Gap insurance lasts for the length of the loan or lease when purchased from a dealership, and it lasts for as long as it remains on the policy when purchased from a standard car insurance company. Gap insurance is usually only needed for one to two years, since it’s useless when a car is worth more than the loan/lease balance.
Gap insurance pays for the difference between a car’s loan or lease balance and its actual cash value if it is declared a total loss. Since new cars depreciate quickly, gap insurance can keep drivers from needing to make payments on a car that is no longer drivable. But depreciation slows down over time, so the gap between car value and loan/lease balance eventually disappears as the driver pays off the car.
As a result, you should keep an eye on the amount you owe and also estimate the car’s value using online tools like Kelley Blue Book. In general, it makes sense to cancel gap insurance coverage once your loan or lease balance is $1,000-$2,000 less than the car is worth.
To find out if you have gap insurance, you should check both your existing car insurance policy and the terms of your loan or lease. Drivers can get gap insurance through their insurance company as an add on or separately through their auto lender, so it’s important for drivers to check both places.… read full answer
Gap insurance, which covers the difference between your loan balance and the car’s actual value, can come from a dealership, bank, credit union, or car insurance company. It’s unlikely that you bought a stand-alone gap insurance policy without realizing it, so your first step should be to check with the obvious candidates.
How To Know If You Have Gap Insurance
1. Check with your car insurance company.
You can look through records such as your recent bills, or you can login to your account on the company’s website. If this fails, you should call to ask about your coverage.
2. Check with your auto lender.
If you didn’t buy gap insurance from your normal insurance company, you could have purchased it from the dealership, bank, or credit union that supplied you with a loan or lease. It can be easy to overlook gap insurance from one of these sources, since it’s sometimes included in your contract automatically. Again, your contract and any itemized receipts are worth checking, and you can always call, email, or visit in person to ask if you have gap insurance.
3. Check your financial documents.
If you do not have gap insurance through your dealership, lender, or car insurance company, you probably are not covered. But as a last resort, you can look through your financial records – such as your online bills, credit card statements, and checkbook – to try to find some clues.
Gap insurance is worth it if you paid a small down payment on your car, your loan term is 4-5 years, or your car will depreciate quickly. Gap insurance is never mandated by state law, and few lenders or lessors require it, so the decision to buy it depends on personal circumstances.… read full answer
You Should Buy Gap Insurance When
You don’t have the savings to pay off your loan or lease if the car is totaled or stolen.
Your down payment is less than 20% of the car’s value.
Your loan will last four years or more.
You drive more miles than average, which reduces the car’s value faster.
Your car is a make and model that depreciates especially fast, like a luxury sedan or electric vehicle.
You are a single-car household and need a car to get around.
Your loan includes negative equity from your last car.
Since gap insurance covers the difference between the car’s actual cash value and the amount you owe, researching these two numbers will be a key deciding factor in whether gap insurance is worth it.
Why Getting Gap Insurance Is Worth It
For example, say you buy a car for $20,000 and your down payment is $2,000. This small down payment suggests that gap insurance might be worth it, but it’s still a good idea to check the car’s anticipated value after a year to determine if there will be a gap. If the car is worth $12,000 after a year but you’ll still owe $15,000, gap insurance could be a smart investment. If you don’t buy gap insurance and this car is totaled after a year, you’ll still owe $3,000 even though you can no longer drive it.
On the other hand, if your down payment is large enough or the car’s resale value is high enough that you’ll never owe more than the car is worth, gap insurance is unnecessary. Similarly, if you do owe more than the car is worth but you have the resources to pay the difference if the worst happens, it might be worth taking the risk.
To get a gap insurance refund, contact the insurance provider and give them the policy number and documents showing that the car was traded in, sold, or paid off early. Gap insurance refunds are usually only possible for policies that were paid in full up front. Drivers cannot get refunds simply because they never filed a gap insurance claim.… read full answer
If you are cancelling within 30 days after the policy’s start date, you might be able to get a full refund, minus any cancellation fees. In other cases, only a partial refund may be possible. The details will depend on your policy and your state’s laws.
When You Can Get a Gap Insurance Refund
You are paying off, selling, or trading in the covered car.
You are switching to a different gap insurance company.
Your loan balance is no longer more than the car’s actual value, though it’s best to leave a cushion of $1,000-$2,000.
If you need a gap insurance refund because you’re selling or trading in the car, be sure to wait until the car no longer legally belongs to you before cancelling your gap insurance. Then, you will need to give the appropriate paperwork to your insurance provider, such as a proof of sale or auto payoff letter. Some gap insurance companies might also require an odometer verification showing the mileage on your car, which you can get from a dealership before you sell or trade in the vehicle.
Similarly, if you’re refinancing, wait to cancel your gap insurance until your previous loan is no longer in effect.
On the other hand, drivers cannot get a gap insurance refund if the insured car is declared a total loss before the policy’s expiration date. In this case, the gap insurance will pay for the difference between the car’s value and the loan balance, but drivers will not be eligible for a refund for the remaining months of coverage.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Gap Insurance Refund?
Gap insurance refunds usually take 4-6 weeks. Staying in contact with your gap insurance provider and promptly returning signed paperwork can expedite the process, though.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.