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. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: May 2, 2020

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Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident auto insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one auto insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

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Things to remember...

  • An insurance company will require at least a down payment before allowing a policy to go into effect
  • The buyer usually can set the effective date of the policy
  • Extra steps should be taken to ensure there is no gap in coverage between an old and new policy
  • Understanding when your coverage comes into effect is all part of managing a car insurance policy

How fast does car insurance kick in? As soon as you submit payment for your policy you can typically have coverage. Sometimes car insurance can take some time to process, but typically you car insurance will be effective immediately.

If you are wondering how long you can go without insurance, then you are asking the wrong question. Driving without car insurance is something very few responsible people do. Even in states where car insurance is not mandatory, people buy car insurance to protect themselves financially against a variety of losses.

Civil or criminal penalties for a lack of insurance are further reasons why many choose to review auto insurance quotes and make a purchase.

Upon selecting a specific policy, the client wants to feel at ease about driving. He or she does not want to worry about being financially devastated due to causing an accident.

As long as the auto insurance policy has been properly executed, the policy is active.

Claims can be filed for the following, depending on an individual’s coverage level:

  • Auto liability
  • Personal injury protection
  • Uninsured motorist

Consumers need to take note of a highly important point. Until the policy is active, the policy will not cover any accidents or injuries.

Compare car insurance quotes by entering your ZIP code into our free rate tool above.

Payment First, Then Policy is Effective

Insurance companies are not likely to execute a contract without first receiving payment. The full payment of the policy may or may not be required depending on the provider’s rules. Generally, a down payment is all that is necessary in order to execute the policy.

A down payment on an auto insurance policy is no different than a down payment on an auto loan. If the full price of the auto insurance policy is $1,500, a downpayment of $300 may be required. The remaining $1,200 could be paid the following ways:

  • Monthly
  • Bi-monthly
  • Bi-annually

Once the initial payment is made, the policy should go into effect on a specified date. Buyers should confirm with their provider that the policy is active.

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Determining the Policy Effective Date

The determination of when the auto insurance policy goes into effect is actually up to the person who buys coverage. The buyer can ask for the policy to go into effect as soon as possible or could delay the effective date.

Likely, the earliest time the policy can go into effect would be 12:01 AM the day after the down payment has been made.

Comparison shopping makes it easy for an individual to switch to a new or better policy, but the buyer still has a few additional responsibilities.

If the old policy’s term ends on March 22 and the new policy is purchased on March 19, a request could be made to hold off on activating the new policy until the previous policy reaches expiration.

Another option is to execute the new policy right away and cancel the old policy. A credit would be issued for the remaining days on the canceled policy.

You can always contact the insurance company to be replaced to determine whether you will receive a refund.

Taking Smart Steps

When canceling out an old policy and replacing it with a new one, calling the new insurance provider and ensuring the new policy is absolutely going to be in place at the date given is advisable.

Taking these extra steps allows drivers to avoid any errors that could lead to a gap in coverage.

A lapse in coverage means no insurance is in place to cover losses in the event of an accident. A simple phone call could reduce or eliminate the chances of a lapse ever taking place.

Additionally, no matter when a policy goes into effect, it won’t stay in effect if it is canceled due to non-payment. People sometimes make mistakes and fail to make payments. Insurance carriers know this and might send out a reminder.

A letter from the insurance company, hopefully, will go out requesting payment by a certain time or else a policy ends up canceled. Don’t rely solely on a reminder, though. Always be sure to pay premiums on time.

If the policy is canceled, reinstating the original policy or procuring a new one should become an immediate priority.

Get the coverage needed for the best price by comparing auto insurance quotes side-by-side today!

How Long Does it Take for Insurance to Kick In?

There are literally hundreds of insurance companies that sell personal car insurance around the nation, and almost every single one of them offers some form of instant or near instant car insurance. Your insurance coverage can kick in as soon as you submit payment.

While each one of these companies sells a similar type of financial product with similar terms and conditions, every company has its differences.

As a consumer, you should buy competitively priced insurance from a reputable carrier. To find the best insurance policy from the best insurance carrier, you’ll need to research companies and compare rates.

Now, with a majority of major carriers offering consumers convenient online tools, pricing, and purchasing insurance can be done in minutes.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

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How long will it take to get an auto insurance quote?

It’s difficult to pinpoint just how long it’ll take to get coverage because every company has it’s own application.

Some insurance carriers ask you more detailed questions to assess risk and underwrite the application than others.

Providing the most accurate underwriting information to the company will give the insurer the clearest picture to rate your policy.

Since there’s not just one standard system used industry-wide, there’s no way to say exactly how long getting insurance will take.

How long does the average online quote take direct through the carrier?

While some systems take upwards of 15 minutes to navigate through, others have been known to take five minutes to complete.

Some portals can automatically pull vehicle information up with your name and VIN.

Individuals who retrieved online quotes have claimed to have spent an average of about eight minutes per application getting quotes.

Since you’re advised to retrieve at least a dozen quotes for a fair price comparison, shopping for insurance online can still be tedious when you’re shopping direct through the insurer online.

Fortunately, there are ways to avoid visiting several different sites and navigating through different systems to customize several personal auto quotes at once.

These brokerage-like systems only ask for personal information once and then provide this information to each insurer so that rates calculations are done behind the scenes.

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What do application questions have to do with underwriting risk?

No matter how useless some of the information that you’re asked for might seem, every piece of information that the insurer wants to know has a purpose.

Insurers ask application questions strictly to assess risk and then assign premiums.

Some insurers use their own data, and others will reference analytics from outside vendors like Moody’s Analytics to gain insight.

Insurers believe that the information provided can be used to predict behaviors and how likely you’ll be to file a claim.

Some of the information used is based on your segment or demographic, and some is based on your household, habits, and vehicle information.

Here are some of the most important factors that can affect pricing:

  • Vehicle type
  • Gender, age, years of driving experience
  • Driving record and claims record
  • Garaging zip code
  • How you use your car and how much
  • Credit rating

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Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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What information must be provided for an online quote?

How long does it take to insure your car? Every answer that you provide on an electronic application will change your risk class and could potentially change your premiums, but it can be almost instant quotes and then coverage.

Here are some of the most common application questions that you must answer to complete an auto insurance application:

  • How many years of experience does each driver have in the United States?
  • Does any driver have moving violations?
  • Do any household members have accidents on their record?
  • Are full-time student drivers eligible for Good Student Discounts?
  • Does the vehicle have anti-theft device? Passive or active?
  • Where is the vehicle primarily parked?
  • Is the vehicle financed or leased?
  • Do you have prior auto insurance?
  • Do you have any lapses in coverage?

Determining How Much Coverage You Need Before a Quote

How long does it take for car insurance to go down? One way to reduce the time it takes to get car insurance is for you to assess how much coverage you need beforehand.

Each state has its own insurance laws, but purchasing state minimum coverage doesn’t necessarily protect you.

If your car is financed, the finance company will require physical damage coverage and possibly gap insurance.

If it’s paid off, you still may want optional coverage like Medical Payments and Uninsured Motorist.

Take the time to review coverage options and state requirements.

If you already have coverage, just make sure you’re doing an apples-to-apples comparison so that you can clearly see if you’re getting the best deal with potential insurers.

By getting quotes with the same limits and options, you’ll know whichever insurer you choose really is offering the best deal.

What to Consider When You Are Comparing Auto Insurers

Price shouldn’t be the only consideration to keep in mind as you’re shopping around to get insurance.

Before you assume the cheapest policy is best, you should look into the carrier’s reputation. When choosing an insurer, you should make licensing a priority.

If you do business with a company that isn’t licensed in your state, you can’t turn to the Department of Insurance to settle issues you have with the insurer.

If you don’t want to spend 15 minutes on each quote you request, you can provide your information just once and review dozens of quotes instantly.

Before you get quotes, check into licensing and financial stability ratings so that you only do business with reliable companies.

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