Do you need to carry your car insurance certificate?

To show proof of car insurance, you must have a physical card proving that you are carrying the necessary coverage. Some states allow virtual certificates as proof of car insurance.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Under most state laws, every registered vehicle must have some minimum amount of car insurance coverage
  • Some states require that you carry proof of car insurance at all times when driving
  • If you are required to show proof of insurance and cannot produce it, you may be faced with stiff penalties
  • There may be an option to carry an electronic form of car insurance certificates depending on which state you live in and what your insurance company offers

Along with being required to maintain a minimum amount of car insurance, many states require that drivers be able to show proof of car insurance when pulled over by law enforcement or involved in an accident.

It is a good idea to make sure that you carry proof of insurance at all times when driving to avoid having to pay a penalty.

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State Requirements for Proof of Insurance


In some states, it is not enough for drivers to simply maintain the minimum level of auto insurance. They must also carry physical proof of auto insurance. This is typically a card that is issued to you from your auto insurance company.

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer when driving, you are required to immediately show your insurance card to the officer under the laws of 12 different states.

Failure to do so when asked can result in penalties for the driver. In addition, your state may also require you to produce a copy of proof of insurance immediately after being involved in a car accident.

In about half of the states in the U.S., drivers are required to show valid proof of insurance at the time they register a vehicle with the state department of motor vehicles.

In those states, if you cannot show that you meet the state minimum requirement for auto insurance coverage, you will not be able to register your car or truck.

In some states, the penalty for driving without proof of compulsory auto insurance can include fines as high as $5,000. For subsequent offenses of failure to show proof of the minimum auto insurance required, the penalties increase.

Drivers can end up having their license suspended or revoked for repeat offenses. In some states, your car can be impounded and you could have your license plate suspended if you are caught driving without the proper insurance.

Some states are experimenting with electronic delivery of proof of insurance to drivers.

This involves the insurance company being able to transmit an electronic proof of insurance to the policyholder so that it can be produced on the spot. Policyholders would have to submit to their records being transmitted electronically if they choose to opt into this option.

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Obtaining a Copy of Proof of Insurance

If you are currently insured and cannot locate a copy of your insurance card, you can simply call your insurance company to have another copy sent to you. You should do this as soon as possible so that you are not caught without proof of insurance while driving.

If you need information on your current insurance status and cannot recall the name of your insurance company, the department of motor vehicles for your state will be able to provide you with information.

Many states are now increasing the involvement of the insurance company in verifying proof of insurance for at least the minimum level of auto liability coverage.

State motor vehicle departments across the country are requiring that insurance companies notify them when a driver’s insurance policy is canceled or not renewed so that they can follow up to make sure that the driver obtains the required minimum auto insurance coverage.

Information on Your Proof of Insurance Card


If you are involved in an auto accident or need to file a claim through your auto insurance company, your insurance card is the best immediate source of information. You should be able to find the insurance company name and number on the back of your card to contact.

In addition to retaining your proof of insurance, you should also make sure to keep a copy of your auto insurance policy.

This will tell you exactly what damages your auto insurance policy covers and what types of things are exempt from coverage. You can also find out when the term of your auto insurance policy expires and what your premium payment is.

Your auto insurance company should be able to provide you with an additional copy of your auto insurance policy if you cannot locate it. You may also be able to access an online account for information specific to your auto insurance policy through your insurer’s website.

The Bottom Line on Carrying Your Car Insurance Certificate

Even if you are not required by your state law to carry proof of insurance with you whenever you drive, it is still a good idea to keep your insurance card either in your wallet or in your vehicle.

If you are involved in an accident, you will want to be able to locate it quickly.

Your insurance company can provide you with a copy of your proof of insurance if you cannot find it or would like another copy. The state department of motor vehicles also maintains records on the insurance status of licensed drivers to make sure that they are in compliance.

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