Your car insurance does not automatically terminate at the end of your policy period. Did you recently move to another state? Have you decided your insurance company is not longer good for you? Perhaps you feel you don’t need to drive anymore. In any case, you need to specifically inform your insurance company that you’re canceling your coverage—or else at the end to he policy period, you’re going to owe your insurer some money.

Most auto insurance policies say, in effect, that at anytime during the policy period by sending a written notice stating the effective date of cancellation. That sounds reasonable enough, but what happens if you decide to switch companies at the end of the policy term? Doesn’t your policy automatically terminate at the end? The answer is no.

No fine print to read. There are two important things you must know if you don’t inform your insurance company of your decision to terminate, even it it’s at the end of your policy period. First, the insurance company will send you a bill for your next premium payment. Second, when it doesn’t hear from you, the insurance company is going to formally cancel your policy because you failed to pay your premiums on time—and that’s going to go on your credit report.

For example, a Travelers auto policy from New York reads, “This policy will automatically terminate on the expiration date of any policy period—if you fail to pay [your premium].”

However, the policy doesn’t say anything about automatically owing the insurance company for further coverage or needing to formally cancel your policy.

Cancellation damages your record. If your insurance is canceled for any reason, it may hurt your insurance future. Cancellation is a red flag for insurance companies looking at prospective applicants. If an insurer sees on your claims that may be the basis for denying your coverage or charging you a steep rate as a “risky” applicant.

What to do in order to avoid the mess that comes with being canceled, here’s what you should do. Call your agent or the insurance company and inform them that you wish to cancel your coverage. Be sure to let them know the date because if you’re not specific, you may end up unwittingly driving around without insurance. Your insurer will then send you a cancellation-request form. The form will likely have all the information filled out when you get it, so you need only sign it. Take care, however, to look over the information that your agent or the company filled in, mistakes do happen.

In addition, if you switch insurers and you fail to formally cancel your previous policy, you’re going to have to prove to your former insurance company that you have new coverage. (This is often a state law.) Typically, all you need is a copy of either your current insurance identification card or a copy of the front page of your premium statement. Make sure that the document you send has your name and your current policy number on it, and send it along with the cancellation form. Of course, if you’ve moved to a state in which auto insurance is not required, you don’t have to prove you have new coverage.

You’ll likely receive confirmation by mail that your cancellation request has been processed.