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Most major insurers sell car insurance policies that last for six or 12 months. But sometimes you might need shorter-term coverage – for example, if you’re planning a road trip, or if you’re only an occasional driver.
Temporary insurance might look different than expected, but you can get coverage for almost any situation. You can even find at least one company that will sell you coverage for as short as three days. Comparing car insurance quotes can help you find the right company for your needs.
Most reputable insurers don’t sell policies for less than six months.
Beware advertisements for one-day car insurance. They may be a scam.
Infrequent drivers may benefit from pay-per-mile insurance.
Comparing quotes from multiple companies is the best way to find a temporary auto insurance policy that fits your needs and budget.
What is temporary car insurance?
Temporary car insurance is just what it sounds like: short-term car insurance. The shortest policy length most reputable insurers offer is six months, although one fairly new company does sell shorter-term policies.
“Technically, in the United States, we don’t have short-term or temporary car insurance,” says Earl Jones, insurance agent and owner of Earl L. Jones Insurance Agency. “The standard auto insurance policy is a minimum of six months, up to a max of 12 months.”
Even though you might see advertisements for policies shorter than six months, consider these offers cautiously. The policy might not provide adequate coverage or may even be a scam.
Short-term insurance can take on different forms, depending on what coverage you need. Some situations, like driving someone else’s car, allow you to rely on someone else’s insurance for coverage. The car owner could also add you to their policy, or you could purchase non-owner car insurance.
Pay-as-you-go temporary car insurance
Although most reputable insurance companies don’t offer temporary car insurance, Hugo is a relatively new entrant into the field. The insurtech company sells pay-as-you-go car insurance in Alabama, Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Texas.
Drivers in those states who need temporary car insurance can buy coverage from Hugo for as little as three days. The company also sells coverage in increments of seven and 14 days, and one or six months. Coverage options include minimum liability coverage, liability plus medical and accidental death coverage, or full coverage that includes liability, comprehensive, collision, medical, and accidental death coverages.
Hugo doesn’t charge a down payment or any up-front fees. Users can stop and start coverage as needed via text message. However, policies have limited customization options and don’t come with any traditional discounts, like bundling.
A temporary car insurance policy must include at least your state's required minimum amount of liability coverage for property damage and bodily injury. It may also include collision, comprehensive, and uninsured or underinsured motorists coverage.
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When you might need temporary car insurance
You might need short-term coverage for various reasons. If you don’t own a car, but know you’ll be doing some driving, you might need car insurance coverage. Or, temporary insurance may be helpful in a car-sharing situation. Insurance coverages such as permissive use, rental, and non-owner policies are all good ways to get car insurance temporarily, depending on what you need it for.
You’re driving someone else’s car
If you’re borrowing a friend's car or a vehicle owned by a family member, you can often rely on their insurance coverage. This is known as permissive coverage — you’re covered under the driver’s policy if they permit you to drive the car. It’s a good option if you plan to drive occasionally, but if you intend to use the car more frequently, you should consider having them add you to the policy.
Someone else will drive your car for a short period
The concept of permissive coverage also applies if you’re the person lending the vehicle. As long as you have a current auto insurance policy and grant permission to the driver, that person will be covered.But if you’re unsure about your policy’s coverages, or want an added layer of protection, you might consider asking the borrower to purchase their own temporary insurance.
You have a student driver on your policy
As long as you already have an auto policy for the car and the student is your dependent, you can usually add them to your policy. While your premium might increase, it’s typically cheaper than purchasing a separate policy. If your student driver is a high school or college student, ask your agent about discounts for good students,recent graduates, and students away at school.
You’re renting a car
If you’re renting a car and don’t have insurance, you can purchase rental car insurance through the rental car company. Coverage requirements vary by state but usually include collision and liability coverage. If you already have auto insurance, your policy typically provides coverage for a rental, so you won’t need to buy additional coverage from the rental company.
Car rental companies usually offer a collision damage waiver when renting a car. However, the waiver only covers damages to the rental car and excludes liability coverage. Some credit card providers offer the coverage for free — so if you plan to pay for the rental with a credit card, check your card’s benefits.
You’re traveling internationally
If you’re an American citizen and plan to drive your car to Canada, your auto insurance policy should provide coverage. But if you plan to drive to Mexico, you must purchase a separate policy. You'll also need a separate policy if you drive in any other country while on business or vacation. And it's a good idea to buy insurance even if the country's laws don't require it. Your domestic car insurance policy won't cover you outside the U.S. or Canada, and going uninsured can expose you to financial liability if you get into an accident. Companies sell policies for this exact purpose, and you can often buy coverage from your current insurer.
If you’re an international tourist visiting America and plan to drive, you'll also need insurance. But first, you’ll need a valid driver’s license. The license from your home country might be valid, but you might need to apply for an international license. Check your country’s regulations before you travel.
You can typically add insurance coverage through the rental company if you rent a car during your trip. If you borrow a car from a friend or family member, you’ll likely need to buy a six-month policy, which you can cancel at the end of your trip.
Your car is going into storage
You’re not legally required to have coverage for a car in storage that you don’t drive, but you might opt to add coverage to protect against theft or vandalism. If you need short-term insurance for a stored vehicle like a classic car, consider comprehensive coverage. Check with your insurance company to see whether it lets you drop other parts of your coverage to save money on your premium.
Keep in Mind
You can always buy a six-month policy, use it for the months you need coverage, and then cancel the remaining term of the policy. This way, you only pay for the months you need.
Is pay-per-mile insurance an alternative to a short-term policy?
Pay-per-mile car insurance is insurance coverage for people who don’t drive regularly or who only drive very short distances. Standard insurance requires a monthly premium that stays the same regardless of how much you drive. But with pay-per-mile insurance, the company will base your insurance rates on how many miles you drive each month.
Even though the insurance isn’t temporary, pay-per-mile insurance can be a solid option for people who drive infrequently. Depending on your needs, it might be a simpler and cheaper option than setting up a standard policy and canceling it after a few months.
Some large insurers that offer this type of coverage include:
Should you buy a non-owner car insurance policy?
While it’s not required, you can buy a non-owner insurance policy if you regularly drive a car you don’t own. Suppose you rent or borrow vehicles from various companies or people and want to avoid dealing with the hassle of insurance paperwork each time — non-owner car insurance could be useful coverage.
Rental car companies offer their own insurance coverage options, so you’re not required to have a non-owner policy in those circumstances. And if you borrow a car from a friend or family member, you won’t need a non-owner policy either, as you likely have permissive coverage.
How to find a temporary car insurance policy
You have options if you need a nontraditional or temporary car insurance policy. Here’s how to get started:
Determine what you need. The first and most crucial step is determining the coverage type and length you need. Consider the circumstances where you need temporary coverage and select the best fit.
Shop for quotes. Once you know the type of coverage you need, compare quotes from multiple companies to find the best fit and price. Review the policy terms, cancellation process, car insurance rates, and any additional fees. Be sure to consider the deductible in the overall cost of the policy.
Set up coverage. After you select an insurance company, it’s time to establish coverage. You usually need your driver’s license and personal information like your full name, address, vehicle make and model, VIN, birthdates, and drivers license numbers for all drivers who'll be listed on the policy.
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Temporary car insurance FAQs
When you need temporary car insurance, it can feel like you need answers right away. Below, we answer some common questions about temporary car insurance.
Is temporary car insurance legit?
Temporary car insurance advertised to last less than six months may not be legitimate, and you should proceed with caution when dealing with companies offering such policies. Most insurance providers sell policies that last at least six months. Hugo Insurance is one exception.
Can you get month-to-month car insurance?
Hugo is a legitimate company that sells short-term coverage, but most insurance companies don’t offer month-to-month car insurance. However, it’s possible to get a six- or 12-month car insurance policy and cancel once you no longer need it. Some insurers charge a cancellation fee, but it’s usually minimal and less than what you’d pay if you kept the policy active.
Do you need insurance to drive someone else’s car?
If the car owner permits you to drive their car, you have what’s known as permissive coverage. In that case, you’re protected by the vehicle owner's auto insurance policy coverage. But the car owner might want to add you to their insurance policy for long-term coverage if you drive the car regularly and live at the same address. You can also opt for a separate nonowner auto insurance policy.
How much does temporary car insurance cost?
Some temporary or short-term car insurance options are less expensive than standard policies, but it depends on the type of insurance you need and for how long. Compare quotes from various insurers to get a good idea of what you might pay.
Taylor Milam-Samuel is a writer and credentialed educator who is fascinated by how people earn, save, and spend their money. When she's not researching financial terms and conditions, she can be found in the classroom teaching.