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Temporary car insurance

Find 3 simple ways to get a short term car insurance policy for less than six months.

Temporary car insurance lets you insure a rental car, borrowed car or a car you only drive occasionally. You have a few options for short term car insurance, depending on whether you need it for a week, a day or month to month.

Can I get temporary car insurance?

Most car insurers don’t offer car insurance for less than six to 12 months at a time. However, you can find month-to-month policies or pay-per-mile policies that will cover you for up to a month.

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Can I get car insurance for a month?

The easiest and cheapest option to get month-to-month car insurance is to choose an insurer that offers monthly payments and no cancellation fees, then cancel before you pay for your second month. You’ll get the rest refunded at a pro-rated rate based on how many days are left on the policy.

Can I get car insurance for a week?

Getting car insurance for a short vacation or a weekend holiday is probably easier if you get a rental car and purchase insurance through the rental company. Otherwise, if it’s a car you’re borrowing from a friend or family member, make sure their policy will cover other permitted drivers.

Can I get car insurance for a day?

Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get car insurance for a day or a weekend. The companies that advertise one day policies aren’t known to be reputable. Your best bet may be to get rental car coverage or a nonowner policy. You can also get pay-per-mile auto insurance that charges you only for the miles you drive.

What are the alternatives to short term insurance?

You can easily find companies that will provide temporary car insurance, but usually at a cost. Instead of opting for a lesser-known insurance company that specializes in temporary car insurance, consider a more flexible car insurance option.

  • Pay premiums monthly. Choose a 6 or 12-month policy that lets you pay your premiums monthly and cancel it when you no longer need coverage. Most major insurers don’t charge cancellation fees.
  • Pay per mile. This type of policy allows you to enjoy all the benefits of comprehensive car insurance while only paying for how much you drive. One drawback is that you’ll usually pay a small minimum amount, limiting your savings if you’re only using the car in the short term.
  • Add a driver to an existing policy. If you’re borrowing a relative’s or friend’s car for a temporary period, ask them to add you to their policy as a listed driver.
  • Rent a car. Though it’s an expensive option, you could rent a car and purchase insurance through the rental company.

Do I need temporary car insurance coverage?

You might need a temporary car insurance policy, such as a rental car policy, if you don’t have an existing car insurance policy, such as:

  • You’re renting a car
  • You’re visiting the US and plan to drive
  • You’re bringing a vehicle into the US
  • You borrow a friend’s car and wouldn’t want to make a claim on their insurance
  • You inherited a car and are reselling it
  • You’ve moved and need insurance for a short time

When can I skip temporary car insurance?

You might not need a separate car insurance policy if:

  • You have homes in two different states. Your car insurance covers you in every state, though different rules and regulations apply about where you need to register and insure your car primarily. Make sure your current policy meets the minimum requirements of both states and you’re following state registration rules.
  • You attend college in another state. If you’re still a permanent resident of your home state, you’ll register and insure your car in your home state, but your insurance will cover you in your college state.
  • You’re renting a car. You might already have coverage through your existing car insurance policy or the credit card you used to pay for the rental car. Otherwise you can opt for coverage through the rental car company, which may still be cheaper than temporary car insurance if you’re only renting it for a short period.
  • You’re borrowing a friend’s car. If you’re borrowing a friend or family member’s car for the day, their insurance would typically cover you. Your friend might need to add you as a permitted driver to the policy, or you can get a nonowners policy.
  • You’re driving a family member’s car. If you live in the same home, you’re typically covered to drive your family member’s car, unless you’ve been specifically excluded as a driver on the policy.
  • You drive your RV, motorcycle or classic car part of the year. A seasonal auto insurance policy will be much cheaper than a temporary policy if you only stay in your RV during the winter or ride your bike in the summer, for example.

Ask an expert: When would I need temporary coverage?

Chris Johnston

Chris Johnston
Personal injury attorney and founding partner of Des Moines Injury Law

Rental cars
Temporary car insurance often — but not exclusively — comes into play in the context of a rental car. It’s important to know that some states require individual policies to automatically cover rental vehicles, so know what coverage you have before buying any type of temporary coverage as you may not need it. That being said, in the context of a rental, if coverage is needed, it will be available for purchase at the time of rental. If your private policy — or that of your employer if the rental is work-related — does not provide coverage, a short-term policy should absolutely be purchased for full coverage. Like all insurance, temporary coverage is “worth it” if and when a claim arises.

Rideshare cars
Another situation when someone should strongly consider a temporary insurance policy is when they’re driving for hire, like with Lyft or Uber. Although both companies have enormous insurance limits, accessing those limits can be very challenging if you get into a car accident. In my personal experience, there is frequently finger-pointing as to who is the proper carrier for a given incident. To make sure they have personal coverage, a rideshare driver may benefit from a temporary policy without exclusions for ridesharing. Such a policy can help provide peace of mind for the insured by helping them, per their policy, while the other carriers fight it out.

Borrowed cars
It’s also worth considering a temporary policy if a person is driving a car they’ve borrowed or is being loaned to them. Typically, if A lends a car to B and B gets into a car accident, then A’s coverage is usually the “primary policy,” However, in these lending/borrowing situations, it’s possible for the borrower to exceed the scope of the lender — which could either void the at-issue policy or make it voidable. I’ve seen countless people suddenly remember that the borrower wasn’t supposed to be doing whatever they were doing when the accident happened — thus jeopardizing coverage. If B had their own policy, B would still likely be protected regardless of what A says.

What should I watch out for with temporary car insurance?

While there may be reasons to seek out short term car insurance, there are also pitfalls to consider:

  • Coverage is hard to find. Companies are wary of temporary policies due to high-risk drivers or the unlikeliness to renew. Many of the larger carriers only offer coverage for a minimum of 6 months.
  • Premiums are more expensive. If you’re going to use the car for at least two or three months of the year, it’s usually cheaper on a per-day rate to get seasonal insurance or layup coverage or take out an annual policy and cancel it when you no longer need it.
  • Temporary coverage could lapse. With a monthly policy, there’s a risk of letting your policy lapse while you’re still driving the car. And if you’re caught driving without insurance, you could face penalties.
  • Future premiums may go up. You may pay more for insurance in the future if you show a lapse in coverage from on-and-off coverage.

    Bottom line

    While car insurance is required in all 50 states, specialty companies offer short-term coverage, usually at a higher price. Compare your car insurance options to find the best one for however long you’ll be on the road.

    Roslyn McKenna's headshot
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    Roslyn McKenna Ayers is insurance manager at ValuePenguin and a former publisher at Finder, specializing in home and auto coverage. Her expertise and analysis has been featured on Bankrate, MSN and Reader's Digest. She holds a BA in writing and communications from Maryville College. See full bio

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