Car Insurance for Used Vehicles

Are you looking to buy a used car? Learn more about what owning a used vehicle means for your auto insurance policy in this article.
Used cars sitting in dealership lot

Are you planning to buy a used car? In many cases, these are popular because they come at a bargain. Whether it’s a classic or a daily driver, you’ll want to get auto insurance to protect it.

In this article, we’ll explain the fundamentals of insuring a used car. This includes any special considerations you should make, such as which coverages to buy or how to add the vehicle to your policy.

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Do You Need Insurance to Buy a Used Car?

You need auto insurance to buy a car, new or used. Without showing proof of insurance, you won’t be able to drive it off the lot. To accomplish this, you’ll need to either have your policy start on the same day as your vehicle purchase or already have one in place.

Note: if you buy from a private seller, you may not have to show proof of coverage. But, if you don’t have coverage, it’ll be illegal to drive until you do.

If you already have a policy in force, you may be able to drive the vehicle without adding it to your policy. Insurers offer grace periods for you to add a car to your plan. For example, Progressive gives its customers a 30-day grace period.

It’s a good idea to add your new car to your policy before you even leave the dealership. Your insurance agent can help make this a seamless process. “Having an agent makes this situation more accessible. We can help you through the process. Without one, you’d need to go through an 800 number with your insurer” says Zachary Schneiderman, president of Schneiderman Insurance Agency in Granada Hills, California.

Schneiderman also says you should think about what coverages you want your newly purchased car to have. If you only have liability insurance for your previous vehicle but want collision and comprehensive coverage for the new one, you should add it ahead of time. Otherwise, you won’t have it when you drive it off the lot.

How Much Does It Cost to Insure a Used Car?

Generally, older vehicles are worth less than new cars. Because of this, collision and comprehensive insurance typically don’t cost as much for used vehicles. However, this isn’t the only factor in your rates. Your vehicle’s make and model are just as important as the value. Some are safer than others, resulting in lower rates or discounts you can qualify for.

Your rates also depend on details about you, the driver. These include things you can control, like your driving record, credit history, or where you live. But insurers also use factors out of your hands, like your age and gender.

For used cars, how much insurance you buy also plays a major role in your rates. Adding more coverage to your policy or raising your limits can result in higher costs. On the other hand, opting for a lower deductible or less coverage could save you money. But you take on more risk by doing so.

Should You Have Full Coverage for a Used Car?

Full coverage refers to having liability, collision, and comprehensive insurance on your policy. Liability is a requirement in most states, but the other two aren’t. However, if you’re financing your vehicle, your lender will most likely require collision and comprehensive.

It’s a good idea to have collision and comprehensive for any vehicle. But what about for a used one? Per Schneiderman, you should “consider the age and worth of the car,” as well as “price out the cost of collision and comprehensive coverage over the course of two years.” If the cost of the two coverages equates to buying a car of the same value, you may not want them.

Just because a lender isn’t requiring you to buy full coverage doesn’t mean you should avoid it. “Collision and comprehensive are important if you’re looking to protect your asset,” says Schneiderman. In other words, full coverage is especially useful if you want to keep your car safe from disaster.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether collision and comprehensive coverage are for you. You should consider the accident and disaster risks around you. If you aren’t comfortable with the idea of losing your car or paying out of pocket for damages, it’s better to add the two coverages.

Other Coverages You Should Consider for an Older Car

In general, buying a used car is no different than a new one. However, some coverages apply more to older vehicles. These include:

  • Roadside assistance. Older models may be more prone to breakdowns. Roadside assistance can help get you back on the road.
  • Guaranteed manufacturer/OEM parts. Depending on its age and model, you may not want cheap parts to fix your car. Specialty and high-performance models may benefit more from original manufacturer parts.

Is Gap Insurance Worth It for a Used Car?

In the event of a total loss, gap insurance pays the difference between what you owe on the car and its actual cash value (ACV). Even if you’re buying a used car, it may be worth it. Here’s when you may or may not want it:

When It’s Worth It

  • You had a small down payment
  • The car’s value is still relatively high

When It’s Not Worth It

  • You have a small amount left on your loan
  • You paid in cash (gap coverage wouldn’t make sense here)
  • The value is low (essentially a beater)

Keep in mind that your lender may still require you to have gap coverage, no matter the payment. If you do decide to buy it, you can either get it through your car dealer or an auto insurance company. Schneiderman says he’s “seen it go both ways” in terms of which provider is cheaper. To get the best deal for gap insurance, wait and see what both your dealer and insurer are charging, then go with what works for you.

What to Know About Insuring a Rebuilt Title Car

Occasionally, a used car might have a rebuilt title. A rebuilt title means it was once a total loss but has since been restored to a roadworthy condition. This is something you’ll want to know before you buy, as it can drastically affect the cost of insurance. If you’re looking to buy a vehicle on sites like Craigslist, keep an eye out for details on the vehicle’s title. When you don’t see any title info, it’s best to run for the hills, as they may be trying to hide it.

However, if you do end up with one, insuring a car with rebuilt title is usually no problem. Most insurers will, at minimum, offer liability coverage. But be aware that your rates may be higher because of the vehicle’s accident history.

Classic and Collector Cars

If you’re buying a used classic or collector car, you may not want a standard policy. Classic cars don’t go out on the road as much, so it doesn’t make sense to buy regular coverage. In this case, it’s a good idea to buy classic or collector insurance. Many of the major insurers offer this type of plan. Other specialty providers, such as Hagerty, also offer this.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of insurance should you get for a used car?

Insurance for used cars is the same as a new one. You can add as much or as little as you want (within the law, of course). Certain coverages especially make sense for older vehicles, such as:

Does insurance cost more or less on a used car?

In general, coverage costs less for used cars because they’re usually not worth as much. However, the make and model can also impact your rates. How much coverage you buy is also a huge factor.

You should also keep in mind that insurers use a wide range of other factors to determine your rates. This includes things like:

  • Age
  • Driving record
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Where you live

Do companies treat insurance differently for used cars?

No, insurance companies don’t treat older vehicles differently. You will be able to buy all of the same coverages as a brand-new model. The only effect on your auto insurance is that your rates may raise or lower, depending on the age and/or make and model.

Can I buy a used car without insurance?

You can buy one without insurance, but you won’t be able to take it home. Dealers require you to show valid proof of insurance to drive the car off the lot. You can either add the car to your policy ahead of time or after the fact if you already have coverage for other cars. It’s best to contact your insurer before you purchase the vehicle.

Be aware that, if you buy from a private seller, it’s illegal to drive the car until you fulfill your state’s minimum coverage requirements.


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