Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Sep 26, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you’re buying a used car, it’s important to compare insurance rates for several models before you go shopping. Doing this will help you determine which vehicles you can afford to buy and which vehicles you can’t
  • You can get auto insurance quotes on multiple vehicles from multiple companies by simply having the year, make, model, and trim level
  • Getting quotes on cars before you buy them is easy but you can’t actually purchase auto insurance on a car until you have its Vehicle Identification Number and you’ve signed a sales contract
  • One of the main requirements for buying insurance is that the named insured has a financial and insurable interest in the car. Since you can’t suffer any financial loss until you own the vehicle, you can’t buy insurance on the car until that time
  • If you’re buying a car from a dealership, the agent will ask you to present proof that you’re insured before you leave the lot with the car

When you buy a car, it’s important to prepare yourself for every step of the process. All too often consumers focus on the steps that they have to take before they buy a used car without ever considering what needs to be done after they’ve become a pre-owned vehicle owner.

While comparing financing rates and crash safety ratings is important to make the best deal, it’s also just as important to compare insurance rates.

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A dealer can’t reasonably expect that you’ll have insurance when you excitedly walk onto the lot if you don’t yet own a car.

While not every used car buyer has insurance, those who do have a leg up on the others because their coverage will protect them as soon as they take ownership of the car. Here’s a guide to help you time when to buy your insurance:

Do you need your own insurance to test drive a used car?


You can put your finances at risk if you’re testing out a used car and you get into an accident. During a test drive, it’s the dealer’s responsibility to carry liability coverage and insure the vehicle. This insurance is in place to protect the dealer and not necessarily drivers who are taking the vehicles for a spin.

While you don’t legally have to buy insurance, the injured party can sue you for being negligent behind the wheel.

If you don’t have your own coverage, this can create issues for you that will land you in court defending yourself. Be sure to consider this before you test drive a car without at least a non-owner’s liability policy.

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When do you insure the pre-owned vehicle that you’re buying?

Test driving a car doesn’t mean that you’re going to definitely purchase it. You can’t buy insurance on a car that you don’t know that you’re going to buy, but you also can’t buy insurance on a vehicle that you don’t yet own. Under a

Under a standard auto insurance policy contract, you’re required to have an insurable interest in each car that you’re insuring.

An insurable interest means that you would suffer a financial loss if something were to happen to the property that you’re insuring.

If a car that you’re interested in is damaged on the lot by another driver, it doesn’t affect you financially. It’s not until you’re the legal owner of the car that you can buy an insurance policy on it.

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The Importance of Getting Used Car Quotes Before You Negotiate

Purchase price is very important, but you can’t overlook how much it truly costs to own a car for the rest of the car’s useful life.

One of the biggest expenses that you take on whenever you decide to buy a car is auto insurance. Since you have to pay for insurance for as long as the car is registered, it’s important to price shop.

You should always get quotes for insurance on the models that you’re interested in before you go to the dealer to buy a car. This helps you pinpoint which cars have higher rates than others.

Since getting quotes through carriers is free, there’s no excuse not to know how much you’ll pay for insurance on a specific car before you buy it.

Do you need insurance to drive off the lot?


When you’re agreed to a sales price and you’ve handed over your payment, you’ll be asked to show that you have a minimum amount of liability insurance before you can get your keys.

This ensures that you won’t have a loss and injure someone else without any insurance. If you’re financing the vehicle, you also need to show that you have full coverage.

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Your Existing Insurance Will Cover You

If you already own a car, your insurance will cover the new car for between 14 and 30 days. Whatever coverage you have on your other car at the time of the loss will cover the new purchase. If you don’t have full coverage, you’ll get 4 days of automatic comprehensive and collision.

You may not need auto insurance on a used car before you buy it, but getting your insurance ready to process is a must. Get online quotes to compare the rates and then you can bind an affordably priced plan in the office.

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