Do You Need Insurance to Register Your Car?

Most U.S. states require drivers to have proof of car insurance when they register their vehicle at the DMV.

A person putting a license plate holder on the bumper of a red car.
Updated May 13, 2024
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Almost all states in the U.S. require drivers to carry some level of car insurance coverage. In many states, drivers must show proof that they have insurance when they register their cars at the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). All drivers are responsible for both registering their vehicles and getting car insurance before they hit the road.

Let’s look at which states require car insurance when registering a vehicle and how much car insurance you need before you go to the DMV.

In this article

Do you need insurance to register a car?

Usually, yes. All but eight states require drivers to show proof of car insurance when registering a vehicle.

Here are the eight states where you don’t need car insurance to register your vehicle:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Although these states don’t require car insurance before registering your car, most of them still mandate that you have at least the state minimum required car insurance before you start driving.

New Hampshire is the only state that doesn’t require drivers to carry car insurance. However, New Hampshire drivers must still be able to show that they have enough money to meet the state’s financial responsibility requirements if they are ever declared at fault in an accident.

What insurance coverage do you need to register a car?

While the majority of states require drivers to carry car insurance, each state varies on how much insurance coverage drivers must have. Most states require drivers to at least carry liability coverage.

Bodily injury liability insurance covers injuries to others when you’re at fault in an accident, whereas property damage liability pays for any damages you cause to another vehicle when you’re at fault in an accident.

Some states also require drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, Personal Injury Protection (PIP), or medical payments coverage.

Each state sets the minimum insurance levels drivers must carry to be on the road. For example, New York drivers must have:

  • $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident bodily injury liability
  • $10,000 property damage liability
  • $50,000 PIP insurance
  • $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident for uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

Florida residents, on the other hand, are only required to carry at least:

  • $10,000 property damage liability
  • $10,000 PIP insurance

How much does minimum car insurance cost?

The cost of minimum car insurance coverage varies because of the different requirements in each state. Other factors that help determine your rate for car insurance include the car you drive, your driving record, the zip code you live in, and even your credit score in some states.

Although state laws mandate that you must carry the minimum car insurance, it’s still wise to get more coverage than the minimum so you don’t end up in a situation where you have to pay out of pocket for injuries or damages from a car accident.

What insurance documents do you need to register your car?

When registering your car, you’ll have to provide proof of car insurance in the states that require it. This proof can be in the form of an insurance card or auto insurance declarations page from your insurance company.

The insurance documentation you provide must have the following information:

  • Your insurance company
  • Your insurance agent
  • Policy number
  • Policy period (when it starts and when it expires)
  • Policy limits
  • Your name and address
  • The make, model, year, and VIN of your car

What happens if you drive a car without insurance?

Driving without car insurance is illegal in most states. If you get caught without having at least the minimum insurance coverage required, you could face fines and possible suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and car registration.

Even worse, if you get into a car accident, the costs could be insurmountable, especially if you are at fault. You could also potentially be sued by the other drivers involved or their insurance companies.

FAQ

How do you register a car?

You register a new car at your local DMV. You’ll have to pay a vehicle registration fee, and, in most states, you must provide proof of insurance when registering your car.

You’ll also need to provide other verification documents, such as:

  • Car title
  • Certificate of origin or bill of sale
  • Odometer reading
  • Vehicle make, model, year, and identification number (VIN)
  • Driver’s license or other proof of identity and residence
  • Emissions and safety certifications (in certain states)

Do you need proof of insurance to drive a car?

Yes, almost all states require drivers to have proof of insurance to be on the road. The only state without a car insurance mandate is New Hampshire, but drivers there are still required to show proof of financial responsibility by other means if they don’t have insurance.

How do you know what insurance your state requires?

Your insurance agent should be able to tell you the minimum car insurance requirements in your state. You can also find that information on your state’s DMV or government website.

Bottom line

Registering your vehicle is an essential part of owning a car, and, in all but eight states, you will need to show proof of insurance to register a vehicle. Even in the states that don’t require proof of insurance for vehicle registration, most mandate that drivers carry a minimum level of insurance. Minimal insurance coverage varies state by state.

Although car insurance will cost you some money, the costs of not carrying insurance could be much greater if you are ever involved in an accident.

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Author Details

Danielle Letenyei

Danielle Letenyei is a professional writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. Her interests include budgeting, travel, credit cards, insurance, and creative side gigs. She hopes her work on these topics can help others navigate the intricate landscape of personal finance.