Everything snowbirds need to know about their insurance before heading south

Trip Action Plan for Snowbirds: Ready for Winter?

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 also essential to think about your insurance before you leave. We’ve broken down three areas of insurance you should discuss with your broker before you go.

Auto Insurance:

Whether driving down or flying and renting, you will probably be operating a vehicle in the US. It’s essential to have higher limits of liability, family protection coverage, and loss of use coverage when travelling away from home. In the US, litigation is common and can result in high liability claims.

IMPORTANT FACT: 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 United States, neither your SGI plate registration nor policy insurance will cover you in Mexico. You must purchase insurance in advance or at the border from a Mexican insurance company if driving there. 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.

IMPORTANT FACT: If you travel to the United States 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 while you’re there. The USA National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that federal regulations require anyone who leaves their vehicle in the US for longer than 12 months to import their car into the US or face steep fines for not doing so.

Home Insurance:

Water Coverage

As a result of the increased chance of pipes freezing and causing huge water losses during the heating season, insurers place specific eligibility criteria on these kinds of losses designed to mitigate the risk. Most insurers offer a couple of options, including having someone check on your home, turning the water off and draining the pipes, or having a monitored alarm for temperature. Check-in with your advisor; they can help you figure out your particular insurer’s expectations to ensure you’re adequately covered.

Belongings Coverage

Your home insurance policy will cover stuff you take on vacation with you anywhere in the world. However, some items limit the amount your policy will pay out if stolen, such as jewelry/watches. Make sure you review the special coverage limits on your policy, so you know what’s safe to take and what to leave 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, so if you leave stuff in the US year-round, it likely needs additional coverage.

Liability Coverage

You’re probably aware that higher auto liability limits are a must when 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 be found responsible for. A claim in the United States could easily exceed your basic coverage limits when you consider that claims made against a Canadian policy are paid out in CAD. A personal umbrella will provide additional risk coverage and/or higher limits for even more coverage. 

Travel Insurance:

IMPORTANT FACT: Buy the coverage before you board (or leave the province)

We all know that travel insurance is a must-have coverage when travelling to another country, as medical bills can quickly add up to tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands!). But did you know that once you’ve crossed the province, you’re ineligible for coverage? That’s not just for emergency medical; this rule also applies to trip interruption and cancellation insurance.

Multi-Trip Plan

Consider a multi-trip plan if you often cross back and forth over the border. It takes the hassle out of purchasing multiple plans and gives you convenience and flexibility in your schedule.


Whether you have coverage through a group plan, a credit card, or a travel policy, read the wording and understand what you’re covered for and, more importantly, what you’re not. Standard travel exclusions include pre-existing conditions, abuse of alcohol or drugs, and extreme sports. Check out our FAQ page for information regarding COVID-19 and the latest news.


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!

Wish to connect with a broker to review the above options before your trip?