Temporary Car Insurance: How to Find Short-Term Coverage

If you need temporary car insurance, you have a few options to stay insured short term without breaking the bank.
Ryan Brady
By Ryan Brady 
Edited by Ben Moore

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Nerdy takeaways
  • Insurance companies typically don’t offer “temporary car insurance” policies. Most require six- or 12-month commitments, though you can usually cancel early.

  • If you need short-term car insurance, buy a normal policy and cancel early, or get non-owner car insurance.

  • If you’re borrowing someone else’s vehicle with permission, you’re likely covered by their insurance.

It may be tempting to forgo car insurance for a car you’ll drive only temporarily. Or you may assume you don’t need insurance if you're just borrowing someone else’s car.

But you should have insurance for a car you’ll drive — even if you only need it short term — to remain legal on the road and to protect yourself financially if you’re found at fault after a car accident.

There are a variety of situations where someone might need temporary car insurance. You may be a college student who drives only over summer break, a houseguest borrowing your host’s car or a soldier who needs a vehicle to get around between deployments.

However, you can’t just call up a big-name insurance company and buy car insurance for a few days or weeks. Most insurance companies don’t sell policies for periods of less than six months. So, what can you do?

In this article, we’ll explore the following ways to meet short-term car insurance needs:

Rely on the car owner’s insurance

Many insurers extend a customer’s coverage to other licensed drivers not listed on the policy if the other driver has the car owner’s permission. The other driver can’t drive the vehicle regularly and can’t use it for business purposes. Before you borrow someone else’s ride, the vehicle owner should check with their insurer to make sure you’re covered.

Best for

People who occasionally drive someone else’s car with permission.

Potential drawback

You may be on the hook for others’ injury and property damage costs if you cause an accident and those expenses go beyond the car owner’s policy limits.

Have the owner add you to their policy

Auto insurers generally ask car owners to list other people on their policy who live in the same household or frequently borrow their car. For example, if you’re a nanny and regularly use your client’s car to run errands or if you don’t have car insurance but your roommate does, you may already be covered.

But don’t assume you’re on someone else’s policy just because you live with them or borrow their car frequently. An insurer can deny coverage or cancel a policy if it finds out about unreported regular drivers. Ask the owner of the car you’ve been driving to confirm with their insurer that you’re on the policy before taking their car for another spin.

Best for

People who regularly drive someone else’s car.

Potential drawback

Depending on your driving record and other factors, being added to another person’s policy could negatively affect their insurance premiums. And if the person whose car you’re driving has minimum or low coverage limits, you may be financially vulnerable after an accident.

Get standard car insurance and keep it short term

Most car insurance policies last six or 12 months, and you typically pay monthly or all at once. But just because your insurer asks you to commit to a long-term policy doesn’t mean you can’t ditch it early. Generally, you’re allowed to cancel a policy at any time, and you'll be refunded money you paid in advance. So if you paid for a six-month policy upfront and you cancel your policy after two months, you should receive a refund for the remaining four months. Just watch out for cancellation fees that some insurers charge.

Best for

Drivers who own a car but drive it only part of the year.

Potential drawback

Owning an uninsured car may have some unintended consequences down the road, even if you never drive it. For example, insurance companies typically consider you a higher risk to insure if you own a registered vehicle but went without insurance completely for a period of time. An insurance gap might result in higher premiums next time you get a policy.

You can avoid an insurance gap by reducing coverage to your state’s minimum requirements during stretches when you don’t drive. You can also get comprehensive-only insurance, sometimes called “parked car insurance.” This pays for any nondriving-related mishaps that may happen to your car while it sits in storage.

Buy non-owner car insurance

As the name suggests, non-owner car insurance is meant for people who don’t own their own car but frequently borrow or rent cars. It typically includes your state’s minimum insurance requirements, though you may be able to increase coverage limits. Non-owner car insurance can also pay out if the car you're driving is already insured but doesn’t have enough coverage to pay for all injuries and property damage you cause after an accident.

Non-owner car insurance can also provide temporary insurance for drivers who don’t own a car but need to file an SR-22 form with their state.

Best for

People who regularly borrow or rent cars and want their own insurance, and people who need to satisfy the terms of an SR-22 insurance form.

Potential drawback

Non-owner car insurance might not be worth the additional cost if you drive only once or twice a year. In that case, you might be better off relying on the vehicle owner’s insurance or rental car insurance instead.

Buy rental car insurance

Most rental car companies and car-sharing services, like Turo, automatically include at least enough insurance to drive legally in your state. You can also buy additional coverage, like supplemental liability protection or a collision damage waiver, which pays to replace or repair the car if it’s stolen or damaged during the rental period.

Best for

People who don’t own a car but rent one once in a while.

Potential drawback

The minimum insurance limits automatically included with your rental likely won’t be enough to cover a bad crash, and buying additional car insurance from a rental car company or ridesharing service can be costly.

Speak with an agent

Still not sure which temporary car insurance option is best? Reach out to an independent insurance agent to talk through your situation. They can offer advice tailored to the laws and provide coverage alternatives in your state.

Frequently asked questions

Not exactly. Insurance companies don’t sell standalone temporary car insurance policies. However, you may be able to get short-term car insurance by buying a standard policy and canceling early, getting non-owner car insurance, relying on rental car insurance or being added as a driver on someone else’s policy.

No. Most of the car insurance companies you see advertised on TV only sell policies that last six or 12 months. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t buy a normal policy and cancel early. Many insurance companies allow you to cancel a policy at any time, though you may be charged a cancellation fee.

Probably not. As long as you’re licensed, have permission from your friend and you’re not driving it for business purposes, you’re likely covered under your buddy’s insurance. But if it becomes a regular occurrence, you may need to be added as an additional driver on your friend’s policy.

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