Featured Expert
Charity Watt Montana Department of Transportation View bio

From Glacier National Park to Yellowstone, the “Big Sky Country” is a place for epic road trips. But Montana roads aren’t just scenic: They’re also dangerous. In fact, the state leads the nation in number of fatalities per mile. If an accident happens, you’ll be glad that you had right insurance. Read on to learn more about auto insurance that residents need in the Big Sky State.

Montana Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

An estimated 14.1 percent of Montana drivers are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That’s just slightly above the national average. That protection is a relative bargain: The average Montana driver spends $678 per year on vehicle insurance, which is lower than the national average and hundreds less than the average of some other western states.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Montana?

All vehicles registered in Montana, whether they are being driven or not, must have liability insurance.

If you are unable to get market-rate insurance because of your driving record or a history of claims, you can get insurance through the state’s assigned risk plan. The Montana Auto Insurance Plan is part of the Western Association of Automobile Insurance Plans (WAAIP). This should be a last resort, though, since you are likely to pay a much higher rate through an assigned risk plan than in the regular insurance market.

Proof of Insurance

All vehicles registered in Montana, whether they are being driven or not, must have liability insurance. If you are unable to get market-rate insurance because of your driving record or a history of claims, you can get insurance through the state’s assigned risk plan. The Montana Auto Insurance Plan is part of the Western Association of Automobile Insurance Plans (WAAIP). This should be a last resort, though, since you are likely to pay a much higher rate through an assigned risk plan than in the regular insurance market.

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

Montana requires only the minimum liability insurance:

  • To cover an accident at which you are at fault, you must carry $25,000 to cover an injury to one person and $50,000 to cover two people or more.
  • To cover an accident at which you are at fault, you must carry $25,000 to cover damages to another person’s property, such as a vehicle.

Insurance companies must also offer uninsured motorist coverage.

What Happens If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

Driving without insurance is a misdemeanor and you will be fined $250 to $500 or spend up to 10 days in jail for the first offense. The second offense will get you a minimum $350 fine or 10 days in jail, your license will be revoked for 90 days, and you will get 5 points on your driving record. Your license is revoked if you get 30 points on your license. Three or more convictions will cost $500 in fines and up to six months in jail, or both.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

The minimum coverage levels required by law may seem impressive, but they might not cover all of your costs in an accident. The right level for you depends on your assets and the value of your vehicle, but keep in mind that experts generally recommend liability policies of $100,000 per accident/$300,000 per injury for adequate protection, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

What Percentage of Drivers in
Montana Lack Vehicle Insurance?
14.1% National Average: 14.1 %

Experts also recommend collision and comprehensive coverage for any vehicle you’re not planning on driving into the junkyard within a few years. Unlike other policies, these types of coverage look after your vehicle in case of accidents — both on the roadway and off.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in Montana

Most parents are understandably worried when their child gets behind the wheel for the first time. Perhaps even more so when they are only 14, the legal minimum age to get a learner’s permit in Montana. Montana teens will need to enroll in a driver’s education course if they want a learner’s permit before age 15.

In addition, experts recommend that parents clearly lay out their rules with teens before they ever get behind the wheel. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends having them sign a contract promising to follow certain rules.

“The two most important rules of the road parents should emphasize are to first, make sure everyone in the vehicle is buckled up. The second is when driving, give all the attention to driving, nothing else,” says Charity Watt, from the Montana Department of Transportation.

If you have a licensed teen at home, your car insurance premiums are going to go up. Even if your teen doesn’t drive, the company is entitled to include him in your policy. Your teen can help you keep premiums down by getting good grades and keeping a clean driving record.

Montana Car Insurance: The Difference a Teen Makes

Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:

$1,313 increase This is a difference of 94%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median
Watch Your Speedometer

Average annual premium increase if your teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:

Male teen

$350

Speedometer
Female teen

$350

What Are the Savings for Montana Teens?

Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:

$185 saved

How Auto Insurance Premiums Compare from Montana Insurers

Investigate costs for different policies. You might start by comparing the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Montana:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
SAFECO $956 $1,871 $3,508
Farmers $1,262 $2,108 $3,706
State Farm $1,414 $2,690 $4,319
Allstate $2,306 $4,034 $7,082
Progressive $2,760 $4,310 $7,885

Will Your Montana Premiums Go Up With This Car?

Even if your teen wants a sports cars, data shows he'll be safer -- and far pay less in premiums -- with a sedan or minivan.

Average premium for two 2014
Mustang GTs

$3,862

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$2,491

Annual benefit of minivans:

$1,371 saved This is 35% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th - 75th Percentile Median

College Students in Montana

When your child starts college, it’s a good idea to call your insurance agent to discuss your coverage. If your child continues to live at home, your premium may not change, but if she is moving away you may be able to get a discount. Good Driver discounts offered to high school students in Montana are also often available for college students as well.

Montana College Students vs. Teen Drivers

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

$576 decrease This is a decrease of 20%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Compare Annual Rates for Montana Insurers

Each year, take a look at your policy to determine whether you could get a better rate. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Montana.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
SAFECO $682 $1,325 $2,540
Farmers $1,062 $1,678 $2,630
State Farm $1,045 $2,024 $3,433
Progressive $1,803 $2,840 $4,797
Allstate $2,018 $3,416 $5,539

Montana College Students: Distance Discount

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

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $2,435 at home
  • $2,185 at school
  • $250 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $2,435 at home
  • $2,185 at school
  • $250 in savings

Which Cars Drive Up Your Premium in Montana?

Does your college student want a sports car? Be aware that it may drive up your premium more than a thousand dollars a year.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$2,947

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$1,878

Annual benefit of minivans

$1,069 saved This is 36% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in Montana

Montana has 3,474 active duty military personnel and nearly 100,000 veterans. When comparing insurance rates for your vehicle, be sure to mention if you are active duty military or a veteran. Some companies offer discounts, and others may have special arrangements for active duty military members who may be deployed out of state.

If you are a disabled veteran, you can apply for a special license plate (which will honor your service while also serving as a disability placard) and you may be eligible for reduced vehicle registration fees. You can use a letter from Department of Veterans Affairs as verification.

Montana Service Members:
How Your Choice of Vehicle Affects Your Premium

Perhaps because insurance research has linked sports cars with speeding, owning an older model SUV affects your premium less than a recent model sports car.

Military Drivers: A Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle
25-Year-Old Driver
50-Year-Old Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Age-Based Perks for Montana
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$948
Male (25 yrs)$1,111
Male (50 yrs)$922
$189 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,111
Female (50 yrs)$922
$189 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to Montana Military Personnel

Before you renew your policy, it helps to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Montana.

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

Seniors in Montana

Montana requires insurers to offer discounts to seniors who successfully complete a driver safety course. If you are 55 or older, ask your agent about it. You may even be able to take the course online.

Undocumented Workers in Montana

While some states are passing laws to make it easier for undocumented immigrants to get a driver’s license (a prerequisite for car insurance), Montana has passed a law to make it more difficult. In addition to proving their identity and Montana residence, people who apply for a license must also prove that they are living in the United States legally.

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

In 2015, Montana passed a law governing ridesharing companies in the state such as Uber and Lyft – also known as transportation networking companies (TNCs). The law requires that all TNC vehicles be covered by up to $100,000 in liability for the death or injury of a passenger an $25,000 for property damage if the ridesharing app is on – even if the driver doesn’t have passengers. When the ridesharing driver has a passenger, he has to carry $1 million in liability coverage. This coverage can be paid by the driver, the ridesharing company, or both. The driver also has to have uninsured motorist coverage, unless it’s rejected in writing.

Be sure to let your insurance agent know if you are a TNC driver. Most individual car insurance policies will not cover commercial activities.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim in Montana

If you are involved in a car accident that leads to a death, serious injury or estimated property damage of at least $500, you must report the accident to the local police, county sheriff or highway patrol.

If there is property damage worth more than $1,000 to one party, you also must file a written report with the Department of Justice. Besides collecting insurance information from the other driver, take notes, get contact info from witnesses, and make sketches or take photos to remind yourself of what happened. All of this can be helpful when filing a claim.

Immediately inform your insurance company if you are in an accident. If you don’t, you may not be covered.

Best and Worst States for Drivers: How Does Montana Rank?

MoneyGeek’s analysis of federal road safety statistics found Montana to be the number one most dangerous state to drive in the United States. According to Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, an alliance of public health, consumer, and insurance groups, Montana has fallen “dangerously behind” in adopting optimal road safety laws, including primary enforcement for seat belt use, an all-rider helmet law for motorcyclists, and a better booster seat law.

Montana Driver Safety Ranking

51st 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 92 7.61 51st
Speeding-Related Fatalities 76 6.32 50th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 108 8.98 51st
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 22 1.83 49th
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 72 5.98 42nd
Pedestrian Fatalities 24 2.36 49th
Bicyclist Fatalities 1 0.10 14th
Total Vehicle Fatalities 229 19.03 51st

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

Montana: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

Montana is the only state that has no statewide restrictions on texting while driving. Some cities and counties have enacted bans, so be sure you know the local law before dialing. “Cell phone bans are usually posted upon entering a community; however, the best, and safest, way to ensure a driver is following the law is to pull over and park before using the phone,” says Watt.

To see more of the regulations Montana has in place, check out the table below:

Safe Driving Laws – Montana

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts For driver and all passengers, but no primary enforcement.
Child passenger safety Child safety/ booster seat required through age 6 (or 60 pounds).
Driving under the influence (DUI) Penalties can include jail time, fines, and license suspension.
Ignition interlock after DUI Mandatory for repeat convictions only.
Talking on cell or texting while driving Montana has no law against texting and driving.
Protections for young drivers During first six months of license, no more than one passenger under age 18, during 2nd six months, no more than 3 passengers under 18 (except family) and no driving between 11 PM to 5 AM.
Motorcycle helmet law Partial Required only for those under age 18 (universal law repealed in 1977).
Bicycle helmet law No statewide helmet law

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

Car Insurance Resources for Montana Residents

Safe Roads Montana

A report from Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, public health, and insurance groups, this yearly profile rates Montana on its road safety.

Motor Vehicle Division

Provides lots of online licensing and registration resources.

Commissioner of Securities and Insurance

Information about insurance laws and requirements, and a place to file a complaint.

Public Service Commission

Their transportation division has information and resources for TNC drivers.

2016 Rate Comparison Guide

The Commissioner of Securities and Insurance puts together this chart comparing insurance premiums among the largest insurers in the states.

SafeRoads/Montana

A report from Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, public health, and insurance groups, this yearly profile rates Montana on its road safety.