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

Proof of insurance is a physical or electronic document that shows that you meet your state's minimum car insurance requirements. You will need to show proof of insurance in various instances, including being pulled over by a police officer, purchasing or leasing a car, getting a license plate and driving for a rideshare company. If you're pulled over by a police officer and can not furnish proof of insurance, you may face fines, the suspension of your license and other penalties.

Proof of insurance is something you should always have at the ready. Learn more about how it works and why you need it.

What Is Proof of Insurance?

Proof of insurance typically refers to a physical document that your auto insurance company sends you so you have proof that you meet your state's mandated minimum requirements for car insurance coverage. Proof of car insurance has become increasingly available electronically through insurance company mobile apps. Your proof of insurance card will show information about your car insurance company, your policy details and vehicle model.

Why Do I Need Proof of Insurance?

The primary reason you need proof of insurance is to demonstrate that you are driving legally. Most states have mandated requirements about what coverage you must have and the minimum limits you must meet. The two exceptions are New Hampshire and Virginia — New Hampshire doesn't require auto insurance and Virginia drivers can pay a $500 fee to legally drive without insurance.

Proof of insurance confirms that you meet your state’s mandated minimum requirements for car insurance coverage.

Liability insurance coverage is the most commonly required type of auto insurance but some states may require additional coverage, such as personal injury protection and uninsured motorist coverage. Depending on your state, your car insurance minimum requirements will require the following coverages and policy limits:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage: $15,000 to $50,000 per person and $30,000 to $100,000 per accident

  • Property damage liability coverage: $5,000 to $2,500 per accident

  • Uninsured/underinsured bodily injury coverage: $20,000 to $50,000 per person and $40,000 to $100,000 per accident

  • Uninsured/underinsured property damage coverage: $5,000 to $25,000 per accident

  • Personal injury protection: $5,000 to $50,000 (only for states that offer no-fault insurance)

Driving without car insurance is breaking the law and getting caught can result in fines, jail time and the suspension of your license.

Other Scenarios That Require Proof of Insurance

Proof of insurance may also be necessary for the following situations:

  • Leasing, financing or buying a car

  • Registering your car with the DMV

  • Obtaining a loaner vehicle while your car is undergoing repairs

  • Applying to drive for a transportation network company, like Uber or Lyft

  • Exchanging insurance information with other drivers after a car accident

How To Get Proof of Insurance

Proof of insurance should be available from your insurer immediately after purchasing your car insurance policy. Generally, there are three methods for accessing your proof of insurance card:

  • Mail: Your insurance company should mail you your proof of insurance card once your auto insurance policy becomes active.

  • Print: Download and print an online copy of your proof of insurance while you wait for your physical proof of insurance card to arrive in the mail. We recommend you print a copy and store it in your vehicle until your insurance card arrives in the mail.

  • Mobile app: Electronic forms via mobile app are also becoming increasingly available among national car insurance companies, like Allstate, State Farm and Progressive.

Which States Allow Digital Proof of Insurance?

If you're pulled over by a law enforcement officer while driving, showing electronic proof of insurance should be acceptable in 49 of 50 states plus the District of Columbia. The only state in which police officers will not accept electronic proof of insurance is New Mexico.

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States that accept digital proof of insurance

Alabama

Kentucky

Ohio

Alaska

Louisiana

Oklahoma

Arizona

Maine

Oregon

Arkansas

Maryland

Pennsylvania

California

Massachusetts

Rhode Island

Colorado

Michigan

South Carolina

Connecticut

Minnesota

South Dakota

Delaware

Mississippi

Tennessee

District of Columbia

Missouri

Texas

Florida

Montana

Utah

Georgia

Nebraska

Vermont

Hawaii

Nevada

Virginia

Idaho

New Hampshire

Washington

Illinois

New Jersey

West Virginia

Indiana

New York

Wisconsin

Iowa

North Carolina

Wyoming

Kansas

North Dakota


What Does a Proof of Insurance Card Look Like?

proof of car insurance

Generally, your car insurance card will contain the following information:

  • Insured's name

  • Vehicle year, make and model

  • Vehicle identification number (VIN)

  • Policy number (the unique number your insurance company uses to identify your account. You'll need this number to file a claim)

  • Policy renewal date

  • Insurance company name

  • Agent name and contact information

What Should I Do if I Lose My Proof of Insurance Card?

The following methods may help you secure another proof of insurance card if you lose it:

  • Contact your auto insurance company and request they mail you another proof of insurance card.

  • Download and print a copy of your auto insurance card.

  • Access your electronic proof of insurance card through the insurance company mobile app.

TIP: While electronic proof of insurance cards are convenient, it's always a good idea to keep a physical copy in your vehicle. We recommend to safely store it in your vehicle's glove box compartment.

Recently, proof of car insurance has become increasingly available electronically through insurance company mobile apps.

What Happens If I Don't Have Proof of Insurance When Driving?

If you drive without car insurance, you risk fines, the suspension of your driving privileges and jail time. Penalties can worsen for subsequent violations and may include the following consequences:

  • You may receive a ticket and be required to pay fines.

  • Your license may be suspended for several months or until you show proof of insurance.

  • Your vehicle may be impounded for a fixed period (accruing daily fees) or once you show proof of insurance.

  • You may face jail time.

  • You may be required to file form SR-22 "Certificate of Financial Responsibility" and your insurer will notify the DMV if you fail to maintain your car insurance coverage.

If You're Actually Covered But Couldn't Supply Proof of Insurance

If you were pulled over but couldn't supply the officer with proof of insurance, you can avoid some of the penalties listed earlier depending on your state. A judge may dismiss your citation if you provide proof of insurance showing that coverage applied at the time of the citation.

How To Avoid Fake Insurance Cards

The best way to avoid fake insurance cards is to avoid working with unscrupulous brokers. Shady brokers can take your money and send you a fake insurance card without your knowledge. To dispel any doubt, you should contact your state's insurance department to confirm that the insurance provider is licensed or shop around using safe insurance marketplaces, like SmartFinancial — we vet our insurance partners so you don't have to.

If you're a victim of fraud, you can report the fraudulent broker online to the National Insurance Crime Bureau.

FAQs

Can I show proof of insurance on my phone?

Traffic law enforcement will accept electronic proof of insurance via the insurance company mobile app in all states except for New Mexico.

What can be used as proof of insurance?

Proof of insurance can be in the form of a physical card mailed by your insurance company, a document you print out yourself or an electronic version accessed through the insurance company mobile app.

What is a certificate of insurance used for?

A certificate of insurance, also called Form SR-22 "Certificate of Financial Responsibility," is required by a court if you were convicted of a major driving violation, like driving under the influence. The document is filed with your state's DMV to confirm you are maintaining auto insurance and your insurance company will report you to the DMV if you do not maintain coverage. The form may also be required to restore your driving privileges or release your vehicle, if impounded, because you were driving without car insurance.

Stay on Top of Your Car Insurance Requirements

Beyond meeting the requirements for driving legally, proof of insurance may also be necessary for buying a car or applying to drive with a rideshare company. It's important to have adequate car insurance, and you shouldn't have to overpay for it. Shop around for low car insurance rates with reputable insurers using SmartFinancial's free online tools. Just complete a quick questionnaire after you enter your zip code below to receive free quotes.

Get a Free Auto Insurance Quote Online Now.