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Short-term and temporary car insurance

Short-term car insurance doesn’t really exist, but there are still a few ways you can get covered if you drive infrequently or only need temporary coverage.

Andrew Hurst

By

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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By

Fabio Faschi, PLCS, SBCS, CLCS

Fabio Faschi, PLCS, SBCS, CLCS

Licensed Property & Casualty Insurance Expert

Fabio Faschi is a licensed property and casualty insurance agent. His expertise on home and auto insurance has been featured on Forbes, Consumer Affairs, Realtor.com, Apartment Therapy, SFGATE, Bankrate, and Lifehacker.

Updated|8 min read

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Car insurance policies generally last for a minimum of six months. This means that you can’t get temporary car insurance that lasts only for a few days or weeks. But depending on your situation, you may be able to get temporary car insurance coverage a few other ways.

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You can get temporary auto insurance coverage from another person’s policy while you use their car; a per-mile insurance plan; non-owners insurance if you don’t own a car; your rental car, car-sharing, or credit card company if you’re renting a vehicle; or by canceling a policy — but only if you don’t ever plan own a car again in the future.

Key takeaways

  • You can’t get short-term or temporary car insurance in the U.S. for periods shorter than six months.

  • Even though you can’t get short-term car insurance, you can use another person’s policy, per-mile or non-owners insurance, or rental insurance to get covered temporarily.

  • It’s not a good idea to cancel a six-month policy unless you don’t plan to own a car and drive again in the future. 

  • Having intermittent periods of coverage means your car insurance rates will be more expensive in the future.

What is temporary car insurance?

Drivers looking for temporary and short-term car insurance want coverage for a few days or weeks. But you actually can’t get short-term auto insurance, at least not in the U.S.

Car insurance policies generally come in lengths of six or 12 months —  you can’t buy coverage that lasts for less than six months from a reputable company.

Even though you can’t get daily or monthly car insurance, there are other ways to get coverage for a short period of time. Depending on the situation, you might even already be covered.

Drivers who want temporary insurance for a car because they’re borrowing a friend’s vehicle don’t need a separate policy as long as they’ve been given permission to use the car. 

If you’ve got a rental vehicle and need car insurance for the day, you already get basic liability coverage from the rental company, and can add extra rental car coverage if you want.

There are a few situations where drivers looking for temporary auto insurance would need to get an additional policy. If you frequently use rental vehicles or someone else’s car for short periods of time, non-owners insurance would be best for you. You can also get per-mile insurance if you plan to drive infrequently.

What type of short-term car insurance should you get?

The best way to get short-term insurance coverage depends on the situation. While drivers can’t get one-day car insurance or month-to-month insurance, there are other ways to protect your car and keep costs low if you don’t need full-time insurance.

When you're . . .

Short-term insurance fix

Borrowing someone else's car

he owner's policy will automatically cover you (sometimes up to a limited amount).

Driving a parent's car while home from school

You can use the car as long as you're still listed on your family policy.

Frequently borrowing another car

You should get non-owners insurance for basic liability coverage.

Renting a car for a few days

Use the rental company's coverage, any credit card benefits (if you have them), or consider buying separate coverage from a specialty insurer.

Driving only occasionally for commuting or pleasure

Switch to per-mile insurance for cheaper rates.

Visiting the U.S. but returning home

Use rental car insurance or purchase a six-month per-mile policy if you’re leasing a car.

Storing your car

Reduce your liability limits and drop collision coverage.

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Temporary insurance from an existing policy

Some drivers who think they need one-day car insurance might already be covered by an existing policy. Let’s say you need to borrow a friend’s car for the day. As long as you have their permission to use their vehicle, their regular policy will cover you while you’re driving it.

Your friend’s policy automatically covers you if you borrow their car because of something called “permissive use.” That just means you get the same coverage as them as long as you borrow a car only occasionally. 

But some policies limit coverage for drivers who aren’t officially listed, so if you’re in an accident in a friend’s car, you may be covered for less than if they were driving. And you should get your own non-owners policy if you regularly use a car you don’t own.

→ Learn more about coverage for when you borrow a car

Temporary car insurance from a parent’s policy

Most insurance companies require you to list every licensed driver who’s in your household and has regular access to the insured vehicles. This includes your spouse and children, unless you specifically exclude them from coverage and prevent them from driving your car.

This means that no one who’s included as a driver on your family policy has to buy a separate policy for temporary insurance coverage. As long as the driver’s name remains on the policy — even if they’re away at school and only return during weekends and breaks — they wouldn’t need short-term auto insurance.

→ Learn more about how car insurance covers your children

Temporary car insurance for a rental vehicle

There are a few ways to get daily or weekly car insurance when you’re driving a rental car. If you already have insurance, your own policy will cover your rental vehicle temporarily.

Rental cars also come with enough liability insurance to meet the state’s minimum requirements. If you’re only driving your rental for a few hours or days, this might be enough car insurance for the short term.

But if you need more coverage, there are better ways to get temporary car insurance for a rental. You can buy physical damage and loss protection (sometimes called a collision damage waiver), from the rental company, which will pay for any damage you do to the rental car.

Your credit card might offer similar coverage too, so check to see if rental car damage is covered before you spend extra at the rental car counter. 

You can also get more complete short-term auto insurance for a rental from a specialty company. Companies like Allianz specialize in providing short-term coverage to rentals, including protections against physical damage, property loss, and excess liability coverage.

Temporary car insurance for drivers who don’t own cars

If you don’t own a car but you frequently drive rentals or cars that aren’t yours, non-owner coverage can make sure you’re covered during the periods you’re driving. 

A non-owner insurance policy usually just includes liability coverage, and sometimes personal injury protection (PIP) and uninsured motorist coverage, but not comprehensive or collision coverage since you don’t own a car.

While non-owner insurance comes in six-month or year-long policy periods, it costs less than regular insurance because it comes with less protection and the policy’s owner likely drives less frequently than someone with their own car.

→ Learn more about non-owner car insurance

Temporary car insurance for infrequent drivers

If you do own a car but don’t drive often, you may want to consider a per-mile plan, meaning one that charges you based on how much you drive. There are a few per-mile plans offered by national insurance companies, like:

  • Allstate’s Milewise

  • Liberty Mutual’s ByMile

  • Nationwide’s SmartMiles

Per-mile car insurance tracks your miles, usually with an app, then you’re charged a flat rate plus a few cents for every mile you drive during the month.

Since per-mile or per-use insurance lasts for six months to a year, it’s not technically temporary insurance. But your rates are tied to the amount you drive and change every month, so you can use a per-mile plan as a temporary insurance solution.

Let’s say that you usually don’t have to commute to work, but you’re asked to make trips into the office at least two days a week. You can’t get one-day car insurance for every trip into the office, but you can get per-mile insurance that’s based only on the trips you take. You’ll get short-term car insurance prices for a standard-length policy.

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Temporary insurance for international drivers

International drivers who are visiting the country may want temporary car insurance just for the time they’re in the United States. The best way for these drivers to get short-term insurance depends on the length of their stay.

Visiting foreign drivers who only plan to stay in the U.S. for a short time can get short-term insurance from their rental car company. They could also avoid the higher costs that rental car companies charge for extra insurance and opt for coverage from a company that specializes in rental car insurance.

For longer stays, drivers should consider getting per-mile insurance that lasts six months if they buy their own car. It will be cheaper than a standard six-month policy (as long as they aren’t driving too much) but they’ll have sufficient coverage.

→ Learn more about car insurance for foreign and international drivers

Temporary car insurance for vehicles in storage

If you plan to leave your car in storage, say for six months out of every year, you might only want temporary insurance that lasts during the time that you’re actively driving it. 

But it’s not a good idea to get short-term insurance by canceling your regular policy. When you try to restart your insurance, your rates may be much higher.

Instead, if you plan to leave your car in storage, reduce your policy’s liability limits to the bare minimum and drop collision coverage. That way, you’re still protected from damage caused by weather, vandals, or thieves while it’s in storage. 

You can also check to see if your insurance company will allow you to drop your liability insurance entirely while your car is in storage — this is often referred to as car storage insurance, and in order to qualify you may need to prove that your car is being stored securely and not driven for a minimum number of weeks. Just remember to reinstate full-coverage before you get behind the wheel again.

Should you cancel a policy for temporary car insurance?

You might be tempted to get a six-month policy and just cancel it once you no longer need insurance. While you’d be refunded for any time your policy wasn’t in effect, canceling your policy isn’t the best way for most people to get short-term insurance coverage.

For one, driving without insurance is illegal, so you should cancel your policy but keep your car. You’ll be fined (or worse) if you’re caught driving uninsured after canceling your policy, and you’d be responsible for paying for any damage or injuries that you cause behind the wheel.

Also, when you cancel a policy and go without insurance for any length of time, your rates will be more expensive in the future when you get car insurance again.

This means that the only time you should consider canceling a policy as a way to get temporary insurance is if you're getting rid of your car altogether.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get car insurance for only one day?

Since car insurance policies typically last for a minimum of six months, you can’t get day-at-a-time car insurance. If you only need insurance for one day for a car you’re borrowing or a rental vehicle, you’d already be covered.

Do I need car insurance to drive someone else’s car?

When you drive another person’s car, their policy’s permissive use rule would extend coverage to you for a short period of time. But if you plan to use a friend’s car a lot, you should consider getting non-owner insurance instead of relying on their insurance coverage.

Can I cancel my car insurance if I only need it for a short time?

It’s almost always better not to cancel your car insurance. If you get a new policy at any point in the future, your rates will be much higher than average afterwards because of the lapse in your insurance record. Instead, be sure you’re not already covered by another policy, or consider getting per-mile insurance.

Author

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

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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.

Expert reviewer

Licensed Property & Casualty Insurance Expert

Fabio Faschi, PLCS, SBCS, CLCS

Licensed Property & Casualty Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Fabio Faschi is a licensed property and casualty insurance agent. His expertise on home and auto insurance has been featured on Forbes, Consumer Affairs, Realtor.com, Apartment Therapy, SFGATE, Bankrate, and Lifehacker.

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