How long does auto insurance last?

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you purchase a car insurance policy, you sign up for coverage for a specific term
  • For the majority of auto insurance policies, you will be automatically renewed for another term when years is up
  • Both you and the car insurance company may elect to cancel the coverage before your term is over
  • Even if your car insurance is cancelled before you plan it to be, you are required to find another form of coverage as long as you want to drive on public roads
  • You will be notified ahead of time if the insurance company decides to cancel your coverage before your term is up


Car insurance is a legal requirement to drive a vehicle on public roads, so knowing when you are covered or not is important. Car insurance is sold in the form of policy terms. Each company does it differently, but most of them sell insurance policies in either six- or 12-month terms.

You can find to be effective dates of your policy on the proof of insurance card you get from the company.

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The Effective Dates of Your Car Insurance Coverage

Each auto insurance policy has a specific term. The common duration of terms is for either six months or one year.

While every auto insurance company determines the length of the policy term differently, they are all required to tell you the exact duration in both your auto insurance policy agreement and your proof of insurance card.

The coverage term for your car insurance policy, or the time between when your insurance starts and when it terminates, are called the effective dates.

If you are looking for the effective dates on your car insurance policy, the easiest place to find them is on your proof of insurance card. Your insurance company will also be able to tell you the exact date of when your policy term expires.

What Happens at the End of Your Policy Term

There are two things that can happen on the date your car insurance policy expires. It will either be renewed for another term or it will be terminated.

For many auto insurance policies, you do not have to do anything at all to have the policy reinstated for another term. You will simply receive the bill for your premium in the mail or online from your auto insurance company.

This is in the case of an automatic renewal for your policy. Otherwise, you can simply tell the car insurance company that you wish to continue your coverage and will pay the subsequent premium.

On the other hand, the car insurance company could decide not to extend you coverage for an additional policy term.

Most car insurance companies are trying to keep as much business as possible, so the main reason this would happen would be if you filed an excessively high claim or a high number of claims. In general, this makes you a more expensive driver to insure.

Almost every state has laws in place that obligate the car insurance company to tell you in advance if your coverage will not be continued. This will give you adequate time to find another car insurance company in your state.

Cancellation of Your Car Insurance Coverage

While the end result is the same, there is a difference in timing between the cancellation and nonrenewal of your car insurance policy.

In the event that the car insurance company discovers fraud on your insurance application or if you simply stop making your required premium payments, you are at risk of having your auto insurance policy canceled before the term expires.

This is a serious situation because you will need to find coverage from some other company willing to ensure you. Otherwise, you cannot legally drive on any public roads.

As the policyholder, you also have the right to cancel your coverage. Most people do this in the event that they find a cheaper rate with another company or decide that they had a bad experience with their current insurance company.

Even though you are not responsible for paying the premium for the remainder of your policy term, you should make sure the car insurance company has clear notice of your cancellation.

This will prevent any confusion and billing and keep you from being billed for the unused portion of your premium. If you have any problems getting a refund for the unused portion of your premium, your state Department of Insurance may be able to help you out.

If you choose to get insurance with another company, make sure that price is not the only reason for the switch. Having an adequate amount and the right type of coverage for you is equally as important as getting a good price.

You never really have to guess about when your car insurance ends because the exact date is listed on your proof of insurance card, which you should probably keep in your wallet at all times.

No matter which auto insurance company you are insured with, they will always be able to tell you exactly when your auto insurance coverage is set to expire. After that date, you either need to renew your policy or find another one.

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