Featured Expert
Gary Holmes
Gary Holmes N.Y. Department of Transportation View bio

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

From lazy trips through the Catskills to bumper-to-bumper crawls through lower Manhattan, New York offers every shade of driving experience. Find out exactly what you need to know about car insurance and road safety in the Empire State.

New York Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

In New York, owners of all registered vehicles must carry auto insurance or an approved alternative.

New York is one of the most insured states in the country, with only about 5 percent of drivers uninsured. Even though it is the third most expensive state for buying car insurance, drivers are eligible for many deals, including discounts for participating in a state-approved accident prevention course. Passing this course will provide a handy 10 percent discount on base premiums, a savings that can add up over the years.

The state also requires insurance companies to offer discounts for cars with certain safety features. These automatic seat belts and airbags as well as factory-installed anti-lock braking systems and daytime running lights.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in New York?

Anyone who wants to register their vehicle in New York must obtain car insurance (or post a large bond or deposit.) Even if your car is sitting in a driveway or garage and never used, if it is registered, it must stay insured. However, if you put very few miles on your vehicle each year, insurance companies might grant you a low-mileage discount.

Proof of Insurance

Under New York law, car insurance companies must issue two original insurance ID cards or give you access to digital ID cards. The state now allows you to store electronic ID cards on your smart phone and use them as proof of insurance.

Whether it’s printed or digital, you need to show the ID card:

  • When a police officer asks for it
  • When you’re involved in a car accident
  • When you’re registering your vehicle

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

Each state has minimum liability insurance requirements. Here are the minimum requirements for New York:

  • $10,000 for property damage
  • $25,000 for bodily injury to a single person
  • $50,000 for the death of a single person
  • $50,000 for bodily injury to two or more people
  • $100,000 for the death of two or more people

Note that these are the state’s legal minimums. Experts strongly recommend you consider higher limits and additional coverage. For other common types of protection, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.

Low-cost insurance program

New York does not have a special state program for providing low-cost car insurance to low-income drivers. However, it does have a system called the New York Automobile Insurance Plan (NYAIP). The NYAIP is for drivers who can’t get car insurance coverage, perhaps because they have a poor driving record or have filed a lot of claims. The NYAIP fills this car insurance market gap.

Alternatives to Insurance in New York

Drivers in New York have the option of showing they can pay for an accident without the benefit of insurance. Here are the alternatives:

  • Filing a surety bond with the commissioner in an amount no less than what you would be paying for the state minimum car insurance in New York
  • Paying a security deposit of $150,000 to the commissioner
  • Applying to self-insure your vehicles (only applies to those who have at least 25 vehicles registered in their name)

What Happens If You Don’t Have Car Insurance?

Driving without auto insurance in New York can be costly, leading to a license suspension or fines. If your insurance lapses for any reason, you must surrender your license plates to the DMV immediately. Failure to do so will lead to suspension of your registration; avoiding it for 90 days or more will result in a license suspension as well.

Driving without insurance leaves you at risk of being ticketed, arrested and/or having your vehicle impounded. If the DMV revokes your license for driving without insurance, you’ll have to pay a fine of $750 to get it back. According to the New York DMV, you may also have to pay up to $1,500 in traffic court fines.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

Even though New York law requires only minimum liability car insurance, insurance experts recommend that you increase the coverage to a “100/300” plan, according to the Insurance Information Institute. This means that your insurance will cover up to $100,000 in personal injury for one person, or $300,000 per accident.

What Percentage of Drivers in
New York Lack Vehicle Insurance?
5.3% National Average: 12.6 %

Keep in mind that New York is a no-fault car insurance state, which means that no matter who was at fault in an accident, each auto insurance policy will pay for up to $50,000 in crash-related expenses. However, purchasing Personal Injury Protection (PIP) can increase that no-fault limit to $100,000 or more.

To learn more about common types of car insurance and what’s best for you, see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in New York

When your teen starts to drive, she has a higher chance of getting into a serious crash than an adult. The New York DMV recommends that you play an active role in the state’s Graduated Driver’s License program by:

  • Verifying that your child has had required hours of practice driving with you.
  • Signing a parent and teen driving contract.
  • Enrolling in the TEENS program, which will let you know if your child get cited for any kind of traffic violation.
  • Withdraw your consent if your teenager is not ready to drive.

Along with the higher risk of teen drivers come higher premiums. You can help keep them down by making sure your teenager drives a safe, large-frame car with crash protection rather than a sports car or SUV. Insurers may also offer discounts for good students or teens who take a defensive driving class.

Teens and Car Insurance in New York

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

$1,577 increase This is a difference of 70%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th – 75th Percentile Median
Watch Your Speedometer

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

Male teen

$926

Speedometer
Female teen

$853

Discounts for Teens in New York

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

$358 saved

Compare Premiums from New York Providers

Think it doesn’t matter which insurance company you choose in terms of cost? Think again:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
GEICO $1,096 $2,920 $9,376
Travelers $1,550 $3,402 $9,980
Liberty Mutual $1,540 $4,810 $18,020
Allstate $1,774 $5,042 $16,795
State Farm $2,624 $6,615 $16,456

New York Premiums: Mustang vs. Minivan

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
Mustang GTs

$6,096

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$4,045

Annual benefit of minivans:

$2,051 saved This is 34% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th – 75th Percentile Median

College Students in New York

If you’re coming to New York to study for more than 90 days, you’re presumed to be a state resident and need a New York driver’s license. What helps is that you can simply exchange your old state or Canadian license as long as your old license:

  • Has your photo on it
  • Carries the date it was issued and was issued six months prior to your arrival in New York
  • Is a valid license or one that expired in the last two years
  • Has not been suspended, revoked or stolen

And whether you drive a car registered in the state or not, your auto insurance has to meet (or exceed) the minimum coverage required by New York.

Do College Drivers Have Lower Premiums in NY?

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

$572 decrease This is a decrease of 13%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Annual Rates With a College Student in New York

Each year, review your policy to see whether you could get a better deal somewhere else. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in New York.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
Travelers $1,232 $2,248 $5,016
GEICO $857 $2,342 $8,268
State Farm $2,023 $4,520 $9,345
Allstate $1,602 $4,580 $12,529
Liberty Mutual $1,814 $5,386 $18,020

Distance Discount for New York College Students

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

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $4,520 at home
  • $4,090 at school
  • $430 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $3,780 at home
  • $3,660 at school
  • $120 in savings

How Car Choice Can Lead to Savings in New York

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$5,196

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$3,314

Annual benefit of minivans

$1,882 saved This is 36% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in New York

With its 24,300 active-duty military personnel and another 892,000 veterans, New York State requires auto insurers licensed to operate in the state to offer discounts to military members and veterans. Amounts and procedures vary among companies, but all must give a reduced rate to armed forces personnel and retired vets. Shopping around could save even more money, since insurance companies are still going to look at your credit history and driving record in determining how much you’ll have to pay.

Although military members and veterans have to carry insurance like everybody else, once they have coverage they can get a price break at the New York DMV.

Service members don’t have to pay sales tax on vehicles purchased out-of-state even if they’re registered in New York. If your New York vehicle registration or license expires while you’re deployed, there’s an automatic extension of up to 60 days after you return to New York State. Liability insurance coverage must be maintained on vehicles in use, including the extension period on re-registering.

New York Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium

SUVs and pickups are more likely than other vehicle to roll over, according to the Insurance Information Institute, but an older model SUV still drives up 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 Savings for New York
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$1,586
Male (25 yrs)$2,092
Male (50 yrs)$1,584
$508 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,798
Female (50 yrs)$1,595
$203 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to New York Military Personnel

When you're looking for affordable car insurance, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in New York.

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

Seniors in New York

New York requires that insurance companies grant a discount for people 55 and older who take a state-approved defensive driving class. Not only that, but you can take it online. Once you successfully complete the course, the state requires that your insurer give you a premium discount of at least 10 percent.

Undocumented Workers in New York

New York does not allow undocumented immigrants to apply for driver’s licenses. However, young immigrants who are part of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are able to get their driver’s license and car insurance if they can get a work permit. The basic requirements for DACA status are:

  • You have lived continuously in the United States since June 15, 2007
  • You arrived in the United States before turning 16
  • You were under the age of 31 on June 15, 2012
  • You are a student, enrolled in the armed forces or have completed high school or a GED
  • You have not been convicted of a felony, serious misdemeanor or three or more misdemeanors

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

Ridesharing has become a popular way to get around New York, especially urban areas like New York City. If you choose to work with Uber, Lyft, Sidecar or other transportation network companies (TNCs), keep in mind that your personal vehicle insurance might not cover you if you are involved in an accident while “driving for hire.”

In addition, TNC policies may not cover the driver or the vehicle. The bottom line? If you get into an accident while driving someone who has hired you to do so, you might not be covered at all.

In New York, ridesharing has become a hot topic, especially in New York City, where taxis are a primary mode of transportation for millions of commuters. Since the city considers these ridesharing drivers “professionals,” people working with Uber must have coverage of at least $100,000 of liability insurance, rather than the typical $25,000.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim

Even if you’re careful and stick to the speed limit and obey all traffic laws, a car accident can happen in an instant. If it does happen to you, here’s what to do:

  • If the accident resulted in property damage only, exchange information about driver’s licenses, insurance and registration with the other driver(s).
  • If you’ve hit a pet or parked car, locate the owners or contact the police.
  • If property damage is more than $1,000, all drivers involved must file a Report of Motor Vehicle Accident. This must be done within 10 days.
  • If anyone is injured or killed, report the accident to the police immediately and wait for them to get there. Leaving the scene of an accident that caused personal injury or death is illegal.

Get in touch with your insurance company as soon as possible after the accident. If the other driver didn’t give you insurance information, you can request information on his or her insurance status from the state.

Driver Safety: How Does New York Rank?

New York is in the top 12 safest states to drive in, according to a MoneyGeek analysis of crash fatalities.

“Safety is our top priority,” says Gary Holmes, director of communication at the New York State Department of Transportation. “Engineering is a large part of ensuring safe travel.” That can range from maintaining roads to completely reconstructing dangerous intersections, he explains.

“However, we can’t solely engineer our way to safer roads,” Holmes says, pointing out that the transportation department partners with other agencies in a comprehensive approach to education and enforcement. These partnerships help check for drunk drivers and enforce seatbelt laws and “traffic calming” programs, including radar to check speeding.

New York Driver Safety Ranking

11th 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 360 2.77 15th
Speeding-Related Fatalities 358 2.76 18th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 186 1.43 3rd
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 16 0.12 14th
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 438 3.38 8th
Pedestrian Fatalities 335 1.70 37th
Bicyclist Fatalities 40 0.20 33rd
Total Vehicle Fatalities 1,199 9.24 14th

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

New York: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

In New York, an old (and obviously unenforced) state law that prohibits driving at speeds over eight miles per hour was overturned a few years ago. Fortunately, other New York laws are more optimal, including those requiring booster seats, helmets for all motorcycle riders and ignition interlocks for DUIs.

Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, however, gives New York a yellow “caution” rating for some gaps in its traffic safety laws. The safety alliance urges New York to pass better seat belt laws and to ban novice drivers from talking on cell phones, even the hands-free variety.

Safe Driving Laws in New York

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts Partial Front seat belts: required for everyone. Rear seat belts are only required for anyone under 16 years of age.
Child passenger safety Children up to the age of 7 must be placed in an appropriate infant, child, or booster seat.
Driving while intoxicated (DWI) First offense: 90- day license suspension, $300 to $500 fine and/or jail time of 15 days or less. Penalties increase for subsequent convictions.
Ignition interlock after DUI Required for all DWI convictions.
Talking on cell or texting while driving Talking and texting is prohibited by law. Violators can be fined.
Protections for young drivers A three-stage graduated licensing program, with 50 hours of supervised driving required and a ban on unsupervised nighttime driving (between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m.) during the intermediate stage.
Motorcycle helmet law Required for all riders.
Bicycle helmet law Partial Required for those under 14 years of age.

Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, 2016

Car Insurance Resources for New York Residents

Insure U

Sponsored by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, Insure U helps people choose the right insurance, including car insurance.

DMV: Younger Drivers Resources

A consumer-friendly guide for young drivers and their parents.

New York Department of Financial Services – Automobile Owners Resource Center

Addresses common issues and questions about New York car insurance.

New York Department of Motor Vehicles

Learn what it takes to be a driver in the the state of New York.

New York Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee

Find out more about New York’s traffic laws and driving safety tips.

The New York Automobile Insurance Plan (NYAIP)

If you are unable to find car insurance in the voluntary market, the NYAIP may be your best bet.

Updated: July 29, 2017