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Short-term & temporary car insurance

If you only need car insurance for a short time, you may already be covered by another policy or have several options for purchasing limit coverage.

Whether you’re driving for just a day or plan to commute on a regular basis, you need to have car insurance before you get behind the wheel. Car insurance is only legally required in 48 out of 50 states, but it could save you tens of thousands of dollars in the states where it isn’t.

Short-term and temporary car insurance is not generally available in the United States, although you have several options if you only need to drive for a short time. Car insurance policies in the U.S. are typically set to six months or one year, but if you’re renting or borrowing a car that you don’t own, there are plenty of ways to ensure you’re still covered.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Short-term and temporary car insurance is not generally available to drivers in the U.S. 

  • If you’re borrowing a car from a friend, you’ll be covered under their car insurance policy

  • If you won’t be driving frequently or if you plan to drive for a short period of time, you can lower your coverage or opt for a pay-per-mile insurance policy

What is temporary car insurance?

Short-term and temporary car insurance provides coverage to your and your car when you only need it for a short period of time. However short-term policies aren’t typically offered in the U.S. — most insurance companies will only write policies for six months or a year — but there are ways to get insured for less than the standard timeframe depending on your circumstances.

If you’re borrowing a car or taking turns on a road trip with someone else, you’re typically  covered by their car insurance policy. If you frequently borrow cars that aren’t yours, you may want to look into what’s known as a non-owner policy. And if you’re trying to lower your rates because you’re not driving as much, you also have plenty of options (more on that below). 

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Temporary car insurance for family members using your car

Family members who live under your household, including your spouse and any kids who have their driver’s license, are covered by your car insurance unless they’re specifically excluded from your policy. 

In fact, many car insurance companies require you to list everyone of driving age in your household on your policy. If one of them wants to “borrow” your car, they don’t need to get any additional insurance. 

If you’re unsure whether a family member is covered, check your car insurance policy and talk to the insurance company or your representative. Note that adding additional drivers to the policy may increase your rates , especially if these drivers are younger or inexperienced. If your rates seem too high, Policygenius can help you compare quotes and policies online, with one of our licensed representatives assisting you in getting coverage for your whole family.

Temporary car insurance for borrowing a car

If you have permission to borrow someone else’s car, you’re typically covered by the owner’s car insurance policy. You’ll be what’s known as a “permissive driver.” Make sure you confirm with the policyholder that his or her plan actually covers you, and be safe when driving the car. Although car insurance will pay any damages you’re liable for, causing an accident can raise the car owner’s rates.

You might not be covered by the car owner’s policy if you have been classified as a high-risk driver. That can happen if you have a DUI on your record, which can exclude permissive driving.

Additionally, if you’re a regular driver of the car, the auto insurer may request that you be added as a named insured.

Temporary car insurance for renting a car

Your car insurance policy may already extend coverage to your rental car . If it doesn’t, you may be able to purchase additional coverage for rental cars. Additional coverage add-ons are known as a rider or endorsement , and this one would be especially useful for people who travel a lot.

The rental car company may also offer you rental car insurance, whether or not you already have car insurance on your personal vehicle. However, rental car insurance may limit the amount you can recoup for damages you owe, and not every type of loss or damage may be covered in all circumstances. But there are some good reasons why you would want to supplement your auto insurance with a rental car insurance policy:

  • The rental car insurance may have a lower deductible , meaning your obligation for a given claim could be lower than it would under your personal policy if you cause an accident with your rental

  • You can purchase higher coverage limits , which could come in handy if you’re driving in a dangerous or unfamiliar location

  • If you don’t have comprehensive or collision insurance on your personal car insurance policy, adding it to your rental car insurance could ensure that you don’t owe anything if the rental is damaged or destroyed by a covered peril

If you don’t have your own auto insurance policy, at a minimum you need to purchase liability insurance from the rental car company.

You’ll have the option to purchase rental insurance whether you’re renting a car or a moving van, such as a U-Haul. But before you do, check the benefits of your credit card, especially if you pay an annual membership fee. Many credit cards come with rental car insurance.

Temporary car insurance for students away from home

If your child has their own car, it will have to be insured whenever they’re driving it. But if they leave their car at home for the semester and they have a separate policy, you have the option to cancel their policy and reinstate it when they come home for the holidays. However, this could cause the premium rates associated with that policy to increase significantly, offsetting any savings you might receive by canceling the policy for a period of time. That’s because having continuous coverage will lower your rates over time.

Although there is not a true short-term or temporary car insurance product to cover your child’s car while they’re away at school, you can save money by reducing their coverage. Since they’re not driving the car, you can take off any liability insurance or personal injury protection and continue paying only for comprehensive coverage.

The less coverage you have, the cheaper your car insurance will be. That means the car is protected from damage or loss while it’s sitting in your driveway during the semester, but be sure to add the other types of car insurance back to the policy before your student starts driving it again. 

If your college-aged child is on your car insurance policy but they’re not driving any of your vehicles while they’re away at school, you should let your insurer know because you may be eligible for a discount.

Non-owner liability car insurance

Non-owner liability insurance covers you when you drive a car that’s not your own. If the owner of the car doesn’t have car insurance, you’ll need coverage before you can drive the car. You’ll also need a non-owner policy even if the car’s owner has auto insurance if their policy doesn’t extend coverage to other drivers.

Non-owner liability auto insurance typically only offers you liability insurance — coverage for when you cause bodily injury or property damage to someone else’s car and owner. This coverage won’t reimburse you if you need to replace or repair your car because it was stolen or destroyed. It also won’t cover you if you or your passengers are hurt in a no-fault accident, which is covered by personal injury protection and may have to be added separately.

However, non-owner policies are not a short-term or temporary insurance policy. They have the same policy periods as traditional car insurance policies, which are typically six months or one year.

Pay-per-mile car insurance

If your interest in a short-term or temporary car insurance policy is because you don’t drive as much and want to save money, you should look into usage-based insurance. Usage-based auto insurance, such as pay-as-you-go and pay-per-mile insurance , assesses your premiums based on how you actually drive, instead of how people like you are statistically likely to drive. If you drive a lot less, your premiums will be much lower than someone who drives more, as long as you don’t get into more accidents.

Temporary car storage insurance 

If you plan to leave your car in storage for a period of time, see if your insurance company can reduce your coverage to just comprehensive coverage. “Comp only” coverage covers damage that can happen to your car when you’re not driving, such as hail, falling objects, fire, theft, and vandalism. 

Some insurers might only reduce your coverage if your car’s been in storage for at least 30 days, but once you qualify, comp only coverage will reduce your premiums significantly since you’ll only be paying for what you need. Just make sure to reinstate your coverage before you start driving again, because hitting the road without liability coverage is illegal in most states.

Canceling your car insurance before the policy period ends

If you only need car insurance for a short time, you may want to cancel your car insurance policy before the policy period ends. As with canceling your child’s car insurance policy while they’re away at school, not having coverage for a period of time may be not only illegal if you drive the car but could also cause your rates to dramatically increase next time you purchase a policy.

However, if you do cancel your car insurance policy, you’ll typically receive a prorated refund for the months you paid for during the period but didn’t use. Depending on your insurance company though, there may be a surcharge for canceling a policy before the policy term is up.