Featured Expert
Michael Barry
Michael Barry Insurance Information Institute View bio

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

Our nation’s capital is also the gridlock capital of the country. It was ranked the “Most Congested City” in the 2015 Urban Mobility Scorecard, a report issued by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute and Inrix. The average DC commuter there loses $1,834 and 82 hours a year – more than two weeks – just to traffic delays. Add to that the fact that Washington, D.C. has the second most expensive car insurance premiums in the country, and driving residents find themselves in a mess.

In fact, at least one study concluded that Washington D.C. had the worst drivers in the United States. A 2012 Allstate report found the average driver gets into a collision every 10 years, compared to every 4.8 years for drivers in District of Columbia. In other words, drivers in D.C. are 112 percent more likely to get into a crash. The good news is they’re much less likely to die in that crash than in almost any state in the country. Read on to find D.C.’s secret – and what you need for car insurance in the Beltway.

D.C. Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

Washington offers a unique hybrid of “No-Fault” and liability insurance options. In most No-Fault insurance systems, drivers must purchase Personal Injury Protection (PIP) to cover them in an accident, regardless of who is at fault. But in D.C., PIP is not mandatory. Drivers may choose to purchase this coverage, and may decide whether or not to use it – or instead seek damages through the other party’s liability insurance – after an accident. The law requires PIP insurance, if accepted, to cover at least $50,000 for medical and rehabilitation and $12,000 for work loss costs.

If you choose to use your PIP protection, your ability to file a liability claim against the other party is limited. You are only entitled to file a liability claim with the other driver’s insurance company if you have suffered serious, long-term injuries or if your medical costs are higher than the limits covered by your insurance.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in D.C.?

Everyone who drives a vehicle registered in D.C. must carry liability and uninsured motorist insurance. D.C. uses an electronic verification system to check vehicle registrations against insurance policies. If your insurance is canceled for any reason, you are required to turn your registration and plates in to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

According to the Insurance Research Council, an estimated 11.9 percent of drivers were uninsured in D.C. in 2012.

Proof of Insurance

You are required to carry proof of insurance in your vehicle at all times. If the police stop you for any reason, you’re required to show it. If you are unable to show proof of insurance, you will be fined.

D.C. law states that your proof of insurance must be a document issued by your insurance company that includes your insurance company name, policy number, the name of the policyholder and the period the insurance covers.

Insurance companies operating in D.C. must notify the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) if a customer’s policy is canceled. At that point the DMV will send an insurance verification notice to the owner of the vehicle, requesting proof of coverage.

Minimum Insurance Requirements in D.C.

Washington residents are required to carry liability and uninsured motorist coverage on their vehicle. Minimum coverage includes:

  • Liability insurance for injuries: $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability: $10,000
  • Uninsured motorist insurance: $25,000 per injury and $50,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist property damage liability: $5,000 (with $200 deductible)

In addition, D.C. requires insurers to offer “No-Fault” Personal Injury Protection to all drivers. This coverage is optional.

What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in D.C.?

If you are caught driving without insurance in D.C., your penalty will depend on whether you own the uninsured vehicle. It is illegal to drive an uninsured vehicle, and it is illegal to own an uninsured vehicle. There are separate penalties for each of these offenses.

For owning an uninsured registered vehicle:

$150 fine for first month, and $7 a day after that, up to a maximum of $2,500. The DMV will suspend your vehicle registration until you can prove you have insurance and pay a reinstatement fee.

For operating an uninsured registered vehicle:

$500 fine for first offense. Possible license suspension (in addition to vehicle suspension).

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

The types of insurance and amount of coverage you need depend on your situation and assets, but most insurance experts recommend that you purchase more than the minimum liability insurance required by law.

What Percentage of Drivers in
D.C. Lack Vehicle Insurance?
11.9% National Average: 12.6 %

“It pays to review your auto insurance coverage when it comes up for renewal to make sure your insurance is in step with your needs,” says Michael Barry, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute. “For example, if your car is worth less than 10 times the premium, purchasing collision coverage may not be cost effective. When this is the case, consider dropping collision coverage.”

“Should you drop collision coverage, take the monies you would have paid for it, and put the proceeds into a savings account to save for a new car,” Barry adds.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in Washington DC

While D.C.’s gridlocked roads may be a nightmare for commuters, they were ranked the safest place in the nation for teens to drive by US News and World Reports in 2010. This is mostly due to strict licensing requirements for teens and strong enforcement of traffic safety laws.

The capital’s DMV has joined with private-sector companies to launch a Parents Supervised Driving Program. The program offers parents and guardians resources and a simple plan for them to help their teenagers learn to drive safely.

Of course, your child’s safety is your primary concern, but next in line will be your insurance premiums. Prepare for a hike in your premium when you add your teenager to your car insurance policy. Ask your insurance agent about discounts. Many companies offer discounts for students who maintain at least a B average and teens who take a driver safety course.

The Difference a Teen Makes to Your Washington DC Car Insurance Policy

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

$2,366 increase This is an increase of 140%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median
Teen Speeding and Insurance

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

Male teen

$694

Speedometer
Female teen

$592

What Discounts Do Washington DC Teens Get?

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

$380 saved

Compare Premiums from Washington DC Insurance Providers

Shop around for the policy that's right for you. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Washington DC:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
USAA $2,130 $3,336 $7,272
GEICO $2,400 $3,788 $7,767
Progressive $3,148 $4,632 $8,784
State Farm $3,116 $5,095 $8,541
Allstate $4,366 $7,368 $12,918

Will Your Washington DC Premiums Go Up With This Car?

Are sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans? Insurance experts say they are, and premium rates reflect that.

Average premium for two 2014
Mustang GTs

$6,732

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$3,920

Annual benefit of minivans:

$2,812 saved This is 42% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th - 75th Percentile Median

College Students in Washington DC

If you have a child heading off to college, it pays to do some homework. If your child plans to take the car, research insurance rates in the college’s location before deciding whether to keep him on your policy. Check in to discounts as well. Many companies offer a discount if your child will be attending school more than 150 miles from home and won’t be taking the car. That way you can keep coverage for your child when he is visiting home and using the car without paying full price.

DC College Students vs. Teen Drivers

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

$1,222 decrease This is a decrease of 26%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

How Annual Premiums Compare for District of Columbia Insurers

Each year, review your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Compare the average premiums, for example, for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in District of Columbia.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
USAA $1,351 $2,101 $3,915
GEICO $1,198 $2,452 $6,107
State Farm $1,915 $3,133 $5,736
Progressive $2,406 $3,535 $6,178
Allstate $3,596 $5,975 $9,829

Distance Discount for District of Columbia 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
  • $4,316 at home
  • $3,416 at school
  • $900 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $3,623 at home
  • $2,998 at school
  • $625 in savings

District of Columbia College Drivers: Mustangs vs. Minivans

Your college student driving a minivan will result in a lower premium than if he or she drives a sports car — a reflection of the lower risk to insurers.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$4,833

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$2,778

Annual benefit of minivans

$2,055 saved This is 43% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in Washington DC

Lots of DC residents are members of the Armed Forces. If you have a deployment coming up, you don’t want to let your insurance lapse accidently while you are away. The DC DMV requires you to maintain minimum liability and uninsured motorist coverage on your vehicle if it is registered. However, you may want to talk with your insurance provider about suspending optional coverage like collision insurance, especially if your car won’t be used during your deployment.

If you are a veteran, ask your insurer about discounts for veterans. You are also eligible to receive a DC Veteran tag for your car. There is no registration fee if you are a disabled veteran. You must offer proof of military service and honorable discharge to qualify. Spouses are also eligible for a Veteran tag.

Washington DC Service Members:
How the Vehicle You Buy Affects Your Premium

Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to the Insurance Information Institute, but an older model SUV still has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.

Service Members: 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 Washington DC
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$1,344
Male (25 yrs)$1,712
Male (50 yrs)$1,347
$365 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,588
Female (50 yrs)$1,302
$286 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to Washington DC Military Personnel

When looking for the best premium rates, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Washington DC.

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

Seniors in Washington DC

If you are 55 or older, ask your insurance agent for a senior discount on your auto premium. Most insurance companies offer this discount for older drivers who pass a driver safety course. The discounts usually last three years.

Once you reach age 70, you will need a physician’s letter when you renew your driver’s license in D.C.

Undocumented Workers in Washington DC

Since May 2014, District of Columbia residents who do not have a social security number and cannot establish legal their legal presence in the United States can still get a driver’s license (a prerequisite for car insurance). In D.C., it’s known as a “Limited Purpose Driver License.” This license is valid for eight years, but it cannot be used for federal identification purposes.

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

If you plan to drive for a transportation network company (TNC) like Uber or Lyft, be sure you are fully covered by the company’s insurance policy or your own. Most personal insurance policies will not cover commercial use of a vehicle.

In 2015, the District of Columbia passed legislation establishing insurance requirements for TNCs operating in the district. The legislation is similar to that passed in other states and requires that the TNC or the driver carry the following liability coverage:

When logged in to the app, but not carrying passengers:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage of at least $50,000 per person and $100,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability coverage of at least $25,000 per accident

When carrying passengers:

  • Primary liability coverage of $1 million per accident.

Uber and Lyft typically provide the $1 million liability coverage when their drivers are carrying passengers, so your main concern should be whether you have the appropriate coverage when you are logged in to the app, but are not carrying passengers. (Also, you should check on your collision and comprehensive coverage.) Ask your insurance agent whether you are fully covered and, if not, how you should adjust your policy.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim

If you are involved in an accident in the District of Columbia, file an accident report with the police and notify your insurance agent immediately. Be sure to exchange insurance information with the other driver and get phone numbers and emails of any witnesses. Some experts also advise taking photos at the scene of the accident, if possible.

If you have purchased optional Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, you have 60 days to decide whether or not you want to rely on your PIP insurance to cover your damages. If not, you can seek damages through the other party’s liability insurance, or through your uninsured motorist coverage.

Driver Safety: How Does D.C. Rank?

The District of Columbia is known for having the worst drivers in the United States, and that translates into a high rate of collisions. Interestingly, it doesn’t translate into a high rate of traffic fatalities; D.C. is in the top 20 states with the lowest rates of road deaths. It also has a low rate of drunk driving, speeding and pedestrian fatalities, and it’s the number one safest city for cyclists, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. All this propels D.C. into the top 10 safest states (and capital) for driving.

District of Columbia Driver Safety Ranking

2nd 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 6 1.76 3rd
Speeding-Related Fatalities 9 2.55 14th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 0 0.00 1st
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 0 0.00 1st
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 7 1.98 1st
Pedestrian Fatalities 9 1.39 30th
Bicyclist Fatalities 1 0.15 24th
Total Vehicle Fatalities 20 5.67 1st

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

D.C. Protecting You from Injury on the Road

The District of Columbia joins ten other states in receiving the highest safety marks from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, medical, public health and insurance groups. The alliance notes that D.C. is “significantly advanced” in terms of optimal road safety laws.

Safe Driving Laws – D.C.

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts For all passengers, primary enforcement. This means a law enforcement officers can pull you over if they spot someone unbuckled.
Child passenger safety Child seat required for all kids under age 8.
Driving under the influence (DUI) 1st DUI conviction, 2 to 90-day license suspension, possible jail time of up to 90 days, and fines. Penalties increase for subsequent convictions; a second DUI, for example, may result in a year in jail.
Ignition interlock after DUI Partial Discretionary
Talking on cell or texting while driving Handheld and texting ban for all drivers. No cell phone use at all with learner’s permit
Protections for young drivers During intermediate stage, no driving midnight to 6 a.m., 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, September through June. No passengers except family during first six months, limited to two passengers until age 18
Motorcycle helmet law Universal helmet law
Bicycle helmet law Partial Mandatory for those under age 16

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

Car Insurance Resources for D.C. Residents

Department of Motor Vehicles

Has information about licensing, registration and insurance requirements.

Department of Insurance

Provides information about car insurance laws and regulations in D.C.

Premium Comparison Chart

The Department of Insurance prepared this chart comparing sample premium prices offered by major insurers in the city.

The Parent’s Supervised Driving Program

Offers resources for parents to help their teens learn to be safe and responsible drivers.

Consumer Protection Department

You can file a complaint about your insurance company here.

Updated: July 29, 2017