Canceling Car Insurance (Everything You Need to Know)

You can cancel your auto insurance policy at any time but make sure to arrange for a new policy before canceling your old one. Any lapse in coverage can increase your car insurance rates by an average of 12%.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: May 12, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Most companies don’t charge any cancelation fees, but there are some that do
  • You can cancel coverage at any time
  • Calling your insurance agent is the easiest way to get started canceling your coverage

If you’ve made up your mind to cancel your car insurance but you’re not sure where to start, we’ll walk you through the process.

Maybe you have just been considering canceling your car insurance coverage. Is that a good step to take? A wise step? Is it easy to cancel auto insurance? What’s the worst that could happen? Well, we’ll give you some things to consider when making your decision.

We’ll start off by listing some reasons why you might consider canceling car insurance coverage. If you’ll need continued coverage but aren’t sure if you should cancel your current policy, at the very least you should compare car insurance quotes. You can do that right here!

You might find that you’re better off staying with the company you have now, or you might be far better off canceling coverage with your current insurer and switching.

Or, you might be willing to cancel your insurance after an accident.

Let’s get started:

Reasons to Cancel Car Insurance

Your reason for canceling coverage is the biggest factor in determining if it’s a good idea. Just remember this key point: If you’re planning to be driving, you need insurance.

But if you are planning to cancel your policy, take in mind the following cases when you can cancel your auto insurance.

You Sold the Car

Yes, you definitely want to cancel coverage on a vehicle that you have sold! This is a great reason to cancel coverage. You certainly should not keep paying for coverage on a car you don’t own.

Remember that your vehicle plates belong to you and should not stay with the vehicle when you sell it. If you don’t take your plates and the new owner gets into an accident, there could be some insurance confusion.

Keep in mind that if you have bought or will buy a vehicle to replace the one you sold, you’ll have to have coverage for that.

You’ll have to contact your insurer, but it’s a fairly simple and straightforward process to remove the coverage from your sold car and add coverage to your recently purchased car. In that case, you won’t be canceling coverage.

If you sell your car and have no plans of purchasing another, then you will want to outright cancel your coverage.

Keep reading for tips on what to do about insurance if you’re not going to be needing a car for a while.

You Aren’t Going to Be Driving for an Extended Period of Time

Maybe you’ve decided to put your car in storage for the winter or you’re going on an extended trip. Perhaps you’ve decided pedal power and public transportation will be your new means of travel.

Whatever your reason, there are points to consider to help you decide if canceling coverage is the route you should take.

Vehicle in Storage

If you’re going to have your vehicle in storage for an extended period, it’s wise to consider the pros and cons of canceling coverage. The most obvious pro is the monthly payment to insurance savings. The cons include:

  • Having no recourse if damage happens to your vehicle while it’s stored
  • Having a lapse in coverage on your record
  • It may be illegal

In some states, like Kentucky, you’re required to keep minimum coverage limits on any vehicle you own regardless of whether you’re driving it or not unless you surrender your license plates to the County Clerk’s office.

If your vehicle is financed, your lender will likely require you to maintain full coverage regardless of your vehicle storage status.

There are ways to maintain coverage while lowering rates for a vehicle in storage

  • If your state requires liability coverage, make sure the limits you carry on the stored vehicle are the minimum required.
  • If your state allows you to drop coverage from a vehicle not being driven, consider dropping liability coverage while maintaining comprehensive coverage. That way if something happens to your car in storage, the damage will be covered.
  • Remove any unnecessary coverage options. If you have rental coverage, remove it. If you pay extra for roadside assistance, take that off your policy.
  • Raise your deductible for comprehensive coverage if you believe your risk for damage to be low.
  • Suspend coverage if your insurer and state allow.

You’re Taking an Extended Trip

If you’re going to be out of the area or even out of the country and you know you won’t be driving your vehicle, it doesn’t make sense to keep paying for insurance on it.

Keep in mind the tips for a car in storage listed above because many of them apply to this situation as well. Your state may require a vehicle you own to be covered. Your lender may require coverage even if the vehicle is not being driven.

Call your insurance company and see if they can help you get your premium down as low as possible while still maintaining any coverage types you want (like comprehensive) or need (like liability where required).

You’re Going to Be Without a Vehicle for a While

Maybe you decided to try out public transportation and ridesharing services to see how that lifestyle treats you. If you’re not ready to make a lifelong commitment to that sort of transportation and may consider buying a vehicle a few months down the road, you might consider a non-owners policy.

That will cover you if you borrow your friend’s car and if you rent a vehicle. A non-owner policy will prevent a coverage lapse which would probably hurt your rate if you do start driving again.

If you’ve committed to not driving for several years, the cons of the increased premiums after a coverage lapse will be outweighed by the pros of not paying monthly premiums while you’re not driving.

You Found Better Coverage Elsewhere

This is the most common scenario for wanting to cancel coverage. You found cheaper auto insurance coverage, and you want to switch carriers.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) provides a convenient checklist to compare quotes. Put your current insurance information under “Company 1” and then compare other quotes. This comparison sheet will help you make sure you’re comparing identical coverage.

Before you cancel with your current provider, consider the following tips:

  • Before you cancel, it’s a good idea to give your current insurance provider a call to see if there are discounts that could be applied to get your rate down to where it would be if you switched.
  • Before you cancel, make sure the company that looks better is legitimate.

If everything checks out, proceed to purchase the new insurance coverage and cancel your old policy. Just make sure the dates line up so you don’t have a coverage lapse. Also, check out our checklist to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.

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You Moved Out of State

If you have a move coming up, you’re going to have to actually MOVE before you can transfer insurance to your new state of residence. Once you’ve moved, you’ll have a set amount of time (varies by state) to register your vehicle in that state.

Additionally, while some companies can transfer policy between states, most require a complete cancellation and rewrite due to coverages varying between states. You’ll want to check with your agent to see what is needed.

You’ll have to show proof of insurance to register so you’ll need to figure out your insurance coverage before you register your vehicle.

Not all insurance companies are licensed to conduct business in all states but if your current insurance provider also offers coverage in your new state, the transition should be easier. Prepare for some changes, though:

  • Your level of coverage will likely change as different states require different levels and types of coverage.
  • Your premiums will likely change.
Annual Auto Insurance Rates by State
StateLiabilityFull CoverageStateLiabilityFull Coverage
Arkansas$394.13$906.34New Hampshire$400.56$818.75
California$489.66$986.75New Jersey$869.57$1,382.79
Colorado$520.04$981.64New Mexico$488.03$937.59
Connecticut$650.94$1,151.07New York$804.51$1,360.66
Delaware$799.30$1,240.57North Carolina$359.42$789.09
District of Columbia$628.82$1,330.73North Dakota$298.18$773.30
Illinois$446.72$884.56Rhode Island$759.80$1,303.50
Indiana$382.68$755.03South Carolina$527.09$973.10
Iowa$299.18$702.46South Dakota$300.22$766.91
Michigan$795.32$1,364.00West Virginia$491.83$1,025.78
Get Your Rates Quote Now

If your current provider isn’t licensed in your new state, you’ll have to change insurers. Compare quotes for the ZIP code where you will be living. Choose three or four providers that look best to you and check their financial stability and customer satisfaction ratings.

When you pick your new insurer, set a start date, then cancel your previous insurance with an end date on the same day as the start date with the new company. This step will ensure you have continuous coverage.

Seems easy enough but you’re going to want to keep reading so you don’t find yourself with problems!

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Potential Problems

Unfortunately, there’s always the potential for problems no matter what you do! But don’t get worked up about it! We’ll help you prepare for what could happen so that your cancelation process is smooth and pain-free.

When you’re canceling coverage and switching to a new provider, the first thing you’ll want to avoid is a lapse in coverage. We’ll tell you why, next.

Lapse in Coverage

A lapse in car insurance coverage is any period of time — even just one day — that you’re not covered by car insurance.

To avoid a lapse, you want to make sure your new insurance is set to be in force on the same day that your previous coverage is set to be canceled.

You may think that gives you overlap of a day, but it doesn’t. As you can see in the chart above, your old insurance will end at 12:01 a.m. on the stop date while your new insurance will start at 12:01 a.m. on the start date. There will be no overlap, but there will be continuous coverage.

What’s so bad about a lapse, anyway?

Well, it goes on your record and you will likely be charged higher premiums when you start new coverage because of that lapse.

If you know you won’t need insurance for a year or longer, the higher premiums after a lapse will be worth not paying anything for that year or longer. If it’s a month that you won’t be driving, you are better off continuing coverage.

Check out if you can get auto insurance if your policy was canceled.

Cancelation Fees

You can cancel your car insurance coverage at any time. Even though you may have a six-month or 12-month policy, you’re not bound to keep it until renewal time.

If your company charges a percentage of unused premiums, you’ll want to consider that wasted cost and decide if you’re better off waiting until renewal to cancel coverage.

There are hundreds of car insurance companies and there is a wide variety of cancelation processes. We’ll show you the cancellation fees of some auto insurance companies in the U.S.

CompanyCancellation Fee
American FamilyNone
Liberty MutualNone
Mercury10 percent of unused premium
National General (previously GMAC)Varies by state – $0–$50
State FarmNone
The General10 percent of unused premium
The HartfordNone
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The companies represented above make up the majority of the market share in the U.S., but if your company is not listed, you can call your agent to find out what kind of fees you’d be looking at if you decided to cancel before your policy is up for renewal.

You’ll be safe from fees if you cancel at renewal time; there won’t be any fees no matter what company you use.

Double Paying

If you think the easiest way to cancel your insurance is to just stop paying, think again.

A lot of companies (most in fact) have a grace period where you are covered if you’ve forgotten to pay or don’t have the money when the payment is due. You might be responsible to pay for coverage during that grace period.

For example, your next payment is due in February to cover March’s coverage. You proceed to secure new coverage that begins on March 1, and you don’t pay your previous insurer, but your old company has a 20 day grace period, so they cover you up until March 20.

So now, you’re paying your new company starting in March, and you’re responsible for paying your old company for the first 20 days in March. Don’t get yourself into that situation.

To get to the point, stopping payment with no communication is not the route to take when switching companies.

Learn also How to Switch Car Insurance Companies.

Also, this may be stating the obvious, but it needs to be said: If you have set up automatic payments, they’re going to keep paying automatically unless you stop them.

Looking Bad

As previously mentioned, by not contacting your insurance company about your plan to cancel coverage, you might end up double paying and as if that’s not bad enough, you’re going to look bad!

No one wants to look bad! But that’s exactly how you’ll look if you decide to cancel your coverage by simply stopping payments. Communication! Communication is key.

Talk to your insurance provider. Tell them that you’re canceling and when you want it to be final.

  • Your unpaid balance could be sent to collections which would hurt your credit score
  • You never know, in a couple of years you may want to return to that agency, so keeping a good relationship is important

Now, the main point, how do you cancel? Read on…

Canceling Coverage

We will give you a list of all the possible ways you can cancel insurance, but let’s make this simple. Call your agent! There are other valid options, but we’ll start with this one because, in most cases, it’s the easiest and best.

You may be asked for your name, and address, and possibly your social security number, but those are things you probably don’t need to prepare. The following information you’ll need to dig up and be prepared no matter which route you choose.

  • Current policy number
  • New policy number
  • If you’re canceling outright and not switching companies, be prepared to show proof that you won’t be driving
    • Bill of sale
    • Proof of relinquishment of plates

Be prepared to have to sign a form with the requested cancellation date listed and mail or fax it to your current insurer. Your agent will tell you exactly what to do.

If your car is leased or financed, the lienholder will almost always require that you carry full coverage. Since your lienholder’s name will be on your insurance policy, your new insurer will probably inform them of your coverage, but confirm to be sure.

What you don’t want is for your lienholder to think you are uninsured and secure an expensive force-placed policy.

Companies don’t want you to cancel your insurance coverage, so searching your company’s website isn’t usually the most productive way to find out their cancellation policy. You’ll usually be directed to call an agent while the page will list ways you can save by staying with them.

State Farm is the largest car insurance company in the U.S. by market share and they provide a perfect example of a website directing you to call an agent to cancel while listing reasons to stay.

If you want to know how to cancel, start with this:

Call Your Agent

Pick up your phone. Google search your agency number (unless you already have it saved in your contacts, then find it there) and call it. Tell them you’d like to cancel your coverage.

Ask what their cancellation policy is and tell them when you’d like to stop coverage. Remember, you want to stop it on the same day you start your new coverage.

Calling on the phone would be the quickest and most direct way, and by having a conversation, you may find out that there are discounts that could be applied to your coverage that may lower your premium enough for you to stay with that company.

Here’s the contact information for most of the largest insurance companies.

CompanyTelephone NumberWebsite
Property & Casualty Insurance Co. of
State FarmAgents
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Visit Your Agency in Person

Going in person is a valid option. It’s just about as simple as picking up the phone. Sometimes it’s clearer to talk to someone in person, so if you’re feeling confused, this may be the best option for you.

And like with a phone conversation, if you talk to your agent, he or she may be able to find more discounts or ways you can save.

Send an Email

If the dread of having a vocal conversation plagues you, as it does many in our texting world, you can send an email to your agent. The process here will be similar to a phone call, except there will be a little more time between questions and answers.

Send a Cancelation Form Letter

There are many cancellation form letters available online. You can simply print one out, fill it in and mail or fax it to your insurer. The problem with this method is that you won’t find out if you are eligible for discounts from your old insurer.

Let Your New Insurance Company Take Care of It

You can fill out a cancellation form, sign it, and ask your new agency to fax it to your old agency. This option will probably work if you’re dealing with a brick and mortar agency. It won’t be feasible if you’re working with an online-only car insurance company.

Root car insurance (an app-based insurance company) among others, advertises that they’ll cancel your old policy for you when you switch to them. Now THAT makes things easy!

We sum up everything next! Make sure you don’t miss a point when you’re canceling car insurance. And before you cancel, be sure you’ve compared rates from all providers using our handy comparison tool!

Cancellation Checklist

Right here, right now, you’ll find a simple checklist of the most important things to do when canceling insurance:

  • Get your new insurance in place (if continuing to drive is the plan)
  • Collect the information you’ll need to cancel
    • policy number
    • new insurance information including the start date (if you’re switching providers)
    • proof you won’t be driving (if that’s the case)
  • Contact your current insurance agency and tell them you’re planning to cancel coverage on the date you start coverage with your new company
  • Ask your new insurer if they will contact your lienholder (if your car is financed or leased), if they won’t, you’ll need to
  • Confirm that your policy is canceled on the date expected

Check also can you cancel car insurance if you pay monthly.

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What happens if I cancel my auto insurance policy?

If you’re gearing up to sell your car privately, there are a lot of things to consider. You’ll need to research the market value of your car, choose a channel where you’d like to advertise it, and arrange test drives after you’ve sifted through genuinely interested buyers.

  • You’re only required to keep your insurance until you have transferred ownership
  • Keep coverage for test drives even if you don’t drive the car yourself
  • You must request cancellation with your insurance cancellation and give the date of sale

Auto insurance is an expense you must pay when you own a car and operate it regularly. Even though it’s a product no one wants to use, it’s a product that’s legally required in most states.

Unfortunately, canceling your policy too soon can lead to some serious trouble with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Here’s your guide on insuring a vehicle you’re selling so that you can get answers to all of your pertinent questions.

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When is the right time to cancel your auto insurance?

When you’re selling a vehicle that’s registered in your name, don’t jump the gun when it comes to insurance cancellations.

As long as you’re still the legal owner of the car and the name on car registration and insurance match you have a legal obligation to keep a minimum amount of liability insurance on the car.

This minimum amount of coverage is dictated by what is required by law in the state.

For those who don’t know when to cancel their coverage, the safest bet is to wait until you negotiate a deal, and the buyer hands over the cash.

After you have your payment receipt, you can sign the bill of sale. Once a valid bill of sale is signed, ownership is transferred and it’s not your legal responsibility to insure the car.

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What should you do following a sale to protect yourself?

Just be sure that you don’t get stuck being liable for an accident after the sale, be sure to fill out a release of liability so that you can change vehicle ownership immediately.

This can ensure that you’re not ticketed for parking violations or for failure to carry insurance because the buyer decided to take their time with transferring the plates.

It only takes minutes to fill out the release form with the information that’s found on your bill of sale.

This will be time well spent when you avoid being fined or held personally accountable for accidents after the sale.

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How to Write Up a Bill of Sale

It can be frustrating if you draft up an incomplete bill of sale that doesn’t have the information you need to complete a release form. One way to be sure you get everything that you need is to have a template ready for every appointment.

You can print out the document and just pen in everything you need. Just be sure to have two forms or to take copies if possible.

This protects the buyer and seller. Here’s what you’ll need to include on your bill of sale document:

  • The VIN and license plate number
  • Description of the vehicle being sold
  • Seller’s name, address and license number
  • Buyer’s name, address and license number
  • Sales conditions (as is, with a warranty, repairs to be made)
  • Sales price and method of payment
  • Date of sale and date buyer took ownership

What could happen if you cancel your coverage too soon?

Even if you don’t have any intentions of breaking the law, choosing to cancel your coverage while the car is registered in your name and you’re the liable party for the car can lead to some serious penalties.

That money that you save on premiums will go to fines and penalties for failing to carry continuous coverage.

Cancelling your policy too soon, even if you’re not driving the car, is a decision that’ll be treated just like you’ve decided to drive your car uninsured.

This means that you could have your plates or your license suspended and you could be assessed fines before the tags are reinstated.

Even worse, if the car is parked on the curb or in a public lot, it could be towed and impounded. That can create a major headache when all you want to do is sell your car.

Why do you need coverage during test drives?

Aside from it being the legal thing to do to keep your insurance, it’s also the smart thing to do. Buyers just naturally want to test drive a car to see how it feels.

If you hand over the keys to a vehicle that’s uninsured, you’re putting that driver and your own personal assets at risk.

Your coverage is designed to cover more than just you as a driver.

If you give prospective buyer permission to drive, your finances are protected if that driver crashes.

This is called permissive use and your liability and physical damage coverage will kick in.

If you choose not to keep your insurance, you don’t have anything to lean on if you hand your keys over to a bad driver unknowingly.

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Request a Cancelation

Your insurer doesn’t get notified when your car is sold. This is why you need to cancel your coverage either over the phone or in writing.

Be sure to give the date of sale and provide proof with your bill of sale so that you can get a refund for premiums you’ve already paid.

If you’ve already canceled your coverage and you are buying a new car, it’s time to start looking for a new policy.

To get the best rates, be sure to shop around. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use an online comparison tool that will give you instant quotes for price shopping.

Start comparing auto insurance rates now by entering your zip code in our FREE tool below!

How to Cancel Your Auto Insurance Policy

  • Typically, you can cancel your auto insurance policy at any time
  • If you cancel your policy early, you may have to pay a cancellation fee
  • You may be eligible for a refund if you have pre-paid for your policy

There are several reasons why you may want to cancel your auto insurance.

  • Maybe you found a better rate with another company.
  • After a few years, you finally paid off your car and are no longer required to carry insurance on it.
  • Perhaps you’ve decided to be more environmentally responsible.

Whatever your reason, there is a process to canceling your insurance that will ensure it’s done quickly, smoothly, and you won’t get charged for something you’re not using anymore.

Any standard auto insurance policy contains a provision allowing you to cancel at any time.

Before you cancel in the middle of a policy period, ask your auto insurance company about their cancellation policy.

Different companies may charge you a fee to cancel early. If they do, find out when you can safely cancel your policy without coverage lapsing, and without paying the fee.

Once you understand how to cancel car insurance coverage, enter your zip code to compare online auto insurance quotes and get the new policy you need!

Have a Replacement Policy in Place

If you’re switching to another insurance company to get cheaper auto insurance—or better service—it’s important to avoid a gap in coverage.

Any period of time during which you were supposed to have auto insurance and didn’t can result in higher rates.

Talk to your new insurance company, and ask them for the effective date of your new coverage. You’ll need this date when you cancel your old policy.

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Call Your Current Carrier

Speak to an agent and notify them of your intent to cancel, and that you will be following up with a letter.

They may ask why you’re canceling, and they will almost certainly try to get you to change your mind. Be prepared for this possibility before you call.

Draft an Insurance Cancelation Letter

Your current insurance company should be informed of your intent in writing with an auto insurance cancellation letter.

Companies have different cancellation policies, and for some, a phone call isn’t enough to cancel an insurance policy.

Some companies may require you to fill out a form they provide, but in most cases, writing an insurance cancellation letter will suffice.

Even if the company says you can cancel over the phone, it’s a good idea to have it in writing in case there are any billing errors later on.

The letter doesn’t need to be complicated or long. It simply needs to state that you wish to cancel your policy and the effective date of your new coverage.

Be sure to include your policy number along with your contact information, and sign the letter.

If you are canceling car insurance coverage altogether, and not switching to a different company, it’s still a good idea to do it in writing.

Providing your insurance company with a cancellation letter will help ensure they no longer bill you.

Get Your Money Back

Many people pay their insurance premiums on a monthly basis, but paying in full is an option. If you paid for the entire policy period in advance, and you cancel before the policy period ends, you are due for a refund.

Ask the customer service representative about this when you call to cancel and mention it in your insurance cancellation letter.

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Notify Your Lienholder

If you’re still making payments on your car, you are most likely required to maintain full coverage on your vehicle until it’s either paid off, or you sell it.

Once the car is paid for, you may need to ask for an auto insurance cancellation form.

The bank may also have certain requirements about the amount of your deductible.

Keep the bank informed when canceling insurance, and make sure the new coverage meets the lienholder’s requirements.

Notify the DMV

Some states require that you inform the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) when canceling your auto insurance.

Check your state’s DMV guidelines, or ask your agent when setting up your new policy, and they should be able to help you.

Now that you know how to cancel auto insurance from any company, make sure you don’t leave a gap in your coverage.

Get free online auto insurance quotes by typing your zip code into the rate box now!


You may have more questions. We’ll answer some of them next.

Will canceling affect credit?

Simply canceling will not affect credit. Just neglecting to pay might if you were covered by a grace period which you didn’t pay for and then it’s sent to collections. That is very unlikely as you will be contacted by the insurance company and given ample opportunity to pay before collections enter the scene.

Will I get a refund when I cancel coverage?

You might. If your premiums have been paid for coverage that extends past the cancellation date, you’ll get a prorated refund for the days you are no longer covered minus any cancellation fees (if there are any).

Should I cancel coverage for my child at college?

Probably not but if your child is over 100 miles away and not driving, you may be able to qualify for a discount.

Can I cancel my policy online?

Usually not. Insurance websites often direct the customer to call an agent.

Can I cancel car insurance mid-policy?

If you’re tired of paying high rates through your current carrier and you want to make a switch, be sure to time everything right.

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