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Winter Storage for Summer Vehicles

While summer brings out the convertible-top cars and motorcycles, winter in New England isn't the best place for these kinds of vehicles. Once the leaves start to change, it's time to think about putting the fun vehicles away and switching to four-wheel drive. In Massachusetts, where the required-insurance regulation is monitored by the activity of your license plates, you have three choices.

1 – Keep the vehicle registered and insured.

Decrease the coverage to the minimum you think you need to reduce the cost. If you have a bank loan, the bank may require you to keep the coverage, and impose their own if you don't. In this case you may still be able to lower cost somewhat by increasing to the highest allowed deductibles and taking off optional coverage such as towing and substitute transportation. Some banks may allow you to reduce or remove more coverage while the vehicle in storage. This is more common with motorcycles.

If there is no bank loan you may decrease to the minimum required limits for your state. But if you are keeping another vehicle on the policy some insurance companies require that all vehicles have the same liability limits, which covers injury to others and damage to other people's property.

But even in that case, you should still be able to take off any or all "physical damage" coverage, which covers damage to your vehicle. Some people take off collision coverage, as there is almost no chance of something colliding with the car being stored, but keep comprehensive, or "other than collision" coverage, as they will still be covered for theft. This part of the policy also covers such things as vandalism, fire, water damage, glass breakage, things falling on the vehicle (think tools in the garage or tree branches), and even damage from animals (like mice nesting in the engine).

2 - Cancel your plates, store the vehicle, and purchase new plates in the spring.

This is the only way to totally stop the insurance on the vehicle. If you have another vehicle on your policy it can continue and you can put the stored vehicle back on when you get new plates. If not, you will have to start a whole new policy when you take the car out of storage.

3 – Switch your plates between vehicles.

Some people keep the soft-top for summer and have an SUV for winter, and just move the plates between cars. The MA Registry of Motor Vehicles calls this a "summer-winter" swap, and charges $25 to change the registration each time. Your insurance policy will be adjusted for the cost and coverage you choose on each vehicle as you change them.

Here are some tips for keeping your vehicle in good shape while it is stored:
  • Change the oil before storing and run the engine to circulate the new oil
  • Loosen the spark plugs and squirt in a little oil to keep the rings from corroding
  • Increase tire pressure to 40 PSI to prevent flatspotting and leaks
  • Fill the gas tank to prevent corrosion, and top up antifreeze levels
  • Wash the vehicle to clean off corrosives, and protect with a quality cover
  • Remove the battery and keep somewhere warm and well ventilated
  • Place the car on a sheet of vinyl to keep out moisture seeping up through the garage floor

Before you know it the snow will melt, the trees will be sprouting new leaves, and you can take that warm-weather vehicle back out into the sun. Just remember to give your insurance agent a call to put back any coverage you took off while the car was stored away.

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