If the car you’re driving isn’t yours or you’re borrowing a car for a short period, you still need to make sure you’re an insured driver.

However, it may not make sense to buy a full car insurance policy for the vehicle since you won’t be driving it for longer than a few months.

Temporary car insurance solves this problem by providing the coverage you need for a set period. Short-term car insurance is available for various terms, but you might not be able to get it through your regular insurance provider.

Insurify can help you find and compare the best quotes from the nation’s top insurance companies for six-month and year-long policy periods. In just five minutes, you can save on your premium or switch to a new quote tailored to your driver profile.

But in case you need insurance for a much shorter amount of time, here’s a closer look at how temporary car insurance works and situations where you might need this coverage:

How Temporary Car Insurance Works

Car insurance protects you in the event of an accident that results in injuries, property damage, or even a totaled vehicle.

Forty-eight out of 50 states require having insurance coverage when you get behind the wheel—even if it’s not your own car. As such, not having insurance could get you in legal and financial trouble in the event of an accident, even if you’re not at fault. If you get caught driving without adequate insurance coverage, you could be looking at a big fine and even jail time. If you end up in an accident without having insurance, you would also be responsible for all the damages incurred because of the accident. This could easily add up to thousands of dollars in medical bills, lawyer fees, and cost of repairs to a building. Having even basic car insurance coverage can help you save money and protect you from a costly lawsuit.

The typical car insurance policy covers you for six months or a year, depending on your contract terms. However, you may only need coverage for a few months or when driving a car temporarily. For example, you might be a student who lives on campus and makes use of Uber or Lyft to get around. When you go home for the summer, you might drive the family car but then hand the keys back when summer’s over and you head back to school. Or, you’re visiting friends in another state for a few months and are using their car. You don’t own a car back home so you don’t have insurance. You would buy temporary auto insurance to make sure you’re covered while driving your friend’s car.

Is Temporary Car Insurance Right for You?

There are several other unique situations where it makes sense to buy temporary insurance. These include:

  • Renting a car when you don’t currently have insurance
  • Borrowing someone else’s car in an emergency for a few days without having insurance coverage of your own
  • Going on a road trip with friends and driving someone else’s car
  • Volunteering to drive a group of people in someone else’s car for a few days
  • Your car is at the mechanic or body shop and you’re driving someone else’s car
  • Someone else borrowed your car and you need to drive another car for a few days or weeks before yours is returned
  • You’re on vacation, driving a car in a different state and don’t drive a car in your home state
  • You bought a car for a short period of time and plan to sell it soon
  • You want to supplement your current insurance coverage for a short period because you will be driving the car more frequently
  • Adding temporary coverage on an existing policy for a student family member who is coming to visit for the holidays or the summer

There are several situations where you may not need a short-term car insurance policy—even if you are borrowing someone else’s car. These include:

  • Renting a car but purchasing insurance through the rental company. Almost all rental car companies offer insurance coverage as an add-on to the rental. If you buy this coverage, you may be paying higher than average rates for the premium, but you will be covered for any damage that occurs during the rental period. Some drivers purchase this even if they already have car insurance coverage of their own for extra protection.
  • Renting a car with a credit card that provides coverage. Many people don’t realize that their Visa, MasterCard, or American Express card offers member benefits that include rental car insurance coverage. While the amount of coverage may be very limited, you still have some coverage in the event something happens to the rental car. As long as you pay for the rental car using the right card, you would qualify for the card benefits.
  • Driving a friend’s car for a few hours. If you’re driving a friend’s car to drop them off somewhere or borrowing the car for the day, your friend’s car insurance policy will cover you in certain situations. If you plan on driving the car for a few days or are borrowing the car temporarily, you will need your own insurance coverage. Be wary of websites or nonstandard insurance carriers who promise one-day car insurance; these offers might not be legit temporary car insurance policies.

Things to Consider When Shopping for Temporary Car Insurance

One thing to remember when you’re looking for short-term car insurance is your regular insurance provider probably won’t offer short-term coverage. Most companies require buying a policy for at least six months to a year with the option of renewing. In addition, knowing that you’re only driving for a very short period could make you a risky driver. It could tell the insurance company that you’re inexperienced or are going to be driving in areas that are foreign to you, which could make you prone to accidents, theft, or vandalism.

When you do find an insurance provider that offers temporary coverage, you’ll need to make sure you’re able to use it for the full policy period. Most companies will require a down payment of at least one to two months of the total premium. If you end up canceling the policy for any reason within a few days of purchasing coverage, you may not get all of that down payment back. You might also be subject to early cancellation fees.

Since coverage usually starts within about a month of obtaining the policy for the first time, you may not technically be covered for the first few weeks you’re driving the vehicle. This means you’ll have to be extra vigilant when driving the new car and may even need to wait a while until you venture to new areas. If you were to get into an accident during this grace period, you may not be eligible for the full coverage stated in your policy.

One way to determine whether you are a risky customer is to review your insurance coverage record. If you haven’t been driving a vehicle for several months or years and have not had continuous insurance coverage as a result, you might not be eligible for attractive rates. You can expect to pay a premium for short-term car insurance—and especially if you have not had coverage on another car before or have large gaps in insurance coverage. Insurance companies can assess this situation as you being a high-risk customer so they can justify charging you a higher-than-average premium.

Buying short-term car insurance makes sense in certain situations, but it can be difficult to find attractive rates and get the coverage you need at the right time. It’s always a good idea to check with your car insurance provider if they offer short-term coverage, but you may need to shop for coverage beyond the usual policy providers. Take some time to review your options, determine whether you really need short-term coverage over a standard policy, and do your due diligence to secure a policy from a reputable company.

Insurify can help you get through the process by comparing car insurance quotes from top-rated insurance companies across the country. Start saving today!

Updated November 30, 2020

Sabah Karimi is a freelance writer and copywriter based in Florida. She covers auto insurance trends, tips, and personal finance advice for Insurify so readers can make informed decisions about car insurance and budgeting.