IN PLAIN ENGLISH

What can you use as proof of insurance?

Put simply, proof of insurance is a document showing you have the car insurance coverage required to legally drive in your state. Liability insurance requirements differ from state to state, but auto insurance is required in every state (except New Hampshire). However, even New Hampshire requires proof of financial responsibility, ensuring you have the funds available to cover any damages you may cause. 

Think of proof of insurance as an insurance card that lists your policy number, your insurance company, and your policy's effective and expiration dates. Along with personal information such as your name and address, your proof of insurance document also carries information about your vehicle, including its make and model, year, and VIN. If you purchased your insurance policy through a particular insurance agent, that agent’s name will also be listed. 

 

Is proof of insurance required? 

Every state — except New Hampshire — requires motorists to carry a bare minimum level of liability coverage to cover bodily injury or property damage for which you're deemed responsible in an automobile-related accident. This proof of coverage simply shows the authorities that you have the auto insurance required to drive legally in your state. In the event of a motor vehicle accident or traffic offense, proof of insurance is one of the first documents a law enforcement officer will ask to see. 

 

Can you use electronic proof of insurance?

You might think of proof of insurance as an ID card sent by your insurance company via mail. However, as technology has evolved, so too has proof of insurance documentation. Many insurance companies have mobile apps that allow you to access a digital version of your insurance card. This allows for the easy display of electronic proof of insurance on your mobile device. 

Electronic ID cards are prevalent, but not accepted everywhere: New Mexico is the only state in which electronic proof of insurance is not accepted. In Massachusetts, your car insurance information will be printed on your vehicle’s registration. 

 

Why is proof of insurance necessary?

Proof of insurance isn’t just required by police officers after a car accident or traffic infraction. Your local department of motor vehicles (DMV) may require proof of insurance in the following situations:

  • Registering a vehicle
  • Obtaining a vehicle inspection sticker
  • Getting a drivers license

The DMV has an interest in keeping drivers properly insured before issuing such documents. If you are unclear on local regulations or have an issue regarding insurance, it’s advisable to reach out to your local DMV for clarification. 

 

Proof of insurance considerations

Always confirm you're carrying a valid insurance card — whether digital or on paper — while driving. You should receive a new ID card shortly before your current policy expires. If your insurer has a mobile app or online portal, your electronic proof of insurance cards should be updated automatically. Many insurance companies provide the option of receiving updated cards in the mail.

If you are approaching the end of your current policy and haven't yet received an updated proof of insurance document, reach out to your insurer as soon as possible. Driving without proof of coverage is never a good idea. In many cases, a law enforcement official can issue a fine if you are found driving without a valid insurance card. 

The end of your current policy could be a good time to compare car insurance quotes in search of a better deal. You could see significant savings by switching to an insurance company with better rates. 

Ross Martin LinkedIn

As a licensed insurance agent, Ross is responsible for researching and writing about all matters related to auto and home insurance. He has a background in writing and education, as well as a masters degree from Royal Holloway, University of London. He has been quoted by Kin Insurance, Safety.com, and autoinsuranceEZ.com.

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