Hollay Ghadery Last Updated On: October 12, 2023

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How to Find Temporary Car Insurance in California

Short-Term Car Insurance

You don’t always have a choice when it comes to having car insurance. But that doesn’t mean you don’t have options. And at ConsumerCoverage, we’re all about helping you find the right insurance to fit your needs. Sometimes, a traditional car insurance policy just doesn’t fit the bill, and that’s okay. 

Short-term car insurance is a less common, but valid option. Traditional car insurance lasts at least 12 months, but there are a number of situations where that might be more than you need. Perhaps you’re shopping for a new car and need temporary insurance until then. Or maybe you’re about to move and just need coverage until then. 

There are plenty of reasons to want temporary car insurance, but it’s not always as clear how to get this kind of coverage. So if you’re new to the Golden State or you’re just not happy with your existing coverage, keep reading, and we’ll break it down for you so that you can decide if short-term car insurance is right for you.

Let’s get started. 

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What Is Short-Term Car Insurance?

Short-term car insurance is insurance that’s for a shorter term than the typical 12-month period. It’s designed for those looking for temporary car insurance, but it’s not as common as other car insurance policies.

Typically, the shortest period of car insurance you can get is six months. Anything less should raise red flags to you; reputable car insurance providers don’t usually go lower than six months, so weekly or monthly car insurance might not have the full protection of typical car insurance or the company may not be trustworthy. 

How Short-Term Car Insurance Works

While standard auto insurance lasts at least 12 months and renews annually, short-term car insurance would last for six months. Short-term car insurance isn’t for everyone, but in certain situations it does make sense. If it works for you, you’ll need to shop around for a carrier as not all insurance providers offer short-term car insurance. 

After the six months are up, you usually would have the option to renew, or you can cancel if you no longer need the policy. Depending on the policy, you may need to pay a cancellation fee. 

Otherwise, with a six-month policy, you’ll get the same coverage you would as a typical car insurance policy—just with a shorter duration. This coverage can include (depending on what you select):

  • Liability: This covers costs related to another driver’s injuries in an accident you’ve caused, or property-damage related costs. It also helps cover you if you’re sued related to an accident.
  • Collision: This covers your vehicle if you collide with another vehicle or stationary object.
  • Comprehensive: This covers damage to your vehicle from something other than a collision, such as weather, theft, vandalism, animals, etc.
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist: This covers you if you’re involved in an accident with someone who doesn’t have car insurance or doesn’t have enough of it to cover the damages. 
  • Medical Payments: This covers costs related to your injuries after an accident. 

These are the main buckets of coverage you might need, but you could also add further coverage to your policy such as gap, rideshare, rental car reimbursement, roadside assistance, and more. Depending on your reason for needing short-term car insurance, you might only want the minimum amount of coverage, but there’s no harm in knowing you have options. 

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Short-Term Car Insurance Rates in California

For many, the main draw of the idea of short-term car insurance would be lower rates. After all, car insurance is required if you’re getting behind the wheel, but no one enjoys paying for car insurance (let’s be honest). 

We hate to burst your bubble, but temporary car insurance in California isn’t going to be cheaper than standard car insurance, unfortunately. This is because insurers take into account that it’s a shorter policy, so your rates aren’t going to be exactly half of the cost of a 12-month policy. Short-term policies also can raise somewhat of a red flag to insurers, which can up the cost. 

So, how much are we talking? To put it into perspective, California has higher car insurance rates than the national average. In fact, it’s about $419 more to insure your vehicle for 12 months than the national average. 

Short-term car insurance rates in California can vary widely, since they’re much less common than traditional policies. You should expect to pay between $1,000 to $1,300 on average for a six-month policy, although this can vary depending on a number of factors. You can also find tips to save on car insurance costs in California to help lower your premiums. 

Each insurance provider calculates insurance costs differently, even more so for a non-traditional policy like short-term insurance. Your vehicle make and model, zip code, and insurance history will also play a part in determining your vehicle costs. 

For example, take a look at the average rates by city below to see the differences in cost:

  • Los Angeles: $1,316
  • San Diego: $886
  • San Jose: $932
  • San Francisco: $1,129
  • Fresno: $938

As with any car insurance policy, it pays to shop around. You might have fewer options since not all providers offer policies shorter than 12 months, but try to get at least two or three quotes to compare costs and coverage before locking in on a policy. 

Alternatives to Temporary Car Insurance in California

If the cost of short-term car insurance in California has you stressing, relax: you have options. Here are some alternatives to short-term car insurance that might better fit your needs and your budget:

  • Non-Owner Car Insurance: If you need car insurance because you drive occasionally but you don’t actually own a car, then you could get away with a non-owner policy. It typically only includes liability coverage but often nets out cheaper than a full policy. 
  • Rental Car Insurance: Again, if you don’t own a vehicle but sometimes rent one for weekends away, you could probably ditch a full policy and try just rental car insurance. These policies are the definition of temporary coverage since they only last for as long as you borrow the vehicle. You can get rental car insurance from the car rental company directly, or you could try finding a third-party company. You might even have coverage on your credit card. 
  • Parked Car Insurance: If your vehicle is in storage for the foreseeable future or you moved to an area where you don’t need to drive regularly, you might consider parked car insurance. It’s much more affordable, especially if your vehicle is in a safe location. Keep in mind there are restrictions on who has access to the car and you typically can’t ever get behind the wheel of it without reinstating full coverage. 
  • Pay-Per-Mile Insurance: If you don’t drive often, a good way to save money on pay-per-mile car insurance policies. You’ll pay a low flat rate plus a rate by mile, so if you’re not hitting the roads too often, you can save big on car insurance. 
  • Rideshare Insurance: If you’re looking for temporary coverage to drive for a service like Lyft or Uber, you’ll need rideshare insurance. Otherwise, your regular car insurance policy won’t cover you while you’re driving. 

Another option that might work is to get a typical car insurance policy and then cancel it once you no longer need it. You’ll likely have to pay a cancellation fee, but any unused portion you’ve paid is often refunded, so this could work out to be the most cost-effective option for you. Of course, make sure you read the fine print of a policy before going this route. 

No matter which option you go for, make sure you avoid having a lapse in your insurance policy. This raises red flags to insurance providers and can cause you to pay more in premiums since you’re viewed as more of a risk to the insurance provider. By ensuring your policies bridge coverage periods, you can avoid paying higher premiums, and who doesn’t love that? Click here for a guide on switching your car insurance. 

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Find Short-Term Car Insurance in California

If you’re set on short-term car insurance, no sweat! Getting this type of policy is simple enough. First things first: if you have a current policy in place, make sure you check when the term ends or what the cancellation terms are. 

Next, you’re ready to start shopping for your new policy. You can browse quotes and providers online before making a decision, but be sure to compare at least two to three quotes to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible. 

Need insurance fast? We’ve got you covered and you’re on the road to great short-term car insurance coverage in Cali. 

Hollay Ghadery Hollay Ghadery is a writer and editor who is passionate about financial literacy as a means to personal fulfillment. Hollay has over 18 years of experience creating content about a range of topics related to personal finance, including insurance, investing, banking, and credit cards. When Hollay isn't writing, she's spending time with her four children, two dogs, and three goats.

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