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How to insure multiple vehicles

3 car garageNeeding to buy multiple auto insurance policies could be a bit like taking a multiple-choice test -- you have to try to figure out the best solution for your particular problem.

Here's a look at what experts have to say.

You need to insure your car, your spouse's car and your child's car, and you all live at the same address.

Your car and your spouse's car are considered community property, so you can insure them on the same auto insurance policy, says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at Insure.com. You and your spouse don't even have to add your names on the titles of each others' cars to be able to insure them on one policy. You can add your child's vehicle to the policy as well if you own the vehicle or you're listed as a co-owner on the title.

If you put all the vehicles on one policy, you should be able to receive car insurance discounts, for example a multicar discount, from your insurer. Another benefit, says Gusner is, "Good drivers can help balance out the cost of bad or new drivers."

You need to insure your car and your spouse's car and you have two homes and two cars at both locations.

Typically your cars should be insured in the state where they're located. "Just as rates within a city or a state can vary, there are rate differences among states, even with similar car and driver scenarios," says Luis Sahagun, a spokesman for Farmers Insurance. The rate differences are in part due to variations in state insurance laws, but differences in driving habits, repair costs and medical costs also come into play, Sahagun says.

In Florida, the land of the snowbirds, if your car has a Florida license plate and registration, it must be insured by an auto insurance company licensed to do business in Florida, says Lynne McChristian, the Florida-based  spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institute.

If your main residence is in Ohio, for example, you'll have to have your cars that are based there insured by an auto insurer licensed to do business in that state.

If your auto insurance company is licensed to do business in both states, you can buy all your car insurance through one company, McChristian says.

By insuring several cars with one company, even if they're located in different states, you might be able to qualify for a multicar discount, Sahagun says.

You need to insure your car, your spouse's car, and the car of your child, who doesn't live with you.

How you handle this scenario depends on the situation. If your kid's away at college in your home state and brings his vehicle with him, you can typically keep him on your family's insurance policy if your home address is still considered his primary residence, Gusner says. But you should contact your auto insurer because your premiums may change based on the insurance rates in the ZIP code where your son will reside while he's at school.

You also should talk to your insurance company to see what might need to change if your child is going to school out of state, she adds.

If your child isn't in college and moves out on her own, your insurer probably won't want to keep insuring that vehicle as part of your policy, Gusner says. If your child's name isn't already on the car title, you'll most likely need to add it or she'll have a tough time getting insurance for the vehicle.

It may pay off to stick with one insurance company.

If you need to insure multiple vehicles, a good starting point is a site like CarInsurance.com, which allows you to obtain quotes from various auto insurance companies.

You'll need to enter the information for all the vehicles and all the drivers to find your price.

Typically, auto insurers will allow you to insure up to four vehicles on one insurance policy, McChristian says.

In many cases, you're better off putting all your cars on one policy so you can qualify for multicar discounts, Sahagun says. You also could be eligible for more discounts if you insure your home or purchase other types of insurance with the same insurance company.

Having one auto insurance company also means you'll only have to make one phone call if you have questions about your policy or changes need to be made, he says.

By sticking with one insurer, it also means you'll only have to make one car insurance payment, rather than worrying about making multiple payments with multiple due dates, Gusner says.

"The only reasons I see to get separate policies is if an insurer requires it -- say it doesn't want your teen driver on your policy so you have to get him a separate one," she says. "Or if you have a classic or sports car that your insurer won't cover, then use a specialty insurer for that vehicle."



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