If you live in Vermont, the weather alone is reason enough to make sure you have adequate auto insurance. Vermont winters are long and hard, with 60 inches of snow a year at the low elevations of Lake Champlain and up to 120 inches in the southern Green Mountains. Read on to find out what the state requires for insurance and how you can best protect yourself and other people on the road.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Vermont?
Any car that is registered, driven or parked on the street in Vermont must be insured, according to the Vermont Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
If you have a fixer-upper that you've actually fixed up, you will need insurance before you can take it out of the garage for a spin to make sure the carburetor and timing belts are set just right.
Proof of Insurance
Vermont's slogan - "freedom and unity" - is evident even in its expectation that you'll carry car insurance without being prodded: the state doesn't require proof of insurance when you register your car at the DMV. But if you're stopped by the police or highway patrol, you'll need to show proof of insurance or another document proving financial responsibility (See "Alternatives to Insurance" - below).
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in Vermont
Vermont requires that all drivers get liability insurance, which is designed to protect you for injuries and damage to other people in an accident. The mandatory coverage levels are:
- $50,000 for bodily injury or death per injured person
- $100,000 for bodily injury or death per accident
- $10,000 for property damage per claim
Vermont also requires these levels of uninsured/underinsured motorists' coverage to cover you in case you're involved in an accident with a driver who lacks sufficient (or any) insurance:
- $50,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $100,000 for multiple persons per accident
- $10,000 in property damage
However, insurance experts and consumer groups generally consider these limits insufficient (See "How Much Car Insurance Should I Get?"). Scott Davidson, the Vermont governor's highway safety program chief, agrees. "The minimums for state coverage should reflect today's costs," he says. "Legislation needs to be adjusted from time to time in order to meet those changes."
Davidson has a personal reason for wanting better standards for coverage. His brother was driving when his car was hit head-on by someone driving too fast during poor road conditions. "It crushed his ankle, destroyed it," says Davidson. "My brother was an athlete. Now he can't run, play hockey, ride a bike with his children; he can't do anything [physical] anymore. The person who hit him had the minimum amount of insurance required by law...and my brother had no option of recovering any other compensation. And the hospital bills for his ankle went way beyond what the insurance covered."
If you are convicted of a traffic violation or are caught driving without insurance, the state may require you to purchase something called Financial Responsibility Insurance. Applying for this insurance is a tricky process, so carefully read the rules at http://dmv.vermont.gov.
What Happens If You Don't Have Insurance?
If you're caught driving in Vermont without insurance, it will cost you. Some of the penalties for being caught not carrying proper Vermont auto insurance include having 2 points added to your record and a $100 fine.
If you have been caught driving without insurance while you are driving under the influence, involved in an accident or fleeing the scene of one, or driving recklessly, your license may be temporarily suspended.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
Even though Vermont requires two important types of car insurance, insurance experts and consumer groups urge you to get liability coverage of $100,000 per bodily injury and $300,000 per accident.
who are not insured 8.5% National Average: 12.6 %
In addition, if you have a fairly new car, you may want to consider collision and comprehensive coverage, which will pay for the car if there's a traffic accident (collision) or theft or a natural disaster (comprehensive). See the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance for more.
Low-Cost and/or High-Risk Insurance Programs
"Vermont doesn't have a low-cost insurance program," says Davidson. High-risk drivers who may have trouble due to problems with their driving record, however, can choose from a number of insurers, including Esurance, Geico, Direct, Hartford, State Farm and Travelers.
Teen Drivers in Vermont
If you're a teen, get insured under the family sedan; a sports car or SUVs will result in a high premium (sports car encourage fast driving and SUVs may roll over in a crash). You may also be able to get a good student discount or a discount for taking a defensive driving course.
Davidson of the Governors Highway Safety Program supports outreach to teens about distracted driving, especially driving while talking or texting on cell phones. He notes that norms around drinking and driving have evolved over the years - "in the 70s Burt Reynolds was driving his Trans Am at 110 miles an hour drinking beer and it was not considered shocking behavior, but times have changed." He feels that cell phone use and driving will undergo a similar cultural change for the better.
Vermont Car Insurance Premiums: The Difference a Teen Makes
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$1,247 increase This is a difference of 116%.
Average annual premium increase if a teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11 to 15 mph above the speed limit:
Insurance Discounts for Vermont Teens
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$262 saved
Premiums from Vermont Insurance Providers
Policy costs may vary by thousands of dollars. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Vermont:
Vermont 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
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Vermont
If you're a college student in Vermont, you have 60 days to register your vehicle and make sure your insurance matches (or exceeds) the legal minimums for the state. If you're leaving your car and going off to another state for college, be sure to notify your insurer. You may be able to get a discount as an occasional driver, and if you're on your parents' policy, it may be good to stay on there so you'll be covered when you come home for visits.
Do College Students Have Lower Premiums in VT?
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$585 decrease This is a decrease of 23%.
Annual Premiums With a College Student in Vermont
Each year, take a look at your policy to see whether you could get a better rate. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in Vermont.
Vermont College Students: Distance Discount
You may get a small break on your family's premium if your student moves 150+ miles away from home and leaves the car with you.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $2,592 at home
- $1,992 at school
- $600 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $2,197 at home
- $1,768 at school
- $429 in savings
Which Cars Drive Up Your Premium in Vermont?
A college student driving a minivan will cost less to insure than if he or she drives a sports car, which data has linked to speeding.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$2,813
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$1,680
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Vermont
About 110 active duty military personnel and 1,076 veterans live in Vermont. If you're on active duty, Vermont will extend your driver's license 4 years past its normal expiration date. You can find out about other military benefits on the state's website.
Insurers operating in Vermont that give discounts to military personnel and veterans include GEICO and USAA. GEICO offers a flat discount of 15 percent.
Vermont Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to insurance research, but a recent model sports car still cost your less in premiums.
Military Drivers: A Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle
Age Savings for Vermont
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Premiums Available to Vermont Military Personnel
Whether you're in the military or not, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Vermont.
Seniors in Vermont
Vermont is not among the states that offers seniors a discount for a defensive driving courses, but a number of insurance companies may do so anyway. If you have a five-year history as a good driver, some insurers also offer a 25 percent discount.
Undocumented Workers in Vermont
Undocumented immigrants in Vermont can obtain a Driving Privilege Card or Learner Privilege Card, making it legally possible for them to drive, register a car and buy insurance. They'll still have to establish their identity, date of birth and proof of Vermont residency.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
Opportunities to drive for or ride with companies such as Uber and Lyft are cropping up everywhere. On its website, the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation urges consumers and drivers alike to be aware of the possible insurance pitfalls of these so-called transportation network companies (TNCs):
"When it comes to insurance, TNC's generally do not operate like traditional licensed taxi or limousine services where drivers are required to have a certain level of insurance," the Vermont financial agency warns. "TNC drivers should be aware of a possible gap in insurance coverage between their own personal automobile insurance policy and the TNC's insurance policy (if one exists). The major TNCs have policies covering their drivers, but these may not offer the full spectrum of protection that drivers or passengers may assume or expect."
TNC insurance, for example, may not cover you before you pick up a fare, even if you have the TNC app on. Your own auto insurance will likely not apply when driving for hire. If you're a passenger, be aware that ridesharing companies are not insured the same way a taxi is. In both cases, check with your insurance agent to see if you need more coverage.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim
Vermont is a "fault" state, which means that the person who is responsible for causing the crash is also responsible for the costs.
After an accident occurs, you have some options, depending on the situation:
- You can file a claim under your own insurance coverage.
- You can file a claim with the insurance company that covers the at-fault driver.
- You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver who is at fault.
If you're involved in an accident where a person is injured or the damage exceeds $3,000, you'll have to make a written accident report to the commissioner of motor vehicles within 72 hours.
Best and Worst States for Driver Safety: How Does Vermont Rank?
Vermont 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||19||2.62||10th|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||21||2.95||21st|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||2||0.28||17th|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||25||3.51||10th|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||69||9.70||18th|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Vermont: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Traffic accidents in Vermont are on the decline, with nearly a 10 percent drop between 2012 and 2013, according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. "Cars are safer, roads are safer, and driver's behaviors have improved," says Davidson. "Vermont has four top priorities when it comes to traffic safety, he says: "Seat belt use, distracted driving, impaired driving, and speed."
Davidson compares the growing awareness of the dangers of distracted driving to the gradual change in attitude toward the non-use of seat belts. "When I was child in the 70's, we didn't really wear seat belts," he recalls. "Safety standards were limited. Now through education and enforcement, it's commonplace; you just do it; you put the seat belt on. Although we can still do much better, just 30 years ago we went from having a seat belt [compliance] use rate of around 20 percent nationally to having a seat belt use rate of 87 percent. It didn't happen overnight. Cell phone use is relatively new, but we are already understanding the dangers associated with its use when driving and need to change our behavior."
Safe Driving Laws - Vermont
|Mandatory seat belts||1st offense-$25
|Child passenger safety||All children <20 lbs in a rear-facing infant seat. 1-8 years in infant or safety seat, depending on weight. Fines the same as for seat belts|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||1st offense: up to two years in jail, up to $750 fine, license suspended for 90 days, with higher penalties for multiple offenses.|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Partial||Required in some cases as part of a restricted driving license.|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||1st Offense: $100 + surcharge & 15% = $156.00
assessed 2 points
2nd Offense: $250 + surcharge & 15% = $329.00
assessed 5 points
|Protections for young drivers||May not carry passengers for hire (such as taxis or shuttles).
May not carry more passengers than there are seat belts.
May not operate a vehicle in the course of employment (for example, a pizza delivery driver) unless license has been held for one year or driver reaches age 18.
Must wear seat belt.
|Motorcycle helmet law||Universal requirement|
|Bicycle helmet law||No statewide law|
Car Insurance Resources for Vermont
With the aid of federal grants, the Governor's Highway Safety Program supports a statewide network to promote safe driving behavior on Vermont highways.
Access information on insurance, registration and licensing requirements.
Get basic information about car insurance, learn about insurance programs, and file insurance complaints.