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Temporary Car Insurance

Most companies don't sell short-term car insurance policies, but there are ways to get high-quality insurance coverage quickly.

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What is temporary car insurance?

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 might work for you.

 


 

Safe and legal ways to get auto insurance for a short period of time

 

Usage-based car insurance

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.

 

Telematics program

Estimated savings

Progressive Snapshot

Average of $130

Allstate Drivewise

Average of 10-25%

State Farm Drive Safe & Save

Up to 15%

Esurance DriveSense

Varies

Nationwide SmartRide

Up to 40%

Liberty Mutual RightTrack

Average of 5-30%

GEICO DriveEasy

Varies

 

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.

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.

 

Student away from home

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 or renting a car

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.

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The downsides of short-term auto insurance policies

 

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 articles below:

 

You could lose your down payment with a temporary insurance policy duration

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.

 

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

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.

 

You'll have gaps in your insurance record if you choose temporary car insurance

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

0

$876

6

$813

12

$803

36

$781

60

$766



You won't have coverage in the event of a collision

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.

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Frequently asked questions: temporary car insurance

 

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 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. 

 

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 basisusually no more than once a month or 12 times a year. 

 

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 damageor collision damagewaiver. 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 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

 

Additional resources

If you’re looking for more information, see our related articles:

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Recent Questions:

Temporary Car Insurance

Do I have a legal three-day window to drive to NY in my new car without plates?

There is no legal window where you can drive without the plates. If you are buying through a dealership they should be able to assist you on behalf of the state of Virginia in obtaining a temporary plate.

Do any US auto insurance companies offer auto insurance coverage in Canada?

Many insurance policies may cover you in Canada — if it is for short term trips. I would check with your current carrier, but it is likely you'll need to select a Canadian insurance provider if you'll be living there for two years.

If I'm Canadian, can I purchase a 4-month temporary car insurance policy in California?

Thank you for the question. It's likely that you'll be able to get coverage in California with a foreign license.

Can insurance be temporarily suspended without it being canceled?

I do not know any insurer that offers a temporary suspension of insurance coverage. You could lower all coverages to the state minimum to make it cheaper, but if it is going to be more than a few months you may want to consider suspending the tags and discontinuing insurance. If you discontinue insurance, it will cost more when you get coverage again.

Ross Martin LinkedIn

As a licensed insurance agent, Ross is responsible for researching and writing about all matters related to auto and home insurance. He has a background in writing and education, as well as a master's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London. He has been quoted by CNET, iDriveSafely.com, and Kin Insurance.

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