Car insurance is a legal requirement in almost every state. In order to legally drive, you must carry a minimum amount of auto insurance, which typically includes bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. A minimum coverage policy will not provide any protection for your vehicle in the event of an accident.
When you purchase car insurance, you get to choose what type of policy you get, either minimum coverage or full coverage. A full coverage policy offers significantly more protection, although the premium is typically much more expensive than minimum coverage.
What insurance is required?
The majority of states have minimum car insurance requirements, except for New Hampshire and Virginia. An active car insurance policy allows you to drive legally. Any registered vehicle in states with minimum insurance requirements must be insured, regardless of how often you drive or how old the car is. Here are the coverage types that are typically required:
- Bodily injury (BI) liability: If you cause an accident with another driver, bodily injury liability coverage will pay for medical expenses related to the other driver’s injuries. It may also cover your legal fees if the other driver sues you for their losses.
- Property damage (PD) liability: Property damage liability coverage pays for property damage that you cause to others. For example, if you hit another driver, your property damage liability insurance would pay for their vehicle’s repairs.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM): Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage offers protection in the event that you get into an accident with a driver who is uninsured or does not have enough coverage to pay for your losses.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): Personal injury protection is typically required in no-fault states, but it may be purchased as an endorsement in fault states, depending on your insurer. After an accident, personal injury protection will automatically pay for your and your passenger’s medical expenses, regardless of which driver was responsible for the crash. It also covers additional expenses that result from your injuries, like lost wages or childcare services.
- Medical payments coverage (MedPay): Medical payments provides coverage for injuries sustained by you and your passengers following an accident, regardless of fault. It is similar to PIP, but it is less robust and does not cover essential services.
While these coverage types are often required at the state level, the minimum amount of coverage allowed per person and per accident is different depending on your location. To find the exact minimum coverage requirements in your state, you can visit your state’s department of insurance website.
Minimum car insurance requirements in each state
Before you purchase car insurance, you will need to check your state’s minimum coverage requirements. Just as car insurance rates vary by state, so do minimum coverage requirements. The table below includes the minimum requirements in every state.
|State||Bodily injury liability and property damage liability||UM/UIM, PIP and MedPay|
|Michigan||50/100/10||Six PIP options: minimum $50,000 for insureds on Medicaid|
|New Hampshire*||25/50/24||25/50 UM|
|New Jersey||15/30/5||15/30 UM/UIM
|New York||25/50/10||25/50 UM
|North Carolina||30/60/25||30/60/25 UM/UIM|
|North Dakota||25/50/25||25/50 UM/UIM
|South Carolina||25/50/25||25/50/25 UM|
|South Dakota||25/50/25||25/50 UM/UIM|
|Washington, D.C.||25/50/10||25/50/5 UM|
|West Virginia||25/50/25||25/50/25 UM|
*New Hampshire and Virginia do not require drivers to carry a car insurance policy. Minimums reflect the minimum limits required if car insurance is purchased.
States without car insurance requirements
The only two states that do not have a formal car insurance requirement are New Hampshire and Virginia. However, drivers in these states may still have to prove some form of financial responsibility in the event of an accident. Drivers should have adequate funds to compensate another driver for losses, whether it is property damage, medical bills or lost wages, in the case of an at-fault accident. Both New Hampshire and Virginia have alternatives that may be necessary for drivers who choose to forgo traditional coverage.
Here are the car insurance alternatives for New Hampshire and Virginia:
- Proof of financial responsibility: Rather than purchasing a regular car insurance policy, New Hampshire drivers can deposit an operator’s security with the state treasurer or DMV. An operator’s security verifies that the driver has enough money to cover another driver’s losses in the event of an at-fault accident.
- Uninsured motorist fee: Drivers in Virginia are required to pay a $500 uninsured motorist fee to the DMV if they do not purchase a regular car insurance policy. There is no fee in New Hampshire for not having traditional car insurance.
Despite the fact that car insurance is not mandatory in New Hampshire and Virginia, drivers are still encouraged to purchase a standard policy. Without car insurance, drivers are fully responsible for compensating another driver for their losses if they cause an accident. Additionally, drivers without full coverage would have no financial protection for their vehicle’s damages or medical bills in covered incidents.
Frequently asked questions
Is it better to get minimum coverage or full coverage?
Most car insurance companies sell minimum coverage and full coverage policies. While at least a minimum coverage policy is required in most states, a full coverage policy offers significantly more financial protection. On the other hand, a minimum coverage policy is usually much cheaper than a full coverage policy. If you want more financial protection and have enough to afford the policy, consider purchasing full coverage.
What does a full coverage car insurance policy include?
A full coverage car insurance policy includes liability insurance, plus both collision and comprehensive coverage. Collision insurance covers your vehicle’s repairs after an accident, whereas comprehensive coverage covers your vehicle’s repairs after a non-collision incident.
What is no-fault insurance?
No-fault car insurance, also called personal injury protection, is commonly required in states with no-fault laws. Personal injury protection will automatically pay for your and your passenger’s medical bills after an accident, regardless of which driver is at fault. For comparison, in states that do not have no-fault laws, the at-fault driver is usually responsible for covering bills related to the other driver’s injuries through bodily injury liability coverage.
How much does car insurance cost?
The cost of car insurance is different for every driver and it depends on a variety of personal factors. Your state, claim history, driving record and deductible can all impact the cost of your insurance. Bankrate’s 2021 study of quoted annual premiums found that in the U.S., the average car insurance premium is $1,674 per year for a full coverage policy and $565 per year for minimum coverage. To find cheaper coverage, it helps to shop around and get quotes from multiple providers.