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Do You Need Insurance to Register a Car In Your State?

A high point for most car shoppers is getting the keys to a new car. After the shopping process is complete, the next step is to complete their state's vehicle registration process.

Most states require car owners to pay fees to start the process, and many states require car insurance before you can register your vehicle. In six states, you can register your car without insurance. These states still require you to purchase insurance before you may drive on the road. New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't require people to have an active car insurance policy to register cars or to drive them.

In this article, you'll learn the registration requirements you must meet to safely get your car on the road.

Can You Register a Car Without Insurance?

Most states require residents to buy coverage from insurance providers before registering their vehicle.

Most states require residents to buy coverage from insurance providers before registering their vehicle, so consider buying affordable car insurance before you register. There are seven states where drivers don't need insurance coverage to register their cars, but you still can't legally drive on roads without insurance.:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

Six states require drivers to buy coverage after vehicle registration before driving on the road:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

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Registration Requirements and Fees

Most states require insurance before registering while others require it before you drive the car. Most states also calculate registration fees based on your vehicle's weight or age. The national average for registration fees is $35.

Here is a list of registration requirements and fees across the country:

State

Insurance Needed?

Renewals Online?

Registration Fees

Alabama

Before Registering

Yes

$15-$24

Alaska

Before Registering

Yes

$100

Arizona

Before Driving

Yes

$8 + $30 Public Safety Fee

Arkansas

Before Registering

Yes

$17-$30

California

Before Registering

Yes

$65

Colorado

Before Registering

Yes

Weight-based

Connecticut

Before Registering

Yes

$120 (new cars), $80 renewal

Delaware

Before Registering

No (Drive-Thru Renewal)

$40

Florida

Before Registering

Yes

$14.50 - $32.50, $225 new cars

Georgia

Before Registering

Yes

(Certain Counties) $20

Hawaii

Before Registering

Yes

$12 min. (based on weight)

Idaho

Before Registering

Yes

$45-$69 (based on age)

Illinois

Before Registering

Yes

$151

Indiana

Before Registering

Yes

$21.35

Iowa

Before Registering

Yes

1 percent of list price based on age

Kansas

Before Registering

Yes

$39-$49 (depending on county)

Kentucky

Before Registering

Yes

$21

Louisiana

Before Registering

Yes

$20-$82

Maine

Before Registering

Yes - Certain area

$35

Maryland

Before Registering

Yes

$135-$187 depending on weight

Massachusetts

Before Registering

Yes

$60 for two years

Michigan

Before Registering

Yes

Based on weight/value/age

Minnesota

Before Registering

Yes

$35 based on value

Mississippi

Before Driving

Yes (based on county)

$12.75 renewal $14 new cars

Missouri

Before Registering

Yes

$18.75 and up (based on tax/horespower)

Montana

Before Registering

Yes

$30.57-$225.24 based on age +3 percent

Nebraska

Before Registering

Yes

$15 (+$5.50 in added fees)

Nevada

Before Registering

Yes

$33

New Hampshire

Not Required

Contact City Clerk

$31.20 based on weight/$10 transfer fee

New Jersey

Before Registering

Yes

$35.50 - $84 based on weight/age

New Mexico

Before Registering

Yes

$27-$62 (based on weight and age of vehicle)

New York

Before Registering

Yes

$26-$140 based on weight/2 years

North Carolina

Before Registering

Yes

$38.75

North Dakota

Before Driving

Yes

$49 - $274 based on age/weight

Ohio

Before Registering

Yes

$31

Oklahoma

Before Registering

Yes

$96 for

Oregon

Before Registering

Yes

$122-$152 (depending on the model year and MPG)

Pennsylvania

Before Registering

Yes

$39

Rhode Island

Before Registering

Yes

$30 for up to 4,000 lb (increases based on weight) $15 surcharge

South Carolina

Before Registering

Yes

$40

South Dakota

Before Registering

Yes

$36-$144 based on weight

Tennessee

Before Driving

Yes - Based on County

$26.50

Texas

Before Registering

Yes

$51.75 plus local fees

Utah

Before Registering

Yes

$44 for up to 12K pounds

Vermont

Before Registering

Yes

$76 for 1 year; $140 for 2 years

Virginia

Before Registering

Yes

$30.75 for less than 4,000 lbs. / $35.75 over 4,000 lbs.

Washington

Before Driving

Yes

$68.25 - $115.25 based on weight

Washington,D.C.

Before Registering

Yes

$72-$155 based on weight

West Virginia

Before Registering

Yes

$51.50

Wisconsin

Before Driving

Yes

$85

Wyoming

Before Registering

Yes – Based on County

$30 (varies by county)

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Showing Proof of Insurance Has Time Limits

If you live in a state that doesn't require you to have auto insurance coverage before you register a car, you have 30-45 days to show proof of insurance to your local DMV. If you fail to show proof of insurance, your registration and driver's license could be suspended. Avoid these harsh penalties by comparing rates and buying affordable car insurance as soon as possible.

State Minimum Insurance Requirements

Minimum car insurance requirements vary by state. Check with your local DMV to make sure you have adequate coverage. Here are the insurance requirements in each state:

California - Must have insurance to register the vehicle.

  • $15,000 for bodily injury per person
  • $30,000 for bodily injury per accident
  • $5,000 property damage

Florida - Must have insurance to register your car.

  •  $10,000 bodily injury liability coverage
  •  $20,000 bodily injury per accident
  •  $10,000 property damage

Massachusetts - Must have insurance to register your car.

  • $20,000 bodily injury per person
  • $40,000 bodily injury total per accident
  • $5,000 property damage
  • Personal Injury Protection - $8,000

Illinois - Must have insurance to register your vehicles.

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage
  • $50,000 bodily injury total per accident
  • $2,000 property damage coverages

Arizona - Must have insurance before driving.

  • $25,000 bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury per accident
  • $15,000 property damage
  • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist: $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident

Utah - Must have insurance to register.

  • $25,000 bodily injury per person
  • $65,000 bodily injury total per accident
  • $15,000 property damage

Maryland - Must have insurance to register your car.

  • $30,000 bodily injury
  • $60,000 for two or more people
  • $50,000 property damage

Oregon - Must have insurance to register your vehicle.

  • $25,000 bodily injury per person
  • $50,000 bodily injury for two or more people
  • $20,000 property damage per crash
  • $15,000 Personal Injury Protection
  • $25,000 Uninsured Motorist Per Person ($50,000 per crash)

The Insurance Information Institute has a full list of minimum car insurance requirements for each state.

When Should I Register a Car?

Every state has different registration requirements. There are several scenarios of when you must register a vehicle:

  • You purchased a new or used car - Dealerships usually help car buyers complete the registration process for a car, truck or minivan. These sellers may charge you fees depending on your state laws.
  • You moved to a new city – If you relocate to a different state, you have to register your vehicle by that state's specified deadline.
  • You're renewing your car's registration – Many states require registration renewal every two to three years.

After registering your car, you must renew it every few years, based on state requirements.

What Documents Do I Need To Register My Car?

You must present documents to the Department of Motor Vehicles that prove you own the car. Some places also require proof of insurance that meets your state's auto insurance obligations.

Most DMVs require the following documents:

  • Driver's license or proof of identity
  • Vehicle's bill of sale
  • Documentation of vehicle ownership
  • Proof of insurance coverage (such as an insurance company ID)
  • Completed application for title and registration
  • Registration fees

After gathering these documents, visit your state DMV to complete your application and the registration process.

Do I Need Proof of Insurance To Renew My Registration?

New Hampshire is the only state that doesn't require proof of insurance for renewals. Otherwise, yes, you'll need to prove you have insurance to renew your vehicle's registration. Depending on the state, drivers must renew their registration every one to five years.

Most states have an online renewal system for drivers so they can skip the DMV. In some states, owners of new vehicle models don't have to renew their registration as often, because they comply with modern emission standards.

How Should I Register My Vehicle?

You'll need to visit your state's department of motor vehicles to learn about your registration and licensing responsibilities. Some states require you to show up in person when you register your vehicle for the first time. Others have online car registration. You will have to provide the documentation specifically required to register your vehicle.

Not all states require insurance to register vehicles; however, most won't let you drive unless you're covered.

What Happens if My Insurance Expires After I Register My Car?

Most states use an electronic filing system to track your car insurance coverage. Insurance companies will notify the DMV when a driver's coverage has lapsed. When this occurs, they will warn you to renew your policy.

Driving without insurance is a serious offense. You could face harsh consequences without it.

Driving without insurance is a serious offense. You could face several consequences you may face when you are uninsured. You'll get charged with a misdemeanor offense if you don't have coverage. If caught, you could pay significant fines. You may even serve jail time if you have repeat offenses. You may also get sued if you cause an accident.

Additionally, some areas will suspend your registration if you don't have appropriate car insurance coverage. You will also have higher rates if you allow your insurance coverage to lapse.

Get Insurance Coverage To Complete Your Vehicle Registration

Most states and the District of Columbia require their residents to buy car insurance to complete the registration process for new and used vehicles. Even though seven states don't require insurance to register an automobile, the majority still mandate car owners to be insured before driving on the road.

In any case, you should buy car insurance regardless of whether or not your state requires it. Auto insurance coverage can protect your assets if another driver sues you. It can also pay for damages, medical bills and even your own car repairs if you have the right insurance coverage.

Buy car insurance regardless of whether your state requires it or not.

To find a policy that fits your needs and budget, use SmartFinancial's online tool to save up to 40% on car insurance. Just enter your zip code below and answer a few questions to get started. Best of all, the service is completely free, with no credit card down.

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