Temporary Car Insurance in California: What You Need to Know (2024)

A standard car insurance policy in California lasts at least six months, but you may find even shorter policies.

Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco
  • 13+ years writing insurance and personal finance content

  • Insurance, lending, and retirement expert

Jacqueline has contributed content, and her personal finance passion, to dozens of noteworthy financial brands, including Credit Karma, Bankrate, and MagnifyMoney.

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Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

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Shawn Powers
Reviewed byShawn Powers
Headshot of licensed insurance agent Shawn Powers.
Shawn PowersVP of Insurance Sales at Insurify
  • Licensed insurance agent for 25+ years

  • 15 years as VP of Sales and Operations at Answer Financial

Licensed in more than 40 states, Shawn leverages his deep industry expertise to support the accuracy and trustworthiness of Insurify’s content.

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Updated May 28, 2024

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Cheapest recent rates in California

Drivers using Insurify have found quotes as cheap as $45/mo for liability only and $110/mo for full coverage in California.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users from California within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 28, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 28, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users from California within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 28, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 28, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

If you need a temporary car insurance policy in California, it can be difficult to find coverage, as most insurance companies only offer policies that last six months or longer. Instead of struggling to locate temporary auto insurance, it may be more practical to pursue alternatives when you only need coverage for a brief time. For example, a typical liability-only policy in California costs around $132 per month, and it may be more cost-effective to purchase this type of policy and cancel it early. Alternatively, you can explore other solutions that meet your needs.

Let’s dive into how temporary car insurance works in California so you can weigh your options.

Quick Facts
  • Buying a nonowner policy or rental car insurance may be an appropriate solution if you need temporary car insurance.

  • Canceling a car insurance policy early can lead to a cancellation fee, but you no longer have to pay the expensive monthly premiums.

  • Your credit card may have rental insurance as a benefit, which can provide coverage when you rent a car.

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Is temporary car insurance available in California?

You may find an insurance company in California that issues temporary or short-term car insurance coverage. However, your options are limited.

“Temporary car insurance is a rare form of coverage that can be very difficult to find because it is not offered by most standard auto insurers,” says Mark Friedlander, Insurance Information Institute director of corporate communications. He explains that temporary or short-term auto insurance policies are similar to traditional auto insurance, and the rating process is similar to how insurers price traditional auto insurance policies.

So, why do car insurance companies avoid issuing short-term policies? “The cost of underwriting risk for such a minimal time frame outweighs the benefits of selling this type of coverage,” Friedlander says. “That’s why six-month and 12-month policies are typical auto insurance policy terms.”

Important Information

Hugo, an online insurance company based in California, is one of the only insurers that offer on-demand, temporary car insurance. Its unique model lets insured drivers turn their coverage on and off or buy car insurance for as little as three days at a time.


Getting nonowner car insurance in California

Nonowner car insurance is a type of insurance policy you buy when you plan to drive a car you don’t own. For example, you may need this when driving a family member or friend’s car or using a car-sharing service.

You can usually buy these policies in increments of six months or a year, but they tend to be less expensive than a normal car insurance policy. While those terms aren’t shorter than a standard car insurance policy’s, you can generally cancel the policy as soon as you don’t need the coverage anymore.

Canceling your policy early in California

Just because you buy a car insurance policy with a long policy term doesn’t mean you’re stuck with it. You can buy a car insurance policy and cancel it early if your needs change — for any reason. For example, you could buy a yearlong policy, but if you decide to stop driving your car or sell it, then you have the option of canceling your policy. You may have to pay a cancellation fee, but you won’t continue paying pricey monthly premiums.

However, it’s critical to note that driving without insurance is illegal. If you cancel your policy but continue driving, California could suspend your license and registration.[1] So you must purchase a new policy if you’ll be driving again.

Furthermore, how long you have continuous coverage could affect your future car insurance rates when you shop for policies again. Canceling your policy without buying a new one can cause your future rates to be higher.

Learn More: Minimum Car Insurance Requirements by State

Learn More: Minimum Car Insurance Requirements by State

Getting car insurance for a rental car in California

When you rent a car, you need to make sure it has insurance, no matter how short a time you drive it. Before you buy rental car insurance, it’s a good idea to check your existing car insurance policy to see if it includes rental car coverage. If so, you likely won’t need additional insurance from the rental company. 

Additionally, you can see whether the credit card you use to pay for the rental includes rental car insurance as a card benefit. Many major cards offer this coverage, which can save you money. However, the coverage may be secondary to your own policy or have limits on the amount of coverage. The key here is to use a credit card that offers this benefit when you book the car; otherwise, coverage won’t apply.

If neither your auto insurance policy nor your credit card covers the rental, you can purchase insurance from the rental car company.[2]

Best car insurance companies for short-term car insurance in California

Drivers looking for a short-term car insurance policy in California may want to consider one of the insurers outlined in the following table. The average monthly quotes listed represent the average rates of a six-month, liability-only car insurance policy.

Insurance CompanyAverage Monthly QuoteInsurify Quality Score
The Insurify Quality (IQ) Score uses more than 15 criteria to objectively rate insurance companies on a one-to-five scale. The Insurify editorial team researches insurer data to determine the final scores.
Farmers$863.8
Sun Coast$90N/A
Clearcover$1032.9
Safeco$1093.8
Progressive$1154.1
SafeAuto$1183.0
Mercury$1233.6
National General$1253.5
Travelers$1294.3
Kemper$1502.8
Bristol West$1722.2
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers and quote estimates from Quadrant Information Services. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.
  • Our editorial team spent 350 hours developing the Insurify Quality (IQ) Score and scoring insurance companies. The IQ Score objectively analyzes and calculates a score for insurers using more than 15 crucial criteria. Criteria are weighted by importance to the consumer — factors such as customer reviews and affordability influence the score more than availability and third-party ratings.

    We rate each company on a 1 to 5 scale based on five categories: financial ratings, customer satisfaction, affordability, customer support and transparency, and availability. We update ratings once a year or as more recent information becomes available.

    • Third-party financial ratings: We use data from AM Best, S&P, Moody's, and more to compare insurance companies’ credit and ability to pay out future claims.
    • Customer satisfaction: To calculate this score, Insurify analyzed more than 20,000 customer reviews across 155 car insurance companies. We also considered third-party ratings from J.D. Power, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, and Trustpilot.
    • Affordability: Our data scientists analyzed more than 90 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partners across the United States, as well as available discounts, to calculate an affordability score.
    • Customer support and transparency: This measures coverage options, ease of claims filing, and the insurer's transparency surrounding discounts, coverages, and claims process.
    • Availability and reach: Insurify identified the number of states in which insurers offer coverage and company size by market share to score availability and reach.

Methodology

Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Services’ database of auto insurance rates. With this data, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums. The data included on this page represents averages across all driver ages, genders, credit scores, and driver profiles for California drivers.

Car insurance for students in California

When a student goes to college, their car insurance needs can change. Two common scenarios may occur when a student goes to college in California. Either they are a student who just moved to California for college and intends to drive their car at college or they moved to college but will no longer drive the car that a parent’s policy previously insured.

For college students who have recently relocated to California and plan on driving their own car while attending school, modifying or purchasing a new car insurance policy may be necessary. In this scenario, the process involves some research and comparison shopping to find a policy that meets their specific needs and state-minimum coverage levels.

To modify an existing policy, the student or their parent should contact their current insurance company and inform them of the move. The insurance company will then update the policy and adjust the premium based on the student’s new location. 

Keep In Mind

Certain factors, such as the student’s driving record, the make and model of their car, and the location of their college, could result in increased premiums.[3] As such, it may also be worth shopping around for quotes from other insurers to compare costs and benefits.

For parents whose child has moved away for college and will no longer drive their car, the process of modifying their car insurance policy will depend on whether their child is still a listed driver. If the child is no longer listed on the policy, the parents may be able to reduce their coverage to a minimum level or even cancel the policy altogether. However, if the child is still listed on the policy but won’t be driving the car, the parents may need to keep the policy as-is or consider removing the child from the policy entirely.

How much other Insurify users in California pay

Drivers in and around California have found policies from Mile Auto, GEICO, State Farm, and more, through Insurify in the last few days.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 28, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 28, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users within the last 10 days. Last updated on May 28, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from May 28, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

Temporary car insurance in California FAQs

If you live in or are visiting California and require temporary car insurance, Insurify answers some frequently asked questions on the topic below.

  • Can you get temporary insurance in California?

    Temporary insurance is available in California. However, most car insurance policies in California last for a minimum of six months. If you need shorter coverage, you might want to consider the relatively new car insurance company Hugo, which allows customers to purchase policies for as little as three days.

  • Is temporary car insurance legit?

    “Temporary car insurance is available throughout the U.S. but could be very difficult to find in California, as only a few insurers may offer coverage for less than a six-month term,” Friedlander explains. He urges consumers to be careful when buying this type of policy from smaller auto insurers, as companies that advertise very short-term policies often don’t provide drivers with adequate coverage.

  • Can you drive a car without insurance if you just bought it in California?

    No. California has no 30-day grace period for buying car insurance for a new vehicle purchase, and driving a car without insurance is illegal. Furthermore, dealerships are unlikely to let you drive off the lot without car insurance.

    However, your car insurance company may extend coverage from your previous or current vehicle to your new one for 30 days while you modify your coverage and add the car to your policy permanently.

  • How long can you be without car insurance in California?

    You can’t legally lapse on car insurance coverage in California while continuing to drive. If law enforcement pulls you over and catches you driving without insurance, you risk license suspension or car impoundment.[4]

Sources

  1. III. "Is it legal to drive without insurance?."
  2. III. "Rental car insurance."
  3. III. "What determines the price of an auto insurance policy?."
  4. California Department of Insurance. "Automobile Insurance Information Guide."
Jacqueline DeMarco
Jacqueline DeMarco

During college, Jacqueline DeMarco interned at a retirement plan advisory firm and was tasked with creating a presentation on the importance of financial wellness. During her research into how money can affect our health, relationships and career, Jacqueline realized just how important financial education is. Jacqueline is a contributor for Insurify and has worked with more than a dozen financial brands, including LendingTree, Capital One, Credit Karma, Fundera, Chime, Bankrate, Student Loan Hero, ValuePenguin, SoFi, and Northwestern Mutual, providing thoughtful content to give readers insight into complex topics that they likely didn’t learn in school.

Courtney Mikulski
Edited byCourtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
Courtney Mikulski
Courtney MikulskiSenior Editor, Auto
  • 3+ years producing insurance and personal finance content

  • Main architect of the Insurify Quality Score

Courtney’s deep personal finance knowledge extends beyond insurance to credit cards, consumer lending, and banking. She thrives on creating actionable content.

Featured in

media logomedia logo
Shawn Powers
Reviewed byShawn PowersVP of Insurance Sales at Insurify
Headshot of licensed insurance agent Shawn Powers.
Shawn PowersVP of Insurance Sales at Insurify
  • Licensed insurance agent for 25+ years

  • 15 years as VP of Sales and Operations at Answer Financial

Licensed in more than 40 states, Shawn leverages his deep industry expertise to support the accuracy and trustworthiness of Insurify’s content.

Featured in

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