While on the road, I always try to save extra money in any way possible . . . so that I can stay gone longer, of course!
If you leave your car behind while traveling, a great way to save lots of money is to temporarily unplug your car insurance. It´s not viable for everyone or for all situations, but if you are not going to be driving your car for an extended period of time, then there´s no reason why you should pay for an insurance premium while your car sits unused. Here´s a basic guide for getting what´s called ¨non-operational status¨(non-op for short) on your car so you can save money on your car insurance. I´m saving about $300 this year by acquiring non-op status . . . well worth the trouble.
Before we even get started on how to go about this, a few words of caution. Don´t ever drive without car insurance. It´s just not smart, safe or sane. Only try for non-op status if the vehicle in question will not be in use for several months or more. That means parked off the street and not used at all by anyone for the entire length of time that you have non-operational status on the car.
First, determine if you are eligible for non-op status. Rules and eligibility will most likely vary from state to state. My car insurance is issued in the state of California, so those are the rules I follow in my example. Check with your state to find out if you are legally able to put your car insurance temporarily on hold.
Check with your insurance company to find out their policy on this matter. Thoroughly explain your situation. Get your agent as excited about your trip as you are – that way they will be more willing to help you. Don´t be afraid to ask questions. If your agent says that your insurance policy will have to be cancelled, keep asking, because sometimes there are ways to circumvent cancellation of your policy. For example, my insurance company lets me by have a theft-only policy in place for a grand total of $23 per year while I´m traveling. This keeps policy cancellation out of the equation.
So, once you´ve checked with your state and your insurance company, make sure you follow the directions of both agencies perfectly. Make sure you take the time to go to the DMV in person. Tell them exactly when you are leaving. Get any pertinent paperwork from them and fill it out before you leave town. In California, the process is very simple. You fill out a non-operational status form. This tells the state of California two things: that your car will not be in use and that your car will not be on the streets. This includes being parked on a city street.
Send the form by mail directly to the appropriate state office. When I went to the DMV, they were so busy with local stuff that I did not want to take a chance on my form getting lost. Ask the DMV personnel exactly where to mail the form. Get a supervisor´s name if possible. To be very thorough, send the form by certified mail.
Before sending your planned non-operational form to the specific DMV office, make two photocopies of it – one for your records and one for your insurance company. Fax a copy to your insurance company. Call or email to confirm that your agent has it in hand. Send a hard copy to your insurance company. Again, certified mail is a good idea.
Try to get a DMV non-op office phone number. Follow up within two weeks to make sure that they have received your form. This is important, as insurance companies are required by law to inform DMV offices of policy changes. If they don´t receive your form for some reason and they get notice from your insurance company that you´ve dropped your car insurance, then at the very least, you may find yourself having to deal with the DMV while you are on vacation. At the most, depending on your state´s laws, you may have to pay fines. Neither of those scenarios are fun, so take the extra time and effort to do this correctly.
And last but not least, make sure your car is parked in a secure place for the entire duration of your absence, such as a garage. Parking is not available where I live, so I put the word out to all of my friends. Turns out, I have a friend with a parking space in his apartment building, but his SUV is too tall and won´t fit in the tandem space that he shares with his roommate.
This friend is a stable person (also very important) and he does not forsee moving for at least another year. This gives me plenty of time in case I decide to stay out of the country for longer than the four months I´d originally planned. Make sure you give a spare set of car keys to someone you trust who resides in the same town where you´ve left your car, just in case of an unforeseen emergency.
Last but not least, contact your insurance company the moment you return home and get that policy put back in force before you even put the keys in the ignition. I cannot stress this enough. Contact the DMV as well and let them know you are back on the road and that your car insurance is in place once again.
And if you are like me and a friend let you park your car in their garage, then bring them back a really great gift from wherever it was you were wandering!