Kentucky isn't just known for basketball and racehorses; it's also a hotspot for cars. In 2014, workers in the state assembled 1.3 million vehicles, placing it third in the United States in vehicle production. But before Kentuckians take any of those cars out on the road, they'll need insurance. Read on to learn more about insurance, safety and the rules of the road in the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky Vehicle Insurance Requirements
If you're driving in Kentucky, you'll need insurance. But not everyone follows the law. As of 2012, an estimated 15.8 percent of Kentucky drivers did not have even minimum liability insurance, a rate significantly above the national level of 12.6 percent.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Kentucky?
Unless a vehicle is registered as either salvage or a classic motor vehicle project — which means it isn't fit for the road — a car needs to be registered. Inoperable cars that remain on the property do not need to be insured, but drivers should notify the state that a car is out of commission. Vehicles used seasonally do not have to be insured year-round, but motorists have to turn in their license plates to the county clerk to avoid fines when the car is not in use.
Proof of Insurance
Kentucky insurers provide motorists with proof of coverage in the form of a paper insurance card, although drivers can request electronic versions, which are also valid. Either way, it will have the insurer's information, the driver's name, the vehicle type and the policy dates, number and type.
Drivers will need to show this card or other proof when they:
- Register their vehicle
- Are pulled over for a traffic stop
- Are in a collision
Minimum Insurance Requirements in Kentucky
Here is the minimum amount of coverage drivers in Kentucky must have:
- $25,000 for injuries to one person
- $50,000 for injuries to multiple people
- $10,000 for property damage
Kentucky residents must also carry:
- $10,000 of personal injury protection, which pays for injuries regardless of who was at fault (also called "no-fault" coverage).
You can opt out of this protection by filing a form at the Kentucky Department of Insurance, but doing so will make it easier for you to get sued.
Insurance can get confusing really quickly, so Ronda Sloan of the Kentucky Department of Insurance says her department encourages consumers to "talk to their agents and be sure they have a complete understanding of what their policies cover, as well as what is excluded."
For guidelines on what insurance advocates and consumer groups recommend motorists look for in a policy, see "How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?" below.
Alternatives to Insurance in Kentucky
Kentucky drivers have the option of self-insuring their vehicles. They must file paperwork with the state insurance commissioner showing that they can pay claims if needed and that they either have deposited cash to cover minimum liability or hold property that can be liquidated to pay for a claim.
Self-insurance, it should be noted, does not provide extra protection if you are at fault. You also will end up paying out of your own pocket should a claim be made — and a large claim can wipe out your savings.
What Happens If You Don't Have Car Insurance?
Breaking the law has consequences. Here's what happens when you don't have auto insurance in Kentucky:
- You get fined $500 to $1,000 or get up to 90 days in jail
- Your license and registration is suspended
To get your license back, you'll need to purchase an insurance policy. The judge has the discretion to lower the penalties once the driver gets insurance, so it makes sense to deal with it quickly.
And you don't have to be pulled over for the state to find out you don't have car insurance. Why? The commonwealth of Kentucky uses an online verification system to crosscheck your driver registration with insurance companies. When insurers notify the Department of Vehicle Regulation that your policy is no longer in effect, it will mail a notification to you after 60 days. You then have 30 days to go to the county clerk and provide proof of insurance. If you wait longer than 30 days, you will have to pay a registration reinstatement fee.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need in Kentucky?
Ronda Sloan of the Insurance Department says too many drivers in Kentucky settle for the minimum levels of coverage. "Although minimum coverage is legally sufficient and may result in lower premiums, that level of coverage may not be enough to protect a consumer and his or her assets in the event of a claim," she says.
Kentucky Lack Vehicle Insurance? 15.8% National Average: 12.6 %
According to the Insurance Information Institute, experts generally recommend coverage of $100,000/$300,000 for bodily injury. Also, cars are not fully protected if they do not have collision and comprehensive coverage, which pays for repairs and replacement vehicles for the driver - say, if the car hits a deer or is smashed by a falling tree. If your car is worth less than $1,000, you can do without collision and comprehensive coverage without risking much.
Because Kentucky has a higher-than-average number of uninsured drivers, it's likely a good idea to get uninsured motorist coverage.
Required state discount
The state requires insurers to offer three discounts to its policyholders:
- A three- to five-year reduction in premiums for members of the armed forces who pass a defensive driving course
- A three- to five-year reduction in premiums for drivers 55 and older who pass an accident prevention course
- Five percent to 20 percent discounts on comprehensive insurance rates for cars with certain safety features, including ignition or starter cutoff switches, fuel cutoff devices and anti-theft devices
For more on type of discounts you may qualify for, see our MoneyGeek guidebook to car insurance.
Teen Drivers in Kentucky
According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, teenagers make up less than one percent of all the state's drivers but are involved in 20 percent of all collisions. It's little wonder, then, that the state requires parents of drivers under 18 to sign a statement saying they are liable in case of an accident.
Teenagers with a learner's permit don't need to be added to a policy, but they'll need insurance when they graduate to a driver's license. Parents may be able to get a discount on premiums (and more important, better protection for their young driver) by making sure their teen only drives a safe car, one with a large frame and safety features such as air bags.
Kentucky, in its manual A Parent's Guide for First Time Drivers, has another essential tip for parents: Be as involved in the learning process as possible.
How a Teen Affects Your Kentucky Car Insurance Premium
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$1,786 increase This is a difference of 116%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:
Teen Driver Discounts in Kentucky
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$314 saved
Auto Insurance Premiums from Kentucky Insurance Providers
Policy cost vary more than you may think, so shop around. Compare the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Kentucky :
|Kentucky Farm Bureau||$1,355||$2,509||$5,614|
How Your Teen's Car Can Affect Your Kentucky Auto Insurance Premium
Do insurers consider sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans? Definitely, according to industry insiders -- and premium rates reflect it.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Kentucky
Kentucky has a pretty straightforward rule for college students: whether they're from Kentucky or from out-of-state, they don't need to change their insurance or registration while going to school in Kentucky. They just need to carry their student identification card with them whenever they drive.
College drivers should still notify an insurance agent about where they'll be attending and whether they'll have a car with them — they may actually qualify for some discounts. If they do take a car with them to campus, they should probably avoid borrowing it out. They (or their parents) could end up liable for damages or injuries caused by a friend behind the wheel.
High School vs. College: Who Has Lower Premiums in Kentucky?
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$771 decrease This is a decrease of 22%.
Annual Rates: How Kentucky Insurers Compare
Each year, look over your policy to see whether you could get a better rate somewhere else. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Kentucky.
|Kentucky Farm Bureau||$1,298||$2,468||$5,298|
Distance Discount: Savings for Kentucky College Drivers
You may see a modest break in your family's premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $3,258 at home
- $2,777 at school
- $481 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $2,892 at home
- $2,554 at school
- $338 in savings
How Car Choice Affects Premiums in Kentucky
A minivan or sedan for a college student will help drive down the cost of an auto insurance premium; a sports car will drive it up.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$3,672
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$2,229
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Kentucky
If you're a veteran or one of the 21,000 active-duty military personnel living in Kentucky, always compare prices on auto insurance and ask for a military discount to save money. Bundling policies with the same carrier can also cut costs during your Bluegrass Country stay. Veterans may also be eligible for reduced rates on car insurance.
Whether living in Kentucky or deployed out of state, military members can register their vehicles with proof of insurance by mailing the fees to the County Clerk's office in your hometown. Military personnel can also renew online, but it costs $5 more per vehicle.
Kentucky Service Members:
The Vehicle You Buy May Cost You
Studies show that an older model SUV, sedan or minivan has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car -- a vehicle insurers have linked to speeding.
Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle for a Military Driver
Age-Based Perks for Kentucky
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to Kentucky Military Personnel
When looking for cheap auto insurance, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Kentucky.
Seniors in Kentucky
Drivers over the age 54 are entitled to a discount if they have passed a qualifying accident prevention course. They'll see a drop in their premiums for at least three years.
Undocumented Workers in Kentucky
Undocumented immigrants cannot drive in Kentucky and therefore do not qualify for insurance, with one exception: the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program allows certain undocumented immigrants to get a license, which would qualify them for insurance. They must meet the following criteria, among other things:
- They were under 16 when they first came to the U.S.
- Between June 15, 2007 and June 15, 2012, they were under the age of 31
- They've lived in the United States continuously since 2007
- They have graduated from high school, are currently in school or are a veteran
- They have no felony or significant misdemeanors
Ridesharing Insurance in Kentucky: Are You Covered?
Kentucky regulates Uber, Lyft and other transportation network companies (TNCs), also known as ridesharing companies. The state requires their drivers to have the following amounts of coverage as long as the app is turned on:
- $50,000/$100,000 liability coverage for bodily injury per person/accident
- $25,000 insurance against property damage
When passengers are in the car, those amounts ratchet up to the following:
- $100,000/$300,000 liability coverage for bodily injury per person/accident
- $50,000 insurance against property damage
The insurance can be covered by the TNC, by the driver or by both. However, since personal policies generally don't cover anyone driving for hire, TNC drivers should talk to their insurance agent and make sure they are fully covered.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim in Kentucky
Here are some of the key steps to take after an accident:
- Pull over and check for injuries or damages totaling more than $500. If it looks like there are, call the police and wait for them to come.
- If there are no injuries, move the car to the shoulder.
- Exchange names, contact information, license numbers, registration numbers, car details and insurance policy info with the other driver(s). Get contact information for witnesses, too, if applicable.
- Write down the damage to your vehicle, as well as what happened to cause the collision. You may want to take photos with your cellphone.
- If a law enforcement officer doesn't arrive, send a report to the Kentucky State Police within 10 days.
If you have no-fault personal injury protection, contact your insurer as soon as possible to cover medical expenses. If the other driver was even partially at fault, you may want to file a claim with the other insurance company for damage to your vehicle. If you are contemplating a lawsuit, you have two years to file a property damage suit.
Best and Worst States for Drivers: How Does My State Rank?
Kentucky has consistently ranked in the bottom half of states in terms of traffic safety, and the state is working hard to change that. Its highway safety plan has adopted a "Toward Zero Deaths" strategy, whose target areas include aggressive driving, distracted and/or impaired driving, young drivers and motorcycle safety. It is also working on preventing collisions while exiting a highway, which account for 70 percent of all fatal crashes in the state.
Kentucky 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||166||3.53||30th|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||245||5.21||43rd|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||59||1.26||44th|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||288||6.13||44th|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||638||13.58||39th|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Kentucky: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Kentucky has made major strides in reducing traffic fatalities in recent years, and its lawmakers were acknowledged by the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in its 2016 report for passing key legislation related to booster seats. Here is where things stand as of March 2016:
Safe Driving Laws - Kentucky
|Mandatory seat belts||All drivers and passengers must wear seat belts|
|Child passenger safety||Children under 40" must wear child restraints; those between 40" and 57" must be in a booster seat if they are 7 or younger|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||The legal limit is .08 (.02 for drivers under 21). Penalties for first offense include fines and jail time.|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Partial||Interlocks are installed if the driver had a BAC above 0.14 or has had multiple convictions|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||Texting while driving is illegal; drivers under 18 cannot talk on cell phones while driving|
|Protections for young drivers||Drivers can be licensed at 16 and a half, but for the first six months cannot drive between midnight and 6 a.m. or have more than one passenger under 20 years old in the car|
|Motorcycle helmet law||Partial||If you're under 21, in the first year of your license, or lack medical insurance, you're required to wear a helmet|
|Bicycle helmet law||No statewide law|
Car Insurance Resources for Kentucky Residents
If you're trying to get insured and can't, don't give up: contact the Kentucky Automobile Insurance Plan. It's the insurer of last resort, and it has a mandate to cover people who have trouble getting insurance through the voluntary market.
File a complaint, access claim forms and read consumer alerts at the Division of Consumer Protection's page.
The commonwealth's driver manual covers what you need to do to stay within the law while driving, as well as the insurance and registration requirements you must stay on top of to keep your license.
Get questions answered, take care of an uninsured notice and review county clerk documents for filing purposes.