Featured Expert
Lisa Flowers
Lisa Flowers Delaware Office of Highway Safety View bio

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

Founded in 1787, Delaware was the first state in the nation to ratify the U.S. Constitution. It may loom large in American history, but it’s the second smallest state in terms of land size. Nationally, Delaware is also in the top 10 for careless drivers, based on data compiled by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The state is cracking down on driving violations, but residents should drive with caution — and car insurance.

Insurance Requirements for Delaware Vehicles

Summary

Despite mandatory coverage minimums, an estimated 11.5 percent of Delaware drivers do not have auto insurance. The state is trying to drive down that number by keeping closer track of all vehicles registered in the state. Having more covered drivers on the road is a win for everyone, especially they happen to be in an accident.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Delaware?

All Delaware motor vehicle owners are required either to buy the state-mandated minimum auto insurance coverage or post a cash bond (see below). The state DMV will not register a vehicle or issue license plates until you provide proof of insurance (or in some cases, the cash bond). Vehicles that are inoperable or languishing in a garage do not need to be insured until they’re registered for road use.

Carrying Proof of Insurance

Drivers must carry a valid Delaware insurance identification card whenever they are operating a motor vehicle. You’ll need to show the card after an accident involving another person or when a police officer asks for it.

Insurance issued in other states is not accepted for vehicle registration in Delaware.

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements in Delaware

Delaware state law requires all registered vehicles to have the minimum state liability auto insurance coverage:

  • $15,000 per person for death or injury
  • $30,000 per accident
  • $10,000 for private property damage

Alternatives to Insurance in Delaware

As an alternative to buying insurance, Delaware auto owners can post a $40,000 bond for each registered vehicle. A photocopy of the bond must be carried in the vehicle while driving as proof of financial responsibility.

What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in Delaware?

Driving without insurance results in hefty fines and penalties in Delaware:

  • $1,500 for the first offense
  • $3,000 fine for each subsequent offense
  • Six-month suspension of driving privileges after a second violation.

The Delaware DMV also audits vehicles for insurance compliance using a computer database. State law requires the return of license plates to the DMV prior to canceling insurance. Tags are returned at no charge only if you provide proof of insurance and your registration has not expired.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need in Delaware?

Most drivers need more than the minimum coverage required by the state to stay fully protected. Liability insurance doesn’t cover damage to your car, so you may want to get collision or comprehensive coverage. (The Blue Book value of a vehicle can serve as a guide to buying the right amount.)

What Percentage of Drivers in
Delaware Lack Vehicle Insurance?
19.6% National Average: 12.6 %

As for protecting yourself, insurance industry organizations recommend liability coverage of 100/300, meaning $100,000 coverage for one injury and $300,000 per accident. You may also want to look into uninsured motorist coverage, which can help protect you if you’re injured by a hit-and-run driver or someone without car insurance.

For more on the best insurance for your circumstances, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance on the topic.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in Delaware

Teen drivers in Delaware are required to carry the state-minimum required insurance. As in other states, the rates for teen drivers are substantially higher than average. Try raising your deductible on the insured vehicle, which can help lower the cost of premiums. Also, check into premium discounts for good students and teens who take a defensive driving class.

College Students in Delaware

Delaware students attending college out of state may have to re-register their vehicles and buy a policy from an insurance company licensed in that state. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind:

  • Always let your insurance agent know if a car will be in another state for more than 30 days out of the year.
  • Be cautious about loaning a vehicle to friends. Delaware law holds the vehicle owner liable for any damages.

Do College Students Have Lower Premiums in DE?

Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver

$1,179 decrease This is a decrease of 29%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

How a College Student Affects Your Delaware Rates

Each year, take a look at your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Delaware. Data from Liberty Mutual is included in this table only because it was a significant outlier in terms of premiums reported.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
GEICO $1,037 $2,049 $4,895
State Farm $1,746 $3,093 $6,310
Nationwide $1,712 $3,330 $5,624
Progressive $2,016 $3,612 $6,448
Liberty Mutual $14,190 $28,884 $58,992

Delaware College Drivers: Distance Discount

You may see a small break in your family’s auto premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $3,783 at home
  • $3,010 at school
  • $773 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $3,210 at home
  • $2,484 at school
  • $726 in savings

College Students in Delaware: Mustangs vs. Minivans

Data shows your college student will pay far less for a premium if he or she drives a family car such as a sedan or minivan instead of a sports car.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$3,491

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$2,888

Annual benefit of minivans

$603 saved This is 17% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in Delaware

The Delaware Insurance Commissioner urges its 3,700 active-duty state residents to ask questions about their auto insurance before they buy a policy, mainly how coverage works during deployment. Discounts on auto insurance are available, although carriers also consider factors like credit history and driving record when setting rates.

While paying your auto insurance premiums during deployment, don’t forget to renew your vehicle registration or the insurance will be pointless. The Delaware DMV will mail an Out-of-State Inspection Packet to any active duty enlisted person outside a 250-mile radius of a Delaware. The packet contains a safety inspection checklist and list of emission test requirements.

Delaware Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium

Thinking about getting a sports car? Be aware that insurers associate them with speeding. An older model SUV 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
25-Year-Old Driver
50-Year-Old Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Age-Based Savings for Delaware
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$1,258
Male (25 yrs)$1,551
Male (50 yrs)$1,136
$415 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,452
Female (50 yrs)$1,157
$295 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to Delaware Military Personnel

When looking for auto insurance, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Delaware. Data from Liberty Mutual is included in this table only because it was a significant outlier in terms of premiums reported.

Premium Comparison for a Military Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Seniors in Delaware

More than 250,000 drivers over the age of 60 live in Delaware. If seniors complete a a defensive driving course, it entitles them to a 10 percent discount on auto insurance that’s good for three years.

Undocumented Workers in Delaware

In 2015, Delaware passed a law granting driving privileges for undocumented immigrants, a prerequisite to car insurance. These drivers must meet the same auto insurance requirements as anyone else operating a motor vehicle in Delaware.

Ridesharing Insurance in Delaware: Are You Covered?

Rideshare drivers carry insurance greater than the standards for taxi services in Delaware. The state also requires criminal background checks for drivers and annual driver re-certification.

If you’re a ridesharing driver:

Uber covers commercial liability insurance for its drivers, although drivers must still carry the basic state minimum coverage. Since your personal policy likely does not cover “driving for hire,” check with your insurer to make sure you and your vehicle are fully covered in the event of an accident.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim in Delaware

Delaware law requires police to complete an investigation report for any accident in which someone is hurt or there is property damage greater than $500. Notify the insurance company the same day of any accident involving injury or property damage.

Delaware is a “modified comparative fault state,” meaning that a judge or jury can distribute blame among all drivers in an accident. This can have an impact on financial judgments. For instance, a $100,000 award to an injured motorist in Delaware might be reduced to $75,000 if a judge rules the injured driver was 25 percent to blame for the crash.

Driver Safety: How Does Delaware Rank?

Fatal car crashes in Delaware occur at a rate higher than the U.S. average. More than half the state’s highway fatalities are alcohol-related, according to the state Office of Highway Safety.

Delaware is cracking down on drunk driving with weekly DUI checkpoints and patrols, according to Lisa Flowers, spokeswoman for the state’s Office of Highway Safety. Safety education for young drivers is another priority, she says, as well as enforcing state car insurance laws. “People who are properly insured and registered are more responsible and safer drivers,” she says.

Delaware Driver Safety Ranking

37th in the U.S.
About Our Data

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.

Ranking
(National)

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 39 4.15 43rd
Speeding-Related Fatalities 37 3.98 35th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 23 2.47 16th
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 7 0.75 30th
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 51 5.48 37th
Pedestrian Fatalities 25 2.70 51st
Bicyclist Fatalities 1 0.11 16th
Total Vehicle Fatalities 99 10.64 28th

Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Delaware: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

Delaware gets the highest rating (green) for its traffic safety laws from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health and insurer groups. Among other things, Delaware requires everyone to use seat belts and bans hand-held phone conversations while driving.

Safe Driving Laws – Delaware

  Requirement Delaware Law Details
Mandatory seat belts Required for driver and all passengers
Child passenger safety Approved, age-appropriate safety seats required for children under 12, who must also ride in the back seat
Driving under the influence (DUI) Drivers can be arrested for a blood alcohol concentration as low as 0.05 percent. First conviction consequences include license revocation for three months, fines up to $1,500, substance abuse treatment and possible jail time
Ignition interlock after DUI Mandatory
Talking on cell or texting while driving Statewide ban on texting or using hand-held cell phones while driving
Protections for young drivers Graduated driver’s license program
Motorcycle helmet law Partial All riders and passengers under 19 must wear helmets
Bicycle helmet law Partial Helmet required for all riders under 18

Sources: Governors Highway Safety Association and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Car Insurance Resources for Delaware Residents

Defensive Driving in Delaware

State website with consumer information on approved driver safety courses and insurance discounts.

Delaware DMV Auto Insurance

Government website outlining the state’s mandatory minimum auto insurance standards.

Delaware Driver Manual

Includes driving regulations and safety requirements.

Delaware Teen Driving

Safety information and state laws that apply to younger drivers.

Insurance Guide

Consumer guide published by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, with information on “at-fault” insurance states such as Delaware.

Updated: July 29, 2017