Car storage insurance explained

When putting your car in storage for a long time, you shouldn’t cancel all of your car insurance. Instead, you should talk to your insurance company about reducing coverage to just comprehensive.

Anna Swartz 1600Kara McGinley

Anna Swartz & Kara McGinley

Published April 14, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • If you are putting your car in storage, you should not cancel your car insurance policy. Your vehicle is still at risk of damage and theft while it’s in storage

  • Some insurance companies will let you drop everything but comprehensive coverage for a car that’s going to be in long term storage

  • Having some car insurance coverage on your car while it’s in storage keeps you from having an insurance coverage lapse on your record, which could affect your rates in the future

If you’re putting a car in storage for a long time — maybe because you’ll be traveling for a few months, or your job is taking you overseas for a year, or because you have a sports car you only drive in the summer, or because you know you won’t be driving at all for the next few months — you might be tempted to stop paying for car insurance altogether.

After all, you won’t be driving, so why would you need to have auto insurance? Why not cancel your insurance and save the money you’d spend on your monthly premiums?

There are actually a bunch of reasons why you should keep your car insurance policy active, even though you won’t actually be driving your vehicle. And you can still save money even if you keep your car insurance, because you won’t need to maintain as much coverage.

Here’s how to get the protection you need without overpaying while your vehicle is tucked away in storage.

In this article:

Why do I need insurance for a car in storage?

Even though you won’t be driving your car, there’s still a possibility it could be damaged. Flooding, theft, vandalism, fire, and even damage from falling objects are all still risks even when you’re not driving your car. If you cancel your insurance policy or let it lapse while your car is in storage and it gets damaged, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the repairs.

Auto insurance policies are made up of different types of insurance coverage and each coverage type offers a different kind of protection.

Coverage TypeWhat It Does
Bodily injury liabilityThe part of your liability coverage that pays for medical bills if you've injured someone in an accident
Property damage liabilityThe other part of liability coverage, covers the cost of property damage you've caused in an accident
Personal injury protectionCovers medical expenses for you or your passengers after an accident
Uninsured/underinsured motoristCovers the costs if you're in an accident caused by a driver with little or no car insurance
ComprehensiveCovers damage to your car that happens when you're not driving
CollisionCovers damage to your car after a car accident, no matter who was at fault

If your car is damaged by perils like fire or vandalism while it’s in storage, comprehensive coverage would cover the cost of repairs. There are other reasons to keep your policy — maintaining at least some insurance coverage on your car while it’s in storage also keeps you from having insurance coverage lapse on your record. When you apply for car insurance, the insurance company will take a look to see if you’ve had any lapses in insurance coverage in the past. Having a lapse in coverage can make it harder to get insurance, or can mean your rates will be higher, since insurance companies may see you as more of a risk.

One more factor to consider is whether you are still paying off a loan on your car. If you are, then your lienholder may require you to maintain certain types of car insurance coverage on your car for as long as you’re still paying off your loan, even if you won’t be driving it for a while. If you own your car outright, either because you’ve paid off your loan or you paid in full when you bought it, this won’t be an issue.

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What kind of insurance do I need for a car in storage?

If you’re leaving your car in long-term storage, you may want to check with your insurance company and see if you can reduce your coverage to just comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage covers your car from damage that can happen when you’re not driving, like the types of damage we mentioned above.

That can include damage caused by:

  • Hail
  • Wind
  • Hurricanes
  • Riots
  • Fire
  • Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Flood
  • Falling objects
  • Earthquakes

Check with your insurance company to see if they can offer you “comp only” auto insurance for a car in storage (they may also call this car-storage insurance or seasonal vehicle insurance). Some insurers will only let you reduce your coverage to comprehensive coverage only after a motor vehicle has been in storage for a minimum of 30 days. But doing this can save you a lot of money, since your premiums will be significantly lower if you reduce your coverage to comp only.

Remember to switch back to full coverage before you drive again. Once your coverage is reduced to comp only, driving your car, even just a short distance, could be costly and get you in trouble.

Do I need insurance for a car that never gets driven?

It’s easy to assume you don’t need car insurance coverage for a vehicle that you plan on never driving, say because it’s a collectors item that you only plan on taking to car shows. But just like other cars that are kept in storage, your vehicle is still at risk for damages, theft, and other perils that aren’t caused by a collision with another vehicle — like if something falls and damages your vehicle’s roof while it’s in storage.

You should ask your insurance company about comprehensive only insurance coverage for your car that you do not drive. In all but two states, it is illegal to drive without car insurance coverage, so if there is even a slight chance that you want to take this car on the road, you should talk to your insurance company about what other kind of coverage you might need, like liability coverage or collision coverage.

How do I prepare a car for long-term storage?

Whether you’re paying for a car storage facility or leaving your vehicle in a friend’s garage, you’ll want to prepare your car as much as possible, so it’s still in the best shape possible when you’re ready to start driving it again. Here are some steps you can take to prepare a vehicle for long-term storage.

  • Change the oil
  • Fill up your tank with gas and add fuel stabilizer
  • Refill the brake fluid, windshield wiper fluid and coolant
  • Clean the inside of your vehicle and take any important items out of the glove compartment
  • Make sure your parking brake is released
  • Add pressure to your tires or remove them and put your car on blocks
  • Wax the exterior of your car and then put a car cover over it
  • Remove and store your car battery, or connect it to a battery tender
  • Put a reminder on your calendar to restore your insurance to a full policy before you plan on driving again
Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz

Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius in New York City, and an expert in auto insurance. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic, writing about news and culture. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.

Insurance Editor

Kara McGinley

Insurance Editor

Kara McGinley is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius. She previously worked as a freelance writer and a copywriter for various startups. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, Mask Magazine, and more.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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