How Proof of Auto Insurance Works

Most states require drivers to have proof of auto insurance with them. Do you know what you need to carry?

Almost all states have laws on the books mandating minimum liability car insurance for their drivers. When driving, you must have some sort of proof of this insurance. Showing proof of insurance is necessary in many situations. If you're buying a car or registering a car, or even if you get pulled over, you'll want to have your proof of auto insurance card handy to avoid problems.

While you'll receive an insurance identification card when you purchase auto insurance, a coverage letter will usually suffice as proof. Another good option to provide proof of insurance is through the digital app that many auto insurance providers offer. This allows you to show proof of insurance quickly. This article will cover:

What is proof of car insurance?

Proof of insurance allows you to quickly show that you maintain a current auto insurance policy. The most common type of proof of insurance is the auto insurance identification card you receive when you purchase a policy. This card usually contains the following information:

  • The names of everyone covered under the policy.
  • The insured vehicles.
  • Your address.
  • Your auto insurance provider's name.
  • Your policy number.
  • Your policy's effective start and expiration dates.
  • Your coverage limits.

While this card is a perfectly acceptable form of proof of insurance, many of the major providers have embraced the tech age and offer a smartphone app. Almost every state accepts digital proof of insurance.

These apps usually contain all your necessary insurance data at your fingertips. They usually also have convenient perks such as instant claim filing and roadside assistance.

If you are waiting for your auto insurance purchase to finalize and do not have a card yet, the insurance binder that your provider gives you while you waiting for your card works fine.

Why do I need proof of auto insurance?

The main reason you need proof of car insurance is that it's required by law. If you are pulled over or in a car accident, the attending officer will ask for your proof of insurance. Not having it can result in a ticket.

Planning to buy a new car? A reputable auto dealer will want to see proof of auto insurance before the car leaves the lot. As stated before, driving without insurance is illegal in nearly every state. No quality auto dealership will want to deal with the risk of being complicit if you drive away without insurance and cause an accident.

You also may need proof of car insurance when registering a car. If you bought a car from a dealership, they usually take care of the registration process for you. If you bought the car from an individual, however, you'll need to register the car at the DMV yourself. If you live in a state that doesn't require you to bring proof of insurance at the time of registration, you should have 30 to 45 days to provide proof to the state's DMV.

If you have the misfortune of being in an accident, you'll want to have proof of insurance on hand to share with the other parties involved. If police are at the scene of the accident, you can practically guarantee that they'll want to see your proof of insurance.

What happens if I don't have proof of car insurance?

If the police pull you over, or you're in an auto accident and you don't have proof of current insurance, you're looking at a ticket. Usually, if it was just a matter of not having your insurance card on you, you can contest the ticket and bring your proof of insurance to court or mail a copy of it. This may get the charge dropped. Even so, you'll probably be looking at court fees or fines, so you're better off keeping your card on you at all times.

Many states use an electronic verification database to make sure that drivers maintain current auto insurance. If your auto registration doesn't indicate current coverage, they will at least give you a warning and possibly charge you a fine. In the worst case scenario, your license may be suspended.

In some states, you must file an SR-22 form to get the suspension removed. Having an SR-22 on your driving history can also result in higher auto insurance premiums.

The dangers of fake proof of auto insurance

Fake auto insurance has become more of a problem over the years. This may cause significant risk to you. If you are pulled over and found to have fraudulent proof of car insurance, you could find yourself with a felony charge.

Fraudulent auto insurance companies have gotten savvy at creating websites that look almost identical to those of authentic auto insurance providers. On these websites, you simply pay for your "policy", print out your insurance card and off you go. This may work fine until you get pulled over or need to file a claim.

Make sure your car insurance provider is legitimate before you give your credit card information to an unknown recipient. If an auto insurance provider's website doesn't have an account login, customer service phone number or multiple policy options, you may not be dealing with an authentic provider.

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