How to find the cheapest temporary car insurance in the UK

Looking for temporary car insurance but struggling to find an affordable deal? Find out how you can cut those pesky costs.

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In the market for a new car and planning a bunch of test-drives? Heading off on a weekend road-trip with a friend and want to share the driving? Temporary car insurance could be just the ticket, giving you the short-term protection you need to drive legally and with the confidence you’ll be covered if the car is stolen or damaged. Find out when this type of cover is (and isn’t) suitable, and how to find the cheapest temporary car insurance in the UK.

What is temporary car insurance?

Also known as short-term car insurance, temporary car insurance lets you get cover to drive a car for anything from an hour or two up to 28 days. It’s not likely to be suitable for insuring your own car, but it could be a good option if you want to get behind the wheel of someone else’s car for a short period – with their permission, of course. You can usually buy and start a policy in a matter of minutes.

What’s the shortest or longest time you can insure a vehicle with temporary insurance?

You can take out a temporary policy for anything from an hour up to, typically, 28 days – though some last up to three months. If you realise you need cover for longer than you originally thought, most insurers will let you extend cover up to their maximum. If you need cover for longer than this, you’ll either need to take out more than one temporary policy, or consider whether another insurance option would work better.

Who is temporary car insurance suitable for?

It makes sense to buy a cheap temporary car insurance deal if you only want to use a car for a few hours, days or weeks. You might be:

  • A student who has returned home for the holidays and needs access to the family car for a short time
  • Going on a road trip with a friend and wanting to share the driving load
  • Moving house and needing a car or van for a day or two
  • Test driving a car from a private seller.

When is temporary car insurance not suitable?

In most cases you shouldn’t use temporary car insurance for your own car, even if it’s a second car that you drive infrequently. Even if your car spends most of its time parked on the roadside, legally it will still need constant insurance. The only exception to this rule is if you keep your car on private land (in a garage or on a private driveway) and officially declare it off the road (SORN). As soon as you drive it on UK roads, though, you’ll need to remove the SORN and take out insurance again.

It’s is also unlikely to be the right choice if you want to borrow someone else’s car on a regular basis – for example if you drive a partner’s car at least once a week. Per day, temporary car insurance is more expensive than annual cover, so if you use someone else’s car this regularly you should look at alternatives such as being added as a named driver on their policy.

And temporary car insurance usually won’t cover hire cars from rental companies. This should rarely be an issue though, as in most cases the rental package will include at least the cover you legally need.

Who can take out temporary insurance?

Generally, you have to:

  • Be between the age of 18 and 78
  • Have had a full driving licence for at least six months (a year in some cases).
  • Have received no more than seven licence penalty points in the past three years, and have no disqualifications in the past two years.

Every insurer will have their own rules though; some may have higher or lower age limits, for example.

Standard temporary insurance typically isn’t right for learner drivers. However, some insurers offer policies directly aimed at learner drivers, to cover them for the period up until they pass their test.

What types of cover are available with temporary insurance?

Generally, with temporary car insurance, you can only get comprehensive cover. So in most cases, there’s no option for a lower level of policy. If you do stumble upon a temporary car insurance provider that offers third party, fire and theft cover, or third party cover, then opting for one of these levels of cover could lower your costs.

It’s not a sure thing though. Somewhat counterintuitively, comprehensive cover can often be as cheap – or even cheaper – than more basic policies. Plus, third-party insurance doesn’t cover you for accidental damage to your own car, so you won’t get any financial help should you have an accident or collision that was your fault.

What does temporary car insurance cover?

Given that temporary car insurance cover is usually comprehensive, it will typically include:

  • Third-party cover for any harm you cause to other people and property, including when driving in the EU
  • Fire damage
  • Damage from collisions and other accidents
  • Theft or vandalism
  • Flexible cover that can last anything from an hour to 28 days.

What does temporary car insurance not cover?

Temporary car insurance comes with the same exclusions as annual car insurance. For example:

  • Driving whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Driving an unroadworthy car (for example, if the tyres are worn below the legal limit)
  • Letting someone that isn’t named on the policy drive the car
  • Using the car for purposes that you didn’t declare. For example, if you want to use the car for business reasons, standard one day cover is unlikely to be sufficient. Look for temporary business car insurance instead.

As standard, even comprehensive temporary car insurance is likely to only cover you on a third-party basis for driving in Europe. If you want a higher level of cover to take a car over the Channel, you’ll need to take out European car insurance.

Your cover will also be invalid if you drive without the permission of the vehicle’s owner. And, of course, you’ll only be covered for the specific short-term period of insurance. If it looks like you might exceed this, you’ll need to extend cover or take out another policy.

Is a temporary car insurance policy cheaper than an annual policy for occasional use?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

Temporary car insurance is flexible and can help you save money if you need a car for a matter of hours, day or weeks. But whether it will work out the cheapest option depends how occasional your usage is.

Per day, temporary car insurance will typically cost more than an annual policy. Let’s say, for the sake of argument, a temporary policy on a car costs £20 per day and an annual policy would cost the same driver £500. If that driver were to use the car for more than 25 days, taking out an annual policy would work out cheaper.

The tipping point will, of course, vary by insurer, and also your car usage pattern. Temporary car insurance becomes cheaper per-day the longer you take out cover for. So taking out cover for 25 days in a row will be cheaper than buying insurance for just two or three days each month.

But, in general, if you expect to use a car for more than a month per year, it’s worth investigating alternatives and comparing costs.

What alternatives are there to temporary insurance?

  • Annual insurance. If you’re going to use the car for at least a month or two of the year, it might be cheaper to take out an annual policy. It’s perfectly fine for both you and the owner of a car you’re borrowing to have your own annual policies, and you can always cancel it when you no longer need it to minimise costs. The downsides of taking this route are you’ll be hit with a cancellation fee if you stop cover, and you might not receive a refund for all your unused months.
  • Being added as a named driver. If you’re borrowing the car of a friend of family member, see if they’re willing to add you as a named driver (temporarily or permanently). If you’re a safe, experienced driver, this may cost very little (though they’ll need to pay an admin fee if they add you part way through their policy term). If you’re considered a high-risk driver, though (because of your age, for example), it could be more expensive than temporary insurance, so be sure to compare costs. And if you’re added as a named driver and need to make a claim, it could affect the policyholder’s no-claims bonus and renewal premium.
  • Drive other cars insurance. If you have your own comprehensive car insurance policy, check if it covers you to drive other cars (DOC). Be aware that, even if it does, this will probably only give you third-party cover – the minimum legal requirement. If you’re borrowing a friend’s car, they might want you to take out cover that protects their car as well as other people’s.

What do I need to get a quote for temporary car insurance?

To get a temporary car insurance quote, you’ll need the details of when you need cover to start and stop, plus most of the other information you’ll usually need to give to get any car insurance quote, including:

  • The car make and model
  • Your personal details, such as your age, driving history and occupation.

What optional extras are available with temporary insurance?

You can get many of the same extras on a short-term basis as would be available with an annual policy. The following are some of the most common add-ons that might be available:

How much does temporary car insurance cost?

As with a standard car insurance policy there are a number of factors that will affect what you pay in premiums for temporary car insurance, such as:

  • Your age
  • Your address
  • How long you’ve been driving
  • Your driving history
  • The car’s make and model

How can I save on my temporary car insurance?

Temporary insurance can often be quite expensive, particularly if you’re a young driver. Other than choosing to drive a less powerful car (not always something you have much control over if you’re borrowing a car), there are a few ways you can lower your insurance premiums.

  • Only pay for the cover you need. Don’t pay for more days than you need, and avoid paying for optional extras like breakdown cover if you don’t need them. If you’re sharing the driving on a road trip, check if your driving companion’s existing breakdown policy might cover them as a driver or passenger in any car.
  • Try choosing a higher excess. You could tell the insurer you’re willing to pay a higher excess, which is the amount you contribute to a claim before the insurer pays out. A bigger excess generally leads to lower premiums.
  • Be a safe driver. If you drive responsibly, avoid making claims on your standard insurance, and don’t earn points on your licence through reckless driving, finding cheap car insurance will be much easier, whether annual or temporary.
  • Shop around to compare price. Don’t settle on the first temporary car insurance deal you see, get plenty of quotes and use comparison websites to really root out the cheapest deal on the market.
  • Consider an annual policy instead. You could potentially save money by buying annual car insurance and cancelling it if you’re going to need cover for more than a month or two.
  • Get cover as a named driver. Getting a friend or relative to put you down as an additional driver on their main insurance policy could work out cheaper too. Get them to ask their insurer how much it will cost, and then compare with your temporary insurance quotes.

Pros and cons of temporary car insurance

Pros

  • Fully flexible – get cover from one hour to 28 days that can be extended if needed
  • Ideal for getting cover to drive someone else’s car in an emergency
  • For very short periods, likely to be cheaper than alternatives

Cons

  • Per day, costs more than annual cover – could be more expensive if you drive a car for more than a month or two
  • Most policies only allow a single driver
  • Excesses are sometimes higher on temporary policies than annual policies

Bottom line

Finding the cheapest temporary car insurance really boils down to your own circumstances. Many factors will influence the cost of your premiums such as the length of time you need cover for, your age and driving history as well who the insurance provider is.

Even just a little bit of research will throw up some different deals on offer. And from these, you’ll be able to compare them to find the best. Price alone isn’t always a good indicator of the best policy as you’ll need to also check the features of the policy against what you require.

Frequently asked questions

The offers compared on this page are chosen from a range of products we can track; we don't cover every product on the market...yet. Unless we've indicated otherwise, products are shown in no particular order or ranking. The terms "best", "top", "cheap" (and variations), aren't product ratings, although we always explain what's great about a product when we highlight it; this is subject to our terms of use. When making a big financial decision, it's wise to consider getting independent financial advice, and always consider your own financial circumstances when comparing products so you get what's right for you.

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