Everything you need to know about car insurance in the Keystone State
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Pennsylvania is one of three states, along with New Jersey and Kentucky, where drivers can choose between a no-fault and at-fault system. Although car insurance is a requirement, the choice between limited and full tort coverage can affect your compensation following a car accident. We explain all that below, along with the state’s average car insurance costs. If you’re one of PA’s nearly 9 million drivers, keep reading.
Ultimately, how much car insurance you need depends on your situation. However, we recommend getting as much as you can afford, with liability limits of up to $500,000. Aside from the required coverages, we recommend some optional coverages.
Pennsylvania’s cost of car insurance is $969 on average per year, which is 7 percent lower than the national average. That breaks down as follows.
These are just averages from the National Association of Insurance Commissioner’s 2020 data. We’ve seen annual ranges from $336 to $4,768.92 for 16-year-old drivers, as car insurance costs are much higher for teens than for any other age group. If you have a clean driving record, you will get a lower car insurance quote from the same auto insurance company than someone with a poor driving record.
If you’re caught driving without insurance in PA, you could face these penalties:
Once you pay the restoration fee and show your proof of insurance, you can reinstate your license. Proof of insurance can be physical (like a typical insurance ID card) or digital (like an app or PDF).
Find out what driving laws apply in the Keystone State.
Only three states let drivers choose the fault system they want: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Kentucky. If you want unrestrained rights to sue a negligent party, choose full tort, which can cover intangible damages like pain and suffering. However, if you want to pay less for insurance, choose limited tort coverage. Either way, the state requires $5,000 of medical payments coverage per occurrence, which will cover your passengers’ and your injuries in accidents, regardless of who caused them.
Pennsylvania has modified comparative negligence laws, meaning you can only recover money if your fault is less than the defendant’s. For example, if you were 30 percent responsible for an accident and the defendant was 70 percent responsible, your damages would be diminished based on your degrees of fault.2
Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the nation for the lowest rates of uninsured motorists, with only 6 percent of the state driving without insurance, according to 2019 estimates from the Insurance Research Council. That means about 539,000 drivers in Pennsylvania lack insurance — but the national rate of uninsured motorists is 12 percent, so Pennsylvania fares better than average in this capacity. This might be why the state doesn’t require drivers to purchase uninsured motorist coverage nor companies to offer it.
If you do purchase uninsured motorist coverage and have multiple cars, you can stack coverage. In other words, multiply your number of vehicles by your uninsured motorist limit to get your new limit.
There are different penalties for DUIs based on the number of past offenses and the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Pennsylvania defines general impairment as a BAC of 0.08 to 0.099 percent or undetermined, high BAC as 0.1 to 0.159 percent, and higher BAC as 0.16 percent and up or a controlled substance.
|Number of prior DUI offenses||0||1||2||3 or more|
|Charge||Ungraded misdemeanor||Ungraded misdemeanor||Second-degree misdemeanor for BAC under 0.1%
First-degree misdemeanor for BAC over 0.1%
|First-degree misdemeanor for BAC over 0.1%|
|License suspension||None for BAC under 0.1%
1 year for BAC over 0.1%
|1 year for BAC up to 0.159%
18 months for BAC of 0.16% and up
|1 year for BAC under 0.1%
18 months for BAC over 0.1%
|18 months for BAC over 0.1%|
|Prison time||Up to 6 months of probation for BAC under 0.1%
2 days to 6 months for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
3 days to 6 for 0.16% or higher BAC
|5 days to 6 months for BAC under 0.1%
30 days to 6 months for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
90 days to 5 years for 0.16% or higher BAC
|10 days to 2 years for BAC under 0.1%
90 days to 5 years for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
1-5 years for 0.16% or higher BAC
|1-5 years for BAC over 0.1%|
|Fine||$300 for BAC under 0.1%
$500-$5,000 for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
$1,000-$5,000 for 0.16% or higher BAC
|$300-$2,500 for BAC under 0.1%
$750-$5,000 for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
$1,500-$10,000 for 0.16% or higher BAC
|$500-$5,000 for BAC under 0.1%
$1,500-$10,000 for 0.1%-0.159% BAC
$2,500-$10,000 for 0.16% or higher BAC
|Mandatory alcohol safety school||Yes||Yes||N/A||N/A|
|Mandatory treatment||At court’s discretion||At court’s discretion||At court’s discretion||At court’s discretion|
|Mandatory ignition interlock||None||1 year||1 year||1 year3|
Pennsylvania has a primary seat belt law for those ages 8 to 17 and a secondary seat belt law for those 18 and older in all seats. In other words, if a police officer sees someone age 8 to 17 not wearing a seat belt in your car, they can write you a ticket even if you weren’t committing any other traffic violations. Once that child turns 18, the police officer would need another violation to occur in order to write a ticket. The fine for breaking the state’s seat belt law is $10.
Seat belt statistics indicate that people in the Northeast are least likely to wear seat belts along with people in the Midwest. People in these regions wear seat belts 89 percent of the time, compared with 95 percent usage in the West and 90 percent usage in the South.4
Though you’re allowed to use handheld electronic devices while driving in Pennsylvania, texting and driving is illegal under primary enforcement. You’ll receive a $50 fine (but no points on your license) if you’re caught texting and driving.
|Restriction type||Learner’s permit||Junior license||Unrestricted license|
|Curfew||No driving from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.||No driving from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.||None|
|Supervision||Licensed driver 21 or older||None needed||None needed|
|Passengers||Only 1 non-family member under 18 unless a parent/guardian is in the vehicle||First 6 months: Only 1 non-family member under 18 unless a parent/guardian is in the vehicle
After 6 months: Only 3 non-family members under 18 unless a parent/guardian is in the vehicle
|No more than the number of seat belts in the vehicle|
Under Pennsylvania’s statute of limitations, you should wait no longer than two years following a car accident to file personal injury or property damage claims if you want coverage.
Before insurance companies cancel your policy or simply don’t renew it at the end of its term, they must notify you to prevent a lapse in coverage. Here’s how long companies have to notify you prior to your policy’s expiration date.
After the first 60 days of your policy, the provider can only cancel it if you committed fraud or misrepresentation on your application, your license has been suspended or revoked, or you have not paid your premium.
If you don’t want to buy a traditional personal auto insurance policy, you can go the self-insurance route. However, it’ll cost you …
If you’re a PA driver, you’ll need to get your car inspected annually for safety and emissions at official PennDOT (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation) stations, which are either repair garages or service stations with repair shops. The stations will determine the inspection fees, which don’t include any defect repairs.
Find a safety inspection station near you at https://www.dot.state.pa.us/public/dvspubsforms/BMV/BMV%20Publications/New%20Safety%20Station.pdf, or find an emissions testing station below.
|Link to emissions testing stations||http://www.drivecleanpa.
|Counties with stations||Allegheny, Beaver, Washington, Westmoreland||Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia||Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lehigh, Northampton, York||Blair, Cambria, Centre, Erie, Lackawanna, Luzeme, Lycoming, Mercer||Adams, Armstrong, Bedford, Bradford, Butler, Carbon, Clearfield, Clinton, Columbia, Crawford, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Huntingdon, Indiana, Juniata, Lawrence, McKean, Mifflin, Monroe,
Montour, Northumberland, Perry, Pike, Schuylkill, Snyder, Somerset, Sullivan, Susquehanna, Tioga, Union, Venango, Warren, Wayne, Wyoming6
For cars you just purchased, you have to get an inspection within 10 days of the sale.
Some states require people with DUIs to obtain SR-22s, forms that prove minimum insurance. Pennsylvania is not one of them.
Taking a defensive driving class could get you a discount on auto insurance. If you’re under 55, check your city’s website for a list of classes. For older adult drivers, find options at https://www.dmv.pa.gov/Driver-Services/Mature-Drivers/Pages/Mature-Driver-Improvement-Course.aspx.
While there’s no monetary threshold for civil suits in Pennsylvania, you can only file them if you incurred a serious injury from a car accident. The Pennsylvania Legislature defines a serious injury as “a personal injury resulting in death, serious impairment of body function, or permanent serious disfigurement.”
If you get into a car accident that results in death, injury, or the disablement of a vehicle, you need to file a police report within five days. Otherwise, the state could suspend your driving privileges.
While Pennsylvania auto insurance companies can take credit scores into account when determining prices, they are barred from taking sex or gender into account. So, while people with bad credit will have higher car insurance rates than people with good credit, gender won’t affect car insurance rates. That’s good news for men, who have higher crash rates and thus are more likely than women to file claims.
Insurers in Pennsylvania use the total loss formula to determine if a car is worth repairing or not. If a car’s repairs cost more than its salvage value, the car is declared a total loss. Rather than using your insurance to pay for your car’s repairs, you would get a new car.
Need to renew your registration, go to the DMV, or get a duplicate car title in Pennsylvania? We’ve scoured the state’s websites for the information you need.
You can renew your car’s registration either every year for $39 or every two years for $78.
The average cost of car repairs in Pennsylvania is $379.54, only 1 percent less than the national average. Parts cost $235.84 on average, while labor costs $143.70, according to a report from CarMD.
While Pennsylvania has comparatively low car theft rates, it ranks above the national average for traffic fatalities.
Pennsylvania has the eighth-lowest car theft rate in the nation, with only 121 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020. That’s 103 percent lower than the national average, according to FBI data.
The only city in Pennsylvania with car theft rates higher than the state average is Philadelphia, with 213 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020.7
On the other hand, Pennsylvania is also No. 8 in the U.S. for the highest traffic fatality rates. In 2019, it had 1,059 traffic fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled — 33 percent higher than the national average.8
That’s everything you need to know about car insurance and driving in the second state. To learn about other states, check out our state driving guide, or keep reading to see our FAQs about car insurance in Pennsylvania.
Full coverage in Pennsylvania costs $1,240 to $3,716 per year, depending on your ZIP code, credit score, driving history, and other factors.
Yes, Pennsylvania car insurance is cheaper than New York car insurance. New York has the second-highest car insurance rates in the county, with an average annual spending of $1,436 in 2020. Pennsylvania’s average was only $969, 48 percent lower than the New York rate, according to data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
Car insurance in Pennsylvania for a new driver can cost anywhere from $708 to $4,609 annually. It’s cheaper to add the new driver to an existing policy than for them to get their own policy. The cost will vary based on your ZIP code, credit score, and other factors. Car insurance is more expensive for young drivers, given their higher likelihood of getting speeding tickets and causing accidents due to inexperience.
Automobile Insurance Guide. Pennsylvania Insurance Department. (2008, Mar). https://www.insurance.pa.gov/Documents/auto_guide.pdf
Comparative negligence.. Pennsylvania General Assembly. https://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/42/00.071.002.000..HTM
.08 DUI Legislation. PennDOT Driver & Vehicle Services. (2022). https://www.dmv.pa.gov/Information-Centers/Laws-Regulations/pages/dui-legislation.aspx
Seat Belt Use in 2021 – Overall Results. US Department of Transportation. (2021, Dec). https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813241
Notice of cancellation or refusal to renew; requirements.. Pennsylvania Code. (2022, Jan). http://www.pacodeandbulletin.gov/Display/pacode?file=/secure/pacode/data/031/chapter61/s61.5.html&d=reduce
Drive Clean Pennsylvania.. http://www.drivecleanpa.state.pa.us/
NICB ‘Hot Spots’: Auto Thefts Up Significantly Across the Country. NICB. (2021, Aug). https://www.nicb.org/news/news-releases/nicb-hot-spots-auto-thefts-significantly-across-country
Fatality Facts 2019 State by state. IIHS. https://www.iihs.org/topics/fatality-statistics/detail/state-by-state