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Whether you’re traveling long term, deploying abroad, or simply have a car that you won’t need for an extended period of time, you may want to consider car storage options. You may even consider dropping your auto insurance coverage while your car is in storage, so you can save those monthly premiums.
But while canceling your policy can mean cost savings, it isn’t always necessary or even the best financial option. Rather than potentially setting yourself up for a financial headache, consider whether keeping your policy is the better choice. Here’s what you should know about car storage insurance.
What is car storage insurance?
There isn’t really a dedicated “car storage insurance” product for when you’ve decided you won’t be driving your vehicle for an extended period. Instead, when people speak of car storage policies, they’re typically referring to a comprehensive-only policy that’s activated temporarily while your car is being stored.
Some insurers offer specific storage policies for active-duty military members and their families who need to store vehicles while deployed. For example, GEICO offers a Military Storage Protection policy. If your deployment is for 30 days or more, GEICO will modify or suspend your coverage to save you money, even if you want to keep your vehicle protected.
Aside from GEICO, though, your most common option for protecting your vehicle in storage is a modified comprehensive-only policy.
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How car storage insurance works
It’s easy to understand why you need auto insurance when driving your vehicle on public roads, but it may be harder to justify that cost if your car is sitting unused for a long time. However, even if you won’t be behind the wheel of your car for a while, car storage insurance can still be valuable.
That’s because comprehensive coverage can step in to repair or replace your vehicle if a loss occurs while in storage. For example, if a tree falls on the roof of the storage unit, your vehicle could sustain thousands of dollars in damages. Or if a flood strikes the area and your floor-level unit takes on water, your car could easily be totaled.
While some storage facilities offer optional coverage plans, and many homeowners orrenters policies extend to belongings in storage, these typically exclude automobiles. Instead, you’ll need to rely on an active comprehensive auto insurance policy to fix or replace your car.
In this case, you could file a claim with your comprehensive-only policy for the damages incurred while in storage. Your insurer will likely request proof of the damages and schedule an estimate of your vehicle’s repair cost (or, if applicable, total the vehicle). After paying your policy’s deductible, your insurance company will foot the rest of the approved bill.
What car storage insurance covers
Since car storage insurance is essentially just a comprehensive coverage policy, it typically covers damages that result from anything other than a collision. This means that car storage insurance will likely step in to cover the damages or losses incurred from hail, flooding, falling objects, fire, vandalism, or theft.
Every policy will have its own limitations and exclusions, so it’s important to read your coverage documents carefully and ask questions if you’re unsure. You should review the policy deductible to ensure it’s a rate you can afford should you need to file a claim. Since there won’t be another liable party, you’ll be responsible for paying your deductible up front before repairs or a total loss payout. If you can’t afford to pay your deductible, you won’t receive the benefits of the policy.
What car storage insurance doesn’t cover
Car storage insurance excludes the same things that a standard comprehensive insurance policy excludes. This means that if you switch your coverage to a storage policy and then decide to drive your vehicle, you won’t have liability insurance or collision protection if you’re involved in an accident. It’s also important to note a comprehensive-only storage policy won’t cover damage incurred to your vehicle while putting it in storage.
Additionally, no car insurance policy covers the general wear and tear of your vehicle. So, if your battery dies while your car is in storage, your transmission goes out, or you need new tires once you start driving the vehicle again, those will all be out-of-pocket expenses.
How much car storage insurance costs
The cost of your auto insurance policy depends on many factors. The same is true for your car storage coverage. Some of the most important factors that determine your premiums include:
Level of coverage
Here’s a look at the average monthly and annual premiums for a car storage policy from some of the top insurers.
Average Monthly Cost
Average Annual Cost
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.
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How to get car storage insurance
Since car storage insurance isn’t a marketed product for most companies, you’ll find it difficult to shop around online or buy a policy through an app. Each company handles these types of policies differently, so your best bet is to call and speak to your auto insurance company directly. An agent can tell you exactly what sort of coverage options are available, what qualifies for a comprehensive-only policy, and how much you can expect to pay for coverage.
Before you call and start shopping for storage coverage, you’ll want to know:
When you plan to put your vehicle in storage
How long it’ll be there
Whether you’ll need liability or full coverage for any other vehicles at the same time
What you want your deductible to be
It’s important you don’t end your existing coverage until the stored vehicle is safely and securely parked in the storage facility. You’ll also want to be sure that you convert coverage back to a standard policy (to include liability coverage and, if desired, collision or comprehensive coverage) before moving the vehicle back out of storage.
Options for insuring a stored car
Even with storage insurance, you’ll still want to ensure your vehicle’s protection and limit potential damage as best you can. Where you plan to store your car can even affect the type of insurance (and amount of coverage) you choose.
People can choose to store their cars in a few different ways, depending on budget and location. Some common options include:
Special vehicle storage units
In a home garage
In a driveway
On a public road
Cars parked on a public road instead of in a dedicated automobile storage facility are also more susceptible to damage or theft. As such, you may opt for a different level of coverage or even a higher deductible depending on where you’ll store the vehicle.
Why you should keep a stored car insured
Dropping all car insurance coverage is almost never a good idea because it leaves you entirely responsible for any losses that occur.
Additionally, if you’ve financed your car through a loan, your bank might require a set coverage limit. Many banks and financial institutions will require comprehensive coverage on the vehicle in order to protect the collateral asset.
How to prepare your vehicle for storage
Everyone prepares a vehicle for storage differently, and your process will depend on its storage location and the length of time it’ll be there. For example, if you’re leaving the vehicle in someone’s driveway for a year, you may want to prep it differently than if you’re storing it in a full-service facility for three months.
Some general prep tips include:
Remove all valuables from the vehicle, regardless of where it’s being stored.
Change the oil and top off all fluids (antifreeze, wiper fluid, brake fluid).
Fill the gas tank (check with your storage facility about rules regarding how much fuel can be stored) and add a fuel stabilizer to the tank according to its instructions.
Connect the battery to a trickle charger/tender, or remove it entirely.
Plug entry points into the vehicle (such as tailpipes) to deter pests.
Protect the vehicle with a weatherproof cover, especially if it’s being stored outdoors or in winter conditions.
Activate the vehicle’s parking brake and lock all doors.
Remove the car’s tires or add additional air to each one to prevent damage.
Car storage insurance FAQs
Looking for more information to help you effectively store your vehicle? The following answers can help.
What does storage mean in car insurance?
If you plan to store your vehicle for an extended period of time, you may not need as much auto insurance coverage as you would if you’re driving regularly. Instead, you may have the opportunity to build a comprehensive-only policy to match your needs. Ask your insurer what options are available for you.
Can you suspend car insurance in Florida?
Most companies won’t allow you to suspend your auto coverage. Instead, you might consider reducing your coverage or paying for a pay-as-you-go policy like those offered by Hugo. These policies are available in 13 states, including Florida, and charge you based on how many miles you drive per year. This ensures you always have adequate coverage no matter how often you use your vehicle.
Do you need insurance on a stored car in Michigan?
Maintaining auto insurance coverage is always wise, even if you’re storing your vehicle for a long period of time. Even in a no-fault state like Michigan, keeping comprehensive coverage active ensures that your stored vehicle is protected from theft, loss, or damage, and your lender may even require it.
Can you stop and start your car insurance when you don’t need it?
In most states, insurers don’t allow you to simply cancel your auto insurance coverage. Even if you can, it’s usually not a good idea, as you open yourself up to financial loss in the event of damage or theft.
Instead, ask your insurer if you can adjust your policy to a comprehensive-only coverage while your vehicle is in storage, which reduces your coverage options and can lower your premiums while you aren’t driving.
Stephanie is a DC-based freelance writer. She primarily covers personal finance topics such as insurance, loans, real estate investing, and retirement. Her work can be found on CBS, FOX Business, MSN, Yahoo! Finance, Business Insider, and more. When she isn't helping people plan for their financial futures, she is traveling, hiking with her kids, or writing for her own website, TomorrowsDollar.com. She can be reached on Twitter @stephcolestock