What Is Proof of Car Insurance?

You must always carry proof of insurance when you’re driving. This article will tell you what qualifies as proof and how to get it.
Two men exchanging auto insurance proof after a car accident

Nearly every state requires you to have proof of car insurance with you while you’re driving. You’ll need it whenever you get pulled over by the police, get into an accident, or, in many states, register a vehicle. Without it, you could get a ticket or face other penalties.

Depending on your state and provider, valid proof can take on many forms. In most cases, it refers to an ID card you keep in your car or on a mobile device. Other times, it could be a printout you get from your insurer’s website.

In this article, we’ll help you know what proof looks like and how you can get it. Understanding this will be the key to ensuring both you and others can contact and verify your auto coverage.

What Is Valid Proof of Insurance?

Every state, besides New Hampshire and Virginia, requires car insurance. Proof of insurance is a document that proves you have at least your state’s minimum required coverage. It typically comes in the form of an identification card or piece of paper you print out. Your insurer will make this available to you once you get your policy. You can also usually access your ID info on your insurer’s website or mobile app.

An insurance ID card often contains the following (this can vary by state and provider):

  • Insurer’s name and address
  • National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) number for the insurer
  • Policy number and effective period
  • First and last name and address of each insured driver on your policy
  • Coverage limits or a statement that the policy meets the required minimum amounts of liability
  • Make, model, and VIN of each insured vehicle on your policy

Most states require you to have evidence of coverage when you’re behind the wheel. Perhaps the best, most intuitive places to store it are in your car’s glove compartment or your wallet. This way you’ll never forget it or have to think about it.

Many states allow you to use your phone or another electronic device to access your ID card. This can come in handy, especially if you forget to have the physical papers in your car or don’t own a printer.

How to Get Proof of Insurance

Insurers make it very easy to access all the details relevant to your policy, including your ID card. There are three primary ways you can obtain the proof you have auto coverage:

  • By mail. Your provider can mail you a small card or paper with your policy info that you can then store in your car or wallet.
  • Online. You can get it online by going to your insurer’s website and viewing your policy details. Then, you can print it out and keep the physical document with you while you’re driving. Some companies may also make a point to send you a link to your card as soon as you buy a policy.
  • Using a mobile device. Several major auto insurers enable you to view your ID card on your phone or device. In many states, just having this will work.

49 out of 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C., allow you to present an electronic version of your insurance card to the authorities as valid proof. This includes at the DMV when you’re registering a vehicle. New Mexico is the only state that doesn’t allow it.

Why Proof of Insurance Is Important

It’s critical to have proof of insurance with you. It’s against the law to drive uninsured in all but two states (NH and VA). If a police officer stops you, they’ll ask you to show them evidence of auto coverage, along with your driver’s license and vehicle registration. These documents all work together to show that you comply with the law and have valid protection while you’re driving.

It’s also important to note that you won’t be able to register a car if you don’t have coverage. Your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will undoubtedly ask for some proof. And, if you can’t show them any, you’ll be out of luck.

What Happens If You Don’t Have Proof?

Driving without valid proof is a bad idea. You can get in serious trouble with the law if you can’t prove you have proper coverage. The most common penalty you’ll face is a ticket, of which the amount varies by state. In Washington state, for example, you can get a $250 fine if you’re caught without a valid auto coverage ID card or paper. In Texas, meanwhile, fines can range from $175 to $350.

Legal trouble isn’t the only problem that can arise when you don’t have proof with you. Having a document or card that proves you have insurance is also helpful in resolving issues quickly. For instance, imagine you get into an accident that causes damage to another car. It’s likely the other driver may ask you for your information. But if you can’t show them your card, it’ll only prolong the process and make you both jump through more hoops to exchange info.

Difference Between an SR-22 and Proof of Insurance

An SR-22 (FR-44 in Florida and Virginia) is a form that proves that you carry your state’s minimum required car insurance. It’s usually required for people who’ve just gotten a severe traffic violation, such as a DUI conviction.

On the surface, it may seem like an SR-22 has the same function as an insurance ID card. But this isn’t the case. Proof of insurance is something you must always carry with you that verifies you have coverage. An SR-22, however, is a document that you or your insurer files with the state. It’s not typically something you have in your car. Therefore, you can’t show an SR-22 to the police to prove you have auto coverage.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is proof of insurance?

A: This is a document or card that proves to the police, DMV, car dealers, or others that you have your state’s minimum required coverage. It typically contains information about your insurer, limits, and the people/vehicles on your policy.

Q: What counts as proof of car insurance?

A: Proof of auto coverage can come in a few different forms. The most common is a card mailed to you by your insurer. You can also have a printout from your provider’s website. In most states, an electronic version of your ID card will count.

Q: Can I register a car without insurance?

A: You can’t register a car without proof of insurance in 48 out of 50 states (except NH and VA). The DMV will ask you to provide information about your auto coverage to ensure you meet your state’s requirements and can go out on the road safely. Some states may also prevent you from obtaining license plates without coverage.

Q: Can I use my phone for proof of auto insurance?

A: Yes, you can use your phone for insurance proof in every state but New Mexico. Most carriers allow customers to access a digital version of their ID card on their mobile app.

To access your ID card electronically, you’ll have to download your insurer’s app and log in. Once in the app, you should be able to find your ID cards or policy documents. Some companies even allow you to add your card to your phone’s virtual wallet, so you can easily pull it up in a pinch.

Q: I lost my insurance proof. What should I do?

A: Losing your proof can be easy to do, especially given how small the cards can be. Luckily, it’s generally easy to get it back. The easiest way to access it is on your phone or mobile device. If this isn’t an option, you can either contact your provider for a replacement or go to its website and log in to get a printout version.

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