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Guide to car insurance renewals

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

When you purchase car insurance, your policy is only active for a certain amount of time. The policy length for most auto insurance policies is six months or one year. When your policy ends, so does your coverage. To continue your coverage, you need to renew your policy. 

When does an insurance policy renew?

As your policy nears its end date, your insurance company will notify you. Most auto insurance policies automatically renew at the end of the term period, so you never go without coverage. If your policy does not auto renew, you’ll have to manually renew it. This can usually be done online. 

How do I renew my car insurance?

If your auto insurance policy is on auto renew, your insurance company will send you documentation with your new rate and other changes. If you’re comfortable with the price, there’s no action required on your part. The new policy will take effect as soon as your old one ends.

There are some pros and cons to having an automatically renewing auto policy. For one, you’ll never be without coverage. If you don’t have an auto renew policy, you have to remember to renew your coverage before it ends. However, if you don’t pay attention to policy rate increases before the renewal takes effect, you’re locked into that price.

If your policy is not automatically renewed, your insurance company will remind you to renew it before your current policy ends. Depending on your insurance provider, you can manually renew the policy online or with an agent. If you decide to renew, do so before your old policy expires.

What to look for on your new policy

When your policy is set to renew, your insurance company will send you an updated declaration page that outlines the details of your new policy. This document will come a month or so before your policy is set to renew.

Once you get the declaration page, check your rate, which can usually be found towards the top of the first page. Also, check that your personal information and vehicle details are accurate. Your policy information and coverage limits should stay the same unless you changed them. 

Why did my car insurance rates go up?

If your new policy rate increases, you’ll find the new premium on the declaration page. Many factors contribute to your rate. Any incidents that occurred during your last policy term will be reflected in your new policy rate. Some of the things that may have caused your rate to climb include:

  • You got into an accident.
  • You lost points on your credit score.
  • You added endorsements to your policy.
  • You raised your coverage limits.
  • You moved to a new city.

If your rate increases significantly, consider shopping around for a different auto insurance provider. It doesn’t hurt to get quotes from other companies and compare rates. Make sure you’re getting a quote for the same amount of coverage you currently have.

Can I make a change before my renewal?

Most insurance companies allow customers to make some changes to their policy before it renews. For example, you can add a vehicle to your policy before the new one starts. If you want to increase your coverage limits or add endorsements, check with your insurance company to see if that’s allowed. If you make any changes, contact your insurance company to update your policy and see the new rate. 

How to decline your car insurance policy renewal

If you don’t want to renew your auto insurance policy, contact your insurance company to let them know. The process varies by company, so find out what your provider requires. Some companies allow you to decline the renewal over the phone while others need a written letter. 

Declining your policy’s renewal is the same as cancelling. If you intend to cancel, have a policy lined up with another company. Check the end date of your old policy, and set up your new policy to start a few days before the old one ends. 

Throughout the process of cancelling your old policy and getting a new one, document everything. Take note of when you cancelled the old policy and who you spoke with. If you wrote a letter, keep a copy on hand. Also, save the documentation from your new insurance company that states when your new policy takes effect.

How to shop around for car insurance

If you decide to switch to a different car insurance company, here are the steps you should take:

  • Research providers: Research the best car insurance companies that offer coverage in your area. Check their financial strength, customer service reviews, average price, policy offerings and discounts to create a list of contenders. 
  • Get quotes: Get quotes online from a few providers that you’re considering. This is a quick process to help determine which company can offer you the best rate for the amount of coverage you need.
  • Complete an application: Once you select a provider, fill out an application for insurance. This can usually be done online. Once you complete the application, the insurance company will review your information and let you know when you are approved. This is when you’ll get the final rate. 
  • Sign a policy: The last step is to sign your policy. Usually, you can choose to start your coverage whenever you want to. Make sure there’s no gap in coverage between your old policy and the new one.

Getting a different policy is easy, but keep important dates in mind so you don’t have a lapse in coverage or pay for two policies over a longer time than necessary.

Can I renew my expired car insurance?

If you let your car insurance policy expire, you can be in a tricky situation. An expired car insurance policy means you have no coverage, so you shouldn’t be driving. Some insurance companies will reinstate an expired policy, but you might have to pay a fee. If you can’t reinstate the policy, get a new policy from a different provider as soon as possible.

How car insurance non-renewal works

If you haven’t been keeping up with your payments or if you consistently file claims, your auto insurance company could cancel your policy or issue a non-renewal. Here’s what that means.

Cancellation

With cancellation, your insurance policy becomes void. Cancellation is common if you fail to make your payments or commit insurance fraud. If your policy is cancelled, it can make it difficult to get insurance from another provider. Cancellation can happen at any time during your policy period. 

Non-renewal 

With non-renewal, your insurance company will let you know that they won’t be renewing your policy when your current policy ends. Non-renewal often happens if the insurance company is downsizing or stops writing new policies. 

Insurance providers will issue a notice of non-renewal before your old policy ends, so you’ll have plenty of time to get coverage elsewhere. If your policy is subject to a non-renewal, it won’t have any impact on your ability to get another policy. 

The takeaway

Car insurance renewals aren’t hard when you know how they work.

  • Most auto insurance policies automatically renew at the end of the term period.
  • At the time of renewal, your rate may increase, so it’s important to review updated policy documents.
  • If you’re unhappy with the new rate, you can shop around for a different insurance provider.
  • If you purchase a policy from a new provider, make sure to start coverage before your old policy ends to avoid a lapse in coverage.

When your auto insurance policy ends, most companies will automatically renew it. However, there’s a chance that your rate will increase. Before the new policy starts, you’ll be able to make certain changes, review your information and see your updated premium.

If you’re happy with the price, your job is done and your coverage will continue as normal. However, if the price is too high, you can shop around for a different company with better rates. Avoid lapses in coverage, which put you at risk as a driver.

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