How do the police check for car insurance?

Do police check auto insurance? You must always provide proof of car insurance when you are pulled over, and police can check to see if your proof of insurance is valid.

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A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

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® Joel Ohman

UPDATED: Jun 21, 2022

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Car insurance is required by law in nearly every state
  • In states with mandatory insurance laws, you must present proof of liability or no-fault insurance coverage anytime you register your vehicle or are pulled over by law enforcement
  • With electronic verification systems, police officers can verify whether or not you have an active insurance policy that meets state requirements

Anytime you drive a vehicle, you’re responsible for carrying your state’s minimum car insurance coverage. If you get pulled over, the police will want to verify your insurance and make sure you’re in compliance with state law. Typically, they’ll ask for your insurance card, but that’s not the only way they can check your insurance. 

Read on to find out more about why the police may want to verify your car insurance and what it means for you if you aren’t properly insured.

Do police check auto insurance?

When they pull you over, police officers can verify with the state whether you have insurance and whether that insurance policy and coverage comply with the laws in your state. Likewise, if you have to file a police report for an accident, the officer will verify your insurance. 

Anytime you are pulled over for a driving infraction, the police officer will ask for your license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. They will then verify the insurance to ensure your vehicle is adequately covered.

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Why do the police check car insurance?

In almost every state (except for Virginia and New Hampshire), car insurance is required by law, and driving without car insurance can result in a fine. Specific coverage requirements vary by state, so it’s best to understand types of car insurance and determine what your state requires before purchasing an insurance policy. Plus, car insurance protects you from financial stress if you have a major accident.

Some states do not require a specific insurance policy, but they do have insurance requirements instead, such as:

  • Putting collateral down for “self-insurance” of your vehicle
  • Purchasing a surety bond (the state will determine the amount)
  • Depositing funds with your state treasurer as a security

Whatever the specific rules are in your state, an officer will be able to verify whether you’ve met the minimum requirements for financial responsibility. 

How do police check auto insurance?

The police start by asking for proof of insurance from your insurance provider. This is usually the best way for you to prove your vehicle is insured. Your insurance card includes all relevant information, including your coverage details and expiration date. 

However, the police can also check your policy information in your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) database to confirm your policy exists and is paid up. Each police car is equipped with a computer system that connects to an internal database. This system shows police officers your history, including any past cases in which you were caught without insurance.

Consequences of Driving Without Car Insurance

If you are caught driving without car insurance, there are a range of consequences. Here are some of the possible consequences of being caught without adequate, state-required car insurance:

  • Fines
  • Suspension of driving privileges
  • Appearance in court to justify your case to a judge
  • A misdemeanor conviction (especially for repeat offenders)
  • Your vehicle may be impounded
  • Jail time ranging from a few days to a year

The consequences can vary by state, depending on insurance requirements. For example, driving without car insurance in the state of Washington can lead to a fine of no more than $250, while other states can charge as much as $1,000. 

If you have been warned to register for insurance and fail to comply, you may face even harsher consequences. It can be a very costly risk if you choose to forego insurance on your vehicle in a state that requires it.

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Will the police check for auto insurance?

If you get pulled over, the police will check for car insurance if you are in a state that requires it. Likewise, anytime an accident is reported, the police are required to verify your insurance and your license to fill out the accident report. To avoid the consequences of driving without insurance, you should look up the regulations in your state to be sure you are in compliance. 

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