Do you need insurance to register a car?

Only eight states (California, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin) allow you to register a car without insurance, and you may still need to show proof of insurance before you can drive.

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By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

&Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Updated|4 min read

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The short answer is no, you usually can’t register a car without insurance. Most states require you to have a minimum amount of car insurance coverage in order to drive legally, and when you register your car at the DMV, you’ll probably  be required to show proof of insurance. 

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However there are a few exceptions to this. Some states allow you to register a car without an active insurance policy, but you’ll still need to submit proof of insurance after the fact in order to be able to drive. There are only two states in the U.S. that don’t require car insurance at all, New Hampshire and Virginia.

Key takeaways

  • California, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin technically allow you to register a car without insurance.

  • But in some states, even if you can register your car without proof of insurance, you still need to show you have insurance in order to drive.

  • Depending on your state, you will have to renew your vehicle registration annually and you will need to show proof of up-to-date car insurance coverage.

  • New Hampshire and Virginia are the only two states that do not require car insurance.

Do you need insurance to register a car?

Yes, you (usually) need insurance to register a car. Different states have different requirements when it comes to insurance coverage minimums and regulations, but the majority of states do require you to have an auto policy that is currently in-force when registering your vehicle.

There are a small handful of states, however, where you may be able to register your car with the DMV without having an active policy and then submit proof of insurance after the fact.

Which states require you to have insurance to register a car?

Only eight states (California, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin) allow you to register a car without insurance, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to drive without an active policy.

In most states, however, you need to show proof of car insurance when you register your vehicle with the DMV. Because laws are set by the state and can change over time, it is important to check the laws in your state before registering your vehicle. 

Here’s most up-to-date list of which states allow drivers to register a vehicle without an active insurance policy:

*California allows you to register a car without insurance, but you must provide proof of insurance within 30 days of registration.

Depending on your state, you will have to renew your vehicle registration either annually or biennially. Every time you re-register you will need to show proof of up-to-date car insurance coverage.

There are a few common ways to show proof of insurance when registering your car, all of which should be easy to access through your insurer. They include:

  • A physical insurance card

  • Your auto policy declarations page

  • Electronic proof of insurance (via mobile app or website)

When you register your car, you will get a license plate and a registration card. Some states will give you a registration sticker to put on your windshield. You should always keep your registration card in your car — if you get in an accident or if a police officer pulls you over, you will be asked to show proof of registration.

Registering a car without insurance

Some states do not require you to show proof of insurance in order to register your vehicle that same day. However, you will still need proof of car insurance before you start driving. 

Certain states will give you a window of time post registration to show them proof of insurance, usually around 30 days. Meaning you have one month to send your state’s DMV proof of your auto insurance policy. If you do not, then your vehicle registration may be suspended.

New Hampshire and Virginia are the only two states that do not legally require drivers to carry car insurance. That said, New Hampshire and Virginia still have financial responsibility laws, meaning drivers must be able to pay for any property damage or bodily injury they cause in a car accident, even if they forgo insurance. 

Virginia also requires non-insured drivers to pay an uninsured fee of $500 for choosing to go without coverage.

What if my insurance lapses after I register my car?

If you do not pay your insurance premium then your auto policy will lapse, meaning you will no longer be covered. Depending on the state you live in, this could mean it is now illegal to drive your car.

If you get caught driving without car insurance, your vehicle registration could be revoked and you may have to pay a reinstatement fee or fines in order to get your registration reinstated. Going without insurance coverage can also have other consequences, like license suspension.

If you get a new insurance policy or renew your previous policy, you should contact your DMV and send them any updated documents that they need about your insurance coverage. You don’t want to risk breaking the law.

When do I need to register a car?

If you get caught driving an unregistered vehicle, it could result in fines or driver’s license suspension. All vehicles need to be registered with your state’s DMV or similar agency, including trucks, buses, motorcycles, and recreational vehicles.

Some common situations in which you will need to complete a vehicle registration form include:

How to register a car

There are a few documents you will need to bring to the DMV or have on hand when registering your vehicle.

  • Proof of auto insurance (or self-insurance, if you qualify)

  • The original title of the vehicle (or other proof of ownership)

  • Insurance ID card (depending on your state)

  • Bill of sale

  • Proof of identity (driver’s license, state ID)

  • A completed vehicle registration application

You can renew your registration online (depending on your state), either annually or every other year. Most of the time, you will have to pay a renewal fee. You should receive a renewal notice in the mail instructing you to renew your registration. If you renew your registration late, you could be subjected to late fees.

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Frequently asked questions

Can you register a vehicle without a title?

A title is usually required to register a vehicle. However, there are some situations where you may be able to use other documents in lieu of a title, so check with your local DMV to find out exactly what documents you need when registering your car.

Can I register a car online?

If your state allows it, you can absolutely register a car online. In fact, many states allow you to complete the entire registration process online (or even let the car dealership to register the vehicle for you.)

Can you get car insurance without a license?

There are some rare instances where you can purchase car insurance without a license. For example, if you buy a policy but exclude yourself from it an insurance company might be willing to sell you a policy even though you don’t have a driver’s license.

Can I register my car in a different state?

Most of the time, a driver cannot register their car in a different state. But, because each state sets their own laws regarding cars, registration, and insurance, there are few situations where something is universally true across the country, so check your local laws and regulations to find out whether or not you can register your car in a different state.

Authors

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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