Temporary Car Insurance Solutions in Washington

Your options for short-term car insurance in Washington could include rental car insurance, pay-per-mile insurance, or changing your coverage details.
Written by Amy Bobinger
Edited by Jessica Barrett
Most reliable car insurance companies in Washington will only sell you an insurance policy in 6- or 12-month increments—but alternative short-term coverage options include rental car insurance, pay-per-mile insurance, non-owners insurance, permissive use, and being added to a driver’s primary policy.

Your best solution for temporary car insurance depends on why you need it

American insurance companies don’t offer standard auto insurance policies for less than six months, so you can’t buy true temporary car insurance in Washington. But if you’re only going to be driving in the state for a short period, several solutions can help you find the best car insurance coverage for you.
Washington law states that all drivers must carry proof of insurance that shows they meet the
state’s minimum coverage requirements
Washington car insurance providers are required to offer drivers uninsured motorist coverage (UM) and personal injury protection (PIP), but drivers can decline the coverage if they don’t want to carry them.

If you’re buying a car: Avoid short-term dealership policies

If you’re uninsured and you’re buying a new car, some dealerships will sell you a short-term policy so you’ll be covered as soon as you drive off the lot. It’s convenient, but it’s not usually the most economical insurance option.
  • Dealership-provided policies typically last about 28 days, which gives you time to secure a permanent policy
  • You’ll usually pay more for less coverage when you buy insurance through the dealership
To save money and get better coverage,
get insurance before you buy a car
. If you’re shopping with
, you can compare quotes from multiple providers in just a couple of minutes and schedule your policy to start immediately—so it’s a great tool if you need
same-day insurance

If you don’t drive often: Pay-per-mile insurance

If you own a vehicle but don’t drive much, consider a pay-per-mile policy to save money on your insurance premiums.
With pay-per-mile insurance (sometimes called usage-based or low-mileage insurance), your insurance provider will charge you a base rate each month and add a per-mile rate based on how much you actually drive. 
If you keep your mileage low, pay-per-mile can be a cheap car insurance solution
There will be a cap on your billable mileage, so even if you have a month where you drive a lot more than usual, you won’t pay more than a set amount
Your auto insurance rates may be different each month, so you’ll have to account for that when you’re budgeting
Your insurance company will track your mileage each month, usually with a mobile app or plug-in device
Not every insurer offers a pay-per-mile option

If you’re renting: Rental car insurance

If you’re planning to rent a car in Washington and you don’t have your own car insurance policy, you can purchase
rental car insurance
from the rental car agency. Here are the types of insurance you can typically choose from: 
  • Rental car liability coverage: Usually included in your rental fees and it works like regular liability insurance 
  • Collision damage waiver (CDW)
    : A collision damage waiver (CDW) is similar to standard collision coverage
  • Loss damage waiver (LDW): Similar to a CDW but with added theft protection
  • Personal accident protection: Helps pay medical expenses for anyone in your car who is injured in an accident
  • Personal effects coverage: If your belongings are stolen out of your rental car, personal effects coverage will help pay to replace them—this protection is sometimes included in homeowners policies so you may already have it
Some credit card companies offer rental car insurance if you pay for the rental on your card. If you have a credit card, check the perks section on the app or website so you don’t pay for coverage you already have.

If you borrow or share cars regularly: Non-owner insurance

If you don’t have a car but you rent or borrow one regularly, you could benefit from a
non-owner car insurance policy
that follows you, not a specific car. 
  • For most drivers, non-owner car insurance costs between $300 and $500 a year—although your rate will depend on factors like your age, driving record, and location.
  • Non-owner insurance is a secondary policy. Depending on the specifics of the vehicle owner’s policy, your non-owner policy may only pay out after the primary policy is exhausted, or both policies may contribute to the damages.
  • Non-owner car insurance includes bodily injury liability and property damage liability that meets the state’s minimum insurance requirements
  • A non-owner policy won’t cover damage to the car you’re driving (unless you’re given the option to add that coverage at extra cost)

If you borrow a car occasionally: You’re already covered

If you have a driver’s license and you borrow a friend’s car once in a while, you don’t need a special car insurance policy. In most cases, you’ll be covered by the vehicle owner’s insurance policy—this is known as permissive use.
  • A standard car insurance policy includes permissive use—so if the owner gives you permission to drive the car, you’re likely covered.
  • If the vehicle owner has you listed as an excluded driver on the policy, you won’t be covered
  • Permissive use does not apply if you borrow a vehicle from someone you live with or work for

If you regularly borrow a specific car: Named driver

If you borrow a car from someone you work for or a family member who lives with you, you need to be listed as a named driver on their policy.
app screenshot
If the vehicle owner already has insurance with
, they can easily add you to their policy.
But they can also contact their insurance company directly—they’ll just need to provide your name, date of birth, and driver’s license number.

If you stop driving temporarily: Standard policy with adjusted coverage levels

If you have a car but you’re not planning to drive for a while, you can adjust your current insurance policy so you don’t pay for higher coverage levels than you need. Here are a few scenarios where this could be your best solution: 
  • If you’re getting ready for military deployment: Choose an insurance company that offers reduced rates for military storage. You can easily switch back to a standard insurance policy once you’re home.
  • If your child is away at college and doesn’t drive at school: You can adjust your policy to reflect that your child is away at school and will not be driving your vehicle while they’re away. You may receive a discount on your insurance. 
  • If you’ll be traveling without your car for several months: If you’re taking an extended trip and your car will be in storage, ask your insurance agent about removing liability and collision from your full coverage insurance and only keeping comprehensive until you’re back home.
app screenshot
In many cases, you’ll be able to go into your insurance company’s app to request changes to your policy.
But if you want to change your coverage and save on your premiums at the same time, consider adjusting your policy with Jerry.
You can customize your coverage levels and request car insurance quotes from multiple providers at the same time.

The worst way to get temporary car insurance: Standard policy with early cancellation

When you search for short-term coverage in Washington, you’ll likely see a lot of suggestions to buy a six-month car insurance policy and cancel it early—but that’s rarely a good idea. 
  • Your insurance rates might increase: Dropping your insurance without another policy in place is known as a
    coverage lapse
    , and it’s a red flag for insurance companies. As a result, you’ll pay higher car insurance rates when you reinstate your coverage.
  • You could be under-protected: Even if you buy new insurance right away, there may be a period when your new policy offers limited coverage. If you get into an accident, you may have less financial protection.
  • It could be hard to get insurance in the future: If you have a history of canceling your insurance early, some insurance companies will refuse to write you a new policy.
  • You could lose part of your premium: You’ll usually be refunded the unused portion of your auto insurance premium if you cancel your policy early, but it may not be the full amount—you could be charged cancellation fees, you might forfeit your down payment, and some insurers will
    calculate the refund in different ways
That said, there are limited circumstances where buying a six-month policy and canceling early will be your best bet—like if you’re not planning to drive again any time soon. For instance, if you’re visiting the US from another country and you want to drive while you’re here, you might buy a standard car insurance policy and cancel it before you return home.


How can I get temporary insurance in the US?

Your best option for getting temporary auto insurance depends on why you need it. That said, some of the temporary coverage options include rental car insurance, pay-per-mile insurance, non-owners insurance, permissive use, and being added to a driver’s primary policy.

What is the shortest term for car insurance?

You can only buy insurance in 6- or 12-month terms. Reputable car insurance providers don’t sell temporary car insurance policies, so if you see a company advertising short-term policies (like one-day or one-month insurance), it’s probably a scam. 

Can I rent a car without insurance in Washington?

You can’t drive a rental car without insurance—you must have at least liability insurance to legally drive any vehicle in Washington. If you don’t have an insurance policy, you can purchase rental car coverage from the rental company.

Is short-term car insurance more expensive?

Some short-term car insurance solutions, like rental car insurance, will probably cost more per day than a standard car insurance policy. But others, like pay-per-mile insurance, will typically cost less. To find the cheapest auto insurance quotes for the coverage you need, compare rates from multiple insurance providers.

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