January 5, 2022

How to Get Temporary Car Insurance

Is 30-day coverage worth it?

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Perhaps you’re renting a car, or maybe you’re driving a friend in their car. Either way, you’re only planning to drive for a short time. Is it worth dipping into savings accounts to get car insurance if you’ll only need insurance for 30 days or less?

What Is Temporary Car Insurance?

Temporary car insurance, also known as short-term car insurance, is an insurance policy that has a duration shorter than six months or a year; most are 30 days long.

There are various reasons why someone would need car insurance for a short period, but rather than buying a 30-day policy, we recommend other options, such as getting non-owner insurance or pay-per-mile insurance, or driving under permissive use. Alternatively, you can start and then cancel a standard policy, although that has its drawbacks. We’ll break down all the options below.

How to Get Temporary Car Insurance

While some providers offer 30-day policies, much shorter than the standard six-month and one-year policies, they typically aren’t reliable. Many companies that offer temporary car insurance will have insufficient coverage that’ll leave you responsible for the costs of car accidents.1 That’s why we recommend going with a trustworthy provider rather than unreputable car insurance companies.

If you don’t want to pay a ton of money to have auto insurance for just a short time, you have a few low-cost options:

  1. Get non-owner insurance.
  2. Get pay-per mile insurance.
  3. Drive under permissive use.
    • What it is: If you’re using someone else’s car with their permission and they have auto insurance, then you can drive it under “permissive use.” That means you won’t have to pay for another policy at all — by far the most convenient and affordable option.
  4. Cancel your standard policy.
    • What it is: Another option is to get a standard six-month or one-year policy and cancel it when you want to. But note that while you can cancel your auto insurance at any time, you may run into fees or not get a refund. Make sure you sign up with a provider that lets you cancel car insurance without financial penalty.

How Does Temporary Car Insurance Work?

Temporary car insurance only includes liability coverage, meaning coverage for the other party’s bodily injuries and property damages in an at-fault accident. If you get into an accident and it’s your fault, you’ll file a claim with your insurance provider, and if the claim is covered, your provider will pay the other party for their injuries and/or damages up to the limit you’ve selected. You will be responsible for any costs above that limit.

Temporary car insurance doesn’t cover your property damage and medical costs, however, as it lacks collision and comprehensive insurance. Without full coverage, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for these costs, which would be particularly thorny if you were borrowing a car from someone who lacks insurance.

Temporary car insurance lasts for an average of 30 days. Beyond that, you can choose to cancel or not renew your policy.

Pros and Cons of Temporary Car Insurance

While we don’t recommend 30-day car insurance policies in general, we acknowledge that they have their advantages. Ultimately, though, alternatives like non-owner and pay-per-mile insurance are better options.

Pros

  • There are no cancellation fees. Not having to cancel a policy means avoiding cancellation fees and not paying for more coverage than you need.

Cons

  • It’s risky for insurance companies. Short-term car insurance policies don’t make sense for reputable companies. As a result, companies that offer 30-day policies may not be the most trustworthy.

  • It’s expensive. Short-term insurance can cost two to four times as much as regular car insurance within the same time period.

  • It lacks full coverage. Without collision and comprehensive coverage, your injuries and damages will be solely your responsibility.

  • It encourages lapses in coverage. Lapses in car insurance lead to higher rates later on. It’s better to have continuous coverage, even if you’re not driving for a certain period of time.

  • It might ruin bundles. If you’ve bundled your car insurance with life insurance3 or small business insurance, you might lose your discounts if you cancel your auto insurance after a short time.

Why Would Someone Need Temporary Car Insurance?

All that being said, there are legitimate reasons why someone would need temporary car insurance. Here are some examples:

  • A student is away from home. (Check out the best auto insurance for college students.)
  • A car will be in storage soon.
  • Uninsured drivers are temporarily renting or borrowing a car because they’re on a road trip or their car is broken down.

Of course, getting temporary car insurance is much better than driving without insurance, which is illegal in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia.

NOTE

If you have rental car coverage, your insurance will pay for a rental car reimbursement if your car is being repaired under a covered claim. Rental car companies are legally required to insure their cars in every state but Virginia and New Hampshire, so you won’t have to buy any additional insurance when you’re driving a rental car.

Cost of Temporary Auto Insurance

As we said before, temporary car insurance costs more than standard car insurance within the same time period. While the average expenditure for liability insurance in 2018 (the most recent year for which federal data is available) was only $49.75 a month, temporary car insurance costs up to $200 a month.3

Of course, if you only use it for 30 days, temporary car insurance will cost less than an annual policy, which was $596.96 on average in 2018. Still, comparing the policies month to month, temporary insurance can be up to four times more expensive than standard policies.

Cheapest States for Temporary Car Insurance

Temporary car insurance is cheapest in states that can’t legally take your credit score into account when determining prices, assuming you have poor credit:

  • California
  • Hawaii
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan

Of course, it’s also cheapest in states where car insurance is cheap in general. These were the cheapest states for car insurance in 2018:

  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • North Dakota
  • South Dakota
  • Wyoming

DID YOU KNOW?

The lowest average expenditure for liability-only auto insurance in 2018 was in North Dakota for $307.97.4

Recap

Rather than buying an overpriced 30-day policy, look into permissive use, non-owner insurance, or pay-per mile insurance. And if you can get a refund and avoid paying cancellation fees, why not just cancel your current policy? Whatever you do, don’t buy a 30-day policy from a company you’ve never heard of or don’t know if you can trust.

Citations

  1. Temporary Car Insurance: What Is It and Do You Need It? Jerry. (2022).
    https://getjerry.com/car-insurance/temporary-car-insurance

  2. Non-owner car insurance. Dairyland Insurance. (2022).
    https://www.dairylandinsurance.com/auto/non-owner-insurance

  3. Policygenius Life Insurance Company Review 2021. Top Quote Life Insurance. (2021).
    https://www.topquotelifeinsurance.com/best-life-insurance-companies/policygenius-review/

  4. What Is Short-Term Car Insurance? Experian. (2021, Oct 24).
    https://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/what-is-short-term-car-insurance/

  5. Auto Insurance Database Report 2017/2018. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2021, Feb).
    https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/publication-aut-pb-auto-insurance-database.pdf