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How long can you wait to insure a used car?

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Purchasing a used car can be exciting, especially if you got a great deal. But before you can drive off the lot, you need to have car insurance. If you already have an active car insurance policy, you’re probably all set to drive. However, if you don’t already have insurance, you will need to purchase a policy before buying your used car.

Do you need to get insurance?

Almost every state requires drivers to carry a minimum amount of car insurance, whether they drive a new or used vehicle. If you live in a state that mandates insurance, you must insure your registered car.

If you’re buying a car, you don’t have to purchase insurance for it until you’re the owner. So if you’re planning to purchase a car next month, there’s no need to purchase a policy right now.

If you will be the owner of the vehicle, it’s your responsibility to insure it, and you must be listed as the policyholder on your insurance policy. If you don’t own the car, you’re not legally required to purchase insurance in your name.

Depending on your state, you might need to get insurance for your car before registering it with the DMV. However, other states don’t have this requirement, and drivers can wait to purchase insurance after the car is registered. Check with your state’s DMV for its guidelines.

If you already have an active car insurance policy, it’s easy to insure your used car. If you’re purchasing the used car as a second vehicle, you simply add the car to your insurance policy.

How long can you wait?

You might be wondering how long until you have to get insurance after buying a used car. The short answer is, it depends. But if you want to drive the used car off the lot, you’ll need to provide proof of insurance.

Legally, your car has to be insured before you can drive it, even if it’s just from the dealership to your driveway. Unless the dealership or the seller is delivering the used car to your home and has its own insurance policy, you must have insurance before purchasing the car.

Here’s where the rules vary. If you already have car insurance, your insurer might offer a grace period, where your existing insurance policy will cover the used car for a short period of time. That way, you can purchase a used car and drive away with temporary coverage.

However, not every insurance company offers a grace period. Before you purchase your used car, contact your insurance company and ask if it offers an extension. If it does, find out how long the coverage applies and what coverage from your policy extends to your used car. If your insurance company doesn’t offer this option, you’ll have to add the vehicle to your policy before driving away with the car.

Tips for getting used car insurance 

If you don’t have insurance and need to purchase an auto insurance policy for your vehicle, your car insurance dealership may be able to sell you a policy from a partner provider. However, that doesn’t mean the policies offered are the best option.

Before visiting the dealership, do your research and find an insurance company that meets your needs. Since this process can take time, give yourself plenty of time in advance of purchasing your vehicle to do so. After all, you wouldn’t purchase a car without first taking it for a test drive.

As you’re shopping for insurance, it’s a good idea to look at multiple providers to determine what coverages and rates it offers. Also, take a look at its add-on features, discounts and customer service ratings.

If you’ve already selected a car to purchase, get a few quotes for the make, model and year of the vehicle. The best insurance company will offer the amount of coverage you need at a price that fits within your budget. 

The consequences of driving without insurance

Driving without insurance is illegal. If you don’t have an active car insurance policy, don’t risk driving. If you get caught driving without insurance, you’ll have to pay a hefty fine and potentially appear in court. If found driving without insurance and it’s not your first offense, your license can be suspended, your car can get impounded and you may even face jail time.

On top of the legal risks, driving without insurance could put you in a dire financial situation. If you cause an accident and have no insurance, you are responsible for the cost of repairs and medical expenses. An accident with injuries and extensive damages could cost thousands of dollars.

Ultimately, the upfront cost of car insurance is worth the financial protection it offers if you get into an accident. By getting multiple rate quotes and taking advantage of discounts, you can ensure you’re getting the best insurance premium possible.

The takeaway

  • Before you can purchase a used car, you need insurance.
  • If you have an existing policy, your provider may offer a grace period that covers the used car for a short time.
  • It’s better to research and buy a policy on your own, rather than get a policy from a dealership.
  • Don’t risk driving without insurance—it comes with serious financial and legal consequences.

Before you purchase a used car, make sure you know your state’s insurance laws. If you’re purchasing the used car as a second vehicle, you can easily add the car to your insurance policy. If you’re replacing your old car with a new one, ask your insurance provider if it offers a grace period, which would cover the car for a short period of time.

If you don’t have any car insurance, you will likely need to purchase a policy before buying the car. Some car dealerships can sell you an insurance policy on the spot, but it’s better to do your own research and find a policy that meets your needs and budget.

Elizabeth Rivelli

Elizabeth is an insurance writer for coverage.com, where she covers insurance providers and reviews policies to help consumers find comprehensive and affordable coverage for every area of their life. She has more than three years of writing experience for top online insurance and finance publications.

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