You need to have car insurance to register your vehicle and drive legally on public roads in most states. Only eight states across the U.S. don’t require car insurance before registration.
Do You Need Insurance to Register Your Car?
Yes, most states require you to have a current and valid auto insurance policy before you can register your vehicle. In 42 states and Washington, D.C., you need proof of insurance to register your car with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
Whether you recently bought a new car or moved to a new state, it’s crucial that you have a car insurance policy in place before you can start the process of registering your vehicle.
Only Arizona, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin don’t require car insurance upon registration. New Hampshire and Virginia don’t require that drivers hold an insurance policy but strongly recommend purchasing coverage.
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Forty-two 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.
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.
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.
Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Vehicle?
Most states require you to present proof of insurance before you can register your car. You need to have a current and valid car insurance policy that meets your state’s required coverages before you can register your vehicle.
States that Require Proof of Insurance for Car Registration
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- StateBefore Registration/RenewalBefore Driving
Forty-two states and Washington, D.C., require you to have a car insurance policy that meets the state’s minimum required coverages to register your vehicle.
Many states use an electronic insurance verification system to identify a driver’s insurance status. If the system recognizes you as uninsured, you will not be able to register your car in that state.
This electronic system also prevents you from canceling your car insurance after a successful registration without repercussions. If you discontinue your coverage, your state’s DMV will be notified, and your registration may be suspended.
You can register your vehicle without having car insurance in Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin. However, most of these states require you to have insurance within a specified period after registration; Virginia and New Hampshire are the exceptions.
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 Proof of Insurance Upon Registration
If you’re living in Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington or Wisconsin, you don’t need to have proof of insurance when registering your car. However, you do need to have car insurance before driving.
Across the U.S., only New Hampshire lacks a mandatory insurance law for drivers. You can both register your car and drive on public roads without having an active car insurance policy. However, the state’s DMV strongly recommends and urges vehicle owners to carry standard liability and property damage insurance.
Virginia doesn’t require insurance either, but drivers must pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee if they don’t have coverage.
Registering Your Vehicle Without Insurance
Typically, you can’t register your vehicle without car insurance. Unless you live in the eight aforementioned states, proof of insurance is required for vehicle registration.
Everywhere except New Hampshire and Virginia, you’re required to have car insurance before you can legally drive. Driving uninsured or with lapsed insurance may result in financial and legal problems.
Here are some of the possible risks and consequences of driving without an active car insurance policy:
- Depending on where you live, you could be fined $50–$5,000 for driving uninsured.
- Suspension of driver’s license.
- Jail time.
- Increased insurance rates.
- In the event of an accident, out-of-pocket payment for personal and property damage.
No matter where you live, it’s better to have a car insurance policy in place before registering your vehicle. As a rule of thumb, insuring your car right away can save you the hassle. Even a short lapse in car insurance can dramatically increase your car insurance rates or incur penalities.
What Is Proof of Insurance?
Proof of insurance is a document that proves you hold a current, valid car insurance policy that meets your state's minimum required coverages.
All states except New Hampshire and Virginia require car insurance before drivers can legally drive on public roads. This requirement helps drivers pay for property damage and personal injury after an accident.
Other than the DMV, local law enforcement can ask for your proof of insurance if you’re pulled over. You may also have to present proof of insurance when applying for a new car insurance policy.
How to Obtain Proof of Insurance
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.
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.
FAQs About Vehicle Registration
Registering your car doesn’t need to be a complicated process. MoneyGeek answered some of the frequently asked questions about vehicle registration to make it easier.
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