Washington car insurance laws

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The state of Washington provides 5.9 million licensed drivers over 80,000 miles of roads with unmatched natural beauty. But drivers should understand the Washington car insurance laws before exploring the Evergreen State. Washington does require drivers to carry minimum liability insurance, and if you choose not to obey there are steep penalties and fines.

Car insurance laws in Washington

Washington insurance laws are fairly straightforward and similar to many other state’s laws. Drivers are expected to:

  • Provide proof of insurance when asked to do so by a law enforcement officer.
  • Provide proof of insurance to register a vehicle and obtain a driver’s license.
  • Maintain minimum liability insurance requirements, referred to as 25/50/10:
    • $25,000 in bodily injury coverage per person
    • $50,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident
    • $10,000 in property damage per accident

Additionally, Washington has a self-insurance law. This means that if you operate more than 26 vehicles, you may purchase a self-insurance certificate to show financial responsibility.

Liability insurance in Washington

The minimum 25/50/10 liability requirements in Washington may seem strong enough for your own coverage, but only carrying the minimum may leave you underinsured.

For instance, the $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident could be an issue if you are involved in a multi-vehicle accident with multiple injuries. If there are four bodily injury claims and the accident is your fault, then $50,000 spread between four victims could fall severely short. You would be financially responsible for the difference if your insurance does not meet the needs of medical payments, loss of income and other related expenses.

Washington does not require Uninsured Motorist (UM) or Underinsured Motorist (UIM), but this is leaving you open to another disaster. Washington is ranked 7th highest in the country for uninsured motorists. Without this additional coverage, if you are in an accident with someone without insurance and it is their fault, you would have no way of recouping your expenses without heading to court.

Is Washington a no fault state?

Washington is considered an at-fault state, which is important to know for insurance purposes. This means that whichever driver is considered at-fault in an accident, the driver is responsible for costs associated with bodily injury and property damage. If the at-fault driver lacks enough insurance (or any insurance at all) to cover the damages, the other driver has the right to sue them to recover money for any damages that were a result of the accident.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Washington

Washington insurance laws also dictate strong penalties if you are caught driving without insurance. If you are caught driving without the minimum insurance, you face a fine up to $550. Additionally, if you are considered at-fault for an accident and don’t have any insurance, your license may be suspended. You are also financially responsible for damages caused by the accident.

Additional auto insurance coverage options in Washington

Fortunately, there are numerous ways to customize an auto insurance policy to fit your needs and budget so you are never without sufficient coverage. Washington residents pay an average of $431 per year for minimum coverage and $1,211 for full coverage options. In addition, there are options for a more robust policy, including:

  • Collision: Collision insurance provides coverage for damage to your car as a result of an accident or your car hitting a stationary object. According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), the average cost of collision insurance in Washington is $297.
  • Comprehensive: Comprehensive insurance covers damage to your car caused by circumstances other than a car accident. This occurs from scenarios such as hail, flood, water damage, fire, theft and vandalism. In Washington, the average cost of comprehensive coverage is $114 per year, according to III.
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: UM and UIM provide additional financial protection to you as a driver if you are involved in an accident and the at-fault driver has zero or inadequate insurance. It pays for your necessary medical payments, loss of income and other expenses related to the accident.
  • Roadside assistance: If your car is inoperable due to running out of gas, a dead battery or your car is stuck on the side of the road, you will be thankful for this coverage. It provides the assistance you need for minor driving inconveniences.
  • Rental car reimbursement: Another convenient option to add to a policy is rental car reimbursement. This provides financial assistance if you must secure a rental car while your car is in a repair shop due to a covered accident.
  • Gap coverage: New car owners are often required to carry gap insurance by the lender. This insurance pays the difference if your new car is totaled and you owe more than the car is worth.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance company in Washington?

Finding the best car insurance in Washington for your needs is possible by determining what factors mean the most for your circumstances. This may include the type of digital assets a carrier has, financial stability, customer service ratings and other factors. Bankrate has reviewed several companies and finds Geico and USAA offer high satisfaction ratings, strong financial metrics and competitive rates for Washingtonians.

What is the cheapest car insurance in Washington?

Fortunately, there are numerous carriers offering cheap auto insurance rates in Washington. Bankrate’s review of pricing found USAA to have the least expensive rates, averaging $261 per year for minimum coverage and $849 for full coverage. This is well below the average cost across the state and the national annual average of $1,738.

How can I save on my auto insurance?

There are several tactics for obtaining the lowest priced coverage. Start by shopping around with multiple carriers. This gives you an idea of how much coverage you can get for your budget and you may be surprised by the differences in price from one carrier to another. Another strategy is to work with an agent to review all discounts available. There may be one or two you are not aware of, such as paying in full or going paperless. Try raising your deductible, if you can afford the out-of-pocket costs if there is an accident. This helps lower your annual premiums. Lastly, keeping your credit score as healthy as possible results in lower premiums.

Written by
Sara Coleman
Insurance Contributor
Sara Coleman has three years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, Reviews.com, Coverage.com and numerous other personal finance sites. She writes about insurance products such as auto, homeowners, renters and disability.