What is Temporary Car Insurance?

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If you don’t drive regularly, you might be hesitant to pony up for a car insurance policy when you do need to get behind the wheel. Temporary car insurance sounds like it would be a good solution. There’s just one problem: Major auto insurance companies generally don’t offer it.

However, you have options for short-term car insurance, and you can likely find coverage that fits your situation.

Here’s what you need to know about temporary car insurance:

Am I able to get temporary car insurance?

The short answer is, not really. Most major insurers only offer car insurance policies for six months or a year. You generally won’t find policies shorter than that. Be careful if you find an offer for day-to-day car insurance online or elsewhere. They may be scams. Thoroughly vet the insurer before agreeing to pay them for a short-term car insurance policy.

In most states, you’re legally required to have car insurance to drive. The person who owns the car is typically responsible for maintaining coverage of the vehicle. If you own or lease a car, that person is you — even if you’re only planning to drive for a short period of time. You may be able to buy a six-month policy and then cancel it when you’re done driving.

Good to know: You may face cancellation fees when you cancel your insurance policy that’ll add to your costs.

In other temporary driving situations, certain insurance products and arrangements can help protect you against the financial repercussions from an accident.

If you’re looking for a six- or 12-month auto policy, or are considering bundling auto and home insurance, we can help. Credible makes it easy to get quotes from multiple insurers.

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Car insurance policies for temporary situations

If you don’t own a car but drive on occasion, you’ll want to have some type of insurance when you’re behind the wheel. Accidents can be costly, and insurance helps to pay for medical bills, lawsuits, and property damage if you cause a collision. Depending on your situation, you have several options for coverage while driving temporarily. Here are a few common ones:

Non-owner car insurance

Non-owner car insurance can be a good option if you don’t own or lease a car but drive other cars regularly — such as through a car-sharing service or rental cars.

Non-owner policies typically cover your liability if you cause an accident while driving a car that’s not yours. Coverage generally includes both bodily injury for the driver or passengers in the other vehicle, as well as damage to the other vehicle.

Damage to the vehicle you’re driving is generally not covered under a non-owner policy, nor are any injuries you suffer. This means that if you cause an accident, your non-owner insurance will pay to fix the other vehicle and cover the medical bills for anyone injured in their car — but not the one you’re driving. However, the car owner’s insurance policy may help with that. Before driving someone else’s car, you should check to make sure.

Non-owner auto policies are generally cheaper than traditional car insurance, but rates will still depend on factors like your driving history and location.

Good to know: Most major car insurers offer some type of non-owner insurance, though few advertise it. You may need to contact an insurance agent to get a quote.

Rental car insurance

When you rent a car, your rental car company will offer you insurance options. If you already have a car insurance policy, you don’t necessarily need one from the rental company. But if you’re without a policy, you’ll need to buy one. At a minimum, you’ll need liability coverage that would pay for bodily injury and property damage in an accident you cause. You may decide to buy additional coverage as well.

By law, the rental company must offer you the minimum required liability coverage for the state you’re in, which will cover bodily injury and property damage if you cause an accident. You may also be able to get other types of coverage, including:

  • Loss damage waiver: This isn’t technically insurance, but instead transfers the responsibility from you to the rental car company if the vehicle is damaged or stolen while you have it.
  • Personal accident insurance: This covers the medical bills for you and any passengers you have if you’re injured in an accident.
  • Personal effects coverage: This covers theft of any belongings you have in your rental car.
  • Supplemental liability insurance: In many cases, the state-mandated minimum liability coverage isn’t enough. You may be able to purchase a higher coverage limit through the rental car company.
  • Roadside assistance protection: If your rental car breaks down, you run out of gas, or you lose your keys, this insurance pays for a tow truck or other help you need to get back on the road.

Learn More: Rental Car Liability Insurance: Do You Really Need It?

Coverage for student drivers

Car insurance carriers typically have special programs for college students. If you’re driving your own car regularly while at school, you’ll need full insurance coverage. If your name is on the title to the vehicle you drive, you’ll also likely need to buy your own policy.

But even if you’re only driving while you’re home for breaks, you still need coverage. Many car insurance providers offer a “student away from home” discount as part of a standard auto policy. This typically applies to young drivers on a parent’s policy. Your parent would include you as a driver on their insurance, but designate that you’re a student who lives away from home and not available to drive regularly. There may be age limits (22 or 25 is common) and you may need to attend school a certain distance away, such as 100 miles or more.

International car insurance

If you have a U.S. auto insurance policy, it likely covers you if you drive into Canada. But if you drive to Mexico, or want to drive in another country, you’ll need to get a special insurance policy. This is one of the rare exceptions to the six-month rule: Major insurers will offer temporary insurance policies for travelers to Mexico or overseas.

Named drivers

Most car insurance policies allow what’s known as permissive use, meaning you’re likely covered if you borrow someone’s car with their permission. However, if you plan on using someone’s car regularly, you may need to be added as a named driver on their policy. This formally extends coverage to you when you’re driving the vehicle.

While you don’t need to be a named driver to borrow someone’s car to run to the store, you’ll want to be added to the policy if you’re going to drive the vehicle with any regularity. If you’re a regular nanny or babysitter for a particular family, for example, you may want to be added to their policy.

Check Out: Can I Insure a Car That’s Not in My Name?

What is usage-based car insurance?

If you’re an infrequent driver, you may also consider usage-based car insurance. With usage-based insurance, special technology gathers information while you drive to determine how much you’re driving and how safe of a driver you are. Insurers who offer these policies typically either charge you based on how many miles you drive or on your driving habits. If you don’t drive much, you may be able to save a significant amount of money when compared to a traditional car insurance policy.

Some insurance carriers, like Nationwide, have a pay-per-mile program with a base rate and a per-mile rate. If your monthly mileage is low, you may be able to save on your car insurance premium.

Good to know: While most traditional car insurers offer these policies, specialty insurers like Root and Noblr have similar options. These providers use smartphone apps to track your miles and monitor your driving. You may qualify for discounts if you’re a safe driver, brake and accelerate smoothly, and avoid texting while driving.

What to do if you need temporary car insurance coverage

If you’ve had car insurance in the past, the best way to start is to talk to the insurance carrier about your situation. They can give you advice on the best way to get the coverage you need.

After that, the next step is to discuss the situation with the person who owns the vehicle you’re going to be driving.

If you own the car

If it’s your car, you’ll likely need a traditional auto insurance policy. Be sure to shop around and get quotes from multiple insurers before committing. Many insurance carriers also offer discounts if you bundle policies, meaning you have multiple insurance policies with one provider. If you have a home insurance or renters insurance policy, for example, you may get a discount if you add a car insurance policy with the same carrier.

Most car leasing companies also require you to carry insurance before you can drive off with the vehicle. If you know your needs are temporary, find out about any cancellation fees for the policy you’re thinking of purchasing.

If you don’t own the car

If you don’t own the vehicle, the next steps depend on your specific situation. If you’re just borrowing a friend’s car one time or for a weekend, you’re likely safe. Check with the car owner to make sure their policy allows permissive use. If it does, you should be covered in an accident. If you’re regularly driving a car for a month or more, you can be added as a named driver.

If you’re taking part in a car-sharing service, the company will typically offer insurance as part of the membership fee. You might be able to buy additional coverage, as well. You may also consider non-owner car insurance to help fill in any gaps.

Keep Reading: How Long After a Car Accident Can You File a Claim?

Frequently asked questions about temporary car insurance

Here are the answers to a couple common questions about temporary car insurance.

Is it possible to get daily, weekly, or monthly insurance?

Generally not. Major insurers typically only offer policies of six months or longer. You may be able to buy a traditional policy and cancel it when you’re through driving, though cancellation fees may apply.

You can also get short-term insurance for a rental car through the rental car company, or buy a short-term insurance policy while on vacation overseas.

Do I need temporary insurance to borrow a friend or family member’s car?

No, you don’t need temporary insurance to borrow a car. The owner’s auto insurance policy will likely cover you while you’re borrowing the vehicle.

If you’re driving the car regularly, you can ask the owner to add you as a driver on their policy. This may increase the cost of their insurance, though, so you should both keep this in mind. You may also consider non-owner insurance if you borrow cars regularly.

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Disclaimer: All insurance-related services are offered through Young Alfred.

About the author
Andrew Dunn
Andrew Dunn

Andrew Dunn is an award-winning mortgage and finance writer with a decade of experience covering the industry with articles published at Fox Business, LendingTree, Credit Karma, Axios Charlotte, and more.

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