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What's winter car insurance?

Mother nature can be a fickle friend, and this is especially true in the winter months. If you live in an area with snow, ice, and decreased visibility, it’s understandable that you might want to cut back on your driving time. Whether you’re considering not driving at all, you want some car insurance advice, or just want some winter weather driving guidance, we're here to help. Let’s explore what you need to keep in mind when looking for winter car insurance.


Can you pause your car insurance during the winter?

It's not technically possible to “pause” your car insurance. This is because of the way insurance and your state’s vehicle registration laws work together. In order to legally drive your vehicle, you’ll need to register and insure it. By “pausing” your insurance, you run the risk of having your registration suspended, resulting in a significant fine.

However, there's some wiggle room if you're willing to get creative.

 

Storage coverage for a car during the winter

Some insurance companies offer storage coverage. This coverage option allows you to drop all your insurance coverage except comprehensive coverage. One important detail worth noting: if you drop your insurance policy to storage coverage, you are not legally allowed to drive your car.

Because storage coverage won't provide the correct insurance coverage for your registration, you run the risk of having your registration flagged and suspended. There are a couple ways to avoid this. If your state offers it — and if you qualify — you can submit an Affidavit of Non-Use through the DMV. This states that your vehicle is not being operated or parked on a public roadway and your liability coverage has been dropped. This will avoid any registration suspension or cancellation issues.

If your state doesn’t offer an Affidavit of Non-Use, check whether it actively monitors your registration. If it doesn't, you would just want to make sure your registration won't be up for renewal when you have your vehicle “in storage.”

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If you opt for storage coverage, you'll only have comprehensive coverage. Your car will only be protected against weather, theft, vandalism, and animal-related damage. so it’s probably worth keeping the vehicle stowed safely in a garage or driveway. If you have a loan or lease on your vehicle, you probably won't be able to use this option.

 

Reduce your coverage level

If you’re not able to use storage coverage, you might consider dropping your physical coverage — your collision and comprehensive. On average, collision and comprehensive coverages comprise half of a driver's total insurance costs. If you'll be storing your vehicle in a garage for a few months, consider dropping these coverages.

You won’t be able to take this step if you have a loan or lease on the vehicle.

Average annual premium by coverage level
Coverage Level Avg. Annual Premium
Liability only $703
$500 deductible $1,699
$1,000 deductible $1,493
Updated: 10/06/22.

Dynamic auto insurance data methodology

Methodology: The auto insurance rates displayed above and throughout this page are dynamic, meaning the data will refresh when the most recent information is made available. Rates are based on a sample driver profile — a 30-year-old single male driver with a Honda Accord and full coverage. This profile was adjusted based on common pricing factors used by major car insurance companies, like age, coverage level, driving record and others.

The monthly difference between full coverage and dropping your coverage to liability-only insurance is about 50%, or $56 dollars. If you decide to drop to liability-only, it's a good idea to compare quotes from different companies to make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck.


Should you increase car insurance coverage during the winter?

There are some reasons you might actually want to increase your car insurance coverage level during the winter. Because weather conditions make driving dangerous, leading to more accidents.

 

What's the best car insurance coverage for winter?

Two important auto insurance coverage options for the winter months are comprehensive and collision. Unlike liability insurance, these coverages protect your car from property damage. With these options, you'd be covered in the case of a collision with a tree (collision) or a deer (comprehensive).

Unless you have a loan or lease, these coverages are not legally required, but might be wise if you live in an area susceptible to blizzards or other winter-weather events. If your winter weather conditions are approaching and you'd like to add auto insurance coverage, call your insurance company — but be sure to do it before winter hits.

Insurance companies sometimes place binding restrictions on new lines of business or changes to existing lines of business as a storm approaches. While this is more common in floods and hurricanes, it can happen with any significant weather event. So, if you're worried about your vehicle's protection from winter weather events, add this coverage prior to the implementation of any restrictions.


Winter driving tips

If you’re looking for tips on driving safely during the winter or more ways to save on auto insurance, see our articles here:

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Save an average of $440 a year by comparing your options.

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Ava Lynch photo
Ava LynchSenior Analyst

Ava joined The Zebra as a writer and licensed insurance agent in 2016. She now works as a senior analyst, providing insights and data analysis as one of The Zebra's property and casualty insurance experts.

Ava’s insurance career began as an agent with Farmers Insurance. Over the years, she has become an authority in all things property and casualty insurance, helping her to write informative guides for shoppers.

Ava’s work has been cited in publications such as InvestopediaThe BalanceMoney.comLiberty Mutual, U.S. News & World Report, GasBuddy, Car and Driver and Yahoo! Finance.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.