A Guide to Temporary Car Insurance

Short-term car insurance generally isn’t available from major insurers, but you may have other alternatives.
Sarah Schlichter
By Sarah Schlichter 
Edited by Lacie Glover

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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.

Below are a few 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. So if you get into an accident while driving a friend’s car, but you had your friend’s permission to drive it, the damage will probably be covered by their insurance.

But, it doesn’t hurt to check the car owner’s policy before you drive. Auto insurance generally follows the car, not the driver — but not always. Depending on your state, your insurance may or may not transfer to other drivers using your car.

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 the owner’s policy. In fact, an insurer 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.

Note that adding a driver could affect the vehicle owner’s insurance premiums, either positively or negatively. If you are considering adding a driver to your policy, but they have a poor driving record, your premium could rise.

For college students who only drive during school breaks, however, it’s best to list them on their parents’ car insurance policy year-round to be on the safe side. To help minimize the cost, ask about discounts for good grades and students staying away from home. Parents of teen drivers who are listed on their car insurance policy may also qualify for discounts.

Depending on the insurer, you may or may not be able to add someone who doesn’t live in your household to your car insurance policy. If someone outside of your household drives your vehicle infrequently, they’ll likely be covered by your policy without needing to be added to your insurance.

If friends or relatives who don’t live in your household drive your car regularly, they may want to consider purchasing their own short-term policy or non-owner car insurance.

Get a standard auto policy

Some insurers will allow you to purchase a policy for six months. That doesn’t mean you have to keep it for the full six months, however. Because you can pay car insurance premiums on a monthly basis, you can buy a six-month policy and then cancel it once you don’t need it.

If you do decide to pay the whole six-month premium upfront, you may receive a prorated refund for the unused policy term. Some companies may also charge cancellation fees.

And while some insurance companies might advertise daily or weekly temporary car insurance, you should be cautious of these offers: They may be a scam, or they may be offering insufficient coverage.

Your best bet for temporary coverage is to buy a six-month policy and then cancel it when you no longer need it.

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. You also may want to get non-owner coverage to satisfy the terms of an SR-22 insurance form during a license suspension. 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, although it’s a good idea to call the issuer beforehand to make sure you understand what is and isn’t included.

Buy a stand-alone policy. Companies such as Bonzah and Allianz Global Assistance sell stand-alone 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.

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