How long does it take to get car insurance?

Two people sitting together, using a computer and reading about car insurance coverageImage: Two people sitting together, using a computer and reading about car insurance coverage

In a Nutshell

In most states, auto insurance is required by law if you own or lease a vehicle. So, how long does it take to get car insurance? It may be possible for you to obtain the coverage you need in a matter of minutes.
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Getting quick car insurance coverage can be simple and straightforward — it’s even possible to go from quote to coverage in minutes. To streamline things, make sure you have all the information needed for a car insurance quote on hand before you start shopping around.

What do you need to get car insurance?

To help with a quick, hassle-free car insurance search, have the following personal information for each driver on your policy:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Driver’s license number
  • Vehicle identification numbers for all vehicles being covered
  • Address
  • Driving history (past tickets and accidents)
  • Make and model of vehicle being insured
  • Estimated annual mileage

The insurance company may also ask if the car you’re insuring is used for work or pleasure. Once you’ve put this information together, it’s time to consider how much auto insurance you need.

How much car insurance do you need?

Most states have minimum requirements for car insurance coverage. Getting protection that meets or exceeds these minimums is vital when buying auto insurance. Find out the minimum requirements in your to as a starting point for your coverage choices.

There are many different types of coverage available. Liability insurance is mandatory in most states, but several other options exist.

Common types of car insurance

Coverage typeWhat’s coveredWhat to know
LiabilityIncludes bodily injury liability and property damage liabilityRequired by most states
Bodily injuryCosts related to another person’s injuries if you cause an accidentMay also cover other damages
Property injuryDamage you cause to someone else’s property in an at-fault accidentCoverage may be limited based on your policy
Uninsured and underinsured motoristAccident costs if you’re hit by a driver who has no (or not enough) insuranceThis coverage is mandatory in some states and optional in others
CollisionVehicle repair or replacement costs if you have an accident with another vehicle or objectUsually optional by state law, but may be required it if your car is financed or leased
ComprehensiveDamage caused by things like fire, riots, vandalism and natural disastersUsually optional by state law, but may be required it if your car is financed or leased
Medical PaymentsInjury-related costs following an accident, covering you and all passengers in the insured vehicleUsually optional, but required by two states (ME, WI); extra coverage outside of PIP
Personal injury protectionSimilar to medical payments coverage but covers a broader range of accident-related losses and costsMandatory in some states; optional in others
Rental reimbursementRental car while your vehicle is in the shop after a covered insurance claimOptional

The cost of your overall coverage depends on factors like your driving habits, age, driving record, and where you live. Your rate also depends on how much coverage you buy and the amount of your deductible — fewer coverage options and increasing your deductible could lower your monthly premium.

Consider bundling and discount opportunities

Some insurance companies offer car insurance discounts for certain types of drivers, like drivers who’ve been accident-free for a specific period or those who’ve taken defensive driving courses.

And some carriers provide discounted rates for policyholders who bundle their coverage, meaning you purchase different policies (like auto and home coverage) from the same insurance company.

Consider usage-based insurance models

With usage-based insurance, the cost of your policy is directly affected by your driving habits. In some cases, insurers track things like hard braking, speed and the location where you’re driving. Then, they use this data to determine your premium.

In other cases, insurance companies monitor your mileage. They typically do this using a telematics device. There’s usually a flat base rate and a per-mile rate, so generally the more miles you drive, the higher your premium.

How do I start my car insurance policy?

A quick way to start your new policy is with a quote online or with an agent over the phone.

When you choose which date your policy starts, make sure there’s no lapse in coverage between your old and new policies so that you avoid being financially vulnerable during a coverage gap. A lapse in coverage could also cause you to face higher rates.

And make sure to cancel your old policy so that you’re not on the hook for payments on two different policies.

How long does it take for car insurance to start?

Once you’ve paid for your new policy, you should be automatically covered from the official start date. You’ll likely be able to download your card to your mobile device with insurers that offer it in states that allow digital insurance cards. Or you can print out your policy documents.

FAQs about how long it takes to get car insurance

Can I get car insurance without a car?

You can buy car insurance if you don’t own a vehicle but do plan to drive one. This coverage is called a nonowner car insurance policy. If you’re borrowing cars often or renting a vehicle that doesn’t have insurance coverage, it’s probably coverage to consider.

Can car insurance be effective immediately?

Yes, car insurance can be effective on the same day of purchase if you choose to have your policy start on the day you pay for the policy. Your coverage typically kicks in after payment is approved.

Can I get one-day insurance on a car?

Auto insurance companies typically offer policies with a minimum term of six months. However, temporary car insurance options like rental car and permissive-use coverages are possible. Make sure you read the fine print on any insurance companies offering single-day insurance.

About the author: Warren Clarke is a writer whose work has been published by and the New York Daily News. He enjoys providing readers with information that can make their lives happier and more expansive. Warren holds a Bac… Read more.