Your Guide to Temporary Car Insurance Options

by Nick Versaw Updated March 1st, 2022

Temporary car insurance: worried man talking on the phone while sitting in front of his broken car

Temporary or short-term car insurance gives drivers legally required coverage when, for example, they rent a car, borrow someone’s vehicle, or drive only occasionally. 

Unfortunately, most insurance companies won’t extend a policy shorter than six months. Short-term car insurance policies make little financial sense for major insurance providers because the risks outweigh their potential profits. However, to protect yourself from legal consequences and accident-related expenses, you do have options other than a standard, six-month minimum term.

Whether you’re driving a friend’s car, renting a vehicle, or traveling out of state, temporary car insurance provides essential coverage in situations that traditional policies may exclude. If you’re an uninsured driver or have temporary insurance terms that are too narrow in scope, you’re at risk of legal and financial peril if the unexpected happens. 

The chance of an accident and the cost of medical bills, legal fees, and repairs make exploring short-term car insurance essential. Learn how a limited auto insurance policy can meet your needs, then research a variety of affordable car insurance quotes with Compare.com.


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Who Needs Temporary Car Insurance?

No matter how safe of a driver you are, it’s always a good idea to minimize the risks of getting into an accident without insurance coverage. 

These are the types of drivers who can benefit from temporary car insurance:

  • Drivers who use car shares
  • Drivers who frequently borrow vehicles
  • First-time drivers
  • Student drivers who use family cars when they’re away from campus
  • Non-owner drivers
  • Lapsed-coverage drivers
  • Drivers without any car insurance at all

These driving situations make short-term car insurance an attractive option. But, since trustworthy insurance companies don’t extend car insurance policies by days or weeks, let’s find out what the options are. 

Does Temporary Car Insurance Exist?

Major car insurance companies don’t sell policies shorter than six months. You can pay for a temporary car insurance policy from month to month. However, daily or one-month car insurance policies often won’t cover your total liability as a driver or your possible expenses in the event of an accident or emergency.

Many targeted ads and websites for temporary car insurance claim they can offer insurance for as short as a few days. In truth, these ads are designed to lure customers into six-month policies

Major insurance companies won’t give coverage by the day, week, or month because of the risk involved. Major insurers are aware that they cannot profit from a mere week of policy payments if they end up paying out thousands of dollars in an accident claim. That’s why it doesn’t make financial sense for trusted insurers to provide short-term coverage options.

Auto insurance companies who offer short-term policies are not always guaranteed to pay out benefits when you need them most. Many of these companies add loopholes into their policy agreements to reduce or eliminate their risk. If they pay anything for a claim, it likely won’t qualify as a legitimate settlement by a reputable insurance company.

What Are Your Options for Temporary Coverage?

Temporary car insurance: stressed woman on the phone while looking at the scratches on her car

Since insurance companies sell car coverage in six-month or one-year terms, a temporary solution might involve simply canceling the policy before the full period. In these situations, the insurer will often refund premiums you’ve already paid (but some charge a fee to close coverage early). 

But, since this can disrupt your continuous insurance history and increase your future premiums, there are simpler, more beneficial options for students or drivers who are borrowing, renting, and storing a car (or simply trying to fit a car insurance policy into a limited budget).

Student Away at School Coverage

If your car insurance policy includes your child, you can keep them on the policy even while they’re at school — driving occasionally or riding as a passenger. Your policy will cover them whenever they need to drive and provide extra benefits to them as a driver or passenger after an accident. This will help them build positive coverage history and potentially earn you a student discount on the policy.

If your college student doesn’t have a car or they drive a friend’s while they’re away, you might think you’ll save a few dollars by taking them off the policy entirely. If it’s possible that they’ll drive at all, it may not be worth the risk to remove them. 

Plus, they may also want to drive the family car when they return on scheduled semester breaks, and you don’t want to have to call your agent to add and remove a driver multiple times per semester, right?

The best temporary option is to alternate their coverage to include them while at home and exclude them while at school. This will work if you know they won’t be driving while at school. If you contact your insurer ahead of time, you can usually avoid penalties like cancellation fees

Temporarily Adding a Driver to Your Policy

Friends and family may ask to borrow your car for a small, one-time need, and wanting to temporarily add them to your policy makes sense. Most of the time, car insurance companies predict this and include coverage for your car in the rare case that someone else drives it, which is known as a non-owner car insurance policy

If a friend or family member who doesn’t own their own car opts to drive your vehicle once or twice per week, you can add them to your policy temporarily by calling the insurer and giving them the driver’s personal information. This information can include their driving history (tickets, accidents, etc.), license information, social security number, current job, and birthdate.

Then, whenever they stop using the car, you can simply take them off the policy, since adding them will change your premium to cover them while they drive your car.

Rental Car Coverage

On a vacation or road trip, considering temporary car insurance for a rental car seems like smart planning. The rental company will offer their own coverage for the length of your rental, but your current car insurance policy may already offer you benefits while driving the rental car. 

Unless you’re renting the car for business, check with your traditional, long-term policy for information about the specifics of rental car insurance coverage within your existing policy. Standard car insurance policies almost always provide coverage when you rent an automobile or when you’re driving a friend or family member‘s vehicle. 

Car Storage Insurance

Some drivers store their cars for long periods of time, bringing them out on rare occasions or when the weather best accommodates a historic vehicle’s antique design and engineering. These drivers often feel that temporary car insurance would meet their needs since their collector’s vehicles are rarely used. However even during storage, collector’s cars can suffer damage, get stolen, or end up needing maintenance due to an accident. 

In addition, drivers may need to surrender the plates of the car and unregister it if their state requires maintaining insurance with a liability coverage minimum. In these situations, car storage insurance (which often costs just a few bucks a month) is the way to go.

Affordable Alternatives to Temporary Car Insurance

Man looking at a car accident that he's involved in

Since temporary car coverage isn’t offered by major insurance companies, payment plans, usage limits, and non-owner coverage can make car insurance affordable. While each premium is unique to the company, to the driver, and to the car, making smart choices about which car insurance policy you choose can lower rates and help you find a car insurance policy that fits your budget. 

Payment Plans for Long-Term Coverage

Based on how you pay for your policy, you could qualify for discounts. These payment options typically reduce insurance premiums:

  • Annual premiums
  • Automatic payments
  • Electronic transfers
  • Paperless billing

Most companies cut rates for drivers who pay annually, but drivers forget that automatic payments will give you a discount too. If you pay by transfer from your checking or savings account, you can also make long-term car insurance even more affordable by avoiding fees. You may also save simply by accepting paperless statements. 

And if you can’t afford to pay your entire annual premium at once, most car insurance companies offer monthly payment plans. It may end up costing you a little more in the long run, but being able to split the 6 or 12-month premium into monthly payments could help a policy fit into your current budget.

Usage-Based and Pay-Per-Mile Car Insurance

Car insurance companies usually set premiums depending on how much they believe you will drive based on your profile and driving record. With usage-based and pay-per-mile car insurance, they set your premium based on how much they know you will drive. 

This leads to discounts on premiums when you drive safely and stay under certain limits each year. With low mileage, premiums stay low while still giving you all the financial benefits you need to feel secure and fulfill state responsibilities

Insurance companies calculate your premium for the policy term based on how many miles you report through an app on your phone or a device in your car. If you drive less during certain times of the year, like during the winter, you could save even more. 

Non-Owner Car Insurance

Remember: your homeowners or renters insurance does not cover you for driving. If you often drive cars you don’t own, such as a friend or family member’s car, non-owner car coverage includes injury and property damage liability, and can help you meet your state’s legal requirements. No matter the car you happen to drive, the financial protections and insurance benefits will follow. 

Your policy will complement the car owner’s coverage to reel in costs for damages or injuries that exceed their limits. Your insurance agent will be able to provide information about your specific policy. When you need policy benefits, the insurance company won’t require a deductible before coverage pays out. 

Non-owner coverage helps people afford essential car insurance with rates that can be 15% lower than traditional policies. Unlike temporary policies, most major car insurance companies offer non-owner policies. See affordable non-owner car insurance rates through Compare.com.

How to Get the Cheapest Long-Term Policy

Worried woman sitting beside her car

Temporary car insurance attracts people who want to save money by not paying for coverage that their car doesn’t need or that they’ll never use. Since trusted insurers can’t benefit from these short-term policies, they don’t offer temporary policies. But they do offer ways all kinds of drivers can get essential car insurance that fits their individual budget. Use these tactics to save. 

If Possible, Pay in Full

When you pay in full for the entire term of your car insurance — even a six-month term — many big insurers will reduce your bill overall while providing far more comprehensive coverage. The certainty of getting their premiums all at once also comes with the guarantee that your policy won’t lapse from non-payment. And, your lump-sum payment won’t carry the monthly processing charges that you and the insurer pay on each transaction.

Take Advantage of All Discounts

While you use payment and billing options to your advantage, look into all car insurance discounts before signing off on a policy — you could save even more. 

Many drivers are surprised by the reduced rates they can get through their job, in their state, as a good driver, or with their vehicle model. 

Though many companies cap their discounts at a certain percentage, explore each and every possible discount, including:

  • Driving record. Better drivers file fewer insurance claims. Insurance companies give discounts for drivers who stay incident-free over a long period of time. Some of these companies give discounts of up to 40%. 
  • Driver’s education. Since driving courses can remove tickets and negative marks from your driving record, they help reduce rates. Many states also require discounts on car insurance for those who complete defensive driving classes.
  • Bundled policies. If you have more than one kind of insurance with the same company, they can give you a “multi-policy” insurance discount. If you bundle home and car insurance, this can take as much as 25% off your premiums
  • Student status. If there’s a student in the household, insurers offer reduced rates, and, if they perform well in school, good student discounts can reach 25%.
  • Multiple cars. With a multi-car policy, you can usually get up to 25% lower rates.
  • Model types. Cars that have great safety ratings, anti-theft features, and lower collision rates get cheaper premiums. Qualifying new cars also receive discounts of up to 15% when they’re less than three years old.

Compare Quotes From Multiple Car Insurance Companies

If you want to find the best car insurance — one that provides adequate coverage at a reasonable rate — you have to shop around. Each insurance company will quote a different price, even though they look at many of the same factors to set premiums

They use their own reasoning, statistics, and calculations to make these decisions, so the outcome is unique. Their math is hidden, but we know drivers see vastly different rates from company to company.

Some prioritize your record over your car. Others weigh your age over your gender. Alternative or “non-standard” insurers might even drop a few factors like education and occupation. The only way to know what the top insurance companies offer is to compare low car insurance rates.

Temporary Car Insurance FAQs

Woman sitting in front of her broken car while calling for help

Here are the most frequently asked questions from shoppers looking for temporary car insurance.

Can I get car insurance for a few days?

Unless you pay a rental car company for a few days’ coverage, it’s not a good idea. Non-rental, per-day policies come with huge risks. And they’re often advertised by companies with suspicious motives.

Is temporary car insurance legit?

Not really. Some unknown firms claim to fully insure your car for one day or up to one month, but they’re not trustworthy. Insurance leaders that fairly evaluate claims never offer these policies and for good reason.

What happens if you drive without insurance?

It depends. If you’re pulled over, you’ll pay a fine in some states — in others, they’ll suspend your license. After an accident, your car could get impounded, and you may be liable for all the expense, even at times when the accident is not your fault. Each state defines the consequences of being an uninsured driver differently, but no matter where you live, having at least the state minimum coverage level is always a good idea. 

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

You may be able to buy a car without proof of insurance, but no car dealer is legally allowed to let you drive it away without an active policy. 

How do I get car insurance ASAP?

Your first step is to gather all your personal information, like your driver’s license, VIN, and registration. Write down your annual mileage for every vehicle. Use Compare.com to help you generate the lowest quotes from all the major car insurance companies. Open the best rate and coverage quotes from each company in a new tab. Personalize your policy, and apply for coverage.

Bottom Line: What’s the Best Option for Affordable, Short-Term Coverage?

All kinds of drivers seek temporary car insurance at one point or another. Whether you borrow a car, take a driving test, come home for summer break, or fall behind on your full policy’s premiums, there are countless reasons to search for short-term coverage. But, temporary car insurance is not available from trusted insurers. Companies who offer it have suspicious motives for going where insurance giants dare not, and it’s unlikely to benefit you — financially or legally.

Instead, call your insurance agent to explore the ways you’re already covered under your policy when you rent a car or under someone else’s policy when you drive their car. See how you can get added to a family member’s policy, whether a non-owner policy makes sense for you, and whether your insurance company guarantees benefits across state lines before your next road trip

If not, we recommend a 6-month policy for full, dedicated, and traditional car insurance. Shop for the best rate on new car insurance with Compare.com.

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