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Make insurance adjustments before you PCS

Jun. 6, 2014 - 10:54AM   |  
Contact the companies handling your auto, homeowner's and renter's insurance policies before you move.
Contact the companies handling your auto, homeowner's and renter's insurance policies before you move. (Army)
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Household goods, cars, a new place to live, schools, a new job for the spouse: A permanent change-of-station move can have a dizzying number of moving parts.

Make sure you add insurance to that list.

Whether you have one company or multiple companies handling your auto, homeowner’s and renter’s policies, notify your insurer about the pending move and find out what you need to do — ideally, well before you make your move.

USAA encourages its members to do just that, to find out what changes should be made and when, and what coverages are available in their new location, said J.J. Montanaro, a financial planner for USAA Enterprise Affairs.

PCS moves being as frenetic as they are, insurance can slip down the priority list. While there is no precise rule of thumb, Montanaro said USAA urges members to contact them no later than 30 days after arriving at the new location to update their policies.

“Because each state has different requirements of new residents, it is always better to call when you have a new address to update all of your coverages,” he said.

Some things to consider:

Auto insurance

Each state has different requirements for new residents regarding vehicle insurance coverage. Notify your insurance company as soon as possible that you’ll be moving to a different state or overseas, and find out if they offer coverage in your new area. Some companies provide insurance coverage worldwide, others don’t.

On a related note, if you have an auto loan and are PCSing to an overseas assignment, make sure your lender will allow you to move your vehicle overseas. Check on this early enough so that you can refinance the car before you move, if necessary.

If your company doesn’t offer auto insurance coverage in the state to which you’re moving, search the Insurance Information Institute’s tool online at To search for complaint and financial information about a company, visit the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website, It also provides links to state insurance regulators.

Even if you stay with the same insurance company, your cost may rise or fall at the new location. Where you live and where you park the car can affect the cost. “Generally, due to higher rates of vandalism, theft and accidents, urban drivers pay a higher auto insurance price than those in small towns or rural areas,” said Loretta Worters, a spokeswoman for the Insurance Information Institution.

Virtually every state requires a minimum amount of liability insurance coverage; some states’ property damage liability requirements are as low as $5,000. Your insurance company will help make sure you have at least that minimum, but Worters advises purchasing much more than the state requirement. The recommended amount is about 10 times the average state minimum, she said.

“If you are driving down the road and damage two cars, and have minimum coverage of $25,000, you could be in trouble for the extra amount you don’t have,” noted USAA’s Montanaro. He said most people are pleasantly surprised at how little it costs to bump up their liability coverage.

Homeowner's insurance

Under the Defense Department’s Full Replacement Value program, you can be reimbursed for up to $50,000 for loss or damage by the company DoD hires to move your household goods. Talk to your insurance company about the coverage it provides during moves as part of the household goods, and whether you need extra coverage, including for valuable items that you’ll either carry with you or will be moved by the company.

Although the housing market has been recovering somewhat, some homeowners still find themselves “under water” when they try to sell their homes — owing more on the mortgage than their home is worth in the local market. There are some protections and programs for troops in this situation; but inevitably, some service members will have to move before their houses are sold or rented.

If you fall into that situation, you must find out from your insurance company if your house will still be insured once you leave.

USAA, for example, rewrites the homeowner’s policy to a rental property insurance policy and will flag the house as being unoccupied (no one living in it but has furnishings, etc.) or vacant (no one living in it, and no furnishings, etc.)

Such a flag will cause the insurance rates to increase, Montanaro said, but added that sometimes USAA will delay adding the flag if the homeowner is actively looking for a renter or is close to selling the home.

USAA will continue insuring the unoccupied/vacant home for two years and then will review the situation to determine whether the policy will be renewed.

Armed Forces Insurance will work with homeowners on continuing the policy until the next renewal date while it is up for sale, said Mike Nixon, vice president of insurance operations. If AFI is unable to insure the house, it has partnerships with other companies that can insure vacant homes, but the premiums are generally more expensive, he said. If the homeowner decides to rent the home, AFI can switch the policy to a dwelling policy.

Renter's insurance

Since your renter’s insurance policy may cover items that are in transit to your new duty station either on a moving truck, in your car, or in storage, be careful before you cancel the policy for your rented apartment.

Check with your company about what is covered, and about the timing to ensure your belongings are covered. Find out if you need extra coverage for valuable items that will go either on the moving truck or with you.

Life insurance

If you’ve already considered all factors in determining your life insurance needs, hopefully this is the one type of insurance you won’t have to stress about updating during your PCS move.

However, after you’re settled in at your new location, USAA’s Montanaro advises reviewing your financial situation and any changes that may have happened during the move. For example, have you bought a more expensive house with a bigger mortgage? And if you’ve kept your house at the previous location, do you need to increase coverage so that your family will be able to continue to pay for that house, as well as their current lodgings?

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