Even if you don't own a car, there may be times when you need car insurance for a short period of time. Being uninsured at the wrong time could devastate you financially, especially if you cause an accident.
Standard auto insurance companies typically don't offer temporary car insurance coverage, at least not for short periods like a few days or one week. However, depending on why you need coverage — for example, you're traveling, using a car-sharing service, or don't own a car but want to avoid a lapse in coverage — there may be some options available to you.
How temporary car insurance works
In most cases, car insurance providers offer policies that last six months or one year. Offering shorter-term policies doesn't really make sense for them financially because of the costs involved with underwriting and administering each policy. Also, people looking for short-term coverage could potentially be at a higher risk for filing a claim.
So if you're looking for short-term car insurance on a standard policy, a six-month policy period is typically as short as it gets. Of course, you could technically get temporary auto insurance by purchasing a six-month policy and canceling it once you no longer need it. Car insurers generally don't charge cancellation fees.
But depending on the circumstances, you may already be covered. Even if you're not, other insurance options may include:
- Rental car insurance
- Non-owner insurance
- Car-sharing insurance
- Commercial or rideshare insurance
We'll cover each of these alternatives in turn. But first, let's get into why you may want to get a short-term car insurance policy.
When you might need temporary car insurance
There are a handful of instances where you may need to get some form of temporary coverage — or at least you think you do. These may include:
- Renting a car
- Avoiding a lapse in coverage
- Using a car-sharing service
- Borrowing a car from a friend or family member
- Driving a car you keep at a vacation home or in storage
- Returning home between college semesters
- Driving rideshare or food delivery
Renting a car
If you have a car insurance policy for your vehicle back home, that coverage typically extends to rental cars as well — though be sure to contact your insurer before you leave for your road trip to make sure.
Your credit card may also offer rental car coverage, though many cards offer secondary coverage and require you to file a claim with your personal insurance company first. However, some cards, including the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, and United Explorer Card, offer primary coverage.
If you want to avoid involving your personal insurance policy, you might choose to apply for a credit card offering primary coverage. You can also typically buy collision and comprehensive coverage, as well as injury and property damage liability coverage, from the car rental company.
Avoiding a lapse in coverage
If you have a period coming up during which you won't need a car, but you plan to buy another one soon, it's probably worth it to get a policy to avoid a lapse in coverage. This is because insurers typically view people who have a recent lapse in coverage as higher risks, which means you'll likely end up paying more when you need a new policy again in the future.
Using a car-sharing service
If you only need a vehicle for a few hours, companies like Turo and Zipcar offer short-term vehicle rentals. Check with the company before you rent a car to find out whether insurance is covered in the cost of the rental or if renters have to purchase it separately.
Borrowing a car from a friend or family member
If you're using a family member or friend's car, you're typically covered under their policy as long as you don't use the car regularly. If you are driving a borrowed car relatively often, though, you may need to get a non-owner car insurance policy. Non-owner policies typically offer liability coverage that protects you if you’re at fault in an accident.
Driving a car you keep at a vacation home or in storage
If you have a vehicle that you don't drive often, the best option may be to either keep it on your regular insurance policy or add it when you need it and remove it when you don't. Just be sure the insurance company knows the vehicle isn't garaged at your primary residence to avoid running into any trouble.
Returning home between college semesters
If you're a college student heading back home for the summer and plan to drive one of the family's vehicles during that time, you may decide to get non-owner insurance coverage or ask the policyholder to add you to their insurance policy on the car.
Driving rideshare or food delivery
If you're using your own car for gig work for companies such as Uber, Lyft, DoorDash or Grubhub, your personal auto insurance policy likely won't cover you if you get in an accident in the course of your work. In this case, you'll likely need to purchase rideshare insurance or commercial insurance.
In some cases, you can get this as an endorsement on your existing policy.
How much is temporary car insurance?
The cost of car insurance can vary depending on the type of coverage, your driving record, the vehicle you plan to drive, and more. As a result, it's difficult to say exactly how much you can expect to pay.
That said, there are some average car insurance costs you can use as a benchmark:
- Standard car insurance: $100 per month
- Rental car insurance: $30 per day
- Non-owner car insurance: $40 per month
- Car-sharing insurance: Varies
- Rideshare car insurance: $16 per month
- Commercial car insurance: $142 per month (median)
Where can I get temporary car insurance?
As previously mentioned, auto insurance companies typically don't offer short-term coverage. But depending on the situation, you may be able to get the coverage you need (if you don't already have it) through:
- Your existing auto insurance company
- The car rental company
- A car insurer that offers commercial or non-owner policies
- The car-sharing service
- The company for which you perform rideshare or food delivery services
- Your credit card issuer
Again, if you're renting a car with a credit card, most cards offer what's called secondary coverage, which means it doesn't kick in until after you file a claim with your personal insurance policy (if you have one).
That said, some cards offer primary rental car coverage. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve offers up to $75,000 of primary theft and collision coverage.
How to steer clear of temporary car insurance scams
If you need coverage for a short amount of time, remember that legitimate auto insurers don't typically offer that. So if you do see an advertisement for one-month, one-week, or even one-day car insurance, it may be a scam.
The best car insurance companies are already household names, so you don't need to worry about those. But if you're thinking about buying coverage from an insurer you don't recognize, research the company online. You'll want to look for how big of a presence the insurance company has and also read customer reviews.
Even if you're fairly certain it's not a scam, it may still be better to speak with an insurance agent who works with a reputable insurance company. At the very least, they can help you figure out your options based on your situation and needs.
As you search for the right type of car insurance for your situation, here are some common questions other consumers have had about the topic of short-term coverage.
Can you get temporary car insurance?
Technically, yes. Although traditional auto insurance companies typically don't sell policies shorter than six months, you could purchase coverage and then cancel it once you no longer need it.
You may also be able to get a temporary car insurance policy while renting a car through your credit card or the car rental company.
Whatever your situation, it's important to research all of your options to avoid overpaying for the coverage you need.
Can you drive a new car home without insurance?
If you already have an insurance policy on your last vehicle, it will likely cover your new one for the trip between the dealership and your house. Just make sure to add the new vehicle to your policy as quickly as possible once you can.
If you don't have any insurance at all, though, you'll need to purchase some before you take the vehicle home. At the very least, you'll need the liability coverage your state requires, and if you took out an auto loan to buy the vehicle, your lender might require collision and comprehensive coverage on top of that.
Should you get temporary car insurance for your college student?
If you have a child who lives away from home most of the time, the best course of action may be to leave them on your policy. In fact, some insurance companies offer discounts in this situation because if your child is away at school, they're not driving the vehicle.
Alternatively, you could take your child off the policy while they're away and re-add them once they return home.
The bottom line
If you need short-term auto insurance, there are coverage options available, even if traditional car insurance companies don't offer it directly.
Before you buy, though, check to see whether you actually need the coverage. And if you do and have the option to shop around, take your time to compare insurance rates and policies before you pull the trigger. FinanceBuzz makes it easy to find the best car insurance rates from multiple insurers so you can compare them all in one place.