Fausto Bucheli Jr


February 10, 2023

Edited By

John Davey
Do you need insurance to register a car?
Across most of the United States, you will need a car insurance policy in order to register a vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC).In nearly all states, you will also need to carry proof of car insurance in order to legally drive a vehicle.

In this article, we will cover everything that you need to know about handling your car registration legally in your state.

In Which States Do You Require Proof of Insurance?

There are only eight states where you will not need proof of insurance and of these, only two states do not require insurance at all.

The states that do not specifically need insurance include New Hampshire and Virginia.

However, in New Hampshire, you need to prove that you can afford to pay for any damages and injuries that you cause in an accident.

If you live in New Hampshire, you can provide proof of financial responsibility instead of taking out car insurance. This proves to the state that you have enough money to pay for any injuries or property damage that you cause in an accident. This is often also known as self-insurance.

To do this, you will need to deposit money or securities with the New Hampshire Bureau of Financial Responsibility. This must meet the liability coverage limits that the state requires.

The required liability coverages in New Hampshire are $25,000 per person for bodily injury, up to $50,000 if two or more persons are hurt, and up to $25,000 for property damage.

If you are unable to provide proof of financial responsibility, then you will need to get minimum liability insurance.

In California, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin—you will be allowed to register your car without insurance, but you’d still need minimum liability insurance in order to drive.

In most U.S. states, you will need to show proof of insurance when you register your car at the DMV or MVC.

The laws for each state when it comes to the type of insurance you need differ, so it is important to check the requirements in your state with both the DMV and your insurance company.

Here is an up-to-date list of all the U.S. states and their requirement for you to have auto insurance in place.

State or TerritoryDo you need insurance to register a car?
ArizonaNo. You can register without insurance, but must arrange it within 30 days of registering.
IowaNo. You can register your vehicle without insurance, but you must have minimum liability coverage to drive.
MississippiNo. You can register your vehicle without insurance, but you must have minimum liability coverage to drive.
New HampshireNo. Vehicle insurance is not required to register a car and isn’t mandatory for most drivers, but it is encouraged.
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
New YorkYes
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaNo. You can register your vehicle without insurance, but you must have minimum liability coverage to drive.
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYes
South DakotaYes
TennesseeNo. You can register your vehicle without insurance, but you must have minimum liability coverage to drive.
Washington, D.CYes
West VirginiaYes
WisconsinNo. You can register your vehicle without insurance, but you must have minimum liability coverage to drive.

How Do You Register a Car in the U.S.?

If you buy a car from a dealership, you will typically not need to register the car yourself, as they will do this for you.

If you buy your car from a private seller or you move to a different state, then you will need to register your vehicle with the DMV or MVC yourself.

The registration process differs from state to state, so before you go to the DMV to register your vehicle, you must check with your DMV or MVC about what the requirements are.

Generally, you can expect the following when registering your vehicle:

Have your vehicle inspected

If you buy a used vehicle or you need to register your car in a new state, you may be required to have the car inspected first. This inspection will confirm to the state that your car is in good running condition.

Pass an emissions test

You may be able to register a newer vehicle without an emissions test. However, if your vehicle is a few years old, your state may require you to have one done. Emission tests are not needed for electric cars.

Gather the required documents

You will typically need the following documents when registering a vehicle in your state:

  • Proof of insurance.
  • Valid driver’s license.
  • Bill of sale.

You will also need to provide proof that you have paid your registration fee.

Make an appointment at the state’s DMV or MVC

Some states allow the full registration of your vehicle online, but many still require you to complete the process in person, at their offices.

You may, however, be able to fill out much of the paperwork online—which will save you time at the DMV or MVC.

If you can, schedule an appointment in advance to help you avoid long queues and waiting times.

Once you have registered your vehicle, you will receive your license plates and registration papers.

When it comes to maintaining the registration of your vehicle, you will need to renew your registration every one to five years, depending on the state in which you live and the year or model of your vehicle.

Newer vehicles tend to need less frequent renewals because their engines will have been designed and built to comply with higher emission standards.

You can only renew the registration of your vehicle if it has had an emissions inspection within the last 12 months. If you do not have an inspection report, you will not be allowed to renew your registration.

Many states will let you sign up online for an automatic reminder of when you are due for your renewal.

What Type of Insurance Do You Need to Register a Car?

As we’ve mentioned earlier, every state has its own requirements to either register or legally drive a car. Most states require the following coverages:

Minimum liability coverage

Liability insurance coverage protects you financially if you are found responsible for someone else’s injuries or property damage following an accident.

You will typically see your auto liability coverage represented by three numbers that indicate your coverage limits.

For example, if you live in Illinois and have the minimum liability coverage limits required by the state, you will see $25,000/$50,000/$20,000 on your insurance policy.

These numbers refer to the following:

Bodily injury liability per person: $25,000 is the maximum amount that your insurance company will pay out for injuries that you cause in an accident, per person.

Bodily injury liability per accident: $50,000 is the maximum amount that your insurer will pay out for injuries that you are liable for, per accident.

Property damage liability per accident: $20,000 is the maximum amount that your insurance company would pay out for any property damage, per accident.

Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage

Uninsured motorist insurance protects you financially if you are involved in an accident with another person who has no insurance in place.

Underinsured motorist coverage is also usually provided along with uninsured motorist coverage, and protects you if you are hit by a driver who doesn’t have enough insurance in place.

Medical payments coverage

In the event of a car accident, this insurance coverage will help pay for medical expenses for you and your passengers, even if you are at fault.

Not every state offers this insurance and it is usually available in the form of personal injury protection, instead.

Personal injury protection

This insurance is also known as no-fault insurance, and it covers the medical expenses and lost wages for you and your passengers if you are injured in an accident.

Personal injury protection coverage protects you financially irrespective of who is at fault in an accident. This insurance is mandatory in some states, and optional or not offered at all in others.

What Happens If You Let Your Car Insurance Expire?

Driving without car insurance is a misdemeanor that can result in penalties and even jail time if committed and fined repeatedly.

If your state uses an electronic filing system, your insurance company will notify the DMV as soon as your insurance expires. You will also be notified that you need to renew your insurance policy to keep your registration active.

If you do not renew your insurance policy with an insurance provider, you may face driver’s license suspension. This could mean that you will first have to pay off fines in order to get your registration reinstated.

What Happens If You Drive without Insurance?

As we’ve mentioned earlier in this article, to drive legally in the U.S., you will typically need proof of insurance or proof of financial responsibility.

The requirements vary by state, but purchasing liability insurance is always a good way to protect you financially, should you be involved in an accident.

Do You Need to Register Your Car to Get Insurance?

If you are buying a car new or secondhand, you will not need to register it first in order to get car insurance.

However, you will need to get insurance in place first in order to register your vehicle with the DMV or MVC.

You will also need the title of the car which must have your name on it before you can get insurance for it.

What Do You Need in Place to Legally Drive Your Car?

Each state has its own requirements in order for you to drive legally. Typically, you will need the following with you when you drive:

  • A valid driver’s license.
  • An insurance card or proof of insurance.
  • Your current vehicle registration.
  • The inspection for safety.
  • The emissions analysis.

What Is Proof of Insurance?

Proof of insurance is a document or insurance card that proves to authorities that you have a current, valid car insurance policy in place that meets the minimum coverage required by your state.

In addition to the DMV, law enforcement officers can ask you to present proof of insurance if you are pulled over.

You may also need to provide proof of insurance if you are applying for a car insurance policy with a new auto insurance company.

How Do You Get Your Proof of Insurance?

Insurance companies will provide you with proof of your insurance immediately once your first insurance premium has been paid.

They will send it via email, regular mail, fax, or as an electronic insurance card.

Many insurance providers today enable access to your insurance ID via a mobile app. They will also most likely mail you a digital copy of your insurance card, which you will be able to access via your smartphone.

If you do happen to lose your insurance card, most insurers will allow you to access your insurance account online. From your online portal, you will be able to download and print out a new insurance ID.

Your car insurance company will be able to provide you with proof of your insurance before you register your vehicle.

Get Cheap Car Insurance Today with

The bottom line is that you will need car insurance in order to register your vehicle with the DMV or MVC.

Not all auto insurance policies are created equal and finding a good policy at a good price can be a time-consuming process.

Fortunately, we are here to help you find the insurance coverage that you need—at the best possible price.

All you need to do is head to the top of this page and enter your zip code. You will find a wide selection of insurance quotes to choose from.

Once you have an idea of the auto insurance premiums that you could be paying, it will be time for you to contact the insurers that are offering you the cheapest rates to get a formal quote.

Getting car insurance should be quick, simple, and stress-free, and you deserve to get the best insurance rates possible.

At, we’ve got you covered!