So your car is broken down or in storage. Maybe it’s sitting in your driveway. Maybe it’s in a friend’s yard. Maybe your convertible is tucked away for the winter. Whatever the situation may be, you’re probably curious about whether or not you need insurance.
Do you need to pay insurance on a car if you don’t drive it? The answer depends on the situation.
In general, state law requires all registered vehicles to carry the legal minimum insurance. As long as the vehicle is registered in the state – and that registration is active and has not expired – then that vehicle is required to carry insurance.
In other words, if you want to avoid paying insurance on a vehicle for a period of time – like over the winter – then you’ll need to cancel your registration.
Laws on this process vary from state to state. They also differ between insurance providers. Some providers allow you to reduce your insurance cost temporarily, for example, if you’re not driving a vehicle. Some companies allow “comprehensive only” insurance while your vehicle is in storage, for example.
How Comprehensive Only, or “Comp Only” Insurance Coverage Works
Comp only coverage is a popular option for protecting vehicles that you’re not currently driving. It’s significantly cheaper than full car insurance coverage, but it still protects your property from unexpected events.
Rules on comp only policies vary between insurance companies. Some companies require you to store your vehicle in a certified and protected storage facility, for example. Others will only issue the policy if your vehicle is being stored for at least six months.
It’s important to note that comp only insurance does not make your car legal to drive. If your vehicle only has comprehensive insurance, then it’s illegal to drive that vehicle on the road. States require you to have liability coverage at a bare minimum. Under comprehensive-only insurance policies, your vehicle does not have collision protection or liability coverage.
Storage Needs to Be Locked to Count as “Storage”
Your insurance policy will carefully define its storage requirements. You can’t leave your car parked on your front lawn all winter in the snow and ice, then expect your insurance company to cover all damages.
At a bare minimum, most insurance companies require your vehicle to be kept in a locked storage location – like a vehicle storage facility or a locked garage.
If your vehicle is “stored” in an unlocked location – like your driveway or your backyard – then your vehicle is considered “parked” in the eyes of law enforcement and your insurance company.
Having a locked storage facility is good, but having extra security measures is even better. The more secure your car’s storage place is, the lower your insurance rates will be.
You Can Insure a Car for Someone Else to Drive While Excluding Yourself from the Policy
There are a number of situations where you’re not driving a car, but still want to get insurance. Maybe you’re a licensed driver, but you’re keeping your car for someone else to drive.
In that situation, you can exclude yourself as a driver on the policy while still purchasing insurance for the car under your name.
If you’re in this unique situation, then you’ll need to contact your insurance company. Typically, your insurance company will want to know why you’re in the situation. They might ask whether or not you have a license, for example, or who the primary driver of the vehicle may be.
Insurance companies are generally okay with this situation. Typically, an insurer will want a licensed driver listed on the policy – like a family member living within the household. They may also require the background, personal information, and driving history of that family member.
Insurance companies will not be flexible with this arrangement if you’re using it to avoid high insurance costs related to previous accidents or DUIs. If you’re insuring a vehicle in your name because your wife has multiple DUIs, for example, then your insurance company won’t be very accommodating.
What If Nobody is Driving the Car for Months
So your car isn’t kept in storage, and it’s just an extra vehicle that nobody needs to drive for the next few months. Do you still need to get insurance?
In most states, you’re still required to keep liability insurance on your vehicle. If you intend to drive that vehicle at any time – even if it’s not being driven for months – then you’ll need to have liability coverage as a minimum.
If you let your insurance lapse, then your vehicle registration becomes invalid, in which case you’re no longer able to drive your vehicle.
In other words, your vehicle needs to be insured in order to be registered. In most states, that means you need to keep liability insurance on your vehicle as an absolute minimum – even if your car isn’t being driven for months.
However, if nobody is driving the car for months, then you may want to consider dropping full insurance from the vehicle – including optional types of coverage like collision insurance. Some might also want to drop comprehensive insurance (which covers your car against vandalism, natural disasters, and theft). Comprehensive insurance isn’t required, but it’s a good idea even if your car isn’t being driven.
Ultimately, most states require you to maintain insurance on a vehicle even if you’re not driving it. As long as your car is registered in your state, and that registration has not lapsed, then you’re required to maintain the minimum legal level of insurance (liability insurance).
However, some insurance companies may offer comp only coverage, which allows you to maintain protection against theft, vandalism, and natural disasters while significantly reducing your costs. Insurance companies may offer this if your car is kept in locked storage – but they’re unlikely to offer it if your car is parked on your lawn or in your driveway.
Talk to your insurance company to learn your options when your vehicle is not being driven for an extended period of time.