Can You Register Your Car Without Insurance?

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Almost every state requires some form of car insurance to drive on the road legally, but do you have to have proof of insurance when you register the car? That depends on which state you live in. Read on to learn if you need to take out an auto insurance policy before you can register your vehicle. 

Can You Register Your Car Without Insurance?

In most states, no, you can’t register your car without insurance. Every state except New Hampshire and Virginia requires that all cars on the road have a minimum amount of liability coverage. In all but a handful of those states, you have to show proof of minimum coverage to be able to register your car.

That minimum varies from state to state, and some states require additional types of coverage, such as personal injury protection or uninsured motorist coverage. Even if you live in a state where you don’t need insurance to register a car, you’ll have to insure any vehicle before you can drive it legally – including driving it home from the dealership. 

Do I Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Car?

You must present proof of auto insurance to register a vehicle in every state in the U.S. (including DC), except the following:

  • Arizona: Drivers have 30 days after registration to present proof of insurance
  • California: Drivers have 30 days after registration to present proof of insurance 
  • Mississippi: Insurance isn’t required to register a car but is required to drive 
  • New Hampshire: Insurance isn’t required at all if you meet certain financial responsibility requirements 
  • North Dakota: Insurance isn’t required to register a car but is required to drive
  • Tennessee: Insurance isn’t required to register a car but is required to drive
  • Virginia: Insurance isn’t required if you pay the Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee at the time of registration 
  • Washington: Insurance isn’t required to register a car but is required to drive
  • Wisconsin: Insurance isn’t required to register a car but is required to drive 

So, if you live in a state other than the ones listed above, you’ll need to bring proof of insurance with you to the DMV when you go to register your vehicle. 

Do You Have to Register or Insure a Car First?

Insuring your car is pretty much the first thing you should do after you buy it. You never know when something could happen to your vehicle. Say you buy a car in Mississippi, but you wait a while to insure it.

Even if you aren’t driving your car, it’s still at risk. A tree could fall and bust the windshield or cave in the roof, or someone could steal the car from your driveway. Without comprehensive car insurance, you would have to pay to repair or even replace your car out of your own pocket. 

Plus, in most cases, you need proof of insurance before you can register, anyway. It’s a good rule of thumb to say: insure first, register after

Does Your Car Need to Be Registered to Get Insurance?

No, your car doesn’t already have to be registered for you to get insurance. In fact, the opposite is true, and you usually need insurance for your car to be registered. What you will need before you can get car insurance, though, is the title to the vehicle with your name on it

Can I Renew My Registration Without Insurance?

No, you cannot renew your registration (meaning you can’t get new tags) without your state’s minimum auto insurance coverage. If you let your car insurance policy lapse, your registration will be suspended soon after. In some states, insurance providers report directly to the DMV when your insurance lapses, so your registration will be suspended almost immediately. 

Driving without insurance is considered a misdemeanor in many states, and it carries serious consequences. You could have your license suspended or be fined several hundred dollars. For repeat offenses, you might even face jail time or have to complete court-mandated community service. 

How to Register a Vehicle Without Insurance 

It’s impossible to register a vehicle without insurance in 41 states and Washington, D.C. But, in Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wisconsin, you can register your car at the DMV normally without an insurance policy. Just remember that even if your car is registered, you aren’t legally allowed to drive it until you get it insured. 

In Arizona and California, you can register your car normally without proof of insurance, but you’ll have to submit that proof to the DMV within 30 days. 

In New Hampshire, you can register and even drive a car without any insurance, provided you meet the state’s financial responsibility requirements. 

In Virginia, you can register and drive your car without insurance in one of two ways. You can either acquire a certificate of self-insurance from the DMV or pay an Uninsured Motor Vehicle fee of $500 every time you renew your registration. 

Can You Own a Car Without Insurance?

Yes, you can own a car without insurance, but only if it isn’t registered and you don’t drive it. So, if you have an old car sitting in your backyard that you’re never going to drive again, you don’t have to pay for insurance on it.

Just make sure you turn in the license plates to your local DMV before canceling your insurance policy. If you own a registered vehicle without insurance – even if you don’t drive it – you could face legal consequences.

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The editorial content on Clovered’s website is meant to be informational material and should not be considered legal advice.