If you don’t have a valid license, many insurers will turn you down for coverage
But you may be able to buy coverage by listing other drivers in your house as the primary drivers on the policy
If you have a license but it’s been suspended, you’ll need to find an insurance carrier willing to take you on as a high-risk driver
The idea of purchasing car insurance without a driver’s license seems counterintuitive — why would you need car insurance if you can’t legally drive a car? But you can get car insurance without a license — and in some cases, it's in your best interest.
While it’s possible to get car insurance without a license, it isn’t an easy thing to do, as most carriers typically ask for a valid driver’s license number when you apply. Obviously, you run into a problem from the outset — if you don’t have a driver’s license, how do you get car insurance? And why would you even want to?
There are actually several scenarios where buying car insurance without a license is as much a necessity as it is a practicality. Maybe you own a car and don’t have a license, but your spouse or kids will be driving and they need auto coverage. Or perhaps you can no longer drive, but keep a car on hand so that someone is able to take you to work or appointments. Or maybe you have a permit and are working towards having a license, so you want to look into buying insurance.
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There are a variety of instances where buying auto insurance without a license may actually be a good idea. Here are some scenarios when you might consider getting car insurance even though you don’t have a valid driver’s license:
Most states don’t allow people under the age of 18 to enter into a contract. That means if you have a relative like a teenage child who drives, you may need to be included on their car insurance policy, even if you don’t have a license yourself. Car insurance is particularly pricey for high school and college-aged kids, so it’s worth looking into car insurance discounts for students to try and offset those high rates.
If you’ve got a personal chauffeur taking you place-to-place, you may not need a license but you still need car insurance for any vehicles you own. But it isn’t just wealthy people who have drivers — if you no longer drive because of age or health-related issues but you have someone who drives you to appointments or work, you need car insurance even though you’re no longer the one behind the wheel.
Car insurance starts to increase in cost as you reach retirement age, as older drivers are seen as riskier to insure. However, if you’re not listed on your policy as the primary driver, the age factor shouldn’t matter, and you may even be able to apply certain discounts to your car insurance policy.
Most states offer provisional licenses to people learning how to drive, usually called learner’s permits. If you’re a teen with a permit, you should be listed on your parents’ policy. But if you have your own car and don’t have a household policy to join, you may need to purchase car insurance while you still have a permit. However, if you’re under 18, you’ll need an adult on the policy too.
Let’s say you have a car worthy of display in a museum but you don’t actually drive it. Sure, you may not need collision or personal injury coverages, but you’re going to want to protect it from full or partial loss just as you would with another kind of valuable or collectible. Most of these types of unique car insurance policies are sold by specialty insurers, and also can include standard automobile coverages in case you do have a license and decide to drive it someday.
If you aren’t able to drive due to physical impairment but need a caregiver to drive your vehicle for you, you may be able to insure your car and include your caregiver (or caregivers) as a covered driver. Just like a policy when you have a chauffeur, your car insurance can protect your vehicle even if you can’t drive it.
When you apply for auto insurance, you typically need to include a valid driver’s license number. If you don’t have a license, you can’t provide that number — and insuring an unlicensed driver makes car insurance companies nervous. But in some cases, you can still purchase car insurance even without a license. Instead of including your own driver’s license number, some companies may allow you to apply for a policy using the name and license number of the principal driver or primary driver. That way you’re listed on the policy, the cars you own are insured, but you’re not technically a driver.
Any licensed driver can be named your primary driver, regardless of whether they live with you or not. If you’re insuring a car for your spouse, you should list them as a primary driver. If it’s for your teenager, you list their name. If you’re buying insurance on a car so your roommate, caretaker or friend can drive you around, you’ll need their name and license information.
Insurers use driving records as one of many factors to calculate your car insurance premium. That’s why a driver’s license number is required. But if you’re not a driver on your own policy, the carrier will set a rate based on the driving histories of the primary driver instead.
The insurer wants to set the rates based on likely activity with the car; if someone else is going to be driving a vehicle the most, having their driving record be a factor in calculating your rate for coverage makes sense.
If you find a company that will write you a policy without a license, you may need to name yourself as an excluded driver on the policy, which is exactly what it sounds like: it means your car insurance doesn’t apply if you’re driving.
You can’t drive your car if you don’t have a valid license, and your insurance company wants to make sure you know that — and that they won’t pay if you do. Car insurance does not give you permission to drive a car — only a valid driver’s license does that. If you don’t have a driver’s license, you can’t legally drive.
If you’re planning on getting a license in the future, once you get your license, you’ll have to contact your insurance company to be named as a driver on the policy — until then, you won’t be covered, even if you have your license. Be aware that your rates may change once you get your license and add yourself as a driver on the policy — as a new driver, you’ll likely be rated at a higher rate than your previous primary driver.
Keep in mind, not all insurers will let you include a primary driver other than yourself on an insurance policy. If you don’t have a license, you may need to shop around quite a bit to find a company willing to take you on.
Many of the biggest car insurance companies — like State Farm and Allstate — will turn you away if you don’t have a license. This leaves you with the smaller, regional carriers to choose from.
Be wary of insurers who don’t require any sort of license information. These are typically smaller insurers, not major players, and you may not be getting the best price or coverage with them since driving records determine what rates and coverage you’ll be offered. It’d be best to avoid carriers who don’t require that information.
An independent broker can help you figure out how to buy a policy without a valid license, and may be able to help you figure out other options if you aren’t able to buy coverage for yourself.
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We’ve covered scenarios where you might need car insurance despite not having a valid driver’s license. But what if you did have a license, and it’s been suspended?
There are several reasons why your driver’s license can be suspended, including being convicted of a DUI, having repeat traffic violations or having an at-fault accident without car insurance. If your license is suspended, you can’t legally drive until it’s reinstated. But that doesn’t mean you don’t need car insurance.
In fact, if your license is suspended, you may actually need car insurance, to prove to the state that you’re protected. You prove your insurance coverage to the state by having your carrier submit an SR-22 compliance form to them.
An SR-22, sometimes called a “certificate of financial responsibility” or a “certificate of liability insurance,” is a document that confirms to your state’s DMV that you have the state-minimum amounts of liability coverage. It’s not a special kind of policy, it’s a normal car insurance policy with an SR-22 form attached.
Any major insurer can submit an SR-22 form on your behalf, but they aren’t required to take you on as a customer. You’ll typically be labeled a high-risk driver, and not all insurance companies are willing to insure high-risk drivers.
In fact, if you have a suspended license and require an SR-22 form, you may have to shop around quite a bit to find a company that will still sell you an affordable policy.
Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.
Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, where she has been since 2018. An expert in home, auto and renters insurance, she loves making tough concepts easy to understand and helping readers feel confident about their insurance options. Before joining Policygenius, she was a senior staff writer at Mic. Her work has appeared in The Dodo, AOL, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.
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