Featured Expert
Drew Hopkins Office of the Commissioner of Insurance View bio

This guide was written by

MoneyGeek Staff

When it comes to fatal crashes, Wisconsin is one of the 12 safest states in the country. As one of the 4th safest states for pedestrians, it’s also one of the best states to walk in, according to federal traffic data. Read on to find out about insurance requirements and road safety in the Badger State.

Wisconsin Vehicle Insurance Requirements

Summary

All vehicles registered in Wisconsin are required to carry a minimum level of liability insurance, although you don’t need to show proof of insurance when you register a vehicle or apply for a driver’s license. Almost 12 percent of state drivers – lack the minimum requirements for auto insurance — a slightly better rate than the national average.

Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Wisconsin?

All Wisconsin motor vehicle owners are required to buy at least the minimum liability coverage required by the state.

Proof of Insurance

You don’t need to show proof of insurance to register a vehicle, but you need to have it with you when you’re driving. You’ll have to produce your insurance card or a digital copy on a smart phone in these cases:

  • If a police officer asks for it
  • If you’re in an accident

Most insurance verification in Wisconsin occurs when a police officer pulls over a driver. Insurance examiner Drew Hopkins says the state insurance office would prefer to verify insurance before the DMV registers a vehicle for legal use. “It’s too late after an accident occurs to find out a driver isn’t covered,” he says.

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements

Wisconsin sets out minimum requirements for auto insurance on all registered vehicles. The amounts required by law:

  • $10,000 for property damage
  • $25,000 for one injury or death
  • $50,000 for multiple injuries or death

Alternatives to Insurance

Wisconsin drivers can skip insurance requirements by posting a $60,000 bond per vehicle with the state. If an accident costs you more than that, though, you’ll have to come up with the money.

What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in Wisconsin?

If you’re caught driving without insurance, you may be penalized with:

  • A $10 fine for failure to show proof of insurance at a traffic stop or accident
  • Fines up to $500 for repeat offenses
  • Fines up to $5,000 for filing fraudulent proof of insurance

In addition, your license will be suspended until you have an SR-22 on file (a document certifying you have insurance). If you are in an accident and don’t have insurance, your license will be suspended for up to three years.

How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?

Experts recommend that you get a liability insurance with coverage of $100,000 per injury and $300,000 or more per accident, according to the Insurance Information Institute. You may also want to consider uninsured motorist insurance, which will protect you if you’re hit by someone without insurance.

What Percentage of Drivers in
Wisconsin Lack Vehicle Insurance?
11.7% National Average: 12.6 %

If you have a newer vehicle and can afford the premiums, collision and comprehensive coverage could be an excellent investment. Unlike collision insurance, which covers car repairs or replacement after an accident, comprehensive pays if your vehicle is hit by a deer, stolen or damaged in a natural disaster.

For more on the best insurance you should get, check out the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.

Car Insurance and Special Groups

Teen Drivers in Wisconsin

Teen drivers in Wisconsin must be sponsored by a licensed adult driver who is responsible for the learner. Although your premiums will go up, parents can help manage the added cost by raising their deductible or buying a less-expensive used car for their teen to drive. Some insurance companies also offer discounts for students who get good grades or pass a safe driving course.

How a Teen Drives Up Your Premium

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

$1,631 increase This is a difference of 133%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th – 75th Percentile Median
Speeding Toward a Rate Hike

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

Male teen

$424

Speedometer
Female teen

$378

Discounts for Teens in Wisconsin

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

$328 saved

Compare Quotes from Wisconsin Providers

Shopping around for the most affordable provider may save you more than you think:

Insurance Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
American Family $1,149 $2,127 $4,666
Acuity $1,422 $2,946 $8,820
State Farm $1,725 $3,140 $6,040
Progressive $1,684 $3,122 $9,464
Allstate $2,073 $3,999 $8,504

Wisconsin Premiums: Mustang vs. Minivan

Do insurers consider sports cars a more risky choice for teens than sedans and minivans? Yes, say industry insiders — and premium rates reflect it.

Average premium for two 2014
Mustang GTs

$4,109

Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds

$2,545

Annual benefit of minivans:

$1,564 saved This is 38% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + 16 Year Old
25th – 75th Percentile Median

College Students in Wisconsin

Full-time students who move from out of state to go to college in Wisconsin do not need a Wisconsin driver’s license or registration if they have a valid license from another state. If you’re a Wisconsin student attending an out-of-state school, alert the insurance company if you’re planning to use the car in another state for more than 30 days per year. Students who don’t take a car with them should ask their agent about reduced rates for infrequent drivers.

College vs. High School Drivers in Wisconsin

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

$802 decrease This is a decrease of 26%.
Comparison of Premium Ranges
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Annual Rates for Wisconsin Insurance Providers

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

Provider Min MEDIAN MAX
American Family $868 $1,578 $3,150
Acuity $830 $1,786 $4,744
State Farm $1,074 $2,045 $4,408
Progressive $1,336 $2,434 $6,704
Allstate $1,751 $3,281 $6,449

Distance Discount: Savings for Wisconsin College Drivers

You may see a modest savings on your family’s auto insurance premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.

Average premium for a 19-year-old male
  • $2,654 at home
  • $2,260 at school
  • $394 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
  • $2,310 at home
  • $1,984 at school
  • $326 in savings

How Car Choice Affects Premiums in Wisconsin

Your college student driving a minivan means you'll pay less for a family premium than if he or she drives a sports car, which insurers associate with speeding.

2014 Mustang GTs (2)

$3,005

2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)

$1,833

Annual benefit of minivans

$1,172 saved This is 39% less expensive.
Premium Comparison for Two Adults + College Driver
25th - 75th Percentile Median

Military Drivers in Wisconsin

You can get a discount on car insurance if you’re one of the 800 active-duty military personnel living in Wisconsin or one of the nearly 414,000 veterans who call the Badger State home. Getting a military discount is usually no more involved than presenting your military ID or veteran’s card, though that doesn’t mean you should take the first price quote you get. Shopping around is the best way to save money on auto insurance, since insurance companies routinely look at other factors like your driving history and credit record before coming up with a price quote.

Wisconsin’s current minimum insurance requirements are outlined here by the state’s department of transportation. In Wisconsin, military personnel can renew their registration online, in person or get a family member or friend to do it. If you’re on active duty and won’t be using your car, you can receive a credit on your registration fee for up to 12 months.

Wisconsin Service Members:
How Vehicle Choice Affects Your Premium

Although SUVs are more likely to get in rollover crashes than other cars, an older model SUV has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car.

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

Age-Based Perks for Wisconsin
Service Members

Median auto insurance
for service members:

$914
Male (25 yrs)$1,135
Male (50 yrs)$909
$226 savings
Female (25 yrs)$1,042
Female (50 yrs)$898
$144 savings

Compare Average Premiums Available to Wisconsin Military Personnel

When shopping for affordable car insurance, it pays to talk with several insurers. Here are the average annual rates you can get in Wisconsin.

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

Seniors in Wisconsin

Insurance companies in Wisconsin aren’t required to offer discounts for older drivers. However, most insurance companies still offer them to seniors who have a clean record and have completed a driver safety course.

Undocumented Workers in Wisconsin

Wisconsin has implemented the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows certain undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license (a prerequisite to car insurance). This groups consists of young immigrants who arrived in the United States before turning 16 and have lived here continuously since 2007, among other qualifications.

Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?

Ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft are legal throughout Wisconsin. Under a recent state law, these companies must buy a $5,000 state license, conduct background checks on drivers, and maintain liability insurance.

If you work as a ridesharing driver, check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re fully covered. Your personal auto policy will likely not cover you if you’re in an accident while working, since such policies don’t cover “driving for hire.” You may need to buy commercial collision and comprehensive coverage.

Car Accidents: How to File a Claim

Wisconsin law requires an official police report of any vehicle crash involving:

  • An injury or death
  • $1,000 or more of private property damage or $200 or more of damage to government property.

In addition, insurance companies may require the driver to file a report directly and send it to the state DMV.

All motor vehicle accidents in Wisconsin are noted on the driver’s record, no matter who is at fault. Wisconsin law does not limit the number of repair estimates an insurance company may require to process a claim, so be prepared to get more than one if your carrier asks you to.

Driver Safety: How Does Wisconsin Rank?

Wisconsin is among the top 20 safest states to drive in, according to a MoneyGeek analysis of federal driving data. Among other things, it looked at fatal crashes and preventable risks such as speeding and seat belt use.

Wisconsin Driver Safety Ranking

20th 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 179 3.01 18th
Speeding-Related Fatalities 178 2.99 24th
Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities 186 3.13 23rd
Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities 62 1.04 37th
Multiple Vehicle Fatalities 260 4.37 23rd
Pedestrian Fatalities 37 0.64 4th
Bicyclist Fatalities 10 0.17 28th
Total Vehicle Fatalities 543 9.13 12th

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

Wisconsin: Protecting You from Injury on the Road

Wisconsin driver safety laws has some optimal safety laws, including an open container law, booster seat law, ban on texting while driving and a primary seat belt law (meaning you can be stopped and cited if a police officer sees you aren’t buckled up).

However, the state has the highest rate of drunken driving in the country, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation. In one survey, more than 26 percent of Wisconsin adults said they had driven under the influence of alcohol the year before. The state has countered with a robust campaign against impaired driving — “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” — which features roller derby stars and people in other extreme sports saying it would be “crazy” to drive drunk.

Despite its efforts, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety gives it yellow “caution” rating for gaps in key traffic safety laws. Among the ones the coalition urges Wisconsin to pass are an all-rider motorcycle helmet law and mandatory ignition interlocks for drunk driving.

Safe Driving Laws – Wisconsin

  Requirement State Law Details
Mandatory seat belts Required of all vehicle occupants.
Child passenger safety Kids 7 and under must sit in a government-approved safety seat.
Driving under the influence (DUI) Blood alcohol content of 0.08 will result in an OUI (“operating under the influence” – Wisconsin’s version of a DUI). Penalties include a six-month license suspension for first offense and fines; further convictions may include fines, license suspension and jail time. Wisconsin also takes a non-punitive approach with its driver safety plan, which may include rehab or drug treatment.
Ignition interlock after DUI Partial With court order on first or subsequent convictions. Required for all repeat convictions, for a BAC of 0.15 or more, and for anyone who refuses a breath or blood test.
Talking on cell or texting while driving State ban on texting. No cell phone use for learners and intermediate drivers.
Protections for young drivers Age-based limits on number of passengers. No driving from midnight to 4 a.m. unless to and from employment.
Motorcycle helmet law Partial Required for riders 18 and under.
Bicycle helmet law No statewide law.

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

Car Insurance Resources for Wisconsin Residents

Consumer’s Guide to Auto Insurance

Comparison shopping tips published from the Office of the Commissioner of Insurance.

Department of Transportation

Consumer resource highlighting auto insurance requirements for Wisconsin.

Highway Safety Laws in Wisconsin

An overview of safety laws and regulations produced by the Governor’s Highway Safety Association.

Wisconsin Young Driver Sponsorship

Outlines state law concerning legal responsibility for teen drivers.

SafeRoads/Wisconsin

A yearly report on Wisconsin traffic law status by Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, an alliance of consumer, health, medical and insurer groups.

Updated: July 29, 2017