As we enter the winter months and approach the holiday season many people are looking for ways to save money. One way many people try to do this is to cancel their summer recreation vehicle insurance (motorcycle, ATV, etc) while it is being stored during the winter months. The logic that most people use when dropping their insurance is, why should I pay insurance on something that I will not or cannot use during the winter?
The problem is most people who cancel their insurance on a recreational vehicle or motorcycle during the winter months do not surrender the tag to PennDot and de-register the vehicle. Thus, they have a registered vehicle without insurance. This situation may result in fines, suspending your vehicle’s registration and suspending your driver’s license. In addition, it may also deny you benefits on your auto insurance!
According to Section 1714 of the PA Motor Vehicle Code, keeping a registered vehicle without insurance prevents the owner from being able to claim first party benefits (ex. medical bills, loss wages), even if they are injured in a vehicle that carriers insurance. This provision is meant to ensure that “one may not receive medical and wage loss benefits unless you have the ability to provide them to another.”
While the law’s intent is commendable, its application raises huge concerns for individuals who have innocently kept the tag on a motorcycle or ATV during the winter months. Also note that this same rule applies for a vehicle that is inoperable or being repaired.
How Can Prevent This Major Problem?
You have 3 options if you want to cancel coverage on a vehicle because:
- it is inoperable or under restoration, OR
- it is used on a seasonal basis, OR
- it is used occasionally (such as a classic, collectible or antique car),
Option 1– You must send the tag back to PennDOT immediately. This will suspend the registration and ensure that the owner is compliant with Title 75. To return the license plate, fill out form MV-141 and send it to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles, Return Tag Unit, P.O. Box 68597, Harrisburg, PA 17106-8597. Form MV-141will be stamped by PennDOT upon receipt and returned to the sender, thus evidencing receipt. As an alternative, you may return the tag directly to any PennDOT agent.
Option 2 – You can choose to maintain insurance on the vehicle. It is, after all, a very simple solution. If it is possible, you may be able to save money just by reducing liability limits to the minimum legal requirement on that vehicle only.
Option 3– If, and only if, you qualify, you may apply to PennDOT for seasonal registration. If properly handled, you will be able to drop Financial Responsibility (Insurance) during the off-season of a seasonal vehicle. However, due care and diligence in choosing the new expiration date for the registration is of utmost importance. The individual should be clear as to when the registration ceases and make sure the Financial Responsibility matches that date. The vehicle must never be operated during the off-season.
Again, bear in mind that the majority of seasonal registration applications are incorrectly filed. Seasonal registration is more likely to be applicable when you are dealing with recreational vehicles, motorcycles, or trucks or farm vehicles with a gross weight not exceeding 9,000 pounds. It is not applicable to antique, classic and collectible vehicles, or vehicles that are inoperable or under repair/restoration.
To read PennDOT’s Fact Sheet about seasonal registration, click here.
To apply for seasonal registration, click here.
The bottom line is that if you do not have insurance on all registered vehicles, your medical bills and loss wages as a result of an auto accident may not be covered. If you are thinking about cancelling insurance on a vehicle make sure to contact your agent and have them verify your first party benefits will not be compromised.