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What Is Short-Term Car Insurance?

Most companies won’t sell temporary car insurance, but there are ways to get coverage for a limited time.

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09/14/2023 03:47 PM

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What Is Short-Term Car Insurance?

Essentially, a short-term car insurance policy is insurance you buy for a brief amount of time. Auto insurance providers typically sell policies in six-month or one-year increments. Temporary insurance would allow you to cover your car for a shorter period of time.

There are several scenarios in which short-term car insurance could be useful, such as:

  • You plan to sell your car within the next few months.
  • You want to rent a car on your next vacation.
  • Your child is away at school most of the year without a car.
  • You plan to visit the U.S. for a short period of time.
  • You plan to borrow your friend’s car for a trip.

Can You Buy Short-Term Car Insurance?

Technically, most reputable providers don’t sell temporary auto insurance. If you do see short-term car insurance advertised, it could be a scam. It may also be an attempt to draw you into a website and sell you a standard insurance policy.

How To Get Short-Term Car Insurance

Just because most providers don’t offer a product labeled “short-term coverage” doesn’t mean you have no options. Quality providers may offer several ways to take care of your need for a temporary insurance policy. Here are some options you may have:

1. Buy Your Policy And Cancel It

The most direct way to get short-term car insurance is to buy a normal policy and then cancel it when you no longer need coverage. You don’t need to tell the insurer at the time of purchase that you plan to cancel. If you pay the full premium up front, you’ll generally get a prorated refund when you cancel.

Some providers charge a cancellation fee for terminating your policy early, but many don’t. If you’re looking for temporary insurance, check whether an insurer charges a fee. If it does, factor that fee into the total cost of coverage when you compare providers.

2. Use The Rental Car Company’s Insurance

If all you need is rental car insurance, you can get it from rental car companies. The types and amounts of coverage vary, but every policy should cover at least the minimum requirements for the state where you rent the vehicle.

Drivers who want more coverage than what a standard rental policy offers can typically buy it at the rental counter. In addition to higher coverage limits, you may be able to get add-ons like roadside assistance.

3. Get Non-Owner Car Insurance

Many insurers sell non-owners insurance policies that cover you while you drive a car that isn’t yours. This can include company cars, rideshare and carshare vehicles, and those owned by family members and friends.

Non-owner policies are often much cheaper than owner insurance policies. However, that’s largely because they usually only cover property damage and injury liability claims. The car owner’s existing policy would pay for other claims depending on what types of coverage they have.

4. Use Specialized Discounts

Some people need temporary coverage because they don’t regularly have access to their vehicles. This can include college students who leave their cars at home and active-duty military members.

For many of these drivers, insurers offer specialized discounts that can reduce the cost of a policy. Some providers, for example, offer discounts for students away at school. Others give discounts for military members. Some insurers even offer lower premiums just for agreeing to a regular storage period.

The best way to learn about these discounts is to speak to an insurance agent. They may even know about savings opportunities that aren’t listed on the company’s website.

5. Try Usage-Based Insurance

Rather than setting a flat rate, usage-based insurance policies charge you based on how much you drive. Some may also charge based on telematics data collected from devices or phone apps that monitor your driving habits.

If you don’t drive very much, a pay-per-mile car insurance policy could be significantly cheaper than a standard one. However, this type of usage-based coverage could end up costing more if you drive more often than you planned.

Additionally, many usage-based programs take safety into account when monitoring your driving habits. If you’re prone to driving late at night or speeding, think seriously about whether one of these programs is a good option for you.

What Does Short-Term Car Insurance Cover?

What a temporary car insurance policy covers can vary depending on the type of policy you buy. The length of your coverage may be different, but these policies will basically cover the same things as standard car insurance policies.

Short-term car insurance can include the following coverages:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage: Covers medical expenses and lost wages for other parties in an accident you’re found at fault for
  • Property damage liability coverage: Covers the cost of damages to other vehicles and property when you’re found at fault for an accident
  • Personal injury protection (PIP): Covers medical expenses and lost wages for you and your party no matter who’s found at fault for an accident
  • Medical payments coverage (MedPay): Covers medical costs (but not lost wages) for you and others in your party no matter who caused an accident
  • Collision coverage: Covers damages to your vehicle and property in a covered loss regardless of who’s found at fault
  • Comprehensive insurance: Covers damages to your vehicle from sources other than accidents, such as vandalism, theft, or natural disasters
  • Underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage: Covers your medical expenses and damages if an at-fault driver doesn’t have enough (or any) insurance to cover you

Additional Coverage Options

Auto insurance companies also offer add-ons that cover other expenses related to owning and driving a vehicle. When you shop for car insurance, consider putting these coverages on your auto insurance policy, whether you intend to use them for the full term of your contract or not.

  • Roadside assistance: Covers emergency roadside services like fuel delivery, tire repair, and towing
  • Classic car insurance: Covers classic, exotic, or otherwise rare and expensive vehicles that standard policies might not
  • Rental car reimbursement: Covers the cost of a rental vehicle if yours is being repaired after a covered loss or is totaled
  • Mechanical breakdown insurance: Covers mechanical repairs similar to an extended car warranty
  • Rideshare insurance: Covers you for times when you’re using your car while working for a ridesharing company but not while you’re carrying a passenger

How Much Does Short-Term Car Insurance Cost?

The cost of short-term car insurance mostly depends on which type of policy you buy and how long you keep it. However, your insurance premium will vary from other drivers’ premiums even with the same type of coverage.

Factors That Affect The Cost of Temporary Car Insurance

The cost of car insurance coverage depends on several variables whether you need short-term coverage or a standard term. These factors have the greatest impact on how much your car insurance will cost:

  • Age: Younger drivers (especially teens) usually pay far higher auto insurance rates than older drivers. Some people may see rates start to rise again around their mid 60s.
  • Gender on license: In many states, young male drivers might pay more for auto policies than same-age female drivers.
  • Driving record: At-fault accidents or traffic violations on your record will typically result in a higher premium. People with clean driving records often get the lowest rates.
  • Coverage limits:The types and amounts of coverage you have are major factors in your premiums.
  • Deductible: Your policy deductible is what you pay out of pocket for repairs or a total loss. The lower you set your deductible, the more you can expect to pay for coverage.
  • Credit score: Drivers with lower credit scores typically pay higher rates unless they’re in states that don’t allow credit to be factored into auto insurance prices.
  • Location: Rates vary between states and within them based on local risk factors. Densely populated cities with higher rates of theft and car crashes tend to have higher insurance costs, for example.
  • Marital status: Married policyholders tend to pay less for insurance than single ones.
  • Fees: Cancellation fees or similar costs should be considered part of your premium if you plan to cancel your policy early.
Six icons representing factors that affect the cost of car insurance

Short-Term Car Insurance: Conclusion

Short-term car insurance isn’t an actual product for most reputable insurance companies. However, there are ways to get temporary coverage from quality providers. Which method is best for you depends on what you need it for.

The following table shows which product might be best for you if you’re looking for short-term auto insurance, depending on why you need it.

If you need short-term car insurance because:The best option for you is likely:
You’re selling your car soonA standard policy with no cancellation fees
You are or have a student in collegeA standard policy with a student-away-from-home discount
You’re an active-duty military member or have one on your policyA standard policy with a military discount
You need to rent a car on vacationThe rental car company’s insurance
You use a car-sharing programNon-owner insurance
You sometimes borrow a friend or family member’s car for errands or road tripsNon-owner insurance
You don’t drive oftenA usage-based insurance policy

Short-Term Car Insurance: Recommended Providers

While you can’t really buy short-term car insurance as a product from a major provider, there are companies we recommend for alternatives. Compare car insurance quotes from multiple providers so you can find the best rates for you.

State Farm: Best Overall Provider

State Farm is one of several insurers that doesn’t charge a cancellation fee, so you can buy coverage for as long as you need it and cancel it when you don’t without paying extra. In addition, the company offers discounts for students away at school. This allows you to get an insurance policy for a full term while paying less.

Keep reading: State Farm insurance review

USAA: Best For Military Members

USAA is another insurer that doesn’t charge a cancellation fee, which makes it a good choice for short-term coverage. Only military members, veterans, and their families can get auto insurance from USAA, but people who are eligible can find affordable options.

On top of offering some of the best rates in the country, USAA has several discounts. Many of these are for military members, including one for storing your vehicle on base while you’re deployed.

Keep reading: USAA insurance review

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Short-Term Car Insurance: FAQ

Can you get insurance only for a month?

Yes, you can get car insurance only for a month. However, you usually wouldn’t buy it in this way. To get temporary coverage, you can buy a one-year or six-month policy and cancel it when you need to. With a rental car, you can get coverage from the rental company.

Can you insure a car for a short period of time?

Yes, you can insure a car for a short period of time. The easiest way is usually to buy a regular insurance policy and then cancel it when you no longer need coverage, as most car insurance companies don’t offer policies shorter than six months.

What is temporary insurance coverage?

Temporary insurance coverage is a policy that’s only active for a short period of time. Most insurers don’t sell temporary coverage as a specific product. However, you can typically buy a policy and cancel it when you no longer need it.

How does short-term car insurance work?

Short-term car insurance works by covering your vehicle for only as long as you need coverage. While most companies don’t sell this as a specific product, you can get temporary coverage by buying a policy and then canceling it.

Can you get one-day car insurance?

Yes, you can technically get one-day car insurance, but most providers don’t offer this as an actual product. If you need coverage for your own car for one day only, you can buy a policy and cancel it when needed. If you’re just renting a car for a day, you can use the rental company’s insurance.

How We Rate Insurers

Our review process aims to deliver consistent and unbiased assessments of car insurance providers. While there are multiple qualities that make a car insurance company successful, our review team focuses on those we believe are the most important for consumers:

  • Cost: Cost can be difficult to compare between insurers because so many factors impact annual premiums. The cheapest insurer for one driver may not be the cheapest for another. To determine our cost score, we look at insurance rate estimates generated by Quadrant Information Services, discount opportunities, and consumer reports.
  • Coverage: To determine our coverage score, we look at the number of coverage options available as well as coverage limits and deductible options. Our ratings also take into account additional services and benefits like roadside assistance.
  • Reliability: It’s important that an auto insurer is able to meet its claims obligations. Companies with a strong financial strength rating from AM Best score best in this category. Established insurers with a long history of reliable service also receive positive marks.
  • Service: We comb through customer reviews on sites like the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to learn about customer experiences. Insurers with a low volume of complaints score well in this area. We also consider the claims process, giving higher ratings to car insurance providers that offer easy-to-use claims apps.

*Data accurate at time of publication.