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 law enforcement, 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 of coverage 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 of insurance 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 Counts as Valid Proof of 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 provider 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
- 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 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 Verification Documents
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 insurance carrier’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.
It’s Illegal to Drive Without It
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.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance ID
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 ID card or paper. In Texas, meanwhile, fines can range from $175 to $350.
Depending on your state, you could receive points on your driver’s license if you get caught driving without proof of insurance. You’ll want to do everything you can to avoid this. That’s because if your insurer finds enough of these points on your record, it will increase your rates. And these points can remain on your license for years, meaning your policy will cost more until they come off your record.
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 Insurance ID
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 coverage is something you must always carry with you that verifies you have a valid policy. 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
What’s on an insurance card?
An insurance card 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.
What formats count as valid proof?
Proof of 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. Make sure that you comply with your state insurance verification regulations.
Can I register a car without coverage?
You can’t register a car without proof of auto insurance in 48 out of 50 states (except NH and VA). The DMV will ask you to provide information about your 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 a valid policy.
Can I use my phone to prove coverage?
Yes, you can use your phone for proof in every state but New Mexico. Most carriers allow customers to access a digital version of their insurance 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 it with policy documents. Some companies even allow you to add valid proof to your phone’s virtual wallet, so you can easily pull it up in a pinch.
I lost my insurance ID card. What should I do?
Losing your ID card can be easy to do, especially given how small they 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 insurance provider for a replacement or go to its website and log in to get a printout version.