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Natalie Holcomb West Virginia DMV View bio

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MoneyGeek Staff

Its safety record is improving, but West Virginia still has the second highest rate of fatal crashes in the country. So whether you’re in town or on backcountry roads, it’s important to have the best car insurance you can afford. Find out what you need to know about what the Mountain State requires for insurance and road safety.

West Virginia Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

In West Virginia, all registered vehicles must carry at least the minimum auto insurance required by the state. Penalties are severe if you don’t have car insurance, so read on to learn how to protect yourself.

Who Needs Auto Insurance in West Virginia?

Everyone. In West Virginia, car owners cannot register their vehicles until the state DMV receives proof of auto insurance.

Even if your registered auto breaks down or becomes inoperable, you have to maintain insurance or return the license plate to the West Virginia DMV.

Proof of Insurance

West Virginia requires drivers to carry proof of insurance in their vehicles at all times. You’re required to show your insurance card if:

  • A law enforcement officer asks for it
  • You’re renewing your vehicle registration
  • You’re involved in a collision

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

West Virginia requires all drivers to carry both liability and uninsured motorist insurance. When you go to register your car, a state official will first check online to make sure you have insurance.

The minimum liability coverage required in West Virginia includes the following:

  • $25,000 for a crash resulting in one injury
  • $50,000 for a crash resulting in two or more injuries
  • $25,000 for property damage

Unlike many states, West Virginia also requires uninsured motorist insurance at the same coverage levels as those it requires for liability insurance.

Alternatives to Insurance

West Virginia offers no alternatives to auto insurance. Without proof of the minimum coverage, you can’t register your vehicle with the state.

What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in West Virginia?

Drivers may have their license suspended if caught driving without insurance in West Virginia. You may be hit with a fine and have your registration suspended. Falsely claiming insurance coverage could result in harsh consequences:

  • Suspension of vehicle registration. The reinstatement fee is $100.00, plus proof of insurance for all registered vehicles.
  • Driver’s license suspension for 90 days. There’s a $50 reinstatement fee after the suspension.
  • Possible impoundment of your car.
  • Possible jail time (up to 12 months) and a fine of up to $1,000.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

The cheapest insurance isn’t always the best insurance. To protect your household assets, if any, you need liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident, according to the Information Insurance Institute. If you have a loan for a new car, you’ll also be required to carry collision and comprehensive insurance to protect it.

Percentage of West Virginia drivers
who are not insured
8.4% National Average: 12.6 %

Is your driving record making it hard for you to find insurance? If so, you can apply for insurance through an assigned risk plan known as the West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan. The program helps assure that all licensed drivers have access to car insurance.

For more on the best insurance you can find and the type of discounts you may qualify for, see the MoneyGeek guidebook to car insurance.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in West Virginia

West Virginia law requires teens to carry the same level of insurance as adults. The main difference is insurance coverage almost always jumps in price to cover a new teen driver because teens are more likely to get in crashes.

To control these costs, the Virginia DMV suggests asking the insurance company for a higher deductible on any damages. Let your teen use the large-frame family car (which should have advanced crash protection and safety features). Not only is this safer, it should result in a lower premium than that for a sports car or SUV.

West Virginia Car Insurance: The Impact of a Teen Driver

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

$1,685 increase This is a difference of 85%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median
Speeding Toward Higher Rates

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

Male teen

$489

Speedometer
Female teen

$363

Discounts for Teens in West Virginia

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

$224 saved

Compare Auto Insurance Premiums from West Virginia Insurers

It pays to shop around. Check out the annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in West Virginia:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
Nationwide $2,234 $3,243 $4,588
State Farm $1,791 $3,465 $6,442
Erie $2,027 $3,744 $8,089
GEICO $2,512 $4,734 $9,119
Allstate $2,585 $4,749 $8,724

Will Your Car Choice Affect Your Premium in West Virginia?

No matter how much your teen wants a sports car, a sedan or minivan is both safer and far less expensive to insure.

Average premium for two 2014
Mustang GTs

$5,034

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$3,385

Annual benefit of minivans:

$1,649 saved This is 33% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th - 75th Percentile Median

College Students in West Virginia

A non-resident college student with a valid out-of-state license does not require a West Virginia license. West Virginia students enrolling in another state school should follow these steps:

  • Alert the insurance company if a vehicle will be used in another state.
  • If the student does not use a car while away at school, ask the insurance carrier for a reduced rate.
  • Check whether the insurance company offers reduced rates for safe student drivers and good grades.

And students, be careful about letting friends borrow the car while away at school. Although state laws vary, in most cases the owner of the vehicle remains at least partially responsible for any accidents.

West Virginia College Students vs. Teen Drivers

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

$637 decrease This is a savings of 16%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Annual Rates With a College Student in West Virginia

Each year, review your policy to see whether you could get a better rate elsewhere. Here are the average premiums for a married couple with a 19-year-old college student in West Virginia.

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
State Farm $1,426 $2,670 $4,829
Nationwide $2,190 $3,052 $4,061
Erie $1,873 $3,206 $5,642
GEICO $1,735 $3,512 $7,034
Allstate $2,199 $3,928 $6,890

A Surprising Discount for West Virginia College Drivers

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

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $3,805 at home
  • $3,302 at school
  • $503 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $3,303 at home
  • $2,969 at school
  • $334 in savings

Will Your Car Choice Affect Your Premium in West Virginia?

College student in Vermont who drive a minivan cost less to insure on a family premium than those who drive a sports car — a reflection of the lower risk to insurers.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$4,097

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$2,792

Annual benefit of minivans

$1,305 saved This is 32% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in West Virginia

If you’re one of the 400 active-duty military personnel living in the Mountain State of West Virginia or count yourself among the more than 167,000 veterans, look for a military discount on coverage from most companies licensed to do business in the state. Just show proof of enlistment with your military ID card or veteran status and the discount is usually automatic. Premium rates will still vary, so don’t sign on with the first insurance quote. Get at least three for a good comparison of the price range.

If deployment is imminent and you won’t need to drive your car for some time, consider a policy that lets you halt premium payments until your return.

To renew your vehicle registration while you’re deployed or based out of state, go online to provide proof of insurance, and pay annual personal property taxes as well with a credit or debit card. Non-resident military members don’t need to register their vehicles in West Virginia if the registration is current in the home state.

West Virginia Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium

Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, according to insurance industry resources, but an older model SUV will have a smaller impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.

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

Age Savings for West Virginia
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$1,323
Male (25 yrs)$1,662
Male (50 yrs)$1,392
$270 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,556
Female (50 yrs)$1,386
$170 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to West Virginia Military Personnel

When looking for the most affordable auto insurance, it pays to shop around. Check out the average annual rates you can get in West Virginia.

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

Seniors in West Virginia

West Virginia drivers 55 and up with a good driving record can get auto insurance discounts upon completion of a driver safety course. State law requires insurance companies to offer this discount, which is good for three years. Drivers can take the safety course again at the expiration of their discount term.

Undocumented Workers in West Virginia

West Virginia does not have a program for undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license, a prerequisite for buying car insurance.

However, if you came to the United States before your 16th birthday and meet some other legal requirements, you may be eligible for a license through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. West Virginia also has a license program in place for refugees.

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

“Ridesharing” companies like Uber and Lyft, which use mobile apps to connect passengers to drivers, are not yet legal in West Virginia. However, that may change soon. The West Virginia legislature is considering letting ridesharing companies operate legally and imposing insurance requirements on them.

Since ridesharing companies may not offer the same liability protections as taxi companies, both drivers and passengers may be vulnerable in the event of an accident. Some ridesharing companies provide contingent auto insurance, but it may not kick in until the passenger gets in your car. In addition, ridesharing companies generally don’t pay collision insurance for your car.

Since a personal auto policy doesn’t cover “driving for hire,” talk with your agent about the type of coverage you need. Ridesharing passengers should also consult their agent, since ridesharing cars may not carry the same type of insurance as taxis.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim

Have a driving accident in West Virginia? Here’s how to file an insurance claim:

  • Pull off to the side of the road, if possible.
  • Call the police. In West Virginia, drivers are required to call the police about any accidents involving injuries or property damage greater than $1,000.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with all involved drivers and any witnesses and write down the license plates.
  • Call the insurance company from the accident site, if possible, to report the accident. Insurance carriers will contact the police directly to obtain official accident reports.

Driver Safety: How Does West Virginia Rank?

Although it’s been called “almost heaven” by songwriter John Denver, West Virginia is not that when it comes to drivers. It has the second highest fatality rate next to Montana per every 1 billion miles driven, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration(NHTSA). Alcohol-impaired drivers are involved in more than one in four fatal crashes, and speeding is involved in nearly 40 percent.

West Virginia Driver Safety Ranking

48th 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 90 4.66 45th
Speeding-Related Fatalities 130 6.76 51st
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 113 5.88 46th
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 8 0.42 22nd
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 126 6.55 47th
Pedestrian Fatalities 28 1.51 34th
Bicyclist Fatalities 0 0.00 1st
Total Vehicle Fatalities 332 17.26 50th

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

West Virginia: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

West Virginia reports 14.7 traffic fatalities per 100,000 people, compared to the national average of 10.25, according to NHTSA. However, its safety record is improving. The state credits recent laws against texting while driving with an 18 percent drop, in roadway fatalities between 2014 and 2015. West Virginia has some of the most advanced protections for teens, too: they can’t call or text while driving on an kind of wireless device, whether it is handheld or not.

Safe Driving Laws – West Virginia

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts Everyone in the vehicle must wear seat belts.
Child passenger safety Children under 8 must ride in an approved safety seat.
Driving under the influence (DUI) A blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent is the legal threshold for drunk driving. Penalties can include fines, jail time, temporary license revocation and prison time for multiple offenses.
Ignition interlock after DUI Any driver convicted of DUI must install the device.
Talking on cell or texting while driving Texting or talking on a handheld cell is prohibited.
Protections for young drivers Graduated license system based on age and training; no talking or texting, even hands-free, while driving.
Motorcycle helmet law All riders must wear a helmet.
Bicycle helmet law Partial Riders under 15 must wear a helmet.

Other: West Virginia has no age restriction on motorcycle passengers.

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

Car Insurance Resources for West Virginia Residents

West Virginia DMV

Offers information on auto insurance and vehicle registration in West Virginia.

Consumer Services Division, West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioner

Helps consumers, insurance companies and agents with questions and complaints.

Auto Insurance Brochure

prepared by the West Virginia Offices of the Insurance Commissioners and located on its consumer brochure page.

West Virginia Automobile Insurance Plan

This program helps drivers with blemishes on their driving record get car insurance.