Temporary Car Insurance: What to Know
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Is it possible to get temporary car insurance?
In general, major insurance companies will not issue a temporary auto insurance policy. Most companies require a policy term of at least six months and sometimes even a year. You may come across insurance companies advertising short-term coverage, but be warned: these companies may fall short on coverage and customer service.
If you want a car insurance policy for less than six months, you would need to cancel your standard auto insurance policy mid-term. This is not recommended, as it comes with its own consequences, including an early termination fee in many cases. However, there are ways to obtain temporary insurance coverage outside of the typical six- or 12-month policy period structure.
Read on to learn whether these options might work for you.
Your best bet for short term insurance by scenario
Like with many aspects of car insurance, the best way for you to attain temporary auto insurance depends upon the nuances of your individual circumstances. Check out the below table to find what will be your best bet for short term car insurance for your particular situation.
|Scenario||Short-term insurance solution|
|You don't drive your car very often||Usage-based car insurance|
|You have a student away from home||Reduce coverage|
|Student away from home discount|
|You occasionally borrow a car (babysitting, moving, carpooling, etc)||Ensure the owner’s insurance allows permissive use|
|You occasionally use a rental car||Take advantage of the rental company’s insurance offerings|
|You frequently use or borrow a car you don't own||Non-owners car insurance|
|Have yourself added to their policy|
|You’re a foreign driver visiting the U.S. for a short time||Take advantage of the rental company’s insurance offerings|
|Cancel a regular policy before term end|
|More information about insurance for foreign drivers|
Safe and legal ways to get car insurance for a short time
Though temporary car insurance is not something insurance companies offer, there are a few ways to get affordable coverage.
Usage-based auto insurance premiums are priced based on your driving behavior. While these car insurance policies are offered in standard six-month increments, usage-based insurance could be a great alternative to a standard auto policy, especially if you drive infrequently. Those who are safe and infrequent drivers can get a considerable discount from having such a policy.
Non-owner car insurance
One way to maintain car insurance affordably is to look into a non-owner car insurance policy. Non-owner auto insurance allows you to have continuous coverage without having to own a vehicle. Because dropping coverage can lead to higher rates once you need insurance again, non-owner policies can be a better option than going without insurance. Most insurers offer non-owner car insurance quotes.
Non-owner policies are a good option for drivers with an SR-22, allowing them to meet legal requirements even without owning a car.
Borrowing a friend's or family member's vehicle for a short period of time is a low-risk way to drive without purchasing a long-term auto insurance policy, as long as you confirm their existing policy allows permissive drivers.
If your acquaintance's policy covers you, be careful: a collision or incident can lead to higher rates for them in the future, even if insurance covers the immediate damages. If the borrowed car belongs to an immediate family member with an existing policy, you should be covered so long you are a named driver on their policy.
What is permissive use?
Permissive use auto insurance allows infrequent use of a vehicle — fewer than 12 times per year — by a driver who does not live at the same address as the policyholder. This is a feature of many standard car insurance policies with larger companies, but always double check your policies permissive use standards.
If you want to retain insurance coverage for a young driver who spends long periods of the year away at college without breaking the bank, reducing your coverage when a driver is not using your vehicle might be worth looking in to. Your child can stay on your insurance, but you can see significant savings.
If you have an existing policy and want to insure a driver for just a short period of time, consider adding that person as a driver on your policy and then removing them when they are no longer operating the vehicle. This option is dependent on the cost of this driver, the amount of time needed to be covered, and the risk they pose as a driver operating your vehicle, so it's important to take these factors into consideration when choosing this method. If you're adding a driver to a policy that already exists, check out our list of documents that are important to have on hand.
Other ways to obtain temporary car insurance
This option works best for cars that aren’t actively being driven but still require some level of protection. Car storage insurance or “parked car insurance” is oftentimes a much better solution than canceling your policy altogether. This method can significantly lower your rates while still protecting your vehicle while it’s not in use.
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The downsides of short-term auto insurance policies
Drivers are legally required to carry auto insurance in almost every U.S. state, and the short-term coverage options listed above do not always offer the appropriate protection. When you run the risk of getting into an accident without proper protection, you are likely to pay for damages out of pocket. Read on to learn more about the shortfalls of short-term car insurance.
Most insurance companies do not sell temporary car insurance
Most insurance companies offer two policy term lengths: six months and 12 months. An insurance company wants to keep its clients for as long as possible. Drivers who only want to carry insurance for a short period of time aren't likely to renew, making them less-than-ideal customers. The premium an insurance company collects from an extremely short-term car insurance policy isn't worth the insurer's administrative costs.
For more information on common car insurance policy term lengths, see our article discussing annual vs. six-month car insurance policies.
You could lose your down payment with a temporary insurance policy duration
You can’t use the coverage immediately if you opt for short-term insurance coverage
Most companies have a grace period rule for car insurance coverage. Many insurance companies limit the use of collision and comprehensive coverage within 30 days of a policy's inception. If you only want an insurance policy for two weeks, you could be ineligible for certain coverage options during this window.
Insurance is a legal requirement in most states
If you’re leasing or financing a vehicle, your lender will usually require you to carry state-minimum coverage, as well as comprehensive and collision — and certainly not in a short-term capacity. If your lender discovers you’re driving without insurance, you may risk getting your vehicle repossessed.
Temporary car insurance will leave gaps in your coverage
|Months with previous insurance company||Average six-month premium|
You won't have coverage in the event of a collision
If your solution for temporary insurance has run past its deadline and you have not ensured a more permanent form of coverage, you are at risk of driving unprotected. If you're found at fault in a collision but you don't have insurance, you may be ticketed, have your driver's license suspended, and potentially be sued for the property or bodily injury damages you cause. If you’re the victim of a hit-and-run accident, you won’t have any coverage. Any property damage to your vehicle would be paid out-of-pocket.
Temporary car insurance FAQs
Do I need temporary car insurance if I’m a student coming home from college?
This depends on whether or not you are driving full time while you are at school. If you are, you need your own policy at that address. However, if you are not driving while at school, and wish to remain on a parent’s policy while back at home, you can remain on that policy. Furthermore, your parents could be eligible for a “student away from home” discount on their policy if you are only driving on breaks from school.
Do I need temporary car insurance to borrow a friend’s car?
In most cases, borrowing a car from a friend or family member qualifies as permissive use. Permissive use extends your car insurance coverage to those who use a vehicle on an occasional basis — usually no more than once a month.
Can I get temporary rental car insurance?
If you carry comprehensive and collision coverage, many car insurance companies will extend this coverage to your rental car, though you may still be on the line for the deductible. As each company may have a different policy, you should verify this with your insurer before hitting the road. Some rental car companies also offer rental insurance. The portion that covers damage to the rental vehicle is commonly known as a loss damage—or collision damage—waiver. Supplementary liability covers damage to others that you might cause. Some credit cards also provide coverage, as do a number of companies such as Bonzah and Rental Cover.
Can I get short-term auto insurance for a cross-country road trip?
If you are heading out on a road trip, your standard car insurance coverage will carry over from one state to another. Even if you only carry the bare minimum liability coverage, your limits are automatically raised to meet those of any state in which you drive. For instance, if you travel from a state like California, with lower limits (15/30/5), to Nevada, with higher limits (25/50/20), your limits will raise to meet Nevada’s, at no extra cost. Your limits will never decrease, so you will always carry at least the minimum liability protection. If you are traveling in an RV, you will need an RV insurance policy.
Is it possible to get daily, weekly or monthly car insurance?
You may see advertisements for daily, weekly or monthly car insurance policies, but these are typically scams and should not be trusted. Major insurance companies only offer policies in six or 12-month policy terms. One option that would work for this is to start up a regular policy and cancel it after it is no longer needed. Insurance companies will refund unused premiums if you paid for more time than you used.
Protect your car with the right coverage at the best value.
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