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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. 

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Recent Questions:

I was billed for forced car insurance even though I already had it

While it can vary by the individual policy procedures of your lender, they should be able to backdate those charges if you're able to show proof of insurance for the duration of the loan. You can request a policy declaration or binder from your insurance company which will show the date of policy inception.
Jun 7, 2018 Glendale, AZ

What is a letter of acceptance?

While your old insurance card will show your most recent policy term, a letter of experience will provide your new insurance company with additional details from your old policy. This is usually because your new company is providing a hefty discount for the fact that you were maintaining insurance coverage prior to the start of your new policy.
Mar 15, 2017 Burnet, TX

I wasn't allowed to use my digital insurance card as proof

As long as the insurance was active at the time you were cited the digital copy should be taken. Oregon is one of the states that accept digital insurance cards per Oregon Law.
Mar 5, 2018 Vernonia, Oregon

If I go through The Zebra to get insurance, will I receive the proof of insurance today?

Whether you decide to purchase insurance through The Zebra online or over the phone, you will receive your proof of insurance before you hang up. As long as your down payment is received, your policy can become active and documentation can be generated.
Sep 16, 2021 Lake Charles, LA

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.

  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.

  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.

Ross Martin
Ross MartinManager, Content Quality

As a licensed insurance agent, Ross researches and writes insurance content intended to help users make informed decisions.

Ross's background is in writing and education. He holds a master's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Ross's work has been cited by The New York Times, Investopedia, The Simple DollarThe BalanceCar and Driver and Fox Business. He has been quoted by CNET, I Drive Safely and Kin Insurance