Is my car insurance valid if my registration expires?

Your car insurance is not tied to your registration. However, penalties for driving an unregistered vehicle include fines, points on your license, or higher car insurance rates.

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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 20, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Keeping your car insurance and registration up-to-date are important
  • You must provide proof of insurance in order to renew your vehicle registration
  • Register any new car and notify your car insurance company of the change

Keeping your car insurance current is one of the most important things you can do for your safety and financial situation. If you let your car insurance lapse, you will risk all sorts of legal and financial problems including the following:

  • Fees due to failure to provide proof of insurance – You are required to provide proof of insurance if you are stopped in a routine traffic stop. If you cannot provide this proof, you may be required to pay a large fee even on a first offense.
  • Increase in premiums due to lack of coverage – Remember that your premiums are based on some different factors, including how long you have stayed on your policy. If you come off of your policy, your premiums will go up when you go back on the policy.
  • Possible suspension of license – Another thing that could happen as a result of not having insurance is that you could get your license suspended. This suspension is temporary, but it can adversely influence your premium rates and driving record for a long time.
  • Court costs – In addition to fees that could be assessed due to failure to produce proof of insurance, you could end up paying court costs as well.
  • Liability costs to others – If you have an accident when your insurance is not in effect, you may be liable for any and all injuries and damages that you cause others due to your negligence.

As you can see, it is important to keep your insurance current to avoid fees, court costs, and penalties that could be assessed for failure to have insurance.

Compare car insurance quotes right here. It’s free and you might be able to save hundreds on your desired coverage.

But what about your car registration?

Car Registration Requirements

Car registration is a required action that you must take whenever you purchase a new car. Your registration is good as long as your license plate is valid and you pay the appropriate fees.

Also, you are required to renew your license plate tags each year around the same time.

To renew your tags, you should take your registration card and information to your local revenue office to pay the appropriate fees. You can renew online if you prefer, avoiding the long waits you sometimes experience in local offices.

It is state law to keep your car registration current including your license plate and tags. Most states only require you to replace your plates every five years or so.

Check your state laws in your state of residence to see what the laws are in your state on insurance and car registration requirements.

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How Car Registration Affects Your Car Insurance

Remember that when you buy a new car, you must inform your car insurance company about your change of vehicle. You also must get the new car registered to receive your tags and license plate, as discussed above.

Failure to update your car registration will not cancel your car insurance. In fact, one has nothing to do with the other. However, car registration is part of the law so you must make sure you follow this requirement to be legal on the road.

You could be cited for driving an unregistered vehicle if you are driving an unregistered car which will be reported to your car insurance company, resulting in higher premiums.

Your insurance company must also know which car you are buying insurance for. It is so important to update your registration and report your new car to your insurer as soon as possible.

Showing Proof of Car Insurance When Renewing Tags

Also, you will be required to show your proof of insurance to your local revenue office before you are allowed to renew your car tags for another year. If you do not have proof of insurance, you may not be granted the new tags until you get insurance.

So it’s not so much that your car insurance will not be valid if your registration expires as it is the fact that you cannot get your car tags and keep your registration current without proof of insurance.

If you do not have your proof of insurance cards, your local revenue office or car registration facility can call your insurance company to verify coverage.

But it is best to have your proper paperwork with you when you register your vehicle.

Why is car registration necessary?

Car registration is necessary because it identifies your vehicle as a unique vehicle on the roadways and prevents criminal behavior for being untraced.

Police use your vehicle license plate to track you to see if your insurance is current as well in some states such as Tennessee.

The state of Tennessee now uses a new technology called automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) that gives police information on the following:

  • the car registration data
  • the owner’s name
  • the license status

It will tell them if your license is expired if your car is registered to your name and whether your insurance is current. If any of these things are not up-to-date, you may be cited for failure to have the correct documentation or proof of ownership and licensure.

Most states do not use this ALPR technology as a basic rule but it is becoming more common. In general, police usually do not stop someone unless there is a specific reason to suspect that your license is suspended or that your car is not registered.

The law in most states says that they must have reasonable cause to pull you over and check your tags.

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How Registration Relates to Your Car Insurance Rates

If you are cited for failure to renew your tags or car registration, your insurance premiums may increase as a result because your driving record will reflect your citation for failure to register your vehicle and it will be a part of your driving record for at least three years.

Most states have a Department of Revenue site that shows you the steps to properly registering your vehicle. Visit your local revenue office to find out more.

Keeping your documentation up-to-date is important. So is shopping and comparing insurance policies to see if you have the best deal. If you are not pleased with your current insurance, feel free to shop around.

Look at the benefits of each company and see if they meet your needs. Enter your zip code into our free car insurance comparison tool below!

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