Car storage insurance explained

Insuring a car while it’s in storage? Here’s what you need to know.

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 any number of other reasons why you won’t need a vehicle — 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 might want to keep your car insurance policy active, even though you won’t actually be driving your car. 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 car is tucked away in storage.

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.

Maintaining at least some insurance coverage on your car while it’s in storage also keeps you from having 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 coverage on your car for as long as you’re still paying off your loan, even if you won’t be driving it for awhile. 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.

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 provider 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 provider 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 carriers will only let you reduce your coverage to comp 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.

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

Whether you’re paying for a car storage facility or leaving your car 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 car 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 car 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

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.

Updated March 11, 2019
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