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Your car insurance policy number is the unique number your insurance company uses to identify your account. It's written on your insurance card as well as bills and statements you receive from your insurer. The most common scenarios in which you'll need your policy number are after a car accident if you're pulled over and any time you want to contact your insurance provider.
Where can I find my car insurance policy number?
A car insurance policy number is typically an eight- to 10-digit number on your car insurance card. If you own multiple cars, you might have all your cars listed on a single card, or you might have a different number or card for each vehicle. In the latter case, it's common for only the last number to change among vehicles. For example, one car on your policy might be 99999999-1, while another could be 99999999-2.
Your car insurance policy number will generally stay the same for as long as you stay with a certain insurer. However, your number might change if you accidentally let your policy lapse or if you change insurance providers.
If you get insurance coverage through a roadside assistance provider like AAA, your insurance policy number will be different from your AAA membership number. You'll have a totally separate card and account identifier.
When do I need my car insurance policy number?
There are three main times you'll need your own car insurance policy number: after a car accident, if you're pulled over by the police and when you contact your insurer.
If you're involved in an accident with another driver, you'll exchange insurance information, including the policy number. Each driver will use the information when filing a claim. You'll also provide your insurance card to the police if they come to the accident and file a police report. It's generally a good idea to have the police come to the scene of any accident, as their police report will serve as an objective record of what happened and where.
Finally, your insurance company will ask you for your policy number any other time you're interacting with them, such as if you call to make changes to your policy or cancel your policy altogether. However, your insurance company can generally look up your policy number based on other information like your address or Social Security number.
What to do if you lose your insurance policy number
If you lose your proof of insurance card, most insurance companies will mail you a paper copy and let you print out new cards from your online account. We recommend keeping at least two copies: a digital copy on your phone and a paper one in your glovebox. In 48 states — everywhere except Connecticut, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. — you can use electronic proof of insurance on your smartphone. However, it's also good to have a paper copy as a backup. Plus, having a paper copy means you won't have to entrust a police officer with your smartphone when you are pulled over.
When do I need someone else's policy number?
The most common time you'll need someone else's insurance policy number is if you're involved in an accident. If you're in a crash, you should ask the other driver for their insurance information, regardless of who appears to be at fault or the severity of the accident. Offering yours as well is a show of good faith and may encourage them to provide theirs.
Insurance cards can be small and difficult to read, so the best course of action is usually to take a photo of the other driver's insurance card using your smartphone. That way, you don't have to depend on reading your own handwriting scribbled on the side of the road, and there's no chance you'll forget a piece of crucial information. Take a picture of the front and back of the card, and write down their full name and phone number, too.
After the accident, you'll use the other driver's insurance number when you call your own insurance company and the other driver's insurance company to begin the process of filing a claim.
What if I don't have all the other driver's information?
Sometimes, especially in a high-stress environment after an accident, you might not have gotten complete information about the other driver's insurance policy. Maybe you miscopied the number, or you forgot to take note of which insurance company they use. If that's the case, start by contacting the other driver, if you can. Hopefully, they'll be able to provide you with all the information you need.
If neither of these work and you have the driver's name and policy number, but not the company name, you may be able to call around to see if you can find them. The top 10 largest auto insurance companies in the U.S. make up 72% of the market, so chances are good that you'll be able to find them just by working through the list.
Your own insurance agent may also be able to identify the number based on professional experience, so don't be afraid to ask.