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While having a car can add a lot of convenience to your life, it can also add to your expenses. Unfortunately, new cars go down in value the second you drive away from the car dealer. This is why choosing to buy a pre-owned or “used” car can be a practical—and affordable—solution. However, to drive any car in the U.S., you have to have proof of insurance.

Insurance coverage is important because it keeps you safe behind the wheel, whether you’re in a new vehicle or not. Buying a car can be pricey, but your premium doesn’t have to be. Insurify is here to help you compare car insurance quotes to make sure you’re driving with the protection you need. Insurify does all the work to make ensure you score cheap insurance rates.

Quick Facts

  • It is legally required in 49 states to have a car insurance policy if you choose to drive.

  • If you buy a car, you typically have around 7 to 30 days to get an insurance policy.

  • You can add your new (used) car to your existing policy before buying it if you have one.

You Always Need Auto Insurance

How long do I have after purchasing a used car to secure car insurance?

In some states, if you’re purchasing a used car, you can extend your existing policy to tide you over until you find a new one. This is known as the used car grace period.

Almost every state (except New Hampshire, where you only need to show proof of financial responsibility) requires you to have an auto insurance policy if you decide to operate a vehicle. While it varies from state to state, at the very minimum, drivers should have liability coverage, which protects them from paying for bodily injury or property damage expenses out of pocket.

Depending on what state you live in, you might even need a policy before you can register your car at the department of motor vehicles (DMV). Registration is a way to keep track of cars on the road, report stolen vehicles, and more. It varies on a state-by-state basis, so check with your state’s DMV guidelines because some drivers can register their car without having a policy.

In addition to saving you money, buying a used car can be an attractive option for some people because it allows you to do business with a private seller instead of potentially overpriced car dealerships. For example, getting a car from your next-door neighbor for a deal probably seems better. However, they might not ask you if you have a policy, and you can drive away uninsured.

So what happens when you make a car purchase, and what does it mean for when you need to buy car insurance? It doesn’t really matter if it’s a new or old car. What matters most is if it’s your first car and whether you already have a pre-existing car insurance policy. From there, it can be easier to determine the period of time you can wait until you get a policy.

See More: Best Car Insurance Companies

How Long You Can Wait to Insure Your Used Car

At the end of the day, you will need insurance to drive your used car, so it’s probably best to just bite the bullet and not wait. However, we know this isn’t an option for everyone. At a glance, here’s what you need to know about how long you can go without auto insurance coverage and the types you need if you decide to get a car, regardless of whether it’s a used vehicle:

In most cases, car insurance companies will offer a 7- to 30-day grace period if you are replacing an old car with a new one and already have a pre-existing policy. Each state has its own laws, so be sure to speak with an insurance agent for more information. Requirements vary depending on whether you are replacing or adding another vehicle to your policy:

  • If you are buying a used car as your second vehicle, you just need to add it to your current policy and you can drive with coverage—and without any lapses.

  • If you are replacing a car on your policy, talk to your insurance company about grace periods. In most cases, your existing policy will cover your car for a short amount of time, providing you with temporary coverage when you buy your used car.

If you do not already have coverage, you will need to get a new policy before buying a used car. Getting a new car insurance policy will probably be the case if it’s your first car or if you cancel your policy prior to getting another car.

You do not need to have insurance for your car until you are the owner. So, if you are planning to buy a car in six months, you do not need to worry about buying a policy immediately. But you should have one by the time of your purchase. Know that if you plan to drive your car home from the dealership, you will need to have coverage.

Even though car insurance coverage is required in almost all U.S. states, buying full coverage isn’t necessary. At a minimum, you should consider liability insurance, which protects you from paying for bodily injury and property damage, and collision coverage, which pays for car repairs if it gets damaged in an accident.

See More: Car Insurance Quotes

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What to Talk to Your Car Insurance Company About

Now that you know you need to have an insurance policy and all the other details on how long you can wait to insure your used car, there are a few things you might want to consider bringing up with your car insurance provider. Whether or not you are starting a new policy or continuing a pre-existing one, there are some details that can be helpful when insuring your used car, like:

How to Get Proof of Insurance before Buying a Car

If you don’t already have an insurance policy and need to buy a new one: Let your insurance provider know details like the vehicle identification number (VIN) if you know which car you plan on buying. Also, consider running a VIN check to review the used car’s history and whether it’s been reported in any theft. This is the safest way to ensure your purchase is valid.

If you already have an insurance policy: If you’re replacing a car on your policy, be sure to ask your insurer about your grace period and show your insurance card at the dealership. Maybe this used car is for your new teen driver because you don’t want to risk buying a brand-new one. If you’re adding a second car to your policy, you can still just show your card.

Do Your Own Research Before Buying

If you buy your used car from a dealership, a sales representative may try to sell you a policy on the spot because they know you need to have one before you start driving. Know that you don’t need full coverage, so consider doing your own research on car insurance companies and the coverage you need so that you can save from potentially overpriced policies at the dealership.

Insurify is the best way to compare hundreds of insurers to make sure you’re getting the best deal that fits your needs. You can start with the minimum coverage and then consider optional add-ons like comprehensive coverage. Progressive, Allstate, GEICO, and State Farm are all big brand names, but you can get quality policies from other insurers you may have never heard of.

Also, always be sure to look up your state’s insurance laws. For more information, you can talk to an insurance agent, someone at the DMV, or anyone else with expertise in insurance work.

See More: Cheap Car Insurance

The Takeaway: Used Cars Still Need to Be Insured

All in all, buying a used car is an affordable option to get transportation, but know that you will need insurance coverage to drive it. If you don’t already have a policy, you will need to get a new policy before you make the purchase. If you do have one, see if you can add the used car as a second vehicle or replace your old car and get temporary coverage through a grace period.

A great way to beat overpriced policies at the dealership is by doing research to compare rates to make sure you get the best deal. On top of looking up used cars, the last thing you want to do is more research. Thankfully, Insurify does all the hard work to help you find quotes that fit your needs, lifestyle, and budget. Quality coverage shouldn’t break the bank. Get your quotes now!

Frequently Asked Questions

  • To play it safe, you should probably consider getting auto insurance coverage before buying a car. If you already have a pre-existing auto insurance policy (likely for another car, and the used car is your second vehicle), then getting your used car insured should be simple. All you need to do is talk to your insurance provider and ask them to add the used car to your policy. It’s easy!

  • Yes, this is one instance where you can get behind the wheel without protection from your own insurance policy. If you want to test-drive a car, you most likely don’t need to show proof of your own insurance. Whether it’s at a car dealer or with a private seller, their insurance policy should be responsible for covering damage or injuries if their car is in an accident during a test drive.

  • Yes, you do! It doesn’t matter much if it’s your first car or fifth, or if it’s a used or brand-new vehicle. Almost all 50 states require drivers to have some type of coverage to keep themselves and others safe on the road. The good news is that you don’t need to get a full-coverage policy and can customize your level of protection by choosing the types of coverage you really want and need.

  • On top of saving by buying a used car, you can also save on your insurance premium! Insurify does all the work to sift through millions of quotes from hundreds of companies in the insurance industry to make sure you get the best deal. We let you compare car insurance quotes side by side to make sure you have access to the most affordable rates on premiums and deductibles.

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  • 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 Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.

Maria Sanchez
Maria SanchezInsurance Writer

Maria Sanchez is a personal finance writer specializing in auto, home, and renters insurance. With a special interest in educational content, Maria distills complex financial information to be more accessible to the greater public. She holds degrees from the University of Massachusetts and the London School of Economics.