Do You Need Insurance to Register Your Car?


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Updated: May 20, 2024

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Most states require car insurance when you register your vehicle. In 43 states and Washington, D.C., you need to present proof of insurance during registration. Whether you bought a new car or moved to another state, you must get car insurance before registering your vehicle.

However, there are a few exceptions. In Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin, registration doesn't officially require car insurance. In these states (except New Hampshire and Virginia), you still have to carry proper car insurance coverage to drive legally. So even though it may not be required for registration, having adequate car insurance remains necessary to drive in these states.

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Key Takeaways

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43 states and Washington, D.C., require you to have a current and valid car insurance policy in place that meets your state’s required coverages to register your vehicle.

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In Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin, you can register your vehicle without presenting proof of insurance. However, you’re required to have at least a minimum liability car insurance policy in place before driving.

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Many states use an electronic insurance verification system to identify uninsured drivers. If the system tags you as uninsured, you won’t be able to register your vehicle in that state.

Why Trust MoneyGeek? MoneyGeek researches data, information and statistics from various federal and state websites, research studies, reports, non-profit organizations and leading data sources. We then analyze this information based on our quality standards to produce research-backed content for our audience. As such, our resources can be trusted to help you understand whether your state requires insurance for car registration.

Can You Register a Car Without Insurance?

In 43 states and Washington, D.C., you need to carry car insurance fitting the state's minimum car insurance requirements before you can register your vehicle.

Many states have adopted an electronic insurance verification system, which quickly checks your insurance status. So, if you're uninsured, you'll face a hiccup when trying to register your car in that particular state. This system ensures continuity — the DMV will be alerted of any cancellations or lapses in coverage, so if you drop your coverage post-registration, you may face a possible suspension of your registration.

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WHAT DO I NEED TO REGISTER MY CAR?

To register your vehicle, you’ll likely need:

  • Driver’s license or another form of identification
  • Proof of insurance
  • Car title or signed lease agreement
  • Vehicle registration application form
  • Registration fee payment

Requirements vary in each state, so you may have to bring more documents depending on where you live. Be sure to check the website of your state’s DMV to find out what you need before heading to their office.

States That Don’t Require Car Insurance Before Registration

Only 7 states don’t require car insurance before car registration:

  1. Mississippi
  2. New Hampshire
  3. North Dakota
  4. Tennessee
  5. Virginia
  6. Washington
  7. Wisconsin

However, in most of these states, you still need car insurance after registration (except for Virginia and New Hampshire).

Across the U.S., only New Hampshire and Virginia don't have a law requiring insurance for drivers. In these states, you only need proof of financial responsibility if you cause an accident. While you can register and drive without car insurance, it is strongly recommended by the state’s DMV to have standard liability and property damage coverage. In Virginia, drivers must also pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee if they don’t have coverage.

Insurance Requirements for Car Registration

Before registering your vehicle, secure an insurance policy with your state’s minimum car insurance requirements .

When you're at the DMV, the representative will verify that you have the state-mandated liability insurance. Since every state has its unique set of requirements and limits, it's vital to be equipped with the correct coverage tailored to your location.

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Requirements

$25,000 bodily injury liability per person $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident $25,000 property damage liability per accident

$50,000 bodily injury liability per person $100,000 bodily injury liability per accident $25,000 property damage liability per accident

$15,000 bodily injury liability per person $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident $10,000 property damage liability per accident

$25,000 bodily injury liability per person $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident $25,000 property damage liability per accident

$15,000 bodily injury liability per person $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident $5,000 property damage liability per accident

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WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T GET A CAR INSURANCE POLICY?

Usually, you must have car insurance to register your vehicle. Most states require proof of insurance for vehicle registration, except for the seven states mentioned earlier.

Here are the risks of driving without insurance:

  • Fines ranging from $50 to $5,000, depending on where you live
  • Suspension of your driver's license
  • Possible jail time
  • Increased insurance rates
  • Out-of-pocket payments for personal and property damage in case of an accident

What Is Proof of Insurance?

Proof of insurance is a document verifying that you're insured to drive. While many are familiar with the standard insurance ID card, some insurance providers might also offer a printable version or a digital copy accessible via their website or mobile app. Key details featured on this document include:

  • Your name
  • Policy number
  • Name of the insurance company
  • Policy start date
  • Policy end date

It's not just the DMV that might request this. Local law enforcement can ask for your proof of insurance during traffic stops or in the event of an accident. Whenever you switch or renew your car insurance, keep this document handy. It's an essential piece of evidence, ensuring you're complying with state regulations and safeguarding yourself against unforeseen liabilities.

How to Get Proof of Insurance for Registration

Insurance companies typically provide proof of insurance immediately after your first premium payment. They may send it via mail, fax or as an electronic insurance card.

Many insurance providers allow you to access your insurance ID through a mobile app. They can also email you a digital copy of your card, which you can access on your smartphone. Those are convenient options that prevent you from losing your insurance ID.

If you do lose your insurance card, most insurers allow you to access your account online. By logging onto their website, you can download and print out a new insurance ID. Additionally, you can contact your agent and ask them to send you a new card in the mail.

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MONEYGEEK EXPERT TIP

In most states, you can provide a digital insurance card when asked for proof of insurance by law enforcement. However, be sure to reach out to your insurance company to see if this practice is allowed in your state. In any case, it’s best to carry physical proof of insurance with you when possible.

Is Car Registration the Same as Car Insurance?

Car insurance and registration serve distinct purposes, but they're intertwined. While car registration primarily serves to associate a vehicle with its rightful owner, car insurance provides financial protection for the car, the owner and other drivers.

Even though some states might not ask for immediate proof of insurance during the registration process, it doesn't imply that insurance isn't essential. The overarching aim of mandatory car insurance is to ensure that, in the unfortunate event of an accident, there's a safety net for injuries and damages.

For those few states where auto insurance isn't a fixed requirement, there's still an obligation. If you're found to be at fault in an accident, you'll be expected to demonstrate your financial capability to cover the ensuing costs.

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Jul 15, 2024

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Frequently Asked Questions

MoneyGeek answered some of the frequently asked questions about vehicle registration to help you through the process.

What is the purpose of minimum insurance coverage?
What happens if I let my insurance expire?
Do you get insurance or registration first?
Which states allow you to register a car without proof of insurance?
Do you need to register a car to get insurance?
Can you insure a car without a driver’s license?

About Mark Fitzpatrick


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Mark Fitzpatrick has analyzed the property and casualty insurance market for over five years, conducting original research and creating personalized content for every kind of buyer. Currently, he leads P&C insurance content production at MoneyGeek. Fitzpatrick has been quoted in several insurance-related publications, including CNBC, NBC News and Mashable.

Fitzpatrick earned a master’s degree in economics and international relations from Johns Hopkins University and a bachelor’s degree from Boston College. He is passionate about using his knowledge of economics and insurance to bring transparency around financial topics and help others feel confident in their money moves.


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