The home of the American Revolution, Massachusetts can also lay claim to being home to the automobile revolution. The first car built and driven in the United States roared down American streets for the first time in Springfield in 1893. Car insurance was first offered in the state in 1925, and today Massachusetts has the highest percentage of insured drivers in the nation. Read on to find out what you need to know about the state's insurance requirements, driving laws and road safety.
Massachusetts Vehicle Insurance Requirements
Massachusetts has the third-lowest percentage of uninsured drivers in the nation — just 6 percent, according to the latest data from the Insurance Information Institute. Still, not everyone has enough coverage to be fully protected, so drivers should take a closer look at their current policy and their insurance needs.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Massachusetts?
Every driver in Massachusetts is required to have auto insurance or an approved alternative (see below). Your car insurance must include four types of coverage:
- Liability insurance in case of injury
- Liability insurance in cause of property damage
- Personal injury insurance
- Insurance against uninsured motorists
All licensed drivers in the household must be listed on a car's insurance plan, unless they submit an exclusion form to their insurance company.
Proof of Insurance
To get a car registered, drivers must first get it insured. From that point forward, they do not need to carry an insurance card — their insurance information will be on their registration, which should be kept inside the vehicle. Drivers need to show their registration when a police officer asks to see it, when they register their vehicle and after they are in a car accident.
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements in Massachusetts
Here's the breakdown of the minimum amounts needed on a Massachusetts car insurance policy:
- $20,000 per person for injury to others
- $40,000 per accident for injury to others
- $20,000 per person for injury caused by an uninsured driver
- $40,000 per accident for injury caused by an uninsured driver
- $8,000 of personal injury protection per person/accident
- $5,000 of property damage protection per accident
These are just the minimum requirements, and experts recommend carrying more liability insurance coverage. (See: How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?).
Alternatives to Insurance in Massachusetts
The commonwealth of Massachusetts encourages motorists get traditional auto insurance, but drivers can skip this requirement if they put down at least $10,000 as a cash deposit or liability bond. This money will be used to settle claims should the driver be at fault in an accident, but it's unlikely to meet the total costs. Drivers who choose this route should be aware that other parties can go after their savings and homes if they don't have auto insurance.
What Happens If You Don't Have Car Insurance?
Though Massachusetts has the highest rate of auto insurance coverage in the U.S., there are still some people who don't have it. If they get caught, here's what they should expect:
- A minimum fine of $500
- A maximum fine of $5,000
- Up to a year in jail
- A suspended license for 60 days
Anyone canceling a policy must first have a new policy in effect. To effectively cancel insurance without getting a new policy, Massachusetts drivers must first register their vehicle, at which point they will receive a receipt they can show their insurance company to cancel the insurance.
If a vehicle registration is suspended due to lack of car insurance in Massachusetts, there is a $500 fee to reinstate it.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
Cheap car insurance is great — provided the car is never in a crash. When accidents happen, the minimum insurance likely won't be enough to cover costs. According to the Insurance Information Institute, drivers should be aiming for $100,000/$300,000 of coverage for personal and accident liability, far above the levels mandated by Massachusetts.
And while collision and comprehensive coverage are optional, if you have a newer model car, you may want to consider getting those as well.
Massachusetts Lack Vehicle Insurance? 3.9% National Average: 12.6 %
Required state discounts
Massachusetts requires insurance companies to offer discounts to drivers with a history of careful driving. Discounts are also required for drivers over the age of 65 and for cars with certain safety and security features, including anti-theft devices.
Individual insurance companies may offer their own discounts in addition to those listed above. For more on the subject and the type of discounts you may qualify for, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.
Teen Drivers in Massachusetts
In Massachusetts, teen drivers with a learner's permit do not need to be listed on the policyholder's insurance. Once they get their junior operator's license (JOL), however, they should be listed under the parents' policy.
"The Massachusetts JOL law has been key to reducing teen crashes and fatalities," says Jeff Larason, director of the Highway Safety Division of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
The graduated driver licensing law, he says, has improved driving habits and reduced traffic citations. "The JOL allows teens to gain experience and maturity prior to being allowed to drive in the most crash-prone circumstances," he says.
Although Massachusetts has a number of laws meant to reduce accidents involving new drivers, Larason warns that crashes are still the top killer of teenagers in Massachusetts.
Rather than purchasing cheap insurance for their teens, he says, parents should invest in vehicles with high safety ratings and additional safety features, which qualifies them for lower payments thanks to a state mandate. Larason also recommends parents have their teenager sign a driving agreement that sets expectations.
Some foundations are targeting teen drivers for outreach about distracted driving and other risks. Among them is the Arbella Insurance Foundation, which news reports say is bringing Distractology 101 to high schools in southern New England.
Massachusetts Car Insurance: The Difference a Teen Makes
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$1,840 increase This is a difference of 87%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:
Discounts for Teens in Massachusetts
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$344 saved
Auto Insurance Premiums: Compare Massachusetts Insurance Providers
Policy cost vary more than you may think, so contact several insurers. Compare, for example, the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Massachusetts:
|Commerce Group Inc||$1,686||$3,394||$6,683|
|Arbella Insurance Group||$2,000||$4,374||$8,131|
|Plymouth Rock Assurance||$2,090||$4,804||$10,056|
Which Cars Drive Up Your Premium in Massachusetts?
You can save hundreds and even thousands depending on the car you choose for your teen.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has the sixth-highest concentration of college students per capita in the U.S., according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics, many of them coming from out of state. To avoid a fine, these students must file a nonresident driver statement with their nearest police department. They should then check to see if they are covered under their home state's insurance.
The roughly 20,000 or so students who leave Massachusetts each year to study in another state should talk with their insurance agent about how best to maintain coverage while away at college. What they should avoid, however, is loaning their car to friends; their classmates may be uninsured or underinsured, leaving the driver responsible in case something goes wrong.
Do College Drivers Have Lower Premiums in MA?
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$1,318 decrease This is a decrease of 30%.
How a College Student Affects Your Massachusetts Premiums
Each year, read over your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Case in point: Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Massachusetts.
|Commerce Group Inc||$1,161||$2,268||$4,963|
|Arbella Insurance Group||$1,443||$3,235||$6,528|
|Plymouth Rock Assurance||$1,555||$3,373||$6,987|
Massachusetts College Drivers: Distance Discount
You may see a modest drop in your family's premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $3,517 at home
- $3,409 at school
- $108 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $3,517 at home
- $3,409 at school
- $108 in savings
How Car Choice Can Lead to Savings in Massachusetts
Your college student driving a minivan will result in lower premiums than if he or she drove a sports car — a reflection of the lower risk to insurers.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$4,780
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$2,685
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Massachusetts
If you're one of the 3,700 active-duty military personnel stationed in Massachusetts, or even if it's already your home state, chances are discounts on auto insurance are available to you and your family. Veterans qualify, too.
The state attorney general's office offers some tips for buying auto insurance in Massachusetts as well as the solid suggestion to get all premium quotes in writing as you compare rates.
Once your insurance is covered, you can register the vehicle at the DMV. If you are a disabled veteran, you won't have to pay registration fees or property taxes on your vehicle. If you bought and registered a car or truck in your home state, you don't have to re-register in Massachusetts. You'll still have to carry at least the mandated minimum insurance under Massachusetts law while deployed here. There is one twist in the law: if you bought and registered a vehicle outside your home state and become stationed in Massachusetts, you've got 30 days to register it here..
Massachusetts Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to the Insurance Information Institute, but an older model SUV still has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.
Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle for a Military Driver
Age Savings for Massachusetts
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to Massachusetts Military Personnel
Whether you're in the military or not, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Massachusetts.
Seniors in Massachusetts
Massachusetts has friendly laws for seniors. For one thing, it mandates discounts for drivers over the age of 65. Unlike other states who offer discounts, however, Massachusetts seniors do not need to take a course to get the discount.
Undocumented Workers in Massachusetts
Undocumented immigrants are ineligible for driver licenses and thus insurance in Massachusetts, with one exception: people who arrived in the U.S. before their 16th birthday may qualify under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program to get a license. More information can be found at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
As of late 2015, Massachusetts was still in the midst of deciding how to regulate ridesharing companies such as Uber and Lyft, including insurance requirements for companies and their drivers.
In the meantime, if you're a ridesharing passenger, be aware that your car liability insurance and the driver's personal liability insurance will unlikely protect you in the event of an accident. Talk with your insurance agent about filling this gap.
Drivers need to read the fine print on both their personal insurance policies and any insurance provided through a ridesharing company. In general, personal car insurance will not cover an accident if you're "driving for hire." Although ridesharing companies generally provide some types of car insurance, you may be vulnerable for accidents that occur on the way to pick up a passenger (or even damage to your car while driving a passenger). Ask your insurance agent what you need to be fully covered.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim in Massachusetts
At the scene of the accident, exchange contact information with the other driver, take pictures of the accident, if possible, and get the names and phone numbers of witnesses. (Some insurance agencies encourage you to contact then at the scene of the accident or immediately afterward.)
Drivers in a car crash have five days to file a crash report with the police and the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles if that incident involved an injury and/or at least $1,000 worth of damage. Failure to do so can result in a suspended or revoked license. Drivers should also mail this report to their insurance company, which will allow the claim process to start.
Best and Worst States for Drivers: How Does My State Rank?
Massachusetts is one of the safest states in the nation to drive in. It had the second-smallest number of fatal accidents per mile traveled in 2013, and the overall number of driving-related fatalities has dropped each decade since 1975. That year, there were 864 deaths due to car crashes. In 2013, that number was just 326, despite substantial population growth and more drivers on the road.
According to Larason, "Crash fatality rates in Massachusetts are down for numerous reasons, including improved legislation, excellent enforcement, strong education and awareness efforts" as well as better roads.
Massachusetts Driver Safety Ranking
The driver safety table shows the different safety factors that contribute to your state's overall safety rank (in the green box). The overall safety ranking and the National Ranking column scores in each category (including crash fatality rates) are from safest to most dangerous, with 1st being the safest and 51st the least safe.
How did we create the safety rankings?
We created a traffic safety ranking of all US states plus the District of Columbia by combining data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We looked at fatality rates by distance traveled as well as by population and gave more weight to behaviors that were riskier and preventable (i.e., drunk driving, not using a seat belt), as well as to accidents that involved more than one party (i.e., multi-vehicle).
|Driver Safety Profile||Number of Fatalities||Fatality Rate
The fatality rate is the rate per one billion vehicle miles traveled, except for pedestrian and bicyclist fatality measures, which are per measured per a population of 100,000.
Rankings are in order of safest to least safe. A state with the lowest fatality rate would be the safest, and thus ranked #1.
|Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities||117||2.08||5th|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||96||1.70||7th|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||5||0.09||11th|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||117||2.08||2nd|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||326||5.79||2nd|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Massachusetts: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Pay no attention to the urban myth floating around the Internet claiming Massachusetts explicitly prohibits gorillas from riding in the backseat. Judging from its low rate of traffic fatalities, Massachusetts has eminently reasonable traffic regulations. The table below covers some of the standard driving laws in the state:
Safe Driving Laws - Massachusetts
|Mandatory seat belts||Seat belts have been shown to reduce the risk of fatal injury to front-seat passengers by 45 percent nationally||Seat belts required for all passengers except children in child restraints|
|Child passenger safety||According to NHTSA, "Child restraints reduce fatalities by 71 percent for infants younger than 1 year of age and 54 percent for children 1-4 years old in passenger cars"||Children under 7 need child restraints; 8- to 12-year-olds may wear adult seatbelts or child restraints|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||Annual rates of alcohol-related fatalities declined more than 50 percent between 1982 — before DUI laws were common across all 50 states — and 2010||It is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 (and a BAC of 0.02 if you are under 21). Possible penalties include license suspension, steep fines and up to two and a half years in jail for the first offense; stiffer penalties for second and third offenses|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Drivers with interlocks have "recidivism rates that were 75 percent lower than drivers who did not have interlocks installed," according to a NHTSA report||Mandated if a driver receives multiple DUI convictions|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||Impact still being studied||Novice drivers cannot use cell phones; no drivers can text while driving|
|Protections for young drivers||A 2007 study of passenger restrictions in Massachusetts showed that such requirements reduce both crashes and injuries, even without police enforcement||Drivers in their first six months are not allowed to have passengers who are not family (though there are some exceptions); they cannot drive from 12:30-5 a.m. until the age of 18|
|Motorcycle helmet law||Wearing a helmet can reduce death between 22 and 42 percent and brain damage between 41 and 69 percent, according to numerous studies||Required for all riders and passengers.|
|Bicycle helmet law||Partial||The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration finds bicycle helmet laws for children to be extremely effective in preventing death and injury||Cyclists between the ages of 1 and 16 must be helmeted|
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, 2016, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Car Insurance Resources for Massachusetts Residents
Drivers can use this manual to brush up on road safety laws and make sure they take all necessary steps and precautions to keep their license.
The Highway Safety Division of the Office of Public Safety keeps a list of programs on its website for specific audiences such as motorcyclists, as well as safety initiatives for causes such as drunk driver prevention and seatbelt promotions.
The OCABR compiles a handy compendium of information for consumers about buying auto insurance in Massachusetts.