Do you need insurance to register a car? (4 Facts + New Data)

Free Car Insurance Comparison

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Call for FREE quotes: (855) 425-8122

Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Dec 9, 2018

Advertiser Disclosure

It’s all about you. We want to help you make the right coverage choices.

We strive to help you make confident insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We partner with top insurance providers. This doesn't influence our content. Our opinions are our own.

Here's what you need to know...

  • Before a vehicle owner is able to register his or her car, proof of insurance is necessary
  • Most states will immediately suspend a car’s registration once it has been determined there is no insurance coverage
  • States track when drivers allow insurance coverage to lapse through a variety of means
  • Maintaining appropriate car insurance is a legal responsibility as well as a social one

Registering and insuring a vehicle go hand-in-hand in almost every state. In other words, it’s not possible to register a vehicle with your state motor vehicle department without providing proof of insurance coverage.

Even states which don’t mandate minimum liability coverage from a licensed insurance provider require proof of insurance. Such states still require individual proof of financial ability to pay accident claims.

Enter your ZIP code to compare car online insurance quotes from America’s top providers for FREE!

Check out four proven facts that demonstrate the necessity of car insurance to register your vehicle.

#1 – You Must Have Insurance to Register Your Vehicle

Before a vehicle owner is able to register his or her car, proof of insurance is necessary. Usually, an insurance card or a printout detailing the type of coverage you have purchased is adequate.

The local Department of Motor Vehicles will need to see that the proof of insurance supplied is valid, lists the vehicle that you want to be registered, and provides the minimum amount of coverage.

It is not possible to register a vehicle unless you have a car insurance policy.

Even temporary coverage will work if you are able to fax or mail in a copy of your permanent car insurance policy within 30 days.

By tying registration and auto insurance obligations together, states theoretically reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road. However, statistics show that in most cases where uninsured drivers are caught, a lapsed policy is the reason for being uninsured.

Enter your zip code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

#2 – You Will Face Penalties if Caught Driving Without Insurance

The cost of car accidents can be extremely high, so states take the matter of carrying car insurance very seriously. Almost all of them will immediately suspend a car’s registration once it has been determined there is no insurance coverage.

Some states, like New York, for example, give drivers a short period of time to surrender the car’s license plates once insurance coverage has lapsed. A failure to do so will result in suspension of your driver’s license.

Find the penalty in your state for the first offense on the table below. You can check out all the data right here.

AlabamaSuspension with $200 reinstatement feeUp to $500
AlaskaLicense suspension for 90 days
ArizonaLicense/registration/license plate suspension for three monthsAt least $500
ArkansasSuspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee$50 to $250Court may order impoundment
California$100 to $200 plus penalty assessmentsCourt may order impoundment
ColoradoLicense suspension until you can show proof to the DMV that you are insuredAt least $500Four points against your license. Courts may add up to 40 hours community service
ConnecticutSuspended registration/license for one month (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement fee$100 to $1000
DelawareLicense/privilege suspension for six months$1500 minimum fine
FloridaSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $150 fee for first reinstatement
GeorgiaSuspended registration with $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement feePay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes due
HawaiiEither license suspension for three months or a required nonrefundable insurance policy in force for six months$500 fine or community service granted by judge
IdahoLicense suspension until financial proof$75
IllinoisLicense plate suspension until $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proof
IndianaLicense/registration suspension for 90 days to one year
IowaRemoval of plates and registration possible when pulled over without insurance and reissued upon payment of fine or completed community service, proof of insurance, and $15 fee$500 if in accident; Otherwise $250.
Or community service in lieu of fine
Possible impoundment
Kansaslicense/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $100$300 to $1000Confinement in jail up to six months instead of or in addition to fine
KentuckyLicense plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shown$500 to $1000Up to 90 days in jail instead of or in addition to fine
LouisianaIf in car accident, fine plus registration revoked and driving privileges suspended for 180 days$500 to $1000
MaineSuspension of license and registration until proof of insurance$100 to $500
MarylandLose license plates and vehicle registration privileges; Pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for a vehicle's registrationPay uninsured motorist penalty fees for each lapse of insurance — $150 for the first 30 days, $7 for each day thereafter
Massachusetts$500 to $5000Imprisonment for one year or less instead of or in addition to fine
MichiganLicense suspension for 30 days or until proof of insurance$200 to $500
$25 service fee to Secretary of State
Imprisonment for one year or less instead of or in addition to fine
MinnesotaLicense and registration revoked for no more than 12 months$200 to $1000Community service possible instead of fine; 90 days imprisonment instead of or in addition to fine
MississippiDriving privileges suspended for one year or until proof of insurance $1000
MissouriSuspended until proof of insurance with $20 reinstatement feeFour points against driving record; Driver may be supervised
Montana$250 to $500Imprisonment for no more than 10 days instead of or in addition to fine
NebraskaLicense and registration suspension; reinstatement fee of $50 for eachProof of insurance to remain on file for three years
NevadaRegistration suspension — until payment of $250 reinstatement fee $250 to $1,000 depending on length of lapseDepending on circumstances, an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days
New HampshireNot a mandatory insurance state. Proof of insurance may be required as the result of a conviction, crash involvement, or administrative action. If you are required to file proof of insurance and vehicles are registered in your name, you will be required to file an Owner’s SR-22 Certificate of Insurance.
New JerseyLicense suspension for one year$300 to $1000Pay surcharges for three years in the amount of $250 per year
New MexicoLicense suspensionUp to $300Imprisoned for 90 days instead of or in addition to fine
New YorkRegistration suspension equal to time without insurance; License suspension equal to registration suspension if without insurance for 90 daysUp to $1500 if involved in accident plus $750 civil penaltyInstead of suspension, option to pay $8/day up to thirty days for which financial security was not in effect, $10/day from the thirty-first to the sixtieth day $12/day from the sixtieth to the ninetieth day and proof of security is provided; up to 15 days imprisonment in addition to or instead of fine
North CarolinaRegistration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate fee$50
North DakotaSuspension until proof of insurance is providedUp to $150030 days imprisonment instead of or in addition to fine; 14 points against license; proof of insurance must be provided for one year; license with a
notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50, and the fee to remove
this notation is $50
OhioLicense/plates/registration suspension until requirements are met and $100 reinstatement fee is paidMaintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three to five years; if involved in an accident without insurance, all above penalties and a security suspension for two plus years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)
OklahomaLicense suspension with $275 reinstatement fee $250Jail time up to 30 days; police can seize license plates and assign temporary plates and liability insurance — in effect for 10 days and can also impound the vehicle. The cost of the temporary coverage is added to the administrative fee and any fines paid for plates to be returned. If car impounded, owner must also pay towing and storage fees
OregonIf involved in accident — at least a one year license suspension$130 to $1000 ($260 is the presumptive fine)Proof of financial responsibility required for three years
PennsylvaniaRegistration suspended for three months (unless lapse was for less than 31 days and vehicle not operated during that time); $88 restoration fee plus proof of insurance required to get it back$500 civil penalty fee is optional in lieu of registration suspension plus $88 restoration fee — can only use this option once within a 12-month period
Rhode Island
License and registration suspension up to three months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50$100 to $500
South Carolina
License/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement fee$100 to $20030 days imprisonment instead of fine
South DakotaLicense suspension for 30 days to one year$10030 days imprisonment instead of or in addition to fine; filing proof of insurance (SR-22) with the state for three years from date of conviction. Failure to file proof will result in suspension of vehicle registration, license plates, and driver license
TennesseeOnly if fee is unpaid$25 within 30 daysPay $25 coverage failure fee within 30 days of notice; if not paid, then an additional $100 coverage failure fee with suspension or revocation of registration plus reinstatement fee of no more than $25
Texas$175 to $350pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements)
UtahLicense suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement fee$400
VermontLicense suspended until proof of insuranceUp to $500
VirginiaMay pay $500 Uninsured Motorists Vehicle fee to drive without insurance at your own risk. If this fee is not paid in lieu of insurance, all driving and vehicle registration privileges will be suspended until a $500 statutory fee is paid, proof of insurance is filed for three years, and a reinstatement fee (if applicable) is paid
WashingtonUp to $250
Washington D.C.
West VirginiaLicense suspended for 30 days with reinstatement fees, unless there's proof of insurance and $200 penalty fee$200 to $5000
WisconsinUp to $500
WyomingUp to $750Up to six months imprisonment
Get Your Rates Quote Now

In addition, most states also levy punitive fines to drivers caught on the road without adequate car insurance. In some cases, the fines are accompanied by a penalty period in which the car can neither be insured nor registered.

The idea behind such punitive measures is to discourage repeat offenses among those who would allow their insurance coverage to lapse.

Such penalties still apply even in cases where you might be insuring and registering a vehicle titled in someone else’s name.

Free Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption

Call for FREE quotes: (855) 425-8122

#3 – The DMV Will Be Notified of an Insurance Lapse

As stated earlier, it’s not possible under most circumstances to register a vehicle without proof of insurance coverage. As for those cases where drivers allow insurance coverage to lapse, states track this through a variety of means.

Some rely on ID cards compared to routine reports from car insurance companies licensed to do business in their state. Others utilize an electronic database which is regularly updated and can be accessed by both police and the DMV.

Check out the following facts about uninsured drivers in the U.S.

  • The national average of uninsured drivers is 13 percent
  • Main has the lowest rate at 4.5 percent
  • Florida has the highest rate at 26.7 percent

New York has the second lowest rate at six percent. New York accomplishes this through a mandatory electronic system that all New York licensed insurance carriers must utilize.

Insurance provider computers are linked to the system so that every time a policy is changed the state is notified.

As soon as an insurance policy is allowed to lapse, the state DMV computer automatically generates a letter which is sent to the driver to encourage corrective action.

#4 – There Is No Fool-Proof Way to Make Sure Every Car on the Road Is Insured


Under the current registration and insurance system, there is no absolutely fool-proof method of making sure that every car on the road has insurance coverage.

Some experts claim that the current system could be improved by turning over registration and licensing responsibilities to insurance providers.

One theory is that the insurance companies could not issue license plates until owners have insured a vehicle.  At the end of the policy, or at the time of lapse, those plates would no longer be valid.

Though privatizing the registration and licensing process does have its advantages, it still doesn’t prevent drivers from allowing insurance coverage to lapse while still leaving the plates on the vehicle.

In order for this system to work, a method of enforcement needs to be adopted. Something similar to bank repossession for a defaulted loan would work well.

If insurance companies were given the authority to repossess license plates after an insurance lapse, the system could probably reduce the number of uninsured drivers to a negligible number.

Maintaining appropriate car insurance is a legal responsibility as well as a social one. Not only are the potential fines and penalties for driving uninsured costly for you, but the costs incurred by other drivers in an accident you cause can be even higher.

Before heading down to the DMV to register your vehicle, find the best car insurance rates in your area for FREE by entering your ZIP code here now!

Free Car Insurance Comparison

Compare quotes from the top car insurance companies and save!

 Secured with SHA-256 Encryption