How long can I drive my new car without insurance? [Expert Advice]

Drivers should always have insurance that covers new vehicles at the time of purchase. Driving without insurance can be costly, and in most states, against the law.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Jun 26, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • In most states, it is illegal to drive a new car without insurance
  • Vehicles that are being financed require physical damage coverage
  • There is no grace period for obtaining insurance once you purchase a vehicle. 

Purchasing a vehicle, whether new or used, is an exciting endeavor. But as the owner of the newly-purchased vehicle, it is your responsibility to ensure you have the right insurance policy before driving it home.

While many drivers are familiar with grace periods when it comes to renewing their registration, there is no grace period for obtaining insurance. Driving any vehicle without insurance, even one you just purchased, could land you with expensive fines and even more expensive auto insurance rates.

Keep reading to learn how long you can drive a new car without insurance and what happens when you’re caught driving uninsured.

Is driving a car without insurance legal if I just purchased it?

It doesn’t matter how recently you purchased your vehicle. Once you own a car, it becomes your responsibility to make sure you and any other drivers are covered by insurance before anyone gets behind the wheel.

Not only is it illegal to drive a new car without insurance, but as soon as you drive your new car, you are liable for any damages it may cause.

All states require that every automobile on city and state roads have insurance coverage. However, each state differs in the specific requirements for insurance. Your insurance company will be familiar with those requirements and can offer you a policy that ensures you abide by all state laws.

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How to Get Insurance for a New Car

How you insure your new car depends on whether you already have car insurance. For example, your current policy may provide interim coverage for a new vehicle until you add the car to the policy. Extending coverage to multiple vehicles will raise your insurance rates, but it will be cheaper than opening a new, separate policy. 

If you don’t have car insurance, you must purchase a new one to cover your new car. Not all auto insurance policies are alike. For example, you may need to purchase additional coverages depending on whether you are financing your car or not.

Most auto finance companies require borrowers to have physical damage or collision coverage on top of the state’s liability requirements. In addition, you may also be required to carry GAP insurance. This type of coverage protects the lender from a total loss in case the vehicle is totaled during an accident.

If you are paying cash for your vehicle, then you are only required to meet your state’s requirements for coverage. However, you may wish to purchase additional coverage if replacing your vehicle would create a financial burden for you.

In all cases, your insurance company will base your insurance on how often you drive your car and if you drive for work or for pleasure. For example, insurance rates for a car you drive daily to work will differ from a car you plan to only drive for pleasure.

When You Have an Existing Policy With Interim Coverage

If you already have insurance on a vehicle, your existing policy may cover your new vehicle. This could apply if you are trading your current car to a dealership or selling the existing vehicle to a third-party buyer just before purchasing the new vehicle.

Interim coverage only works when you are replacing a vehicle. It does not apply when you plan to keep the vehicle you already own in addition to purchasing a new vehicle.

If you do have interim coverage, it will offer the same level of coverage as the vehicle actually listed on the policy. If you require additional coverage, it is best to do this immediately.

Interim coverage is good for 30 days. During that time you’ll need to contact your insurance company and provide information about the new vehicle.

When You Need To Change Your Existing Policy

If you have auto insurance but plan to keep the car that already has coverage under that policy, you will need to add the new vehicle to your policy. Your current policy will cover your newly purchased auto for 14 days.

If you are financing your new car, but your current policy doesn’t provide full coverage, you will have four days of automatic collision coverage. Within that time, you need to update your policy to meet the requirements set by your lender. Not doing so could result in a lapse in coverage, and driving without insurance can be dangerous as well as expensive. 

Your insurance agent will need some key information from you before adding the new vehicle. This will include the make, model, VIN, and mileage at the time of purchase.

The agent will also need to know whether or not the vehicle is financed, so they can be sure you have acceptable levels of coverage. Adding a vehicle to an existing policy often requires a phone call and coverage can start the same day.

When You Need To Purchase a New Policy

If you don’t own an automobile, you most likely also don’t have a current auto insurance policy. In this situation, you’ll need to find an insurance company to provide you with a policy on the new vehicle.

Just like adding a vehicle to an existing policy, this is a process that you can usually complete over the phone or online. In addition to information about the vehicle, the insurance company will also need personal information about you and your driving history.

What will happen if I drive without insurance?

Driving an uninsured vehicle is always a bad choice. Not only do you need to worry about getting caught by local and state law enforcement, but even worse is if you cause an accident and there is damage and injury.

When you are at fault for causing an accident, you are liable for the costs associated with all damage repairs and medical expenses. Auto insurance protects you from paying for these liability costs out of pocket. Unfortunately, without insurance, you have no other option.

In addition to the monetary expenses, you risk losing your license to drive. You may also have a criminal record if you are convicted, which will raise your auto insurance rates and make it more difficult to find affordable coverage in the future.

Final Thoughts on Driving a Car Without Insurance

Before driving any new or used car, always consider if you have the coverage you need in case you get pulled over for a traffic violation or, even worse, get into a collision. Don’t drive any vehicle that isn’t covered by your insurance policy. 

If you aren’t sure if you have coverage on a new vehicle under an existing policy, reach out to your insurance company and read over the policy. It can help to shop around with multiple companies to find an insurer with the policy you need for your new car. 

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