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How Long Do I Have to Insure a New Car?

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When you buy a car, you’ll typically need to get coverage immediately if you don’t already have a policy. If you have an existing policy, however, the grace period for adding your new vehicle will depend on your insurance provider and your state of residence.

Here’s what you need to know about auto insurance grace periods and how to make sure your new vehicle is protected.

What Is a New Car Grace Period?

Before you drive a new vehicle off the lot, you may be required to provide proof of insurance—particularly if you’re financing the vehicle. But you don’t necessarily need to call your insurance company and add the new car to your policy just yet.

In fact, auto insurers typically offer a grace period, which can range from seven to 30 days from the purchase date, during which your new vehicle gets the same level of coverage as the previous one.

That period can vary by insurance provider, and some insurers may also have different policies for leased vehicles.

Note, however, that if you don’t have existing insurance coverage when you buy a new vehicle—for example, you’re buying your first car or you’ve gone a while without owning a vehicle—there is no grace period, and you’ll need to obtain coverage in order to drive the car.

Insurance Requirements for New Cars

Most states require some form of car insurance, but the types of coverage and the amounts can vary. If you’ve obtained an auto loan to finance your vehicle purchase, your lender may also have some requirements.

Liability Coverage

The most commonly required coverage is liability insurance, which protects you in the event that you cause bodily injury or property damage with your vehicle.

For the most part, however, minimum liability coverage requirements may not be sufficient, so think carefully about the right amount of coverage for your needs.

Underinsured and Uninsured Motorist Coverage

This insurance protects you in the event that you get in an accident with another driver and they’re at fault, but they don’t have insurance or their coverage isn’t sufficient. It offers coverage for your damaged vehicle and medical bills.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage requirements can vary depending on where you live.

Medical Payments Coverage or Personal Injury Protection

Some states require medical payments coverage or personal injury protection (PIP), but never both. Both offer coverage for medical bills regardless of who’s at fault in an accident, but PIP also covers lost wages, child care expenses and other costs.

Collision and Comprehensive Coverage

There are no state laws that require these coverages, but if you financed your vehicle, your lender will likely require them.

Collision insurance covers the cost of repairing or replacing your car if you hit a vehicle or object, and comprehensive insurance does the same if your vehicle sustains damage by fire, hail, vandalism, theft, natural disasters and other perils. It also covers you if you hit an animal while driving.

How to Buy Insurance for a New Car

If you already have a policy, you can simply call your insurance company or even log in to your online account and either add the new car to your policy as an additional vehicle or as a replacement for the old one.

Note that this process may impact your policy’s premium, especially if the new vehicle is more expensive than the previous one or carries other additional risks based on the insurer’s assessment.

If you’re planning to buy a new insurance policy or switch to a different provider, however, the process can be a bit more complicated:

  1. Request a quote. You can typically get an auto insurance quote online, but some carriers may also allow you to request one over the phone or in person. To obtain a quote, you’ll typically need to provide some personal information and details about the vehicle so the company can evaluate all risk factors associated with the car and your driving history.
  2. Review coverage options. Once you provide all of your information, you’ll receive a quote based on some suggested coverage options and amounts. Take a look at what the insurance company recommends and make adjustments based on your budget and coverage needs for a more accurate quote. You can also review the available discounts to see how much you can save.
  3. Shop around for the best policy. Take some time to shop around and compare insurance rates from multiple insurance providers. Just make sure that you enter the same amount of coverage with each insurer so you’re comparing apples to apples.
  4. Finalize your policy. Once you’ve narrowed down your options to the best offer, finalize the policy by setting your effective coverage date, choosing your preferred payment plan and providing your payment information. Once you complete this process, you’ll be covered.

Save Time While Shopping Around for Coverage

Even if you’re happy with your existing auto insurance policy, it can help to shop around every year or two to make sure you’re still getting the best rate.

With Experian, you can get quotes from multiple insurers at once, saving you from re-entering the same information with each individual provider and making it easier to compare offers side by side. If you decide to move from an existing provider, you can also make the switch online or over the phone with an agent.

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