What Is a New Car Insurance Grace Period?

A new car insurance grace period typically lasts seven to 30 days and provides temporary protection for your new vehicle.
Written by John Davis
Edited by R.E. Fulton
You must have car insurance when you buy a new vehicle. If you don't have an existing policy, you'll have to buy coverage before you can drive your car off the lot. But if you already have a policy, you may be entitled to a grace period—usually between seven and 30 days—before you need to add your new vehicle to your plan. 
  • A new car insurance grace period usually lasts between seven and 30 days and provides temporary protection for your new vehicle.
  • You can't drive your new car off the lot without proof of insurance.
  • If you don't add your new car to your insurance policy before the grace period ends, you won't have insurance!
  • An insurance lapse can cause your rates to skyrocket, and you may incur legal penalties for driving without insurance. 
  • The grace period is the perfect time to
    shop for a new insurance company

The average new car insurance grace period is seven to 30 days

If you're buying a new car, you're most likely in one of the following situations:
  • You plan to add your new vehicle to an existing insurance plan.
  • You sold your old car, replaced it with a new one, and now need to purchase a new policy.
  • You have no current insurance coverage and need to purchase a policy for your new car.
If you have an existing car insurance policy, your insurer may give you a grace period when you purchase a new vehicle. Insurance grace periods typically last seven to 30 days and provide temporary coverage on a new car before you
transfer your policy to a new vehicle
What type of coverage? Well, that depends on your existing auto insurance policy. Typically, your new car will be protected under the highest level of coverage your current policy contains—meaning that if you have a
full coverage policy
with collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, the same protection will most likely extend to your new vehicle.
On the other hand, if you only have
liability coverage
, you may have significantly reduced coverage on your new car. Liability insurance, which is the minimum coverage required by most state laws, doesn’t always apply to your new vehicle during a grace period, which could leave you uninsured in the event of an at-fault accident. 
Grace period coverage won't apply if: 
  • You don't have an active insurance policy
  • Your insurer doesn't offer grace period protection
  • You've already used up your grace period coverage
If you find yourself in one of those scenarios, you'll have to add your new vehicle to an active insurance policy. Otherwise, you won't have insurance, and you risk substantial financial and legal consequences. 
The exact length of your grace period and the type of coverage it includes depend on your insurance provider. Every insurance company is different, and while many offer grace periods, others do not. It's always wise to
compare auto insurance quotes
from several providers or check with your current insurer before purchasing a new vehicle to discover your coverage options. 

You can't drive off the lot without insurance

You cannot legally leave the dealership with your new car if you don't have an existing insurance policy. In fact, most car lots won't allow you to finalize your purchase
without proof of insurance
. While the same does not apply to private sellers, driving without insurance is illegal—and if the authorities catch you driving without insurance, you risk severe consequences, including fines and even jail time. 
That means there is no grace period if you buy a new car without a current insurance policy. Before you can head home in your sweet new ride, you'll have to
purchase some form of auto insurance

What happens if you miss the grace period for new car insurance?

If you don't purchase coverage for your new car before the grace period ends, you won't have insurance! That means that if you get into an accident, you won't be protected financially, and your insurer may cancel your policy. 
When that occurs, you'll likely end up with an
insurance lapse
on your record, which will cause your future rates to rise significantly. To avoid an insurance lapse, you should protect your new vehicle with a quality insurance plan as soon as possible—ideally, long before your grace period ends. 

What to do if you're in an accident during the new car insurance grace period

If the worst happens and you're involved in an accident during your grace period, contact your insurance provider immediately and ask your agent exactly what's covered. If you're within the grace period, your new car should have protection—but this can vary from company to company, so it's always wise to ask an insurance agent. 
While car accidents are never ideal, they do provide the opportunity to revisit your insurance needs. Updating your insurance after an accident won’t give you coverage after the fact, but it can help you find a better rate moving forward. 

Why you should switch insurers during the new car insurance grace period

The grace period is an excellent time to shop around for insurance quotes from different companies. Here are a few reasons why you should consider switching insurance providers during the grace period:
  • You bought a different make/model vehicle:
    Different vehicles have different insurance costs
    , and chances are that you didn't replace your old car with an identical model. That means that your insurance premium will likely change when you add your new vehicle to your policy. Shopping around and comparing quotes is a great way to ensure that you get the best coverage at the best price. 
  • You want to take advantage of insurance discounts: Many insurance companies offer
    car insurance discounts
    when you switch providers. Alternatively, if you insure your home and car through different companies, you may choose to switch providers to take advantage of a
    home and auto insurance bundle
  • You want to find an insurer with better service: Finally, maybe you're simply unhappy with your current insurer—that's ok! Shopping around to compare different companies is an excellent way to find
    the best service
    without breaking the bank. 
Regardless of your reasons, it's a good idea to shop around and compare auto insurance rates routinely. Doing so every six months is a great way to ensure you get the best premium without sacrificing coverage. 
But insurance shopping is often tedious and time-consuming. Luckily, the car insurance super app,
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No! The grace period for adding a new car to your insurance policy varies from seven to 30 days, depending on the company. If you’ve just bought a new car (or are planning to), reach out to your current insurance provider to ask about their grace period. 
There is no grace period after canceling your car insurance—no matter your circumstances, your vehicle must have car insurance coverage at all times. If you miss a payment, however, most insurance companies offer a grace period of 10 to 20 days before your coverage will be terminated.
No. Even if you live next door to the dealership, driving a new car without insurance for any amount of time is illegal. Before you purchase a car, make sure you have an active insurance policy that meets your state’s minimum insurance requirements for financial responsibility, including bodily injury and property damage liability insurance.
Yes—you can always purchase automobile insurance, even if your grace period has passed and you’re in a coverage lapse. Just be aware that some insurance companies will view you as a high-risk driver if you have a significant insurance lapse; you may need to compare multiple quotes to find a provider willing to insure you. 
Driving without insurance that meets your state’s minimum coverage limits carries legal penalties including fines, suspension of your driver’s license, and even jail time in some states. In many cases, your insurance company will notify the DMV if your coverage lapses, and charges for driving without insurance will remain on your driving record for at least three years. 
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