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What is proof of insurance?

Proof of insurance is a document showing you have the car insurance coverage required to legally drive in your state.

Think of proof of insurance as an insurance card that lists the information most pertinent to your policy:

  • Policy number
  • Insurance company name
  • Policy effective and expiration dates
  • Name and address
  • Vehicle make, model, year and VIN
  • Insurance agent name (not always present)

It's critically important to have proof of insurance available whenever you're driving: 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 damages you may cause. 

How to get proof of insurance

There are a few convenient ways to obtain and display proof of insurance. Most insurance companies offer the ability to get proof of insurance via:

  • Mobile app (supported by many major insurance companies)*
  • Card (usually received by mail)
  • Paper printout (request the form via email or find it in your company's online portal)

*Electronic ID cards are common, 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. 

Is proof of insurance required?

Every U.S. 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. 

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. 

 

What are the penalties for failure to show proof of insurance?

If you're unable to show proof of insurance to a police officer at a traffic stop or following a vehicle collision, you may receive a no proof of insurance citation.

Penalties for no proof of insurance infractions vary from state to state. Aside from the relatively minor cost of the ticket, you risk license suspension and consequent fines if you fail to rectify the situation by paying your initial fine and obtaining insurance coverage.  

 

Proof of insurance: key concepts to remember

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. 

Compare car insurance quotes today.

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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.