Last updated: October 2023

Do I Need Insurance Before I Buy a Car?

In most states, you can't buy a car without a valid auto insurance policy. Even in states where you might be able to buy a car without insurance, you won’t be able to register it if you’re not insured. But what if you're still car shopping? Don’t worry – if you're not sure of the specific vehicle you're buying, you can still shop for car insurance and set your policy to kick in the same day you take home your new ride.

When you do find the right vehicle, can you transfer car insurance from one car to another? Do you need a new car insurance policy? Does the process vary depending on if you’re trading in or adding another vehicle to your garage? We’re sharing what you need to know about getting insurance on a new car, whether you’re trading in for a brand new vehicle or adding a used car to your garage for fun on the weekends.

Can you get a car insurance quote without a car?

When you apply for a car insurance quote, you have to submit some basic information, including:

  • Names and dates of birth for all drivers on the policy
  • Driver’s license numbers and social security numbers for all drivers on the policy
  • Address of policyholder and address where the vehicle will be garaged (usually the same place)
  • Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) for each car on the policy
  • The declarations page from your current or most recent car insurance policy

You'll need to share specifics about your vehicle to get the most accurate car insurance quote and for your policy to ultimately go into effect. Those specifics are contained in a vehicle's unique VIN. However, if you're still car shopping, you probably don't have a VIN. That's OK – you can usually get a car insurance quote with only the make and model of the vehicle you plan on buying.

And if you do know the specific vehicle you're buying, ask the seller for the VIN so you can get your policy details squared away with your insurance provider ahead of time. Remember to set your policy's start date to the date you'll be driving your new car home.

Is there a grace period for getting insurance on a new car?

No driver wants to deal with the consequences of an auto insurance lapse, so how do you make sure there aren’t any gaps in coverage if you’re trading in your old car for a new ride? What if you’re buying a second vehicle to drive for fun on the weekends? If you are currently covered, your insurer typically gives you a grace period (the length depends on the company) that gives you time to update the vehicle on your policy (if you’re trading in your old car for a new one) or add the new vehicle (if you’re purchasing without trade-in) to your policy. Generally speaking, whatever coverage you had in place previously is what will be active during the grace period with the new vehicle.

But whether the grace period lasts for one week or one month, you want to update your insurance policy as soon as possible to make sure you have the exact coverage you need for your new car. It’s also a good idea to call your agent before you buy a new vehicle to make sure you have a clear understanding of any rules or stipulations about their grace period.

Do I need insurance before I buy a car?

You need auto insurance to take your car home and legally drive. However, the process for securing coverage is a little different if you're trading in a vehicle versus buying a new one without a trade-in. As discussed above, even if you have a short grace period, it’s important to update your insurance policy as soon as possible to make sure you’re covered.

Can you transfer car insurance from one car to another if you're trading in a car?

Can you switch car insurance to a new car? As we mentioned above, in the short term, your active insurance policy should “transfer” to the new car to provide coverage during your grace period. But can you officially transfer your insurance over to a new car? Or do you have to get a new policy?

Typically, you should be able to transfer coverage to the new car in a relatively straightforward manner. You should be able to call your insurance agent and give them all the necessary details to update your policy with your new car information. If your insurer has an app or online account portal, you might be able to sign in and make the updates yourself.

However, it is worth noting that depending on the coverage you currently have and the car you just bought, you might need to ask about additional coverage. If you were previously driving an older vehicle, you might have liability-only coverage. But for a new vehicle, you might want to consider adding comprehensive coverage and collision coverage. If you’re taking out a loan for your new car, there’s a good chance the lending institution or dealership will require you to have comprehensive and collision anyways.

Can you transfer car insurance coverage to a new state?

When you make the decision to move, you’ve got a lot on your mind. In the midst of packing boxes, your car insurance coverage is probably the last thing on your mind, but it’s important you have the proper coverage when you get settled. Ahead of your move, it’s a good idea to call your insurer and have a conversation. First, you need to find out if they provide coverage to residents in your new home state. If their footprint doesn’t extend that far, you’ll need to look for a new insurer. If they do provide coverage in that area, you should talk to them about updating your coverage to meet the needs of your move.

Whether you’re able to stick with the same insurer or not, it’s important to learn about potential new insurance requirements. You might have to up your coverage limits or add new coverages (like Personal Injury ProtectionInsurance laws vary from state to state, so doing research and talking to a knowledgeable agent are your best bets. But no matter what, it’s important to make the necessary adjustments to your auto insurance as soon as possible so you’re not breaking any laws. If you are able to stick with your current insurer, the process should be relatively straightforward as long as you communicate every step of the way.

Securing coverage if you're buying a car without a trade-in

You'll need to show proof of insurance to drive your new car home if you’re buying another vehicle without a trade-in. If you already have auto insurance, your policy typically covers your new car purchase for a limited period – usually one week up to 30 days. Once that period is up, you’ll need to update your policy to include your new vehicle or your new car won’t be covered.

If your auto insurance policy doesn’t already include comprehensive and collision coverage, you may want to consider adding them – especially if you’re buying a brand-new or like-new used vehicle that would be expensive to replace. Comprehensive and collision coverage offer financial protection if your vehicle is stolen or damaged in an accident that was your fault. If you’re leasing or financing your vehicle, your lender will most likely require you to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage.

Getting covered if you’re a first-time car buyer without insurance:

You’ll need to secure auto insurance coverage before you can take your new car home if you’re a first-time car buyer without insurance. Once you pick a specific vehicle and have a VIN, pick an insurance provider and set up your policy to begin the same day you plan on picking up your new car.

You may want to consider adding comprehensive and collision coverage if you're buying a brand-new or newer used car. As mentioned above, you may be required to carry these coverages if you’re leasing or financing your vehicle.

Can I drive a newly purchased car without insurance?

If you don't have auto insurance, you should not drive your new car home until you have a policy in place. In fact, your dealer probably won't let you!

Most car dealerships require you to show proof of insurance when purchasing a new or used car. If you are financing your new vehicle with a loan through a bank or other lender, you will definitely be required to show proof of insurance.

You can usually demonstrate proof of insurance by showing your insurance card or having your insurance provider fax or email proof of insurance to the dealership.

What are the penalties for driving without insurance?

Driving without insurance is extremely risky, not to mention against the law just about everywhere! The penalties for driving without insurance are steep and include fines, license suspensions, and even jail time in some cases. If you cause an accident while driving without insurance, you'll not only have to contend with the legal repercussions; you'll also be financially responsible for any injuries or property damage you cause.

It's important to remember that the penalties for driving without insurance apply no matter what – whether you've had your car for 10 years or 10 minutes.

Driving without insurance also means you'll have a gap in your insurance history when you apply for coverage again, which can make it difficult to get insured or make your policy cost more. Still, it doesn't mean you're totally out of luck. Direct Auto offers non-standard auto insurance for drivers who have lapsed coverage or might be considered "high risk" by other insurers.

Can you get car insurance the same day you buy a car?

Buying car insurance is a fairly fast process. You can buy a brand new car and an auto insurance policy on the same day. With Direct Auto, you can even purchase a policy over the phone while you’re at the dealership. For a free car insurance quote or to learn more about our affordable coverage options, call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732), Request a quote, or visit a Direct Auto location near you.

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