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While a typical auto insurance policy will likely be set for 12 months, short term car insurance might be effective for six months or less. Because car insurance carriers don’t really offer policies meant to be kept only temporarily, California drivers looking for short-term or temporary car insurance will need to weigh their options.
Carriers that do advertise short-term car insurance may promote one-week or one-month policies. However, these likely aren’t legitimate auto insurance options and are not designed to function as a regular car insurance policy. Generally, car insurance for temporary circumstances will mean that you opt for a six-month policy.
What is temporary auto insurance?
For short-term or temporary car insurance in California, most reputable car insurance carriers offer a six-month policy or annual policies that span 12 months. Having a shorter, six-month policy compared to an annual policy has some advantages as well as some drawbacks to consider. Depending on your situation, you may find it helpful to have your policy renewed (and re-evaluated) more frequently. That said, 12-month policies mean you lock in rates for a longer period of time, which could also be helpful, based on your circumstances.
Pros and cons of short-term insurance in California
|6-month policies||12-month policies|
Rates may decrease more quickly with frequent renewals
More flexibility to reevaluate your existing provider or switch carriers without a cancellation fee
Lock in lower rates for a longer period
Rates could increase quicker upon renewal, depending on changing risk factors
Less opportunity to adjust coverage
Longer wait for rate changes
Average cost of short-term car insurance
California rates for a 12-month full coverage policy run around $419 higher than the national average, based on 2022 quoted annual premiums from Quadrant Information Services. Companies may adjust rates for shorter policy lengths, which means your short-term policy may not be exactly half the amount of an annual car insurance policy. Car insurance rates are personalized based on many factors, such as driving record and age, but it is important to note that the use of your ZIP code, credit score and gender cannot be used to calculate your car insurance rate in California.
|National average annual cost for full coverage||State average annual cost for full coverage|
Car insurance rates also vary because each car insurance company has its own method for calculating rates. Below is a comparison of five major carriers within California, and the average cost of a full coverage policy for six months. Keep in mind that these are averages, and your premium could be higher or lower based on your personal factors, the coverage you choose and the individual company’s adjusted rates for a 6-month policy.
|Average 6-month premium for full coverage|
Temporary car insurance options
A few types of temporary auto insurance options in California may be available aside from purchasing a standard six-month policy. The financial protections below may be beneficial for some drivers, depending on their circumstances. However, the availability of these protections, the amount of coverage offered and the duration of each depends on the specific car insurance company.
Non-owner insurance policy
A non-owner insurance policy may be a good solution for drivers who do not own a vehicle and do not have regular access to a vehicle, but who still need to occasionally drive. It may be cheaper than standard car insurance, but that is likely because it only includes liability coverage. Non-owner policies usually provide coverage for at least six months. You can find non-owner insurance from car insurance companies in California that specialize in non-standard coverage.
Rental car insurance
If you plan to rent a car, you might consider purchasing additional rental car insurance. These are issued by the rental agency and only last for as long as you have the vehicle. While your standard policy may extend coverage to a rental vehicle, it may not have all the necessary coverages or high enough limits to provide the financial protection you require. Rental car insurance is designed to provide additional liability, comprehensive, collision or personal effects coverage. Speak with your existing car insurance company to learn which situations might warrant getting temporary insurance for a rental car to round out your financial protection.
Short-term insurance for stored vehicles
Some car insurance companies offer short-term auto insurance solutions for stored vehicles. If your car is not being used for more than one month, you may be able to drop your liability, collision and medical payments insurance, and keep comprehensive insurance only. This will lower your rate because your overall level of financial protection has been reduced. However, there may be restrictions, such as where your car is kept during the storage period and who has access to it.
If you drive for a rideshare service like Uber or Lyft, it’s important to understand how car insurance for rideshare drivers works. As a driver, you have your own car insurance policy, which may only insure you while your app is turned off and you are making personal trips. If your app is turned on and you are dropping off and picking up passengers, then the rideshare company’s insurance is in effect. Make sure you review what your rideshare company’s car insurance covers, as well as any applicable deductibles. You can also reach out to your personal car insurance company to inquire about optional rideshare endorsements that could give additional coverage to fill potential gaps while you are working, such as when you are waiting for a ride request.
How to get short-term car insurance
Ultimately, the decision to choose a six-month or 12-month policy is based on your personal situation. For instance, having a six-month policy might be more beneficial if you are in the military, are planning to move to another state, are expecting to add a teen driver to your policy in the near future or are planning to get a new vehicle. Longer policies have their advantages, such as the ability to lock in rates for a longer period of time, but the flexibility of a shorter policy may be more beneficial to some drivers.
If you decide to get short-term car insurance in California, you will first need to shop around to find car insurance companies that offer six-month policies or another type of auto policy alternative. You should also think about what type of coverage you need, how much coverage you need, your budget and what you value in an auto insurance company.
For example, the best car insurance companies might have excellent customer service, great coverage options and solid third-party ratings, but they might not have the cheapest rates. On the other hand, the cheapest car insurance companies have affordable policies, but they might fall short when it comes to coverage options or customer service.
In unique situations, temporary car insurance solutions may help add to the financial protection your standard policy already provides. When in doubt, speak to a licensed agent to determine which protections will be best for your situation.
Frequently asked questions
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2022 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Rates are weighted based on the population density in each geographic region. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:
- $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $50,000 property damage liability per accident
- $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
- $500 collision deductible
- $500 comprehensive deductible
It is important to note that in California, gender and credit score cannot be used to calculate car insurance premiums.
To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2020 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.