If you are a parent of a student who will be attending school out of state, you probably have many questions regarding automobile insurance, license, and registration.

  • What are the out-of-state college student car registration requirements?
  • Do out-of-state college students need to register their vehicle in the new state?
  • Do college students have to change their driver's license?
  • And what are the rules overall when it comes to taking a car to college out-of-state?

The good news is that you may not have to change your car insurance policy, get a new license, or re-register your vehicle. It may also be possible to save money on auto insurance if you qualify for discounts. But the answers will depend on several factors, and it pays to know the facts and what to expect when your child is bringing a car to college out-of-state.

Here, we’ve covered everything you need to know on taking a car to college out of state.

Car insurance for college students out-of-state: important considerations

First, college students and their parents should weigh the pros and cons of having a vehicle on campus when attending school out of state. Even though your son or daughter might insist on having a vehicle nearby and being able to drive, this may not be practical.

“For example, some schools limit freshman students from keeping a vehicle on campus to encourage more engagement and on-campus activities,” notes Brett Dawson, director, Underwriting Research at USAA, headquartered in San Antonio.

Additionally, keep in mind that parental responsibility laws in some states could make you as the parent liable for an accident caused by your teenage driver, “even if the teenager has his or her own car insurance policy,” cautions Dawson.

Of course, the safest and least expensive option is preventing your student from driving while away at college and not letting them bring a car to school. But before removing your student from your car insurance policy, think twice.

“Automobile insurance should be maintained, even if the student will be attending school out of state, for several reasons. They may be required to drive in an emergency. And they may want to drive while home on breaks and holidays,” Dawson explains.

Contact your insurance company to learn if changes are needed

If your student still plans to drive and keep a car on campus, it’s important to contact your automobile insurance carrier and update them about this status. Overall, some insurance companies will let you keep your current policy intact while your student attends college out-of-state, but others will not. The rules will depend on insurance requirements in that state, intended usage of the vehicle, distance from home, and who owns the vehicle.

“In most cases, the only change you need to make is to let your carrier know the new address where the vehicle will be kept,” says Greg Martin, president of Brandon, Florida-headquartered Think Safe Insurance, LLC.

Janet Ruiz, director of Strategic Communication for the New York City-based Insurance Information Institute, notes that college students leaving home for school are still considered part of their parents' household.

When the parents own the car being insured

“If the parents still own the car the student will be taking with them, it will remain insured under the parent’s automobile policy,” she says.

When the student owns the car being insured

If your out-of-state student owns his or her own car and automobile insurance policy, remind them to contact their carrier to learn if their policy needs to be changed while driving on campus. The insurer will want to rate and update the policy properly.

“Typically, insurance companies have a mileage restriction for out-of-state drivers, which includes students who live more than 100 miles away from home,” Brad Harrell, owner of TWFG Harrell Insurance in Fort Worth, Texas, says.

If your child plans to remain on campus or out-of-state for the majority of the year – including summer breaks – he or she may be considered a resident, in which case the car insurance policy may need to be modified.

“If they are going to live at or near that school location permanently, it’s best to change the car policy to that state,” Harrell suggests.

Do out of state college students need to register vehicle?

So, what about college student out of state car registration and licensing?

Most states don’t obligate a full-time student to change the location of their vehicle registration or their driver's license. But it’s important to check the requirements specific to your situation. That means contacting your insurance company and inquiring about out-of-state student car registration and licensing. It may also involve checking with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) within the state your student will be attending school.

“If you’re just living in a dorm room and going back home for the summer, there shouldn’t be a need to change the license or registration,” adds Harrell. “But if the student is going to be living there past the regular school schedule, it will depend on if that particular state would see them as a permanent resident.”

Many of these questions can be easily answered by visiting the state’s DMV website.

“They often have an FAQ section that addresses moving to a new state and the rules that apply,” says Martin.

Discounts on car insurance for college students out of state

Out-of-state students and their families may be eligible for rate reductions and policy discounts if they meet certain criteria. Ways to save money include:

  • Apply for a “student away at school” discount. If your student is attending a university or college more than 100 miles away from home and he or she is not bringing a car with them, you can qualify for this perk, possibly lowering rates by 15 to 30 percent or more.
  • Qualify for a good student discount. If your child earns a B average or higher in college, they’re eligible for a good student discount (up to age 25) that can yield premium savings of 5 percent to 25 percent.
  • Take an optional defensive driving course. Your insurance agent can recommend an applicable class available in-person or online. Completion of such a course can trigger a rate reduction from your carrier if they allow it.
  • Maintain a clean driving record. Students may be eligible for an accident-free discount if they don’t receive any moving violations or incur any claims over a period of time.
  • Opt for technological monitoring. If you permit it and your carrier offers it, you can install a removable telematics device in your student’s vehicle that can yield crucial data about their driving habits. “Monitoring habits like braking, acceleration, total miles driven, nighttime driving and more could reduce your premiums,” adds Martin.

Final thoughts: Shop around for car insurance for college students out of state

Your student’s new faraway address could result in significant changes to your car insurance policy and coverage that result in higher premiums or deductibles. If so, it’s smart to shop around and request rate quotes from different companies.

“If you find better rates with good coverage from a reputable carrier, it may make sense to switch,” Martin advises. “But this isn’t necessarily triggered by simply attending school out-of-state; it depends on if that relocation results in higher insurance costs.”

Note that the state in which your child will attend college could have higher or lower premiums than your home state, based on claim rates and insurance statistics in that state.

Lastly, remember to compare apples-to-apples coverage carefully.

“I would never support an insurance coverage plan that did not include uninsured motorist coverage nor underinsured motorist coverage, for example,” recommends Donald Garcia, associate attorney for the law firm of Stewart J. Guss in Los Angeles. “Keep in mind that each state’s insurance policies and coverage requirements differ.”

For instance, Rhode Island requires $25,000 of property damage liability insurance per accident, while New Hampshire requires none at all, he adds.

“Talk to your insurance agent about recommended coverage limits for every category in your policy,” Garcia advises.