prepared, and enjoy your escape for the season!

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