Do You Need Insurance On a Car If You Don’t Drive It?

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

When your vehicle has “comprehensive only” coverage, it protects the vehicle from fire, theft, vandalism, and weather damage. Your insurance company might also call this “comp only” coverage.car parked in storage

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.

Conclusion

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.

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  Comments: 16

  1. Grace J. Gniazdowska


    My car has been broken completely down for over 4 months now, I can not even get it out of the driveway. The only time it left the driveway was on a tow truck to get an estimate of repairs. Then towed back to the house. I am on a very small disability monthly check and I can not afford to pay insurance on a vehicle that I can’t drive. I am also unable to repair it due to the amount of the estimate. I tried to sell it for parts or mechanic special but no one wants it, not one message for 3 months now. I need every penny to save for a new used car because I live in an area where there is absolutely no public transportation and I have no one to ask for a ride when I have a doctors appointment or have to buy some food. I don’t really know what to do. I really can not afford to even pay the minimum insurance right now while the car is a total lemon. Please advise. After paying my rent I have only $200 left for the month.


    • Well, it sounds like you might need to cancel your registration and auto insurance on the car and just let it sit in your driveway. You won’t be legally able to drive it though!


      • My van is parked in front of my door,
        I ‘ve been trying to save some money up to fix it for months now .lm also on a monthly income & can’t afford to do it all I have to choose between things. Now someone crashed into it while parked in front of my door.Does the driver have to fix the damage that they caused? Thanks if you know!

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote


      If your car is undrivable, which you made clear that it is, then you can drop the insurance on it. Dropping Comprehensive on it means that you won’t get any money if it gets damaged while sitting there, and dropping liability on it means that you cannot legally drive the vehicle if you do fix it. But since it’s undrivable and you don’t have any immediate plans to fix the car, then yes you can drop the insurance on it. If you’re saving for another car anyway, you could also consider selling your broken car to a junkyard. They won’t pay top dollar, but you could at least receive some money if you don’t plan on fixing it or driving it again. Once you do get another car, you’ll need to buy insurance again.


  2. I have ALS and can no longer drive. I also have a bad driving history so my premiums are high. If my wife is the only one driving the vehicles ( my children are grown and gone) can I remove myself and lower my premium?


    • My mom just passed away from ALS, and the reason I’m looking at this site is because I’m trying to find out if a car that’s not currently being used (her old one) needs to be insured. Seeing you mention your condition made me tear up; I’m sending you all my best, and wishing you strength.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote


      You’ll need to contact your insurance company, but yes you should be able to remove yourself as a driver. Just make it clear that you have a disability and that you can’t drive. They should be accommodating and remove you as a driver. The most you might need to do is send them some type of documentation or doctor’s note that states you can’t drive. If they don’t remove you and are not understanding, then you should probably consider switching insurance companies to one that understands your condition.


  3. My car was in an accident and is not driveable. It’s been stored in a neighbor’s driveway since july of 2018. I canceled my insurance in July and just found out yesterday that the car was involved in an accident in December, which I don’t know how because I have the only key. Am I going to be held liable for this? The car to me is considered stolen since these people didn’t have a key or permission to drive the car.


    • If the vehicle was still registered to you, then, yes you will be held responsible.
      I, personally, think that this is BS., but nevertheless TRUE.
      IT’S ALSO BS that you must keep liability insurance on a vehicle that is parked or broken down, but same situation.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote


      Did the accident take place in your neighbor’s driveway? It might sound silly, but you could have been notified that it was in an accident even if it was a minor accident in the driveway. In this case, they are simply sending you a notification and it was likely someone else’s fault. If the vehicle was somehow fixed, stolen, and drove away and was involved in an accident, then you shouldn’t be held liable. You’ll need to prove that you had the only key, that it was stolen, and that it was not driveable as far as you were aware, but you did not give permission to whoever stole your vehicle, so shouldn’t be held liable.


  4. My car has been sitting at my parents for over 6 months. I just found out I could have been saving money since it isn’t being used. I live in the state of Louisiana an want to know once I notify my insurance company that I want to put it in storage. Do I need to cancel registration an turn in my plates?? How long can I keep it in storage an be covered? I don’t plan on driving it for a while.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote


      If you don’t plan on using your car for a long time, but want to keep it legally registered and insured, then you could shop around for an insurance company that offers Comp-only policies. These do not offer liability coverage, so they do not meet the state requirement to carry insurance. However, they do protect your car while it’s sitting in storage. Fire, theft, and water damage would be the primary things to be worried about, and a Comp-only policy would cover that. If you don’t care at all about damage to the car, then you could just cancel all your insurance on it, but you won’t have any coverage if it’s ever taken out on the road.


  5. I took my car to Mexico for repair (Yes I bought a full coverage insurance for MEXICO). While being there my Texas insurance expired but I decided not to renew it because I did not know how long my car was going to be over there. I received a letter from Texas about my car not being insured. What should I do? my car was insured all the time while being in Mexico.

    • Andrew@4AutoInsuranceQuote


      It’s good that you purchased insurance in Mexico because a US policy doesn’t cover Mexico. You will need to contact your insurance company and explain that you had your vehicle in Mexico for an extended period of time and that you had insurance on it in Mexico. You will likely need to send them proof. This should be enough for them to take back your penalty for not being insured. If it’s not, you might need to switch to another insurance company. Before you buy a new policy, verify with the new company that your Mexican insurance policy is enough to satisfy their requirement for continuous coverage.

  6. Alphonso Tyrone Wattie


    What if someone registers your vehicle with out your permission, forging the process claiming their friend at dmv is just transferring the tittle?


  7. I have a 2012 Mitsubishi lancer that is not drivable. The engine went out and I don’t have the money to get it fixed. So I had to get another car, that was more reliable. My question is, I still owe on the loan and still paying on it, can I cancel my insurance on it?

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