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You're required to pay a premium, often monthly, to keep a car insurance policy. If you miss a premium payment, you could face a lapse in car insurance coverage. Not only will you be uninsured, but you'll likely pay a higher rate when purchasing a new policy.

Fortunately, most car insurance policies have what's called a grace period. This gives you extra time to pay your premium if you miss the due date.

Understanding your car insurance grace period is important because it can help you avoid a lapse in coverage. Here's everything you need to know to avoid a lapse in your car insurance.

KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • You can prevent a lapse in your car insurance policy because of missed payments if you pay during the grace period offered by most insurance companies. 
  • Depending on your car insurance company, your grace period can vary from 24 hours to 30 days. 
  • If your car insurance lapses, you have to either purchase a new policy or try to reinstate the cancelled policy. 
  • You may be able to reinstate a cancelled car insurance policy by filing a no-loss statement and paying a reinstatement fee. 

What is a car insurance lapse grace period?

A car insurance grace period is a specific amount of time after the premium is due when a policyholder can make a payment without coverage lapsing, says Nick Shrader, an insurance agent for Texas General Insurance.

So, what is an insurance lapse? A lapse in coverage occurs when your car insurance policy gets canceled for non-payment. If you miss a payment, your car insurance provider has the right to cancel your policy, leaving you uninsured and unable to drive legally in nearly every state.

The car insurance lapse grace period allows policyholders to catch up on a missed payment without their policy getting canceled. Almost every car insurance policy has a grace period, whether you have minimum coverage or full coverage policy.

What are the consequences of a car insurance lapse?

If you fail to pay for your car insurance within the grace period, your insurance lapses. You may be able to reinstate your car insurance policy with your current insurer or get a new policy with a different insurance company. If you fail to get car insurance after your old policy has lapsed, there can be consequences. A few of them include:

  • Legal consequences: You are required to have car insurance to drive legally in most states. If you are caught driving without car insurance, you will have to pay stiff fines.
  • Financial consequences: If you get into an accident while uninsured, all medical expenses and repairs will become out-of-pocket expenses.
  • Increased insurance rates: After a lapse, insurance companies see you as a high-risk driver, and your car insurance rates will increase.
  • Impact on your driving record: If you drive without car insurance the DMV can take action, including seizing your car or suspending your license.

Does car insurance have a grace period for late payments?

Yes, your car insurance policy likely includes a grace period for payments past the due date. The grace period can help you avoid a car insurance lapse. However, every car insurance policy is structured differently, so not all grace periods are the same.

While the grace period can give you some peace of mind if there’s a missed or late payment, you shouldn't rely on it. If you're consistently falling behind on payments, your insurer might start penalizing you or cancel your policy.

How long is the grace period for car insurance?

Ideally, the grace period for car insurance varies from seven to 30 days. This can differ from company to company. It is best to find out what the grace period is with your insurance provider when you buy the policy to avoid any confusion in the future.

How does a car insurance grace period work?

The car insurance grace period gives you additional time to make up your missed payment without your policy getting canceled. During this period, your policy remains active and you have continuous insurance coverage. Your policy won't lapse as long as you make the payment in full before the grace period ends.

If you miss an insurance payment, your insurance company will likely notify you via phone, email, or mail (or a combination of these). The communication from your insurance company will also explain how much time you have to catch up before your coverage will lapse.

Paying during the grace period is no different from regular payment. Depending on your preference and your carrier, you can make the payment online, over the phone, or via mail. Some insurance companies charge a late fee but may waive the penalty if you've missed only one payment.

However, there's one important thing to know about car insurance grace periods: If you make a payment during the grace period, it won't change your payment schedule.

For example, if you make a payment two weeks after your due date, you still have to make the next month's payment on or before the regular due date. That means you could be making two payments in a single month.

When do insurance companies consider a car insurance payment late?

Technically, a car insurance payment is late once the due date has passed. But the grace period gives you extra time to pay without penalty if you fall behind.

The grace period for auto insurance payments is different for every policyholder.

"Depending on the insurance policy, the grace period can be as little as 24 hours or as long as 30 days," says Shrader.

Check your car insurance policy if you're wondering how late you can be on a car payment. Typically, the grace period is listed in the insurance binder. An agent can also tell you how long you have to make a payment after the due date before the policy will lapse.

What happens if you don’t pay for car insurance?

Your car insurance policy can lapse if you fail to pay before the grace period ends. But you might be wondering, what happens if I don't pay my car insurance?

"Your insurance company will notify you that your policy will be canceled if you don't make a payment," says Shrader. "They might give you some extra time depending on your payment history and how much they value you as a customer."

If your car insurance policy is canceled, you will receive official notice from your insurance carrier. To continue driving, you will need to purchase a new policy, either from your current insurance provider or a different company.

Keep in mind that having a lapse in coverage on your record will likely cause higher car insurance rates. Depending on your driving record, age, credit score, and other factors, you may have to purchase car insurance from a company that sells non-standard coverage to high-risk drivers.

"Depending on which state you are in, losing your insurance policy will also result in losing your vehicle registration,” Shrader says.

As a result, you should look into your state's laws to determine if you also have to re-register your vehicle after an insurance lapse.

How long is the reinstatement period before the policy lapse?

Insurance companies do not cancel the policy immediately after a missed payment. They offer a grace period before your policy lapses, but how long that is varies by company. Payments to be made during this period will include the owed premiums and possibly some interest on them.

How to reinstate canceled auto insurance

If you have a lapse in insurance due to non-payment, you might be able to reinstate your policy without purchasing another one.

"Contact your insurance company as quickly as possible after the due date to explain the circumstances and make your payment," says Shrader. "You may be required to file a no-loss statement and pay a reinstatement fee, but your policy will continue with no lapse."

Frequently Asked Questions

How long do you have after the due date to pay for car insurance?

You can usually make a late insurance payment during the grace period without risking a lapse in coverage. However, the grace period is different for every car insurance policy. Many grace periods are 30 days, but they can also be as short as just one day. You can find your car insurance grace period details in your policy documents or by asking an agent.

What happens if I get into an accident during my grace period?

If you get into an accident during the grace period, you will continue to have coverage for the stated time frame after your due date, says Shrader.

"If you don't make your payment during the grace period, that is when your insurance policy will lapse, and your provider will cancel your coverage,” says Shrader.

Accidents that occur during the grace period are covered, but after the grace period ends, you're financially responsible for any accidents you cause.

What do you do if you can't afford a car insurance payment?

If your insurance has lapsed because you can’t afford your premiums, there are a few things you can do. First, shop around and get quotes from several insurance carriers. You may find that another provider offers a lower rate.

You can adjust your coverage limits or drop full coverage for a minimum coverage policy to get a cheaper car insurance premium. Other ways to get a lower premium are to improve your credit score, raise your deductible and look for discounts.

However, some states offer a low-cost auto insurance program if you’re still struggling to get an affordable premium. To get coverage, you might need to meet income requirements and shop around for private car insurance once per year.

Does your license get suspended if your insurance gets canceled?

Your driver's license won't get suspended if your car insurance policy is canceled. However, if you don't have an active car insurance policy, you can't legally drive in nearly all states.

Also, if you get caught driving without car insurance, it's possible that your driving privileges could be restricted or revoked, depending on your driving record.

How long does an insurance lapse stay on your record?

An insurance lapse will eventually come off your record, but it usually takes a few years. During this time, you could face higher insurance premiums.

In the meantime, you can get a lower rate by adjusting your coverage limits, taking advantage of discounts, raising your deductible, improving your credit score, and avoiding traffic violations and accidents.

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