What Is One-Day Insurance?

Understanding Your Short-Term Auto Coverage Options

Two smiling young women wearing sunglasses in car
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Maybe you’re housesitting for a friend and will drive her car over the weekend. Or you’re headed to Europe and plan to rent a car. Perhaps you’re going car shopping and wonder if the vehicle will be covered when you drive it home from the lot. Do you need to purchase car insurance for a day or a few days? 

The answer depends on the situation, including your location. But in many cases, you’re already covered by a policy—even if it’s not your own. In other cases, you might want or need to purchase daily or weekly coverage of some kind. Let’s find out more about your choices for temporary car insurance. 

Key Takeaways

  • Without the right kind of car insurance, you risk paying out of pocket for auto accident injuries, damages, and other claims.
  • Before you get behind the wheel, make sure that any vehicle you drive is insured and that you understand what the insurance does and does not cover.
  • If there are gaps in auto coverage, investigate your options for additional coverage.
  • Short-term coverage is available for rental cars, car sharing, and driving your car into Mexico.

Can You Get Car Insurance for a Day?

In some countries, you can get car insurance for one day and up to 28 days. However, in the U.S., one-day car insurance isn’t generally available, with very few exceptions. While any vehicle you drive will likely be required to carry liability insurance to comply with state minimum requirements, this may be addressed without short-term car insurance. 

In most cases in the U.S., insurance follows the vehicle, not the driver. However, there are some instances in which the insurance covers you and other situations where you may want to supplement the coverage with additional insurance of your own. 

Driving an uninsured vehicle could leave you open to penalties at a minimum—or if you’re involved in a serious accident, a revoked driver’s license plus the loss of your savings and other assets.

When You’re Already Covered

You’re probably already covered by an insurance policy of some sort when you:

  • Borrow your friend’s car with their permission
  • Test-drive a vehicle at a dealership
  • Rent a car while on vacation
  • Drive a company car during your workday for company business

Many insurance policies state that auto coverage extends to anyone who has received permission to drive the car. However, “coverage” may not be as broad as you hope, so it helps to understand basic auto insurance terms and get more information about how you’re covered from the car’s insurance company or your own agent. 

For example, if your friend Emma has liability-only coverage on her car and you damage it, Emma’s insurance company won’t cover the broken taillight or smashed fender. If you damage a car while on a test drive, depending on any waivers you signed, you may be asked to help pay for it. 

In many cases, the car owner’s insurance policy will take over any claims for damages. If you do have auto insurance coverage yourself, your coverage may also kick in depending on your policy. 

If a hailstorm damages your rental car and you didn’t purchase a damage waiver from the rental agency, you could be expected to pay for repairs. However, if you have auto insurance with comprehensive coverage and you didn’t buy a damage waiver, your insurance could help pay for the damage.

When You May Not Be Covered

You may or may not be covered in the following situations: 

  • Using a company vehicle for personal reasons
  • Driving a newly purchased vehicle from the dealership to your home if you don’t have insurance already
  • During certain times while providing rideshare services
  • Driving your car into Mexico

In these situations, you’ll want to call your insurance company to determine whether you’re covered or if it would be better to purchase additional short-term insurance or a more permanent solution. In many cases, you will need to purchase a different auto insurance policy or an endorsement to your existing policy. 

Short-Term Car Insurance Options

If you call the insurance company that covers the car and discover the coverage isn’t as broad as you hoped, you have a few options to improve it. Most types of short-term car coverages are for rental cars.

Car Rental Agency Coverage

Rental agencies usually include basic, minimal-liability insurance policies in the rental cost, as well as optional additional coverage and waivers for an extra fee. This type of additional auto coverage is generally charged on a per-day or weekly basis.

Typically, rental company insurance includes state minimums for liability coverage, which is the bodily and property damage you cause to others in an accident. However, this coverage doesn’t typically pay for rental car damage caused by you or others. For example, if the car is stolen and destroyed, you’ll probably have to pay to replace it. 

If you already have auto insurance that includes collision and comprehensive coverage, these can help cover rental car damage up to your policy’s limits after the deductible is paid. However, if you don’t have coverage, you may want to consider the rental agency’s temporary coverage via a collision damage waiver. 

Credit Card Coverage

Your credit card could offer primary coverage for rental cars (which covers damages to the rental car without making a claim on your personal auto policy, if you have one). Your credit card could also offer secondary coverage (which covers rental car damages after your own policy is exhausted). Call your credit card company to find out what this type of temporary coverage includes.

Temporary Insurance Policies

Some travel insurance companies offer car rental insurance plans. The insurance is temporary and covers only damage to the car during the auto rental period—not to other vehicles you might borrow or use. This type of insurance isn’t available in all states, and terms of coverage can vary by state, so ensure you understand this short-term insurance before buying in. 

Car-sharing services might also offer optional damage protection plans, which waive any fees associated with repairing the vehicle. 

International Temporary Insurance Policies

If you’re in the military and will be stationed abroad temporarily, contact your insurer to ask about overseas insurance options. Some of the best military insurance companies can offer advice and tips on managing car insurance while overseas. 

Travelers might also investigate auto insurance coverage options before departing. For example, driving into Mexico isn’t typically covered by car insurance policies, but many insurers offer optional add-on coverage. Notably, some insurers, such as GEICO, provide one-day insurance policies for coverage in Mexico.

When renting a car overseas, the car rental agency should provide information on temporary insurance options and damage waivers, which can help cover costs if you’re in an accident. These insurance and waiver options will vary by country. 

Car Insurance Options When You Don’t Drive Much

If you don’t drive often, you might consider other insurance options. 

Classic Cars

In some situations, you might have access to a car but don’t drive it frequently. For example, classic car insurance covers cars 25 years or older that aren’t used as the primary household vehicle. Some insurers ask classic car owners to manage mileage limits. 

Usage-Based Car Insurance

Usage-based auto insurance calculates your rate based on how many miles you drive, and a significant number of insurers now offer this coverage in many states. Typically, the insurer charges a base rate plus a cost-per-mile driven. This temporary car insurance option can help you score a cheaper auto insurance premium. 

Non-Owner Car Insurance

Non-owner car insurance provides coverage for licensed drivers and can provide additional protection if you’re driving a car that belongs to someone else. For example, if you hit someone while driving your friend’s car and cause $100,000 in damages, but your friend only has $50,000 in coverage, you could be financially responsible for the difference. If you have non-owner car insurance of $50,000, that insurance may help cover the costs.

Some policies provide liability-only coverage, while others also offer medical payments, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, and other coverages. Make sure you understand what you’re signing up for before purchasing any insurance policy.