If you are a snowbird who only spends half the year in one location, you may store your vehicle while out of town. Or you may plan to take an extended trip, or your vehicle has a mechanical issue you cannot fix right away. Regardless of why you won’t be driving your car for a while, you might wonder if canceling your auto insurance policy is the best way to save on car insurance costs. However, it may be worth looking into storage insurance for your car rather than canceling your policy. Opting for a vehicle storage insurance plan while your vehicle is stored may offer significant savings and help you avoid a coverage lapse.

What is car storage insurance

Vehicle storage insurance is not a specific type of insurance policy. It is reduced coverage or a discount applied to your car insurance policy for vehicles not being driven in some cases. If you do not plan on driving your car for an extended time, auto storage insurance involves removing coverage from your policy or placing your vehicle in a storage status with your insurer. These changes can help keep your car insurance premiums low while avoiding a lapse in coverage while your vehicle is not being used.

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How to get car storage insurance

Your best bet is to talk with an insurance agent. They will be able to tell you if you can put your vehicle in storage status, what that means for your policy and what you can do to fulfill your state’s and lender’s requirements. Some things you may have to do to be eligible for car storage insurance could be:

  • Disconnecting the vehicle’s battery
  • Storing the vehicle in a locked garage
  • Storing the vehicle at a gated facility

Most insurance companies allow you to make changes to your policy at any time. This means you can add and remove coverage options during your term or place your vehicle in storage if needed as long as it’s eligible to do so with your insurer.

When to use car storage coverage

Car storage coverage may be beneficial in a number of scenarios, such as inheriting a car you do not need, traveling for an extended time or not having plans to drive the car for part of the year. You may want to consider looking into alternative insurance options, like vehicle storage, when:

  • You do not plan on driving the car for several months or more.
  • You inherited a car but do not have any active plans to use it in the near future.
  • You are traveling or are a student and will be away for an extended time.
  • You are in the military and are being deployed.
  • If your vehicle has a mechanical issue and cannot be driven for an extended time.
  • You have a vehicle kept at a secondary/seasonal residence and only use it a few months out of the year.

Car storage insurance is reserved for when your vehicle will not be used for an extended period, which can differ by the insurance company. If you need to use your vehicle, or anyone else will drive it while you’re away, it probably won’t qualify for storage.

While your vehicle remains in storage, you will typically maintain some coverage, including comprehensive coverage, which covers damage from non-collision incidents, like vandalism, theft and weather damage. Depending on state laws, you may also have to maintain the minimum liability limits mandated by your state. Insurance companies will not sell you an insurance policy that doesn’t meet state minimum requirements, so if you want comprehensive coverage, you’ll likely have to purchase liability coverage, too.

If your vehicle doesn’t qualify for storage, consider other ways to save on car insurance, like adjusting coverage or shopping for cheaper car insurance before canceling your policy. Canceling your car insurance coverage can mean insurance companies may view your lapse in insurance as a risk, causing an increase in your rates when you decide to get coverage back in place.

How much does vehicle storage insurance cost?

The cost of vehicle storage insurance will vary depending on a number of factors, including your claims history, selected coverage types and other personal rating factors. If you choose to maintain only state minimum coverage requirements, the national average cost of this coverage is $622 per year. Full coverage policies, including collision and comprehensive coverage, average $2,014 per year, but your insurer may allow you to purchase just comprehensive coverage as part of a storage package.

Coverage for stored vehicles is typically cheaper because there is less risk associated with a vehicle that is not being driven. Removing coverage types, like collision insurance or endorsements, will also lower your premium. Speaking with your agent can help you determine how much you will pay to insure your stored vehicle.

How to prepare a car for storage

Before you put your car in storage, there are things you should do to prepare it to not run for at least a few months:

  1. Find an indoor place to store your vehicle: A garage or public storage facility will keep your car safe from the elements.
  2. Have it cleaned: Any dirt or gunk left on the car for an extended period can damage the paint, making it vulnerable to rust. You may also want to consider getting a wax job for extra protection.
  3. Change the oil: Old used oil can damage your car’s engine, especially if it will sit for a while.
  4. Fill up your gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer: Topping off your gas tank will help prevent the seals from drying out during storage. The fuel stabilizer will help prevent the gas from deteriorating for up to 12 months, protecting your car’s engine.
  5. Start it on occasion (if possible): If you do not start it on occasion, the battery will die, and you will need to jump when you are ready to use it. If you do start it up, remember not to drive it. Another option, instead of starting it, may be to unplug the negative cable.
  6. Disengage the parking brake: Engaging your parking brake for too long may cause it to fuse with the rotors. Consider using a tire chock instead.
  7. Make sure your tires are properly inflated: Tires can lose air pressure in colder temperatures, so if it is a possibility you may need to drive it again before the weather warms up, get them up to grade before you leave.
  8. Protect your car from pests: Mice and other rodents may seek your car out during colder months, looking for a dry, warm nesting area. Consider protecting your car from intrusive pests getting in while you are away.

Frequently asked questions

    • If your vehicle is registered, you need car insurance unless you live in one of the few states that do not require insurance. When you put a vehicle in storage status, your insurer may notify the state you have suspended liability coverage, and any other required coverage, from your policy. Because of this, you may have to sign an affidavit from the state.If you are not placing your vehicle in storage status and only adjusting your comprehensive and collision coverage, generally, you do not need to fill out any additional paperwork. However, your requirements to adjust your coverage may be different if your vehicle is financed or leased. Discussing your options with your insurance company can help you determine the best options for your situation and help ensure you still meet state and lender requirements.
    • Not only can you see savings with insurance costs by putting your vehicle in storage, but keeping comprehensive coverage on your policy may help cover repair costs should something happen to your vehicle while it is in storage. For example, if a fire starts in the garage where your vehicle is stored, and your vehicle is totaled, your comprehensive coverage may help cover these expenses.
    • Whether you or anyone else drives your vehicle while it’s in storage is risky. If you get into an accident or cause damage to your car while it’s insured under vehicle storage insurance, the insurance company may not cover the claim.