How to obtain proof of insurance & why you need it

Getting proof of insurance from your carrier is easy - and necessary

Colin Lalley 1600

Published November 2, 2018

infoEditorial Disclosure

After you buy car insurance, there’s one important final step: put proof of that insurance in your glove compartment.

Your proof of insurance which shows details about your auto insurance policy. It’s easy to get, as it is mailed to you by the carrier, you can print it on your own, or show it on your phone, and can help you out whether you’re trying to register a vehicle, you’re in an accident, or you get pulled over.

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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:

  • Named insureds

  • Address

  • Vehicle information

  • Policy number

  • Policy effective date

  • Policy expiration date

  • Coverage amounts

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, which is useful when you renew your policy and work primarily online. 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 (called 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.

Learn more about SR-22 forms.

Why you need proof of car insurance

Car insurance is mandatory in almost every state. 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).

Do you need to show proof of insurance to register a car? It depends on the state — sometimes you just need insurance before you actually start driving, but most states require it before registering your vehicle. Check with your state’s DMV for the process.

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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 carrier’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.

There are 46 states that accept electronic proof of insurance:

  • Alabama

  • Alaska

  • Arizona

  • Arkansas

  • California

  • Colorado

  • Delaware

  • Florida

  • Georgia

  • Hawaii

  • Idaho

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Kentucky

  • Louisiana

  • Maine

  • Maryland

  • Michigan

  • Minnesota

  • Mississippi

  • Missouri

  • Montana

  • Nebraska

  • Nevada

  • New Jersey

  • New York

  • North Carolina

  • North Dakota

  • Ohio

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

  • Pennsylvania

  • Rhode Island

  • South Carolina

  • South Dakota

  • Tennessee

  • Texas

  • Utah

  • Vermont

  • Virginia

  • Washington

  • West Virginia

  • Wisconsin

  • Wyoming

Learn more about which states allow electronic proof of insurance, and which ones don’t — and why.

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 carrier’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.

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley

Insurance Expert

Colin Lalley is the Associate Director of SEO Content at Policygenius in New York City. His writing on insurance and personal finance has appeared on Betterment, Inc, Credit Sesame, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

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