Temporary Car Insurance In California: What You Need To Know In 2024

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Updated: 18 March 2024
Written by
Cara Carlone
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Have you ever found yourself in need of auto insurance for just a few days or weeks? Perhaps you’re borrowing a friend’s car for a weekend road trip, or you’re a college student heading home for a short break. In these scenarios, traditional annual insurance policies may seem like overkill, both in terms of cost and complexity.

This is where temporary car insurance would be helpful. Unfortunately, not many U.S.-based insurers offer temporary car insurance policies. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t options for you.

As a decades-long insurance industry veteran, I have guided many drivers toward the best auto insurance option based on their unique situation. In this article, I strive to do the same by explaining the various reasons why temporary car insurance may be needed and providing alternative options, specific to the California market. If you don’t want to get stuck without insurance or paying for something you don’t need, keep reading.

What Is Temporary Car Insurance?

Most standard insurers offer six to twelve-month policy terms. Temporary car insurance is defined as anything less than six months in length. Since this isn’t as readily available in the United States, drivers who need car insurance for a short amount of time should consider alternative options, such as purchasing a standard six-month policy and canceling early.


Can You Get Temporary Car Insurance in California?

Temporary car insurance is not an option in most states, including California. Instead, a better option for drivers would be to determine the reason short-term insurance is needed and seek better alternatives.

Alternatives to temporary car insurance

Drivers who need car insurance temporarily have options. Depending on the reasons you need insurance, here are some common alternatives.

Non-Owner Car Insurance in California

If you have regular access to a car but don’t own one, a non-owner car insurance policy may be for you. This type of policy allows you to insure yourself as a driver instead of insuring a specific car. Regardless of whether you rent a car or borrow someone else’s, you can rest assured knowing you are insured even if the car you’re driving is not.

Important: A non-owner car insurance policy is a great way to prevent lapses in insurance coverage if you’re in between cars. This can help to keep your future insurance premiums low.

California pay-per-mile insurance

For those who don’t drive often, a pay-per-mile car insurance policy might be a better option than temporary car insurance. Unlike traditional insurers who charge you virtually the same regardless of how frequently you drive, a pay-per-mile policy allows you to pay based on how many miles you drive. This can ultimately save you money in the long run while keeping you insured.

Rental Car Insurance in California

A common reason drivers think they need temporary car insurance is when they are renting a car. However, you can actually purchase car insurance through the rental car company, completely eliminating the need for your own personal policy. It’s usually recommended to purchase some coverage through the rental company anyway, since most personal auto policies won’t cover loss of use to the rental car, which can be costly.

Rideshare Car Insurance

California has an estimated 209,000 Uber drivers with San Francisco being one of the top 5 cities for the number of Uber bookings. Needless to say, drivers in California have a need for rideshare insurance. Personal auto insurance will not cover you for accidents while you are actively connected to a transportation network company.

As such, those who drive for companies like Uber and Lyft need specialized insurance to protect themselves and their passengers. While some major carriers will provide limited coverage, the better option is to obtain insurance through the rideshare company.

Buying a Six-Month California Insurance Policy and Canceling It Early

Almost all insurance carriers offer policies in either six or twelve-month terms. It is very rare, if not impossible to find a company offering policies for any time less than that. However, there are also no rules saying that you can’t purchase a six-month policy term and cancel it early if you no longer need it.


Tip: Some insurance companies may charge a short-rate cancellation fee, meaning there is a penalty for canceling before the end of your term. Luckily, California requires insurance companies to disclose these fees beforehand. But it doesn’t hurt to ask before purchasing!

Temporary Car Insurance Rates In California – By Policy Length

According to the California Department of Insurance’s market share report, State Farm has the most market share for auto insurance with 8.7%. According to our research, it’s also the most expensive for temporary car insurance. In comparison, the most affordable option is Farmers, which holds a 7.79% market share in California.

Company One Month Premium Three Month Premium Six Month Premium
State Farm $129 $378 $765
Farmers $135 $415 $832
Geico $110 $320 $632
Allstate $115 $327 $658
Travelers $141 $427 $852

Temporary Car Insurance Rates In California – By Insurance Company

Company Average Annual Premium Average Monthly Premium
Farmers $2,628 $219
Nationwide $2,244 $187
Allstate $2,434 $202
AAA $2,472 $206
State Farm $2,232 $186

Short-Term Auto Insurance Rates In California – By City

With close to 200,000 car accidents each year in California, about 13% of them occur in Los Angeles. It’s not a surprise then, that LA has the highest auto insurance rates in the state. In comparison, car accidents in Bakersfield make up only about 0.9% of all accidents in the state, which placed them with the lowest car insurance rates according to our research.

City Average Six-Month Policy Premium Average Monthly Premium
Anaheim $981 $164
Bakersfield $911 $152
Fresno $933 $156
Long Beach $1,081 $180
Los Angeles $1,335 $223
San Diego $943 $157
San Francisco $1,172 $195

Altering California Car Insurance Temporarily Depending on Your Needs

Depending on why you may need temporary car insurance coverage, you may be able to change your existing car insurance to suit your needs. If you are currently without insurance, purchasing a six-month policy term with specific coverage may also be an option. Here are some of the situations where this can apply.

College Student Away at School

56% of undergraduate college students have a car with them at school. For these students, the solution to the car insurance question is simple. They can remain on their parent’s car insurance policy or obtain their standard policy.

For the remaining students who don’t have cars, you may think no insurance is necessary. However, consider that 1,519 college-aged students die from alcohol-related injuries per year, including car accidents. If your child is out and needs to take the keys from a drunk friend, you don’t want them to be hesitant because of the insurance aspect.

While insurance typically follows the car, any accident that exceeds policy limits could make the driver liable for the difference. With California’s liability requirement of $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for injuries and $5,000 for property damage, it is very easy for one minor incident to exhaust these limits. Keeping your child on your standard policy or purchasing them a non-owner policy helps to mitigate these situations.

Storing Your Car

For those who have seasonal cars or don’t use their cars for an extended period, storage insurance is a good option. Putting your car in storage means that you suspend the liability coverage, insuring your car for only the things that could happen to it while it’s parked. Some things you would have coverage for would be fire, theft, vandalism, etc…

Most standard auto insurers will offer storage insurance, and no special type of policy is required. When you’re putting your car in storage, you call your insurer to suspend coverage. When you’re ready to use your car again, they can reinstate the coverage and you’re good to go!

Note: For companies that don’t allow this storage coverage, you can reduce coverage down to the state minimum to save money. Just be warned that this is best on a single-car policy. If you have multiple cars on the same policy, this will often affect the other vehicles insured.

Letting Someone Else Drive Your Car

Sometimes, you will need to let someone else use your car. Depending on how frequently they use your car, you may need to add them to your policy as a driver. If they aren’t driving very often, they will most likely be covered under the permissive use clause.

Almost all insurance companies offer coverage to drivers you permit to use your car under this clause. This is helpful in emergencies or when you let someone borrow your car. Just be sure to let your insurance company know of any drivers who live with you or have regular access to your car as they will most likely need to be listed on your policy, regardless of how frequently they drive.

Adding Your Child to Your Policy

When your child obtains their driver’s license, you may hesitate to add them to your car insurance policy because of the cost. Do you really need to list them if they aren’t going to be driving regularly? The answer is yes.

Your insurance company may have certain guidelines that require you to disclose any licensed drivers in your household. Failure to do so can result in potential issues in the event of a claim or cancellation of your policy altogether. If they really aren’t going to be driving, you may be able to exclude them from your policy.

International Drivers

For international drivers, there are a few options depending on how long they’re in the country. If they are visiting for a short time and renting a car, insurance can be purchased through the rental car company. However, if the visit is longer than a month or so, it may be better to purchase a standard auto policy or non-owner policy and cancel when they go back home.

Note: Some insurance companies may require international drivers to have an international driving permit (IDP) or United States driver’s license. It’s best to do your research before you travel so you have the appropriate documentation to drive.

Being an Infrequent Driver

Infrequent drivers may not need their own insurance policy, depending on how much they drive. Remember that insurance companies require most licensed household residents to be listed on car policies, regardless of how frequently they drive.

But there is that permissive use clause in most policy contracts that allows for infrequent use of a car as long as you’re not using it regularly and have the owner’s permission.

If you are frequently driving other’s cars, a non-owner policy may be the way to go. It will allow you to have coverage for yourself, regardless of whose car you are driving.


Best Car Insurance Companies for Short-Term Car Insurance in California

Cheapest For Good Drivers

Overall Rating

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
7/10 Customer Reviews
7/10 Claims
8/10 Coverage Level

Why We Like Them

Based on my research the cheapest short-term car insurance for experienced drivers with clean records is Wawanesa Insurance. With the national average of insurance in California at $941 for six months, Wawanesa comes in below average. For drivers who need insurance temporarily, this company provides the best value.

Primarily writing personal lines policies in California and Oregon, Wawanesa Insurance specializes in the California market and knows the risks specific to the area. They have been operating in the US for close to 50 years and have strong financial backing.

While Wawanesa is the most economical option for short-term insurance, it may lack in other areas. It doesn’t offer any pay-per-mile or telematics options for California customers and it’s customer service rating is lower than some competitors. Drivers who purchase insurance here will have to determine if the low price outweighs some of the cons.

Benefits & Drawbacks

  • Local to California
  • Affordable prices
  • Many discounts available
  • Financial strength rating is lower than competitors
  • No pay-per-mile option

Average Cost Of Short-Term Car Insurance For Good Drivers

Company Six-Month Premium for Full Coverage
Wawanesa $662
Allstate $981
State Farm $1,096
Travelers $1,072
Farmers $1,142
Nationwide $1,435

Cheapest For Young Drivers

Overall Rating

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
9/10 Customer Reviews
6/10 Claims
9/10 Coverage Level

Why We Like Them

Young drivers who are looking for short-term insurance should consider Progressive. Progressive offers the most affordable rates for drivers with little to no experience and has a few discounts that can help save even more, such as an occasional operator discount.

Progressive also has a user-friendly app so customers can easily access their policy documents, make payments, file claims, and more.

It is easy to purchase a policy with Progressive and make payments, making it an attractive choice for younger drivers. However, they do have a lower claim satisfaction score than their competitors, which means getting your car fixed may not be as hassle-free as you would like.

But Progressive has been in business for close to ninety years and has the financial strength to pay any claims you may need to file.

Benefits & Drawbacks

  • Can be purchased through an agent or directly online
  • Affordable prices
  • Their app is convenient and easy to use
  • The Telematics program is unavailable in California

Average Cost Of Short-Term Car Insurance For Young Drivers In California

Company Six-Month Premium for Full Coverage
Progressive $654
Mercury $933
Geico $900
Wawanesa $955
National General $741

Cheapest For Drivers With an Accident

Overall Rating

Key Statistics

10/10 Affordability
10/10 Customer Reviews
9/10 Claims
9/10 Coverage Level

Why We Like Them

When you have an accident, you can expect your car insurance rates to increase. But the extent of the increase is largely dependent on the insurance company.

Drivers in California can expect to pay $1,455 on average for a six-month term with one accident on their driving record.

Based on my research, USAA offers the best rates for drivers with one accident on their record. In addition to the affordability, USAA is known throughout the industry for their excellent customer service and claims handling.

Customers with one accident on their record can expect to pay $1,043 for a six-month term, which is considerably less than the national average.

One of the only drawbacks to USAA is that it’s only available to members of the military and their families. If you don’t meet this criteria, you aren’t eligible for a policy with them.

However, for those that are eligible, they tend to be loyal customers based on USAA’s excellent reputation and customer service.

Benefits & Drawbacks

  • Superior customer service and claims handling
  • Specific to military families
  • Also offers banking products
  • Only available to military families
  • No local agents

Average Cost Of Short-Term Car Insurance After An Accident In California

Company Six-Month Premium for Full Coverage
USAA $1,043
Allstate $1,771
Geico $1,103
State Farm $1,560
Travelers $1,658


What is a temporary insurance policy?

A temporary insurance policy is any policy that is in effect for less than six months.

Is temporary car insurance a real thing?

While temporary car insurance does exist in other countries, it has yet to be created in the United States. Drivers that need car insurance for a short amount of time must look into alternative options, including purchasing a standard policy and canceling early.

Can you use temporary car insurance permanently?

By definition, temporary car insurance is a short term policy that lasts fewer than six months. If you need car insurance more permanently, you will need to purchase a standard six to twelve month term policy.

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