Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Car?

Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Car?

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Most states require proof of insurance or financial responsibility in order to register your vehicle and get your tags. AZ, MS, NH, ND, TN, WA, and WI do not require it for registration, but all states except for New Hampshire require basic liability coverage to operate a vehicle.

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Is proof of insurance necessary to register a vehicle?

If you've just purchased a vehicle or moved to a new state, one of the first things you'll need to do is register your vehicle in your new state. Most states will require you to show proof of financial responsibility, which is most often fulfilled by auto insurance, from that state as part of the registration process. Other states don't enforce insurance requirements through registration, but do require you to maintain minimum coverage while driving your vehicle.

StateProof of Insurance is RequiredAllows Online Renewals?
AlabamaBefore RegistrationYes — Certain Counties
AlaskaBefore RegistrationYes
ArizonaBefore DrivingYes
ArkansasBefore RegistrationYes
CaliforniaBefore RegistrationYes
ColoradoBefore RegistrationYes
ConnecticutBefore RegistrationYes
DelawareBefore RegistrationNo, but does offer drive-thru renewals
FloridaBefore RegistrationYes
GeorgiaBefore RegistrationYes — Certain Counties
HawaiiBefore RegistrationYes
IdahoBefore RegistrationYes
IllinoisBefore RegistrationYes
IndianaBefore RegistrationYes
IowaBefore RegistrationYes
KansasBefore RegistrationYes
KentuckyBefore RegistrationYes
LouisianaBefore RegistrationYes
MaineBefore RegistrationYes — Certain Towns
MarylandBefore RegistrationYes
MassachusettsBefore RegistrationYes
MichiganBefore RegistrationYes
MinnesotaBefore RegistrationYes
MississippiBefore DrivingYes — Certain Counties
MissouriBefore RegistrationYes
MontanaBefore RegistrationYes
NebraskaBefore RegistrationYes
NevadaBefore RegistrationYes
New HampshireNot RequiredContact your town/city clerk
New JerseyBefore RegistrationYes
New MexicoBefore RegistrationYes
New YorkBefore RegistrationYes
North CarolinaBefore RegistrationYes
North DakotaBefore DrivingYes
OhioBefore RegistrationYes
OklahomaBefore RegistrationYes
OregonBefore RegistrationYes
PennsylvaniaBefore RegistrationYes
Rhode IslandBefore RegistrationYes
South CarolinaBefore RegistrationYes
South DakotaBefore RegistrationYes
TennesseeBefore DrivingYes — Certain Counties
TexasBefore RegistrationYes
UtahBefore RegistrationYes
VermontBefore RegistrationYes
VirginiaBefore RegistrationYes
WashingtonBefore DrivingYes
Washington, D.C.Before RegistrationYes
West VirginiaBefore RegistrationYes
WisconsinBefore DrivingYes
WyomingBefore RegistrationYes — Certain Counties

New Hampshire is the only state that does not require liability insurance to operate a car. However, New Hampshire does require proof of financial responsibility, which means that drivers must prove they could cover the cost of an accident if they cause one. Most NH drivers achieve this by purchasing liability insurance anyway. See the table below to find out when your state requires proof of insurance.

Most states offer an online renewal system that eliminates the need for a trip to the DMV. Drivers must renew their registration every 1 to 5 years, depending on their state and the year of their vehicle. Newer vehicles tend to require renewals less frequently since their engines were built to comply with higher emissions standards. In many states, you can sign up for an automatic reminder of when it's time for your next renewal at their online renewal portal. All states except New Hampshire require current liability insurance in order to renew your registration. See the table below to find your state's online renewal information.

What happens if I let my insurance expire?

Driving without insurance is a misdemeanor offense that can lead to fines and even jail sentences in repeat cases. If you let your insurance policy lapse, your registration will eventually be suspended. In some states, this depends on being caught with expired insurance, such as when you're pulled over for speeding. In states with an electronic filing system, your insurance provider will alert your state's DMV as soon as your policy has lapsed, and you'll receive a notice to renew your insurance in order to maintain registration.

Daniel is a former Staff Writer at ValuePenguin, covering insurance, retirement and other personal finance topics. He previously wrote about compliance and best practices for K-12 school districts at Frontline Education.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.