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A college student who drives over summer break only. A houseguest borrowing their host’s car. A soldier who needs a vehicle to get around for a couple of months between deployments.
If you find yourself in a situation like this, you might want temporary car insurance.
However, you can’t just call up a big-name insurance company and buy coverage for a few days or weeks. Major carriers typically don’t sell policies for periods less than six months.
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Below are a few alternative ways to meet short-term car insurance needs.
Rely on the vehicle owner’s coverage
You may not need your own insurance to drive someone else’s car, as long as the owner has coverage on the vehicle and they give you permission to take the wheel.
Auto insurance generally follows the car, not the driver, says Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of agent development, education and research at Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America. So if you get into an accident while driving a friend’s car, your friend’s insurance will likely pay for the damage.
There may be exceptions to this rule in some states, so ask the vehicle owner to check in advance with their insurer or agent to make sure you’ll be covered.
Have the owner add you to their policy
If you’ll be using someone else’s car for an extended period, insurance companies may prefer that you be listed as an additional driver on their policy. In fact, a carrier could deny coverage or even drop a policy for fraud if it finds out someone hasn’t reported all drivers who use the vehicle on a regular basis.
Keep in mind that adding a driver could potentially affect the vehicle owner’s rates, either positively or negatively.
"Let’s say I added you to my policy for a week and you have a terrible driving record," Flannagan says. "That could cost me a lot of money."
College students who drive during school breaks only should generally be listed on their parents’ car insurance policy year-round. To help minimize the cost, ask about discounts for policyholders whose children are away at college. Good student discounts may also be available.
Get a standard auto policy
Buying a six-month policy doesn’t mean you have to keep it for the full six months. Most insurers allow you to pay your premium on a monthly basis, Flannagan says, so it’s easy enough to pay for a month or two, then cancel when you no longer need the coverage.
If you do elect to pay the whole premium upfront, you should receive a prorated refund for the unused policy term. Some companies may also charge cancellation fees.
» MORE: The best cheap car insurance
Buy non-owner car insurance
If you don’t have your own vehicle but occasionally borrow someone else’s, non-owner car insurance might be a good option. This type of insurance usually covers medical bills and repair costs for others if you cause an accident. Depending on where you live, you may also be able to add other types of coverage to the policy.
Not sure whether non-owner insurance is worth buying? Evaluate the cost of the coverage against how often you drive other people’s cars. If you drive once or twice a year only, you might be better off relying on the vehicle owner’s insurance instead. Just make sure you feel comfortable with the amount of coverage they have.
Buy rental car insurance
You have several choices if you need temporary insurance while renting a car:
Buy the rental car company’s coverage. Most agencies sell a collision damage waiver that lets you off the hook financially if the car is stolen or damaged during the rental period.
Use your credit card. Many credit cards offer rental car coverage, though it’s a good idea to call the issuer beforehand to make sure you understand what is and isn’t included.
Buy a standalone policy. Companies such as Bonzah and Allianz Global Assistance sell standalone policies for rental cars that may be cheaper than the rental agency’s offerings.
Learn more about rental car coverage.
Speak with an agent
Still not sure which temporary auto 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 coverage alternatives in your state.