How long does it take to get car insurance?

It can take a few minutes or a few hours to apply for car insurance, and you don’t need to wait long for your policy to start — it can begin the same day you buy it.

Anna SwartzAndrew Hurst

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Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

&Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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This article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.

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Angele Doakes

Angele Doakes

Licensed Property & Casualty Expert

Angele Doakes is a licensed home, auto, life, and health insurance expert and a operations manager at Policygenius. Previously, she was a field sales leader at Allstate.

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As long as you have the right information at the ready, buying car insurance can take anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours. And unlike other types of insurance, there’s no waiting period — your policy can go into effect the same day you buy it.

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Once you’ve compared quotes and chosen the option that’s right for you, you’ll choose a start date for your auto insurance policy and make your first payment. You’ll get your proof of insurance right away, which is handy if you need to take home a new car.

Key takeaways

  • Most car insurance companies can start your coverage the same day you apply for car insurance.

  • Applying for car insurance can take less than 20 minutes and can be done over the phone or online with many insurers or agents.

  • To speed things up with the car insurance buying process, figure out how much coverage you need before you shop and have all your personal information ready, like your driver’s license and vehicle identification number (VIN)

How much time should I set aside to shop for car insurance?

Even though it can just take a few minutes, you should budget an hour or so to shop for car insurance, especially if you’re getting coverage for the very first time. It takes longer to get car insurance quotes if you fill out applications one company at a time instead of using an independent broker to get multiple quotes at once. 

Getting your quotes all at once will also make it easier to compare your options and see which company can offer you the best coverage at the lowest rates.

It takes longer to get car insurance quotes if you don’t have all of the information you need before you start shopping. Before you get a quote, you’ll have to know your vehicle’s make and model, each driver’s age, license number, and Social Security Number. 

You may also spend more time shopping for car insurance if you look up reviews — but we recommend learning as much as you can about your options. Some companies may have cheap insurance rates but low-rated customer service. 

How long does it take to apply for car insurance?

It only takes about 10 minutes to apply for car insurance. Unlike health insurance, which usually has a specific enrollment period, or life insurance, which often has an underwriting period that can take weeks, most auto insurance companies have short applications.

When you’re applying for car insurance, be sure to have this information ready:

  • Names of all drivers

  • Dates of birth for all drivers

  • Driver's license numbers for all drivers

  • Social Security numbers for all drivers

  • VINs (Vehicle Information Numbers) for all vehicles

  • An address for the insured (where you live and where the car is garaged, which is usually the same place)

  • Your declarations page from your most recent prior car insurance policy

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How long does it take for car insurance to start?

Whether it takes you a few minutes or a few hours to shop for coverage, your car insurance can go into effect immediately if you want. Once you decide on a car insurance company, you’ll select the day you want your coverage to start — and most companies allow you to get covered the same day.

Some companies offer insurance discounts to drivers who sign up for coverage at least a week before their policy’s start date. If you’re switching policies, start your shopping early so you can pick a new company well in advance of the end date of your current policy.

Tips for getting car insurance more quickly

Getting car insurance is already a pretty speedy process, but there are some things you can do to prepare that will help make sure you get your vehicle insured as quickly as possible.

Here are some tips for getting auto insurance even faster:

1. Understand how much coverage you need

Figuring out how much minimum car insurance coverage your state requires is a good starting place when applying for insurance. But, in order to choose the right amount of coverage for you, you’ll want to consider other factors like where you live, or how much you’d be prepared to pay out of pocket if you were to exceed your coverage limit.

2. Have all your personal information ready before you start the process

Make sure you’ve got all the necessary info for all the drivers who will be included on the policy. And make sure you have your car insurance declarations page from your most recent policy. That declaration page lists the limits you were covered for under your previous policy, and that you didn't have any lapses in coverage.

3. Get to know the companies

The best way to get a better understanding of your insurance options is to read company reviews, like our list of the top car insurance companies. You should be able to understand which company’s customer service, coverage options, and discounts are right for you.

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Frequently asked questions

How long does it take to get added to car insurance?

With most major insurers, adding a new driver to your existing car insurance policy can be done in an afternoon. All you have to do is contact your insurance company, online or over the phone, and provide some basic information about the new driver you’d like to add, including their age, birthday and driver’s license number.

Can I get insurance the same day as an accident?

You can buy insurance the same day as an accident, but it’s not going to cover any damage that happened before your purchase. If you get into an accident without car insurance, you would be liable for the damage yourself. But once you do apply for insurance, you can get it the same day you apply.

Can I drive a car I just bought without insurance?

It’s illegal to drive a car without car insurance in most states and in the two that don’t require you to have it, you’re still financially responsible for any damage you cause, so you should get car insurance before you take your new car home.

How long after buying a car do I need insurance?

If you have an existing policy, you don’t have to get new car insurance right away. Companies have their own grace periods for updating a new vehicle’s insurance. However, if you don’t have coverage you’ll have to get car insurance before you drive off the lot. Fortunately, you can get covered instantly with most companies.