Proof of Car Insurance: What Is it and When Do You Need It?

After you purchase auto insurance for your vehicle, your insurance company will send you an insurance identification card, or a "binder," that shows your vehicle is insured. Law enforcement calls this "proof of insurance."

If you are in an accident, the other driver will need you to provide proof of insurance right then and there—that's the main reason you are required by law to have instant access to your insurance ID when you get behind the wheel of your vehicle, so don't part with it.

This article will answer all your questions about proof of insurance and how to get one from your car insurance company.

What Information Does an ID Card Contain?

Your insurance-policy card will contain the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your home address
  • The year and make of your vehicle
  • Your insurance company's name
  • Your insurance policy number
  • Your policy's expiration date

No matter your state, the policy information about your vehicle's or vehicles' liability insurance and add-on coverage is limited to the above details on your insurance card. Note: The name on your vehicle registration should match the one on your ID card.

How Do I Get My Proof of Insurance?

After you purchase your auto coverage—every state has mandated minimums for liability insurance coverage—your insurance company will mail you two insurance cards. In fact, you will receive two insurance cards every time you renew your car insurance.

Your proof of insurance is usually attached to or mailed along with your declarations page in your policy folder. Also known as the "information page," the declarations is usually your policy's front page, which specifies the insured's name, address, policy period, location of premises, policy coverage limits and other key information.

If you're insurance card doesn't come in the mail, check your email or access it through your insurance company's app: The DMV may have sent you an electronic proof of insurance. If you still can't find it, there may have been some type of error, so you should contact your insurance agency.

Does My Insurance ID Need Special Care? 

Even though you'll receive a new insurance card after you renew your policy every year or two, your insurance card is built to last up to 10 years!

Insurance ID cards are waterproof, but daily wear, rubbing and scratching can wear down them down. Your card may also be sensitive to acetone and other chemicals. However, your two officially issued cards should be absolutely fine for the one or two years you need them. 

What Is Electronic Proof of Insurance?

If a police officer asks to see your proof of insurance, you can now show electronic proof of insurance. Every state except New Mexico accepts this form of ID, which you can access using a smartphone.

In most cases, drivers use their cell phone to save either an insurer-issued PDF file or a photograph of their card. But what will you do if you're pulled over and your phone is lost or your phone is out of juice? For easy access, it's best to always keep your ID card (and your vehicle registration) in the glove compartment of your vehicle.

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Do I Need My ID Card for Vehicle Registration?

Every state DMV requires liability insurance coverage as well as insurance documentation for vehicle registration. Most DMVs will accept one of the three documents listed below:

  • Current car insurance cards
  • A copy of your current insurance policy for your vehicle or vehicles
  • A letter from your auto insurance company (on company letterhead) that verifies your coverage

It's always best to access your state's DMV website to see your state's exact policy before you drop in for vehicle registration.

What If I Move?

If you move to a new state, you'll have a certain amount of time—perhaps 30, 90 or up to 180 days—to convert your registration and title to your new home state. To do this, every state requires proof of insurance. One of the best sources for information on vehicle registration,

Note: In most states, proof of insurance is required to get the license plate of your new home state.

What If My ID Card Gets Lost or Stolen?

If a total stranger gets a hold of your insurance ID, that person cannot use it for identity theft—after all, your vehicle insurance card does not include your Social Security number or your driver's license number. However, some insurance companies have their own policy about lost or stolen

The main thing is to make as short as possible the lapse of time before you get a replacement. If both your insurance cards are lost or stolen, many companies make it easy to print out a substitute copy after you login to the company's website.

Is There a Substitute for Proof of Insurance?

In short, no. You cannot use a declarations page or, for example, a receipt as proof of insurance. Expired insurance cards won't cut it, either. You can get a ticket if you are driving without proof of insurance.

Are SR-22 and FR-44 Proof of Insurance?

If you have racked up a lot of tickets, caused a couple of at-fault accident or been convicted of a DUI, you'll probably be asked to carry an SR-22 or, in Florida and Virginia, FR-44. You cannot get either "certificate of financial responsibility" without having car insurance, so either are valid if you are asked to provide proof of insurance. So, this certificate is as good as an auto insurance card.

What Are the Penalties for Not Having the ID?

First of all, providing fraudulent proof of insurance could get you charged with fraud. Showing a fake insurance ID would be a serious lapse of judgement. A piece of good advice? Don't even think about it.

If you provide the court with proof of valid insurance for the date of the citation, some states will dismiss your case, but you may still owe a small administrative fee. In other states, you will be found guilty and fined at the court's discretion. 

Failing to offer up coverage proof usually doesn't entail points on your driving record. But if the offense goes on your record, your car rates could increase as a result.

Will the REAL ID Act Affect ID Cards?

Establishing minimum federal standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards, the REAL ID Act goes into full effect on May 3, 2023.

However, the REAL ID Act is mostly for federal purposes, such as boarding a domestic commercial flight or entering a federal building. So, the REAL ID Act will not affect your insurance company-issued ID.

SmartFinancial Can Help

SmartFinancial is a comparison-shopping website for insurance. Whether you're looking for auto, home, life, health, Medicare, renters or commercial coverage, SmartFinancial's licensed expert staff are ready to find you the right policy at the right price.

If you have questions about liability insurance coverage, add-on vehicle coverage, your state's requirements or almost anything else, the SmartFinancial site has page after page of answers. SmartFinancial uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and smart algorithms to find car coverage that fits your coverage needs and budget.

Looking for a free-of-charge auto insurance quote? Just enter your zip code or call one of our licensed agents at 855-214-2291.

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