Soldiers Have Unique Car Insurance Needs

If you're in the military and preparing to ship out overseas, or even across the country, one of your missions should be learning about your auto insurance options.

No matter where you're headed, the best thing you can do is "converse with your insurance company, maintain your coverages and pay your premium," says Mike Baker, director of Geico's Military Department, which specializes in auto insurance issues for military members.

The wrong choices could mean your rates rise dramatically. You may try to save money by dropping coverage entirely if you deploy overseas -- and wind up paying much, much more when you return home.

Here's what you need to know.

Your car is in the U.S., and you're not

As of December, more than 10 percent of the 1.4 million active-duty personnel were deployed overseas, according to the Department of Defense.

While war zones receive most of the media coverage, the largest numbers of U.S. troops overseas are actually based in Germany and Japan. Depending on where you're heading abroad, you might be able to bring your vehicle with you.

That's not an option for service personnel heading to hot spots like Afghanistan.

Angela Preciado, director of the auto product management team at USAA, which caters to military members, says it's more common for military personnel to store a vehicle while deployed, rather than let someone else drive it. (See " Who can drive your car?")

One option is to store your vehicle and drop all coverage but comprehensive -- which would cover you if the garage where your car is stored caught on fire, or a tornado swept your car away. But without state-required liability coverage you'd have to turn in your license plates and registration, then re-register your car when you return stateside.

You cannot drop comprehensive and collision coverage if your car is financed or leased, even if you won't be driving it for an extended period of time.