Short-term car insurance in California

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Short-term car insurance is an auto policy that is effective for six months or less. Temporary car insurance is not a type of policy that major car insurance carriers offer. Most car insurance policies span a six-month or 12-month period, after which the policy is up for renewal.

For drivers looking for short-term car insurance in California less than six months in duration, some providers advertise one-week or one-month policies, which are not designed to function as a regular car insurance policy. However, car insurance for temporary circumstances typically means that coverage is very limited.

What is temporary auto insurance?

For short-term or temporary car insurance in California, most reputable car insurance providers 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
Pros:
Rates may decrease more quickly with frequent renewals
More flexibility to reevaluate your existing provider or switch carriers without a cancellation fee
Pros:
Lock in lower rates for a longer period
Cons:
Rates could increase quicker upon renewal, depending on changing risk factors
Cons:
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 about $400 higher than the national average, based on 2021 quoted annual premiums from Quadrant Information Services. Companies may adjust rates for shorter policy lengths, which means your short-term policy may not be 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
$1,674 $2,065

Temporary car insurance options

A few types of temporary auto insurance options in California are 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.

Student driver insurance

If you need to add a student driver to your car insurance policy temporarily, a six-month policy could be a good solution. With a six-month policy, you are able to make adjustments more often, such as choosing to add or remove a driver. For example, if your student goes to college and will not be using the vehicle for six months or more, you can add or remove them from the policy as needed.

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.

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, but the flexibility of a shorter policy may be more beneficial to 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. 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

Can I get temporary car insurance in California?

You can get temporary car insurance in California, but for a personal policy, the shortest duration is typically six months. Other types of short-term car insurance in California include rental car insurance, non-owners insurance and stored vehicle coverage.

How much is temporary car insurance in California?

The cost of temporary auto insurance in California depends on a few factors. First, it depends on what type of policy you buy. For instance, a non-owner policy will probably be much cheaper than a six-month full coverage policy. Your premium will also be impacted by your claim history and driving record, among other things. Your ZIP code, credit score and gender can not be used to calculate your car insurance premium in California.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. 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 2019 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.

Written by
Elizabeth Rivelli
Insurance Contributor
Elizabeth has two years of experience writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate.com, The Simple Dollar, Coverage.com and NextAdvisor, among others. In addition to auto insurance, Elizabeth regularly writes about home insurance, renters insurance and life insurance. She also covers industry trends and general insurance education.
Edited by
Insurance Editor