| Auto Insurance
Red car and a green badge with a green check mark

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.

Before we dig in, here are some fast facts about insuring a new or used vehicle:

  • You need at least the minimum amount of insurance required by your state.
  • If you’re trading in a car for a new one or buying a car without a trade-in, your existing coverage usually transfers to your new ride for a limited period before you must notify your insurance provider.
  • If you’re a first-time car buyer without insurance, you’ll need to secure coverage before you take the car home.

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.

Read: What’s a VIN & Why Does My Car Have One?

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.

If you’re trading in a car:

There’s a chance the auto insurance coverage on the car you’re trading in may transfer to the new vehicle for a set amount of time. Auto insurance policies generally include a grace period that may last one week up to 30 days, at which point you must add your new vehicle to your existing auto insurance policy or face penalties. So, if you had liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage on your old car, those coverages would likely apply to your new vehicle during the grace period.

Just remember to check with your current insurance provider to see if they’ll extend temporary coverage to your new ride before you drive it off the lot. If they do, great! Find out how long you have to add the car to your policy and what limitations apply. If not, then you’ll need to add the vehicle to your policy before you can take it home.

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 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, contact your 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. If you’re taking out a car loan, your lender probably requires these coverages, which are designed to protect you if your vehicle is stolen or damaged in an accident you cause. Without them, you’d be on your own.

Can you drive a car without insurance if you just bought it?

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 in all but one state! (New Hampshire requires “proof of financial responsibility”.) 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. Still, it doesn’t mean you’re totally out of luck. Insurance companies like Direct Auto offer 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), click, or visit a Direct Auto location near you.