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Most companies don't sell short-term car insurance policies, but there are ways to get high-quality insurance coverage quickly.
Put simply, 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. When searching for temporary car insurance offers online, it’s likely that you may come across some companies offering this type of coverage, but be warned: these companies rarely provide good coverage and often suffer from poor customer service.
If you want a car insurance policy for a period of less than six months, you'll probably need to cancel your standard auto insurance policy mid-term (a practice we do not recommend, as it comes with its own consequences). However, there are still a few ways to obtain temporary insurance coverage outside of the typical six- or 12-month policy period structure. Read on to learn whether one of these options and the companies offering them benefit you the most.
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. In addition to popular usage-based insurance companies such as Root, Noblr and Metromile, we've listed below telematics programs offered by some top car insurance companies.
Average of $130
Average of 10-25%
Up to 15%
Up to 40%
Average of 5-30%
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.
Non-owner policies are a good option for drivers required to carry an SR-22. Non-owners policies allow insurance with an SR-22 even for those who don't own a vehicle, allowing them to meet legal requirements.
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, consider reducing their coverage level. This is more affordable than the alternative approach of canceling and reinstating the policy every time your child leaves for or returns from campus. By reducing their coverage to the legal minimum, you'll reduce your premiums while retaining continuous coverage. In this situation, consider removing liability coverage to leave only comprehensive coverage on the policy.
Borrowing a friend's or family member's vehicle for a short period of time can be 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.
If you rent a car, you should be able to adapt the insurance coverage to fit your needs. At a minimum, purchase liability coverage through the rental car company if you don't have a policy of your own.
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.
While it varies by company, most policies require a down payment worth 30 to 45 days of the total premium. If you cancel five days into your policy period, you’re not always guaranteed to recoup your entire down payment. Drivers thinking that a short-term policy could help them save money could find that this simply isn't the case.
Be aware that some insurance companies also assess cancellation fees.
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.
Unless you live in New Hampshire, you're required by law to carry at least the legal liability coverage limit to operate or register a vehicle. If you’re caught driving without insurance, your license can be suspended.
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.
Many insurance companies will ask you if you’ve had six months of prior continuous coverage before agreeing to take you on as a client. The reason for this has to do with the risk level of a previously uninsured client. If you had an active license but were not insured for even a short amount of time, an insurance company will assume you were driving without insurance, which is an indicator of a high-risk client. Having gaps in your insurance history can raise your premium by nearly $90 per six-month policy.
Months with previous company
Average 6-month premium
This is the primary risk of driving without insurance. 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.
This depends on whether or not you are driving full time while you are at school. If you are, you needyour 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.
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 or 12 times a year.
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.
If you are heading out on a road trip, your standard car insurance coverage would apply from one state to another. Even if you only carry the bare minimum of liability coverage, your limits are automatically raised to meet those of the state you are currently in. 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 are automatically raised to Nevada’s at no extra cost. Your limits will never decrease, meaning you will always carry at least the minimum liability protection required by your state.
If you are traveling in an RV, you will need an RV insurance policy.
If you’re looking for more information, see our related articles:
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