Published: May 10, 2022Updated: August 15, 2022

Guide to Auto Insurance in Montana

Learn more about the car insurance requirements and laws in the state.

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Montana has one of the smallest populations in the U.S. and only about 812,000 licensed drivers. But if you own a car in Montana, you’re required to carry a minimum amount of car insurance.

Fortunately, most Montana drivers enjoy affordable rates. In 2019, the statewide average spending on car insurance was 28 percent lower than the national average. Learn more about driving in Big Sky Country.

Required Car Insurance in Montana

To get behind the wheel legally in Montana, you must carry a minimum amount of auto insurance, with coverage limits of at least 25/50/20.1 Here are the types of auto insurance required in Montana as well as what these limits represent:

  • Bodily injury liability: If you cause an accident in Montana and the other driver gets injured, your bodily injury liability insurance will pay for their medical bills. This policy will also cover your legal defense if you get sued. A minimum coverage policy includes $25,000 in bodily injury coverage for one person’s injuries and $50,000 in coverage for all injuries in a single accident.
  • Property damage liability: After an at-fault crash, your property damage liability insurance will compensate the other driver for their vehicle repairs. It will also cover the cost of repairs to fences, mailboxes, or buildings if you hit a stationary object or structure that someone else owns. You must have at least $20,000 in property damage coverage per accident in Montana.

How Much Coverage Do I Need?

A minimum coverage policy is usually the cheapest option available. However, minimum coverage insurance may not offer adequate protection in the event of an at-fault accident. As a result, we recommend increasing your liability coverage limits. In Montana, raising your policy limits to $500,000 for both bodily injury and property damage liability is a good idea.

Aside from a minimum coverage policy, many drivers in Montana can benefit from optional car insurance coverages that provide more protection and fill gaps in a minimum coverage policy. Here are a few add-on coverages to consider as well as how much coverage we recommend:

Comprehensive Insurance

Comprehensive insurance pays for your vehicle’s repairs after non-collision incidents. Typically, it covers theft, vandalism, weather-related damage, fires, floods, and falling objects. A standard comprehensive insurance policy provides a claim payout based on your car’s actual cash value (ACV).

Collision Insurance

Collision insurance is usually sold with comprehensive insurance as part of a full coverage insurance policy. It pays for your vehicle’s repairs following an accident that you cause. Most policies compensate you for the cost of repairs based on your car’s ACV.

TIP:

To get a lower premium, drop collision and comprehensive insurance once the total cost of your annual premium and deductible is close to or exceeds your vehicle’s value.

Uninsured Motorist Insurance

In Montana, every car insurance company is required to offer uninsured motorist liability insurance when you purchase a minimum coverage policy, with limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. However, drivers have the option to reject this coverage.

We recommend opting in to uninsured motorist insurance, which pays for your medical bills and property damage costs if another driver hits you who is uninsured or does not have enough coverage to pay for your total losses. If you get uninsured motorist insurance, you should consider raising your coverage limits to at least $500,000 for the most protection.

Medical Payments Insurance

Medical payments insurance will pay for your medical expenses and lost wages if you get injured in a crash, up to your policy’s limit. It will cover costs such as ambulance rides, surgeries, X-rays, hospital stays, physical therapy, and medications. We suggest getting at least $500,000 in medical payments coverage, but a lower limit might be adequate if you have a good health insurance policy.

Cost of Car Insurance in Montana

Car insurance premiums in Montana are very affordable compared to the U.S. national average. For a full coverage policy, the average Montana driver spends $834.86 per year, about 28 percent less than the national average.2

Here are the average car insurance costs per policy type, according to 2019 data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners:

  • Liability insurance — $437.69
  • Collision insurance — $286.02
  • Comprehensive insurance — $313.27

Although data shows that average Montana car insurance premiums are affordable, it’s important to remember that car insurance rates are personalized to each driver. One of the biggest factors that can affect your rate is the insurance company that underwrites your policy.

While researching car insurance costs in Montana, we found rates as low as $512 per year for someone with a clean driving record and credit history and as high as $1,986 per year for someone with a spotty driving history. Get car insurance quotes from multiple companies to compare pricing.

Car Insurance Providers in Montana

  • Allstate
  • Farmers
  • Farmers Union
  • GEICO
  • Montana Farm Bureau
  • Nationwide
  • Progressive
  • State Farm
  • USAA

How to Lower Premiums in Montana

  1. Look for discounts. Most car insurance carriers in Montana offer discounts, which can help you get a cheaper premium. Discounts vary by provider, but you can often find savings for having no recent insurance claims, getting good grades in school, insuring multiple vehicles, taking a defensive driving course, and having an anti-theft device in your car.
  2. Bundle your policies. If you purchase two or more policies from the same insurance company, such as auto insurance and home insurance, many insurance companies will  provide a discount on your combined premium.
  3. Raise your deductibles. Some insurance policies, like collision and comprehensive insurance, have a deductible that you’re required to pay when you have a claim. Increasing your deductibles can help you get a lower monthly rate.
  4. Lower your coverage limits. To save money on your Montana car insurance, consider lowering your coverage limits or dropping add-on policies you may not need. However, remember that your policy must meet the state’s minimum coverage requirements in order for you to drive legally.

Proof of Car Insurance in Montana

Not only is car insurance a legal requirement in Montana, but you must also carry proof of insurance in your vehicle at all times. If you get pulled over, a law enforcement officer may ask to see your proof of insurance to confirm that you are insured and that you have the required amount of coverage.

If you can’t provide proof of insurance, you could face multiple consequences:

Offense number 1 2 within 5 years 3 within 5 years 4 or more within 5 years
Fine $250-$500 $350 $500 $500
Jail time (instead of or in addition to fine) 10 days 10 days 6 months 6 months
Suspension of registration and license plates (restricted registration for work allowed) None 90 days and until proof of insurance 180 days and until proof of insurance 180 days and until proof of insurance
Suspension of driver’s license None None None Until proof of insurance3

When a law enforcement officer asks to see your proof of insurance, both paper ID cards and electronic ID cards are acceptable. Many insurance companies offer digital ID cards through a mobile app or an online customer portal so that you can access them anytime, anywhere.

Montana Car Insurance Laws

Fault System

Montana is an at-fault state. That means after an accident, the at-fault driver is responsible for compensating the other driver for their medical expenses (if they got injured), their vehicle repairs, and any other property damage costs.

Montana uses modified comparative negligence laws to determine compensation in personal injury claims. If you get injured in an accident, you are allowed to collect money from the other driver only if you are less than 50 percent responsible for the crash. So, if you were 55 percent  responsible, you would not be eligible to receive any money from the other driver.

In addition, the amount of money you can receive is reduced by your percentage of the fault. For example, let’s say you are 40 percent responsible for a crash and you are seeking compensation from the other driver for your pain and suffering. In this case, you would be able to receive compensation for only 60 percent of your losses.

Uninsured Motorists

When you purchase a minimum coverage insurance policy in Montana, the insurance company is required to offer you uninsured motorist insurance with coverage limits of $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident. However, uninsured motorist insurance is not required in Montana, so you have the option to reject this coverage.

Although uninsured motorist insurance is not required, it’s still valuable. Data shows that about 9 percent of drivers in Montana carry no car insurance at all, which can put you at risk if an uninsured driver hits you.4

When you purchase uninsured motorist insurance in Montana and insure multiple vehicles, you’re allowed to stack your coverage. That means your chosen coverage limits get multiplied by the number of cars on your policy. So, for instance, if you had the minimum coverage limits of $25,000/$50,000 and two cars on your policy, your coverage limits would automatically increase to $50,000/$100,000.

DUI Laws

A DUI is one of the most serious violations in Montana. DUIs stay on your driving record for 10 years, during which time you will likely pay much higher car insurance premiums. In addition, you could face these consequences for a DUI in Montana:

Offense number 1 2
Maximum $1,000 $5,000
Jail time 48 hours to 1 year 40 days to 1 year
License suspension 6 months 6 months
Ignition interlock device (maximum) 6 months 1 year

Seat Belt Laws

Wearing your seat belt while driving or riding as a passenger in a car is a secondary law in Montana. You cannot get a ticket for failing to wear your seat belt unless you are breaking another law simultaneously, like speeding. The only exception is for passengers under 6 years old, who must ride in appropriate safety seats or booster seats.5

Distracted Driving Laws

In Montana, using a cell phone while driving is legal. However, some cities have their own laws that restrict the use of handheld devices for drivers. In addition, drivers under the age of 21 and commercial vehicle operators are not allowed to text and drive in the state. The penalty for texting while driving for young drivers and commercial vehicle drivers is a fine of $200.

Teen Driver Laws

Teens in Montana are allowed to get a learner’s permit at 14.5 years old as long as they have consent from their parents. There is no fee to apply for a learner’s permit, no curfew, and no rule on transporting passengers for provisional drivers. However, teens can only drive with a licensed parent or guardian, or another licensed driver over the age of 18.

For the first year that a teen has their driver’s license, they are not allowed to drive alone between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m., unless they meet one of the following criteria:

  • They are driving with a licensed driver who is 18 or older.
  • They are driving to or from work.
  • They are driving to or from school.
  • They are driving for the purposes of a medical emergency.

TIP:

Teen drivers often pay the highest car insurance rates. To get a more affordable premium, shop around for car insurance companies that offer special discounts for new drivers, good students, and parents who add young drivers to their policies.

Statute of Limitations for Claims

The statute of limitations for insurance claims in Montana is three years for personal injury claims and two years for property damage claims. After the statute of limitations ends, insurance companies are no longer obligated to pay out a claim. However, you’re allowed to file a claim after the statute of limitations is over and attempt to collect money.

Cancellation and Non-Renewal Notification Laws

If your insurance company cancels your policy due to insurance fraud, license suspension, or a change in your driving record, it has 45 days to notify you before the policy expires. If your insurance company cancels your policy due to nonpayment, it has 10 days to notify you before the expiration date.

Your insurance company can also refuse to renew your policy when the policy period ends. For example, if the company stops selling policies in your area or you get convicted of a DUI, it might not renew your policy at the end of the term. For nonrenewal, insurance companies have 45 days to notify you before your coverage ends. In the case of non-renewal, the insurance carrier must also provide a reason for why it is refusing to renew your coverage.

Self-Insurance

Montana allows drivers to self-insure rather than purchase traditional car insurance policies. The alternative is a $55,000 deposit that drivers file with the state treasurer. Drivers who choose this option are given a certificate of deposit, which serves as their proof of financial responsibility.6

Car Inspection Requirements

Montana is one of only a handful of states that do not require emissions or safety inspections. However, many auto body shops offer voluntary emissions testing.

SR-22s

An SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility. It verifies that you carry the minimum required car insurance in the state. In Montana, you are required to get an SR-22 only if your driver’s license has been revoked for certain felony convictions, such as negligent homicide while driving. Additionally, it’s required if you get more than 30 points on your driving record within a three-year period.

Defensive Driving

Defensive driving courses, which teach you how to drive safely and avoid hazards, are not a requirement in Montana. However, you might be able to get a car insurance discount of up to 10 percent by completing a state-approved course. Montana’s main defensive driving course is an in-person program that takes about four hours to complete.7

Accident Reporting Requirements

It’s a law in Montana that you must report an accident immediately if there are fatalities or more than $1,000 in injuries or property damage. Failure to report a crash meeting these requirements is a misdemeanor that carries a fine between $200 and $300 or 20 days in jail.

Price Discrimination

In most states, insurance companies will ask for your gender when calculating your car insurance premium. Because women are statistically less likely to drive recklessly and cause accidents, women typically pay lower car insurance rates than men. But in Montana, it’s illegal for car insurance companies to base their rates on gender.

In addition, in some states, it’s illegal to discriminate against drivers based on their credit score. However, Montana car insurance companies are allowed to run your credit when you apply for car insurance and use your credit score to determine your rate. In general, drivers with good credit pay less for car insurance.

Total Loss Guidelines

If your car is badly damaged in a covered accident, your insurance company will determine if your vehicle is worth fixing or if it’s totaled based on a total loss formula.

In Montana, a car is considered totaled when the vehicle’s ACV (the value before the damage) is equal to or less than the estimated cost of repairs, plus the salvage value (the value after the damage).

Keep in mind that you can usually receive compensation for a totaled car only if you carry collision and/or comprehensive insurance, both optional policies.

Contact Information

Montana Car Registration Information

  1. Gather the following documents:
    • Vehicle title
    • Proof of car insurance
    • Proof of residency in your county
    • Montana driver’s license or passport
    • Payment for fees or taxes (based on vehicle age)
  2. Find your county treasurer’s office at https://dojmt.gov/driving/county-treasurer-motor-vehicle-offices/.
  3. Visit an office with the required documents and fees to register your vehicle.

Contact Information for Montana Motor Vehicle Department

  • Mailing address:
    • 302 N. Roberts St.
    • P.O. Box 201430
    • Helena, MT 59620
  • Phone number: 406-444-3933
  • URL: https://dojmt.gov/about/

How to Get a Duplicate Car Title in Montana

  1. Fill out the form, which you can find at https://media.dojmt.gov/wp-content/uploads/Application-for-Replacement-Certificate-of-Title.pdf.
  2. Mail the completed form with a payment of $10.30 to this address:
    • Vehicle Services Bureau
    • P.O. Box 201431
    • Helena, MT 59620

How to Contact Montana’s State Insurance Department

  • Mailing address:
    • 840 Helena Ave., Suite 270
    • Helena, MT 59601
  • Phone number: 406-444-2040
  • URL: https://csimt.gov/contact/

Average Cost of Car Repairs in Montana

In Montana, the average cost of vehicle repairs is $388.66, which is only 1 percent more than the national average. The breakdown is $154.91 for labor and $233.75 for parts.8

Crime and Traffic Fatalities in Montana

Motor Vehicle Theft

The rate of car theft in Montana is about average. According to 2020 data, there were 248 motor vehicle thefts in Montana per 100,000 residents. That’s only 1 percent higher than the national average.

However, some areas of Montana have more crime than others. For example, the car theft rate in Billings is 565 per 100,000 residents, which is much higher than the statewide average.

Traffic Fatalities

Montana has a very low rate of traffic fatalities, in large part because of the state’s low population density. In 2019, there were only 184 fatalities per 100 million miles driven. Montana’s traffic fatality rate for 2019 was 285 percent lower than the U.S. average.

Recap

Generally speaking, Montana is a very safe place to drive, and residents get the advantage of cheaper-than-average car insurance rates. But whether you’ve been living in Montana your entire life or you just moved to the state, it’s always a good idea to refresh your understanding of the car insurance requirements and driving laws so you can remain vigilant on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions

Some of the best and cheapest car insurance companies in Montana are State Farm, USAA, GEICO, Progressive, and Nationwide. However, keep in mind that every driver pays a different rate for coverage. The only surefire way to find the cheapest car insurance company for you is to get multiple quotes and compare them.

In Montana, drivers need to be at least 18 years old to get car insurance. A parent can add a teen driver to their policy until the teen is old enough to purchase their own coverage.

On average, Montana drivers pay around $70 per month for full coverage car insurance. If you opt for liability insurance only, the average monthly rate drops to roughly $36 per month. But keep in mind that these are just average rates. Exact car insurance premiums depend on factors like driving record, credit score, ZIP code, and deductibles.

When you purchase a new car in Montana, you must get insurance before you can drive it. If you already have car insurance, your current policy might cover the new car automatically for a certain period before you need to add it to your policy. If you don’t already have car insurance, you will need to purchase a new policy before you can drive the car off the dealership lot and get it registered.

Citations

  1. INSURANCE AND VERIFICATION. Montana Department of Justice. (2020).
    https://dojmt.gov/driving/insurance-and-verification/

  2. 2018/2019 Auto Insurance Database Report. National Association of Insurance Commissioners. (2022).
    https://content.naic.org/sites/default/files/publication-aut-pb-auto-insurance-database.pdf

  3. Penalties for Driving without Auto Insurance by State as of January 2014. Consumer Federation of America. (2014).
    https://consumerfed.org/pdfs/140310_penaltiesfordrivingwithoutautoinsurance_cfa.pdf

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

  5. Seat Belts. Governors Highway Safety Administration. (2021).
    https://www.ghsa.org/state-laws/issues/seat%20belts

  6. INTRODUCTION TO MOTOR VEHICLE LIABILITY INSURANCE LAWS. Montana Legislative Services. (2009, Sep).
    https://leg.mt.gov/content/Committees/Interim/2009_2010/Revenue_and_Transportation/Meeting_Documents/Sept%2017&18%202009/MVLIBACKGROUND_09SEPT.pdf

  7. Defensive Driving 4 Hour Course. Risk Management and Tort Defense. (2022).
    https://rmtd.mt.gov/training/defensivedriving4hour

  8. 2020 State Repair Cost Rankings. CarMD. (2020, Jul).
    https://www.carmd.com/wp/vehicle-health-index-introduction/2020-carmd-state-index/