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Updated June 15, 2022
Before you get behind the wheel of a car, you need to make sure you have all of the necessary paperwork in order. While we might be familiar with the phrase “License and registration,” driving without an auto insurance policy is also a legal offense in many states. Across almost the entire U.S., having car insurance is required by the law to keep you and others on the road safe.
Make sure you have all of your documents set so you can drive legally and safely. One of these pieces is having the right auto insurance coverage. Insurify can help make sure that you get the best deal on a quality policy. Use our car insurance comparison tools to check out quotes side by side. That way, you get rates you can afford that fulfill your state’s insurance requirements.
The only state that doesn’t require proof of coverage is New Hampshire. All other 49 do.
Each state has its own minimum car insurance requirements, so check with your DMV.
At the very least, most states will require liability coverage in your auto insurance policy.
Proof of Auto Insurance: The Basics
What can be used as proof of insurance?
Proof of insurance is often shown in an ID card or other document provided by the insurance provider. In most states, drivers must be carrying proof of insurance at all times.
What it is: Proof of car insurance is a type of documentation motorists need to carry in order to show that they’re covered under an insurance company’s policy. Each state has its own set of laws and minimum requirements that drivers need to abide by. It usually comes in the form of an insurance ID card, but electronic proof of insurance also works to have on hand at all times.
When you would need to show it: Authority figures can ask you to show proof of insurance at any time. It’s especially needed if you get into an accident. Law enforcement and other parties involved will likely ask for your policy to help pay for costs related to the claim. You also need to show proof at the department of motor vehicles (DMV) in order to get your vehicle registration.
Why you need it: At the end of the day, states want to make sure that people are protected if they decide to get behind the wheel of a car. Insurance is there to make sure that you’re not left paying out of pocket in the case of an accident. At the very least, most states set a minimum amount of liability insurance, which protects you in case of property damage and/or bodily injury.
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What Your Proof of Insurance Should Include
Valid proof of insurance will always include a few key pieces of your insurance information that are clearly stated. It’s always a good idea to keep physical copies of your insurance documents on hand, as not all states or DMVs accept electronic copies. However, it’s an even better idea to have both, so you can prove you have coverage even when you’re driving someone else’s car.
Your policy details will be shown on your document, so whoever asks for the proof can verify that it’s true and accurate. Whether you go physical or digital, your proof of insurance should include the following policy information:
The dates the policy is effective, including an expiration date
The name(s) of insured driver(s) covered under the policy, including the policyholder
Information about the motor vehicle, like its year, make, model, vehicle identification number, and/or license plates
The name of your insurance company
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) number
Getting caught faking proof of insurance can have serious consequences. Offenders can face fines or even jail time. These violations can stay on your driving record and hurt you in the long run, leading to even higher auto insurance premiums. In any case, it’s hard to get away with a fake policy, as most states now have electronic systems to help them verify policies.
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Examples of When Your Policy Comes in Handy
Whether you’re a vehicle owner or just getting behind the wheel, having car insurance is always a good idea. Coverage is there to protect you and make sure you’re not stuck paying huge bills if you cause property damage or injure someone else. Essentially, you don’t want to be found liable. Make sure to have your bases covered in case you’re found at fault for an accident.
Here are some scenarios where you would need to show proof of your policy:
If you get into an accident: While you probably won’t have to show proof on the spot, it’s reassuring to let police officers and any parties involved know that you’re covered. At the scene, it’s likely that anyone you’ve hurt or hit will ask for your contact information so they can organize payments for repairs, medical bills, or any other damage you caused.
If you get pulled over: Law enforcement can ask you to show proof of insurance at any time. When getting pulled over, the standard ask is for your driver’s license and car registration, but police officers can also ask you to prove you’re covered under a policy. If you can’t show it, you’ll likely get a ticket for being insured, which you can pay or appeal.
If you buy or lease a car: If you buy a car, you need to have car insurance even if you want to drive it from the dealership to your driveway. Auto dealers require proof before you can complete your purchase and can offer to sell you a policy on the spot. If you know you’re about to buy a car, you can add it to your existing policy before you buy it.
When you register your vehicle: Car ownership is exciting but comes with its own set of requirements. Whether you buy a used or new car, you need to register it under your name. In order to do so, you need to show proof of your current insurance policy at the DMV. The same rules apply even when you renew registration online or in person.
If you rent a car: The nice thing about renting is that it doesn’t require you to have your own auto insurance policy already. Rental car companies offer multiple different types of coverage that you can choose to buy at the counter, but having your own policy can come in handy. You’d need to present proof of your existing policy when checking out.
If you reinstate your license: If you’ve had your license revoked or suspended, you will need to show proof of a policy if you choose to reinstate it. On top of that, your state might even require an SR-22 form to prove that you are financially responsible. Each state’s laws differ, and you can ask your insurance company to help provide an SR-22.
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The Consequences of Getting Caught without It
Having a car insurance policy is required in almost every single state, with the exception of New Hampshire, where drivers can go without it if they show proof of financial responsibility. If you get caught and are unable to show your physical car insurance card, you can usually show proof later with minimal penalties. This is why it might be a good idea to get a digital copy as well as the physical card.
However, if you get caught driving without an active policy, the consequences can be severe. You could face high fees and even jail time. Depending on your state’s laws, fines could add up to a few hundred dollars, or you could have your license suspended, which comes with its own risks. Depending on where you live, your first offense could cost you up to $1,500, just from a ticket.
If you choose to appeal the ticket, you need to show proof of insurance either by mail or show up to a court hearing. The consequences for failing to respond in the time allotted can also be pretty serious, ranging from still having to pay the fine to getting your license suspended or revoked. Reinstatement fees can be high and do some real damage to your driving history.
Don’t Risk Getting Caught without a Policy
In most states across the U.S., it’s illegal to operate a motor vehicle without being covered by a policy. Carrying proof of insurance, whether it be electronic or a paper copy, is just as crucial as having your driver’s license or car registration. Driving without an active policy can have some serious consequences. To learn more, check out the frequently asked questions below.
At the end of the day, auto insurance is there to protect you. Making sure you’re covered doesn’t have to be daunting or expensive! The best way to be sure you get a deal is by getting a car insurance quote comparison before you buy. This is easy with Insurify. We do all the work to sift through millions of quotes from hundreds of companies in the market.
Frequently Asked Questions
Having car insurance coverage is only useful within its effective dates. It doesn’t matter if you have a policy if it’s expired. Be sure to keep an eye on your policy’s expiration date and stay on top of reinstating it. If you’re ever unsure of when it needs to be renewed or if you need a new insurance policy, be sure to speak with an insurance agent who can help clear up confusion.
Keeping proof on you is easy! Once your policy is active, most insurance companies will mail their policyholders an insurance ID card, which looks similar to a driver’s license. While it’s easy and convenient to have on hand, some insurers also have mobile apps that let you show digital proof. Most states (with the exception of New Mexico) accept valid electronic copies as proof.
From New York to California, each state has its own set of legal requirements that your policy needs to include. For most states, this means liability coverage at least, which protects people from property damage or bodily injury that you might cause with your vehicle. To make sure you’re abiding by state laws, be sure to confirm with an insurance agent or at your local DMV.
Being able to show proof of insurance can be surprisingly easy, and it doesn’t need to be expensive. The best way to make sure you get the best deal is by shopping around first. Insurify makes this easy by helping you compare quotes from different companies so you can be sure you get a rate you can afford. From GEICO to Allstate to Farmers, we got you covered.
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Data scientists at Insurify analyzed more than 40 million real-time auto insurance rates from our partner providers across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. Quotes for Allstate, Farmers, GEICO, State Farm, and USAA are estimates based on Quadrant Information Service's database of auto insurance rates. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how companies price their car insurance premiums.