After you buy car insurance, there’s one important final step: put proof of that insurance in your glove compartment. Your proof of insurance shows details about your auto insurance policy.
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Proof of insurance is easy to get, as it is typically mailed to you by the insurance company, or you can obtain it online and print it out on your own or show it on your phone. You may need to show proof of insurance in order to register a vehicle, and you’ll also need it if you’re in an accident or if you get pulled over.
Most states require you to have a minimum amount of car insurance to legally drive on the road
If you get pulled over or if you get into a car accident, you will need to provide proof of insurance to show you have a car insurance policy in-force
Insurance ID cards and proof of coverage letters from your insurance company both count as proof of insurance
Almost all states allow you to show electronic proof of insurance, which you can typically obtain through your insurer's mobile app
What is proof of insurance?
Proof of insurance is just that: Proof that your car insurance is current and valid. Think of it like your health insurance card; it shows that you have an active policy and provides details so whoever is checking it can verify the information.
In most cases, proof of insurance comes in the form of an ID card. The information on it varies but it will typically include:
Policy effective date
Policy expiration date
Your car insurance card may also show confirmation that your policy meets your state’s minimum requirements.
You may also use a proof of coverage letter from your insurance company that has details about your policy. Insurance ID cards and proof of coverage letters will be included when your policy is sent to you. Most modern insurance companies like GEICO, Progressive, and State Farm will also allow you to print off your own copy at home. In many states you can also use an electronic form of your ID card as proof of insurance (more on that below).
Finally, an SR-22 form can be used as proof of insurance. An SR-22 (or an FR-44 in some states) is a financial responsibility form and is used in cases when your license is suspended, like after a DUI. Your state will require proof that you have the minimum amount of insurance coverage before your license is reinstated, which is what the SR-22 shows.
Why you need proof of car insurance
Car insurance is mandatory in almost every state, but even so, in most scenarios it won’t be assumed that you have coverage — hence the need for proof.
The most obvious situation when you’d need proof of insurance is when you’re involved in a car accident. Proof of insurance quickly shows the other party that you’re covered, along with how much coverage you actually have and contact information for both yourself and your insurance company. It makes things easier on all parties to conveniently have those details in one place.
You may also need to show proof of insurance when you’re pulled over for a moving violation. If you don’t show proof of insurance to the law enforcement officer, you’ll be issued a citation. In most cases, if you show up to your court date with proof that you were insured at the time of the incident, the ticket will be waived (sometimes with a small administrative fee).
You may need to show proof of insurance to register a car, however it depends on the state. Sometimes you just need insurance before you actually start driving, but most states do require it before registering your vehicle. Check with your state’s DMV for the process.
Which states allow digital proof of insurance?
In recent years, it’s become more common for states to allow a digital copy of your proof of insurance. This is usually through your insurer’s mobile app. It has all of the same information as a physical ID card, without the hassle of having to remember to put it in your glove compartment.
Washington D.C. and 49 states accept electronic proof of insurance:
The only state that does not allow digital proof of insurance if you are pulled over or in a car accident is New Mexico. If you live in New Mexico, check the New Mexico Motor Vehicles Department website to learn about their regulations around proof of insurance.
Fake proof of insurance
If you’re looking for details around obtaining proof of insurance, you may have seen suggestions of faking your proof of insurance. It may go without saying, but: Do not use a fake proof of insurance card.
If you’re paying for auto insurance — and you usually have to if you’re driving — use a legitimate proof of insurance associated with your policy. Go straight through your insurance company’s website or app, or use the card they send you; don’t use a third party source.
If you’re not paying for insurance, you shouldn’t be driving, and you shouldn’t be using a fraudulent insurance card. Driving without insurance is illegal in most cases and results in a ticket and fine. A fake insurance card, though, could constitute insurance fraud and lead to a much steeper penalty.
In short, you should have car insurance because a) it’s required in most cases, and b) it provides a financial safety net if you’re in an accident. But even if you don’t have insurance, you should never have a fake insurance card.
What works as proof of insurance?
Insurance ID cards, proof of coverage letters, and SR-22 forms from your insurance company all count as proof of insurance. Most states also allow you to show digital proof of insurance through your insurer’s mobile app.
Do I need to keep proof of insurance in my car?
If your state accepts digital proof of insurance, then you do not have to keep it in your car, but it may still be a good idea to do so. Even if your state accepts digital proof, there’s a chance you could get pulled over when your phone is dead or in an area with no cell service.
How much car insurance do I need?
Nearly every state requires you to have a minimum amount of liability insurance, which covers the cost of property damage and bodily injury that you’re responsible for. However, you should have more coverage than just your state minimums — that usually isn’t enough coverage to fully financially protect you after a car accident.