Jessica Sautter is a Content Writer for CarInsuranceCompanies.com with a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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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

UPDATED: Aug 16, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car insurance policies are issued in six to 12 month period
  • Depending on the company, payment options may include full payment upfront, a down payment with monthly installments, or simply monthly installment terms
  • Your auto insurance policy can lapse if you do not pay your premium on time at any point during the policy and before the policy’s expiration date
  • Having expired auto insurance is the same thing as not having auto insurance at all
  • If you find that your policy has expired, you need to get insurance coverage as soon as possible to avoid the consequences of not having current insurance coverage

Just like many other areas in life, it is important to keep your car insurance policy current.

You must not let your car insurance expire in the first place. You should always check the validity of your policy and need to renew it before the due date .

If it is within your power, never allow your insurance policy to expire. If you are planning to switch the insurance provider, make sure you’re new coverage has started before canceling your old policy.

Allowing your policy to expire without new insurance in place will create a lapse of coverage, which will make it harder to find insurance at a competitive insurance rate after the insurance lapse and may also create situations where you are driving without coverage, leading to lasting negative consequences.

Find out if you have the cheapest rate available by checking out our FREE online auto insurance price comparison tool. Enter your zip code above to get started!

How does a car insurance policy work?

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Car insurance policies are good for six-month or 12-month periods. Depending on your auto insurance carrier and your terms, you may be required to pay for the entire policy period at one time or be allowed to make monthly installment payments.

Another option that some carriers give their customers is to make a down payment at the beginning of the policy period and then pay the remaining balancing over several months or the policy period.

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How will I know when the policy expires?

Before your auto insurance policy is set to expire, you will receive a notice from the car insurance carrier. This notice is sent out about one to two months before the expiration date via email or through the postal service.

The information contained in the notice will vary from one company to the next, but may include remaining payments on the current policy, the cost of your premium for a new policy, and when payments are due.

Most states require that the auto insurance carrier provides you with a 10-day notice prior to canceling your auto insurance for non-payment or for not paying by the expiration date.

The notice must be clear about what is required of you, by when, and their intended actions.

What to do when a car insurance policy expires?

First of all, you need to get in touch with an insurance agent. Even if you’ve missed your due date, you should still contact your agent to take care of the renewal process. They could reinstate your policy and save you from paying penalties.

Of course, you should avoid driving your car because a minor damage to your car won’t be covered by the insurance policy. You can also check if the insurance company has the option of renewing the policy online. If your insurance company has cancelled your current policy because of non-payment of premiums, you will still have to renew your expired car insurance policy.

Moreover, you should be more careful in the future and avoid making it to a point where your coverage lapses.

How to prevent a lapse in coverage

As the driver and the insured party, it is your responsibility to make sure you pay your policy on time so that it does not expire. Some drivers do this by setting up automatic payments on their account or setting up reminders in their own calendar.

Not paying on time will likely cause you to have a lapse in coverage which can cause your future premiums to increase or, even worse, for you to be personally responsible for damages in an accident or facing consequences of being pulled over without insurance coverage on your vehicle.

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How to drive without auto insurance coverage

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If your car insurance has expired, you do not have auto insurance coverage. Most states require all cars on the road to be insured.

You are likely breaking the law. It will not matter if you had auto insurance coverage last month, last week, or even yesterday.

Consequences for driving without insurance will vary by state but include:

  • Jail time
  • Impounding of your vehicle
  • Community service
  • Large fines
  • An SR-22 insurance requirement
  • Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
  • Suspension or revocation of your car registration

You can face these consequences if you are in a car accident or are pulled over without insurance. However, if you are in an accident without insurance, the stakes could be even higher.

If you were found at fault for the accident, even partially, the other parties involved could take you to civil court.

If you lose the civil court case, you will be personally responsible for the damages incurred by the other party.

If you choose not to work with them in paying what you owe, they can come after your assets or even garnish your wages.

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Are there any exceptions to a lapsed policy?

Each insurance company has their own procedures related to payments and expired policies.

If your policy expired as an oversite on your part, some lawyers recommend sending your payment in any way to see if it will still be honored by your carrier.

A best-case scenario is that they will honor it, and worst case scenario is that they will return the payment and your policy will still have lapsed.

You also may want to follow up your payment with a phone call to provide. Sometimes making the human connection could make the difference.

Can I get my policy back?

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If your policy expired and you did not mean for it to lapse, you can call and speak to your insurance carrier.

If you have been in good standing with them and can pay any remaining amounts that you owe and at least some of the new policy period, they may restart your policy.

However, due to the coverage lapse, they may raise your auto insurance rates, which is a good time to obtain quotes from different companies.

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How to get other quotes

If you decide to go the route of obtaining quotes from other auto insurance carriers, you should be prepared to have the following information on hand:

  • Vehicle make, year, and model
  • How frequently and how far you drive to work or other routine locations
  • What you use your vehicle for
  • Any claims, accidents, or tickets you have recently had
  • Any defensive driving courses you have taken
  • Details about any other drivers you need to add to the policy
  • Your vehicle’s special safety equipment

It is critical that drivers maintain a current auto insurance policy. If you find out that your policy has expired, be sure to get a new policy in place before driving your vehicle on any public roads.

If you need to find a more affordable policy premium, try using our FREE online price comparison calculator for auto insurance.

You might even find you were paying too much for your old policy. Enter your zip code below to find your savings!