FLA in NYC?
July 17, 2008 1:29 PM   Subscribe

Why do so many cars in NY, CT, MA have Florida plates?

When I was in the NYC area recently, I was totally struck by just HOW MANY cars i saw with Florida plates. Honestly, it seemed like I saw about as many CT plates as I saw FL plates. CT makes sense, but Florida?

Almost always these cars were less than 2 years old and tended to be more on the luxury side than the economy side.

I noticed that I see a fair amount of it here in the Boston area, but not nearly as much.

Possible explanations I've thought of:
1. There really are that many snowbirds in NYC, and they would rather register their cars in FL, because it is cheaper.
2. There's some sort of scam or loophole that allows people who do not live in FL register cars there (again, being done because it is cheaper)

Have other people noticed this? Any ideas?
posted by gregvr to Travel & Transportation (27 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Retirees who winter in Florida but still have family/social/business connections in the NYC-Boston seaboard area.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:35 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Insurance fraud
posted by Debaser626 at 1:36 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


Most of the times I've seen FL plates in MA or NY, they've been snowbirds. Plus, I've heard that many rich people chose to have a house in FL as well as a house where ever else because of the bankruptcy laws in FL (which allow you to keep the house no matter what). Comparing the insurance rates, I would register my car in FL rather than MA (which has some of the highest insurance rates in the country).
posted by nursegracer at 1:37 PM on July 17, 2008


What would be the angle of the insurance fraud?
posted by gregvr at 1:41 PM on July 17, 2008


What would be the angle of the insurance fraud?

Cheaper rates, by registering a car in a state you keep a residence in, but not your primary residence.
posted by davejay at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2008


It might have to do with how easy it is to renew plates. I've, uh, heard that it's possible to renew your driver's license by mail, so even if one moved out of state, one could keep a FL driver's license forever. Perhaps license plates are similar?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:43 PM on July 17, 2008 [1 favorite]


More on this: you'll find a surprising number of people in Los Angeles have out-of-state plates for Nevada and Colorado, because they have rental or vacation homes there in their own names, so they claim it as their primary residence and pay a lot less on insurance.
posted by davejay at 1:44 PM on July 17, 2008


According to this, pricewise, NY is #3, MA is #6, but FL is #8, so that wouldn't seem to make sense.

What MA _DOES_ have that I don't think FL has (in the same way) are pretty hefty automobile "excise taxes" (basically property taxes for your car). I'm not sure if NY has the same, though.
posted by gregvr at 1:48 PM on July 17, 2008


However, that website might only be looking at the average over the state-- and if most people live in and around big cities, they may be paying high rates, but out on the sticks is probably cheaper.
posted by gregvr at 1:49 PM on July 17, 2008


Cheaper rates, by registering a car in a state you keep a residence in, but not your primary residence.

So is this considered a fraud or just a loophole that people get through? I mean how can the insurance company prove that one is his primary residence, but not the other?

If you have address A in all your credit cards and other documents and address B for the car insurance, can they sue you for fraud based on that?

Just curious to know? (from a legal stand point not an ethical one)
posted by WizKid at 1:49 PM on July 17, 2008


Florida is fairly loose with its car laws. No inspections and no emissions testing, among other things. People with Florida residences (which includes lots of people in MA, CT and NY with winter homes) register their cars there to lessen ownership hassles.
posted by werty at 1:52 PM on July 17, 2008


There is no state income tax in FL, so well off retirees living on investment income like to maintain their residence their for tax purposes while spending the hot summer months elsewhere.
posted by COD at 1:54 PM on July 17, 2008


Well... when I lived in NYC I knew of a few people whose grandparents lived in FL (where, strangely I am now), and had their cars registered and insured with them, and were listed as "part-time drivers" in case they got pulled over/into an accident. The grandfolks paid the insurance, and then the actual owner/drivers mailed them a personal check. Also, keep in mind that insurance rates for Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx are FAR higher then in manhattan proper (due to prevalence of auto theft in the outer boros), so the overall averages for NYC aren't necessarliy a true reflection.
posted by Debaser626 at 1:55 PM on July 17, 2008


Moreso than Florida is North Carolina - apparently people register with nothing more than a PO Box.

IANAL, so I don't know that it constitutes insurance fraud, but it's at least deception - you're supposed to register the car where it's getting the most use - if you have a second home in FL but keep/use the car primarily at your first home, the insurance company may refuse to cover you in the event of an accident. Would suck to be the other person in that accident.

It sucks twice because I think a lot of people with cars would either a) not drive or b) drive a hell of a lot more carefully if they had to pay the rates they were supposed to pay.
posted by swngnmonk at 1:57 PM on July 17, 2008


@Debaser - it's not the rates of auto theft, it's the accident rates - much higher per-capita driving rates, same high population density.

I never insured my car for theft in NYC (wasn't worth it), but my liability insurance doubled when I moved from Manhattan to Brooklyn.
posted by swngnmonk at 1:59 PM on July 17, 2008


It could have to do with excise tax too?
I pay a few hundred dollars a year for my excise tax here in Mass for my car.
posted by beccaj at 2:00 PM on July 17, 2008


it's not the rates of auto theft, it's the accident rates - much higher per-capita driving rates, same high population density

Ahhh. Is THAT what it is.... I would think the amount of accidents in NYC proper would be higher than in the outer boros, but I guess it's kinda hard to do any damage when you're going 3 miles an hour on average... (versus three hundred MPH, like some schmos on the Major Deegan I used to see)
posted by Debaser626 at 2:04 PM on July 17, 2008


When I lived in Sarasota, certain times of the year the area was swarming with New Yorkers. These folks lived in Florida during the winter months, and were gone during the summer. Summer was kinda the dead season in the area.
posted by konolia at 2:10 PM on July 17, 2008


Slightly different angle on what most others are saying -- Florida has no state income tax, so it's a good place to claim one's primary residence. I think registering the car there is more about supporting the primary residence claim than it is about cheaper insurance / cheaper car-related taxes.
posted by Perplexity at 2:12 PM on July 17, 2008


A lot of times its because of insurance fraud.
posted by majortom1981 at 2:40 PM on July 17, 2008


Some (statistically-insignificant, no doubt) number are probably legitimate Florida residents who are just visiting. Man, I'm a sucker.
posted by box at 3:03 PM on July 17, 2008


Minor factor: Florida allows you to get a driver's license at 16. In New York you need to be 17 if you take Driver's Ed, or 18 if you don't. I don't think this affects that many people, but growing up on Lawn Guyland, this did account for a few Florida plates in the high school parking lot.
posted by CruiseSavvy at 5:16 PM on July 17, 2008


People have mostly answered the question by now. I'll just add that, uhh, somebody I know who used to live in Brooklyn, and then in New Jersey, registered his car in (and thus had plates from) Virginia. MUCH cheaper, insurance-wise. This person I know now lives in Baltimore, MD, and decided to continue the aforementioned agreement, because he lives in uber-expensive Baltimore City and not typically-suburban (and thus much cheaper) Baltimore County.

This stuff happens everywhere; it's just a lot more noticeable, I suppose, in metro NYC.
posted by CommonSense at 6:21 PM on July 17, 2008


Snowbirds is the Occam's razor here. About half of the people I know over 60 are snowbirds to some degree or other.
posted by Miko at 8:41 PM on July 17, 2008


There's another big reason -- asset protection.

Florida has an unlimited "homestead" protection in bankruptcy. You can establish Florida residence, buy a $10 million house, and a bankruptcy court can't take any of it.

By contrast, the maximum homestead exemption in New York is $125,000.

It's easy for an older driver to get into a car accident, and million dollar awards to victims are routinely given.

For anyone with enough money to make it worthwhile, stashing as much as possible in a Florida homestead is a no-brainer. You let the liability insurer pay the policy limit, wait for the victim to sue you and then declare bankruptcy in Florida.

Not to mention the fact that you get cheaper license plates, and it's harder for New York to execute on traffic tickets on a Florida-licensed car.
posted by KRS at 11:44 AM on July 18, 2008


So is this considered a fraud or just a loophole that people get through? I mean how can the insurance company prove that one is his primary residence, but not the other?

If you have address A in all your credit cards and other documents and address B for the car insurance, can they sue you for fraud based on that?

Just curious to know? (from a legal stand point not an ethical one)


In this particular case, it's a question of odds; the insurance company calculates odds of you getting in an accident/having your car stolen in part based on where you do most of your driving and where your car sits waiting to be stolen most of the time. So if you claim you're living and driving primarily in the sticks, and they charge you based on that, but you're living and driving primarily in the city, that's fraud.

Can they sue you? Sure, free country and all that. Will they? Depends on when they find out; if they find out after you've had an accident but before they pay out, they'll just cancel your policy because you lied on the forms, and your accident won't be covered. Much easier than a lawsuit. If they paid out, and then find out, however -- you might be in for a lawsuit to pay back the damages they had to pay out. Depends on the state.
posted by davejay at 4:21 PM on July 18, 2008


Oh, quick story: my father had an insurance policy that didn't allow him to drive his car to work (it was very cheap, and this was the 70s.) However, he did drive his car to work regularly. His car got broken into, and the agent called to talk to him after he made the claim. My mother answered, and (being ignorant of the fact that my father was committing insurance fraud) confirmed that he was in fact parked in his office's parking lot when it happened, and that yes, he usually drove to work. They said thanks and hung up, his policy got canceled, and that was that.
posted by davejay at 4:22 PM on July 18, 2008


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