Published: February 22, 2022Updated: March 29, 2022

Do You Need Proof of Auto Insurance?

Nearly every state requires drivers to have auto insurance, and you could face penalties for driving without proof of coverage.

So you bought a new car and are ready to take it out on the road. But before you can do that, you’ll have to purchase car insurance — at least enough to meet your state’s minimum insurance requirements. Driving without insurance can result in major penalties, including fines and license suspensions. And even driving without your insurance ID card can result in a fine in most states.

The last thing you want is to pay a surprise fine because you drove without proof of insurance. To help you avoid that, this article will cover what proof of insurance is, where it’s required, the penalties for driving without proof of insurance, and more.

Which States Require Proof of Insurance?

Every state, as well as Washington, D.C., requires that drivers show proof of financial responsibility. The vast majority of states — 48 states, in fact — require liability insurance.

New Hampshire and Virginia are the only states that don’t require liability insurance for all drivers. And while they don’t require insurance, they do require that drivers provide some amount of financial responsibility.

In New Hampshire, drivers who don’t carry liability insurance are required to show they can provide sufficient funds to cover any damages from accidents they’re responsible for1.

Virginia requires drivers to either carry the minimum insurance requirements or pay a $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee annually2. It’s important to note that this fee doesn’t actually provide insurance, nor does it provide liability coverage if you cause an accident. Rather, you’d be responsible for those damages out of pocket.

What Is Proof of Insurance?

Proof of insurance is an ID card that insurance companies will send you when you sign up for your policy. A physical ID card is the most common form of proof of insurance, although it can also be digital. This ID card includes information about you and your insured family members, your policy, and the vehicles covered.

Why Is Proof of Insurance Necessary?

Requiring that all drivers carry proof of insurance is a way that law enforcement can ensure everyone is abiding by their state’s insurance requirements. When you’re pulled over or in an accident, law enforcement can quickly glance at your insurance car to make sure you’re covered.

What Can You Use as Proof of Insurance?

The most common form of proof of insurance is the ID card your insurance company sends you when you sign up for or renew your policy.

But, depending on your insurance company, you may also receive a digital ID card that you can use in your insurer’s mobile app or on your phone’s digital wallet. All states except New Mexico accept digital proof of insurance in place of a physical ID card3.

What Does Proof of Insurance Include?

What exactly appears on your proof of insurance may vary depending on the insurance carrier you use and the type of proof of insurance you’re using (such as a physical ID card versus digital proof of insurance). In general, proof of insurance includes the following insurance information:

  • The name or names of the insured party or parties
  • Vehicle information, including VIN, make, model, and year
  • Your policy number
  • Your policy’s effective date and expiration date
  • Insurance agent’s information
  • Coverage amounts

It’s a good idea to have a phone charger in your car in case your phone dies and you don’t have your physical insurance card.

How to Get Proof of Insurance

Getting proof of insurance is an easy process:

  1. In most cases, your insurance carrier will send you an insurance ID card automatically when you sign up for your policy. If you haven’t bought insurance yet, get insurance quotes online.
  2. If you haven’t received an ID card or you’ve lost it, you can request a new card from your insurance company. You can call customer support to request your ID card, or your insurer may even have a place on its website or app to request a new card.
  3. You may also be able to find proof of insurance on your insurance carrier’s website or app. You may be able to print this proof of insurance or download it to your phone.

What Happens If Your Insurance Expires?

A lapse in car insurance can be costly. Not only could you face financial penalties if you’re caught driving without proof of insurance, but you could also be on the hook for significant damages if your car or someone else’s car is damaged in an accident.

The good news is that most car insurance policies renew automatically, so you won’t have to worry about lapses. If for some reason your policy doesn’t renew automatically, you should contact your insurer as soon as possible.

If your insurance company doesn’t renew your policy, which could be the case for high-risk drivers, then you should shop around for a new policy before driving your vehicle again. Learn how to switch auto insurance providers.

Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Buy a Car?

In the 48 states that require liability insurance, you’ll need an active policy to operate a vehicle legally. But what exactly does that mean when purchasing a car? Can you buy a car without car insurance?

In some cases, a dealership may require proof of insurance before you can drive the car off the lot. And while that’s not always the case, you’ll still need insurance to legally drive the car home.

It’s also worth noting that while dealers may not require proof of insurance, a lender will. If you’ve financed your car, you’ll have to provide proof of insurance to your lender. And depending on where you live, you may also need proof of insurance to register a car.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

Just about every state has penalties in place for a driver caught operating a vehicle without proof of insurance, but we should make an important distinction first. There’s a difference between driving without car insurance and driving without proof of car insurance. One is a more serious offense, and it’s reflected in the penalties that each state imposes.

The penalties for driving without insurance vary by state. They include having to pay a fine, having your vehicle impounded, and having your driver’s license suspended. Often, the penalties are milder for first offenses and increase for second and subsequent offenses. The chart below shows the penalties for driving without insurance in each state.

State First offense Second offense Third offense
Alabama Fine of $500, registration suspension Fine up to $1,000, imprisonment of not more than 6 months, license suspension, registration suspension Same as second offense
Alaska Fine of $500, license suspension License suspension Same as second offense
Arizona Fine of $500, registration and license suspension Fine of at least $750, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $400 Fine of at least $1,000, registration and license suspension
Arkansas Fine of $50, registration suspension Fine up to $500, registration suspension, imprisonment of up to 1 year Fine up to $1,000, registration suspension, imprisonment of up to 1 year
California Fine of $100 Fine of up to $500, impoundment of vehicle Same as second offense
Colorado Fine of $500, license suspension Fine of at least $1,000, community service, license suspension, imprisonment of up to 1 year Same as second offense
Connecticut Fine of $100, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension Same as second offense
Delaware Fine of $1,500, license suspension Fine of up to $4,000, license suspension Same as second offense
District of Columbia Fine of $150, license suspension Fine of up to $750, registration and license suspension Same as second offense
Florida Fine of $150, license suspension Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $250 Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $500
Georgia Fine of $200, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to 1 year, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of up to $300 Same as second offense
Hawaii Fine of $500, license suspension Fine of up to $1,500, community service, license suspension Imprisonment of up to 30 days, registration suspension, impoundment of vehicle
Idaho Fine of $75 Fine of up to $1,000, license suspension, imprisonment of up to six months Same as second offense
Illinois Fine of $500, license suspension Same as first offense Fine of up to $1,000, license suspension with reinstatement fee of $100
Indiana Fine of $250, license suspension Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $225 Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $300
Iowa Fine of $250 Same as first offense Same as first offense
Kansas Fine of $300, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $2,500, registration and license suspension, revocation of driving privileges with reinstatement fee of $100-$300 Revocation of driving privilege, registration suspension with reinstatement fee of $300
Kentucky Fine of $500, registration suspension Fine of up to $2,500, imprisonment of up to 180 days, registration and license suspension Same as second offense
Louisiana Fine of $500 Fine of up to $500, registration suspension with reinstatement fee of $160, impoundment of vehicle Fine of up to $500, registration suspension with reinstatement fee of $510, impoundment of vehicle
Maine Fine of $100, registration and license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Maryland Fine of $1,000 Same as first offense Same as first offense
Massachusetts Fine of $500, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to 1 year, license suspension Same as second offense
Michigan Fine of $200, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Minnesota Fine of $200, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension, community service, impoundment of vehicle Fine of up to $3,000, registration and license suspension, community service, impoundment of vehicle, imprisonment of up to 1 year
Mississippi Fine of $500, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Missouri Fine of $20, license suspension Fine of up to $300, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $200, imprisonment of up to 15 days Fine of up to $300, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $400, imprisonment of up to 15 days
Montana Fine of $250 Fine of up to $350, registration and license suspension, imprisonment of up to 10 days Fine of up to $500, registration and license suspension, imprisonment of up to 6 months
Nebraska Fine of $100, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Nevada Fine of $250, license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $500 Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $750
New Hampshire Fine of $125, registration and license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
New Jersey Fine of $300 Fine of up to $5,000, license suspension, imprisonment of up to 14 days, community service Same as second offense
New Mexico Fine of $300, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, imprisonment of up to 6 months Same as second offense
New York Fine of $150, registration and license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
North Carolina Fine of $50, license suspension Fine of up to $100, imprisonment or probation of up to 45 days, registration suspension with reinstatement fee of $50 Fine of up to $150, imprisonment or probation of up to 45 days, registration suspension with reinstatement fee of $50
North Dakota Fine of $300, license suspension Fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to 30 days, license suspension, removal of license plates Same as second offense
Ohio Fine of $100, license suspension Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $300 Registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $600
Oklahoma Fine of $250, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Oregon Fine of $130, registration and license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Pennsylvania Fine of $300, registration and license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Rhode Island Fine of $100, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $500, registration and license suspension Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension
South Carolina Fine of $550, license suspension Fine of up to $200 and $5 for every day without insurance, imprisonment of up to 30 days, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $200 Fine of $5 for every day without insurance, imprisonment of up to 6 months, registration and license suspension with reinstatement fee of $200
South Dakota Fine of $100, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Tennessee Fine of $300, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Texas Fine of $175 Fine of up to $1,000, registration and license suspension, impoundment of vehicle Same as second offense
Utah Fine of $400, license suspension Fine of at least $1,000, registration and license suspension Same as second offense
Vermont Fine of $250, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Virginia Fine of $600, license suspension Same as first offense Same as first offense
Washington Fine of $550 Same as first offense Same as first offense
West Virginia Fine of $200, license suspension Fine of up to $5,000, imprisonment of up to one year, registration and license suspension Same as second offense
Wisconsin Fine of $500 Same as first offense Same as first offense
Wyoming Fine of $250, license suspension Fine of up to $1,500, imprisonment of up to 6 months, registration suspension4 Same as second offense

Aside from penalties, without insurance, you can’t receive compensation or register your vehicle at your state’s vehicle registration entity.

Which Types of Auto Insurance Are Required?

The amount of auto insurance you’ll need depends on your state. Some states require just liability coverage, while others also require uninsured/underinsured motorist converge or personal injury protection.

Liability

Liability is the most common type of insurance that states require. This type of coverage is designed to cover the cost of damages you’re responsible for if you’re at fault for an accident. Liability insurance is broken down into two types of coverage: property damage and bodily injury.

The liability coverage varies by state. Most states require $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident of bodily injury protection and either $20,000 or $25,000 of property damage protection5. Keep in mind that if you only purchase liability coverage up to your state’s minimums and the damages exceed that amount, you’ll have to pay them out of pocket. See our auto insurance guide for your state’s minimum coverage requirements.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist

Some states also require uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage. The purpose of this insurance is to cover a driver’s expenses if they’re in an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance.

This type of coverage is important, given that as of 2019, more than 12 percent of drivers don’t have the legally required insurance. And in a handful of states, the uninsured rate exceeds 20 percent6.

Personal Injury Protection

Most states require drivers to have both bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. But a handful of states have “no-fault” laws, which means that all drivers file medical claims with their own car insurance companies, regardless of who caused the accident. And except in cases of severe injury, drivers can’t sue the responsible driver for their medical expenses.

No-fault-insurance states still require drivers to carry property damage liability coverage, and many still require bodily injury coverage. But they also require what’s called personal injury protection or medical coverage, which covers a driver’s own medical expenses in an accident.

What Is an SR-22?

An SR-22 is a form that some drivers must carry to prove they meet their state’s minimum insurance requirements. Known as a certificate of financial responsibility, this type of form is often required for those with a high driver risk.

You might be ordered to carry an SR-22 if you’ve violated certain driving laws, including driving under the influence, driving without insurance, and reckless driving. Like other types of proof of insurance, you’ll receive your SR-22 from your insurance carrier.

Recap

No matter where you live, you’ll have to provide some sort of proof of financial responsibility to legally operate a vehicle. Most states require liability insurance coverage, while only New Hampshire and Virginia offer drivers an alternative.

While car insurance is an added cost in your budget, it can save you thousands, or even tens of thousands, of dollars if you’re involved in an accident. And when you purchase insurance, remember that while states may require only a certain amount, any damages that exceed your coverage limits will be yours to pay out of pocket. You can reduce your risk further by purchasing coverage above and beyond your state’s minimum requirements.

Citations

  1. Your Guide to Understanding Auto Insurance in the Granite State. State of New Hampshire Insurance Department. (2009).
    https://www.nh.gov/insurance/consumers/documents/nh_auto_guide.pdf

  2. Insurance Requirements. Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. (2022).
    https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#insurance.asp

  3. Is An Electronic Insurance Card Valid? Allstate. (2021, Nov).
    https://www.allstate.com/tr/car-insurance/electronic-insurance-card.aspx

  4. Penalties for Driving without Auto Insurance by State as of January 2014. CFA. (2014, Jan).
    https://consumerfed.org/pdfs/140310_penaltiesfordrivingwithoutautoinsurance_cfa.pdf

  5. Automobile Financial Responsibility Laws By State. III. (2022).
    https://www.iii.org/automobile-financial-responsibility-laws-by-state

  6. One in Eight Drivers Uninsured. Insurance Research Council. (2021, Mar 22).
    https://www.insurance-research.org/sites/default/files/downloads/UM%20NR%20032221.pdf