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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.
|State||Proof of Insurance is Required||Allows Online Renewals?|
|Alabama||Before Registration||Yes — Certain Counties|
|Delaware||Before Registration||No, but does offer drive-thru renewals|
|Georgia||Before Registration||Yes — Certain Counties|
|Maine||Before Registration||Yes — Certain Towns|
|Mississippi||Before Driving||Yes — Certain Counties|
|New Hampshire||Not Required||Contact your town/city clerk|
|New Jersey||Before Registration||Yes|
|New Mexico||Before Registration||Yes|
|New York||Before Registration||Yes|
|North Carolina||Before Registration||Yes|
|North Dakota||Before Driving||Yes|
|Rhode Island||Before Registration||Yes|
|South Carolina||Before Registration||Yes|
|South Dakota||Before Registration||Yes|
|Tennessee||Before Driving||Yes — Certain Counties|
|Washington, D.C.||Before Registration||Yes|
|West Virginia||Before Registration||Yes|
|Wyoming||Before Registration||Yes — 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.