Do you need insurance to register a car?
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As a driver, there are a few requirements you need to fulfill to drive legally in your state. For example, most states require you to carry at least a minimum amount of liability car insurance to protect other drivers from accidents you may cause on the road. And if you own a car, you’ll likely be required to register the car with the state you live in, too. Nearly every state in the nation requires you to register your car to drive legally.
And these two requirements tend to overlap. After all, in most states, you will need to provide proof of insurance to register your car. Without proof of insurance, you cannot register the car or get the right tags. If you don’t have an active car insurance policy, it will prevent you from driving the car legally, and if you are caught driving without insurance, you could face some pretty stiff penalties, including fines, license suspension or jail time.
Do you need insurance to register a car?
It depends. The state you live in is what will determine whether you need car insurance to register your car or whether you can get a car insurance policy after registration. In some states, you can get a license plate without insurance, but you cannot drive the car until it is insured. However, most states require you to get insurance before registration.
In every state except for New Hampshire, you must have minimum amounts of liability insurance to drive your car. Some states also require other coverages, which can include medical payments, personal injury protection and uninsured motorist insurance.
In New Hampshire, you can provide proof of financial responsibility, which means you have the funds to pay for the injuries and property damage you cause in an accident. This requires a deposit of money or securities with the New Hampshire Bureau of Financial Responsibility. If you cannot provide proof of financial responsibility, you will need minimum liability insurance, just like other states. In New Hampshire, the minimum coverage required is:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability per accident
- $1,000 medical payments
- $25,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury liability per accident
Required proof of insurance by state
There are seven states that do not require proof of insurance when registering your car. Those states are Arizona, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington and Wisconsin. The rest of the states expect you to show proof of insurance that meets or exceeds the state minimum coverage before you can register your car.
|State||When proof of insurance is required|
|New Hampshire||Before driving|
|New Jersey||Before registering|
|New Mexico||Before registering|
|New York||Before registering|
|North Carolina||Before registering|
|North Dakota||Before driving|
|Rhode Island||Before registering|
|South Carolina||Before registering|
|South Dakota||Before registering|
|Washington, D.C.||Before registering|
|West Virginia||Before registering|
What happens to my registration if my insurance expires?
If your insurance expires, your car registration may be suspended. If this happens, you will have to provide proof of insurance to renew your registration and may have to pay a fine or fee to reinstate the registration. The amount you have to pay and the process to reinstate your car registration varies by state.
Most states offer online registration systems to make it easier to maintain valid car registration. If there is an electronic filing system, it is likely connected to the insurance company, which will send an automated alert to the motor vehicle administration. When this occurs, you may receive a notice from the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide proof of insurance. While some states allow you to do this yourself, others require proof of insurance to be provided directly from the insurance company.
If your insurance expires and you do not correct the situation, you may be required to purchase SR-22 insurance. This insurance is not really insurance at all but, rather, a certificate that indicates you carry at least the minimum levels of insurance required in your state. An SR-22 is reserved for high-risk drivers, which can include drivers who allow their car insurance to lapse. Being considered a high-risk driver can also increase your auto insurance premiums well above the costs of a standard car insurance policy.
Frequently asked questions
Other than New Hampshire, it is not legal to drive in any state without having car insurance coverage that fulfills at least the minimum requirements set by the state. Should you be caught driving without active car insurance coverage, you could face penalties. These penalties vary by state. And if you are involved in an accident without having the right insurance coverage, you will likely be required to pay for any injuries and property damage that were caused by the accident. You can also be sued in some states, which may have an impact on your financial future.
Yes, you need insurance to drive a car you just bought. In fact, most dealers will require you to show proof of insurance before you have the vehicle released to you. But whether or not you purchase a car from a dealer or a private seller, you still need insurance before you can drive it. And if you finance the car, your lender will almost certainly require you to show proof of current insurance coverage after you purchase the car and at each renewal to prove you are keeping continuous insurance coverage on the vehicle.
The maximum fine you can receive for driving without insurance depends on the state and whether it is your first offense. Some states will increase the fine for having more than one occurrence of driving without insurance. You may also face jail time or license suspension if it is found you are driving without insurance during a traffic stop or while being involved in an accident.