Do I Need Insurance to Register a Car?

Everyone knows that across most of the country you need car insurance to drive a vehicle. But what about when you first purchase a vehicle? Do you need insurance to register it at your local department of motor vehicle office? The answer varies based on where you are.
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Do I Need Insurance to Register a Car?

Written by Brian Greenberg
CEO / Founder & Licensed Insurance Agent

Last updated: November 24th, 2022

Reviewed by Grant Desselle
Licensed Insurance Agent

Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Car?

Most states require you to supply proof of insurance before registering your vehicle for the first time after purchase. Thankfully, this can be done quickly and efficiently from your phone or computer before you leave the car lot with your new vehicle. Most insurance companies now let you receive quotes and purchase new policies directly online or over the phone with the help of a representative.

If you’re looking to renew your vehicle’s registration, most states will let you do this online with verification that your car is still covered under your initial insurance policy. However, there are a few exceptions to this rule. These include:

  • New Hampshire: Some counties allow online renewals, but others don’t.
  • Tennessee: Varies based on county, so be sure to check online.
  • Wyoming: Varies by county.

Besides insurance, you’ll need a few other documents to register your vehicle. Whether online or in person, remember to bring your title, a valid state ID or driver’s license, and at least one other form of identification. Identification requirements vary by state and county, so ask or look online for relevant local information.

What Type of Auto Insurance is Needed to Register a Car?

Minimum auto insurance requirements vary by state. However, generally, you’ll need liability insurance (at a minimum) to register your vehicle. The amount of liability insurance will also vary based on location.

Liability insurance helps cover legal fees and medical costs if you’re legally responsible for causing property damage to another vehicle or personal injuries to another driver while driving your vehicle. For example, if you rear end someone, most states automatically assign you fault. In this situation, your liability insurance will cover any damages to the other party’s vehicle caused when you hit them.

What States Do Not Require Insurance to Register a Car?

Although most states require insurance to register a car, this rule has a few exceptions. You can find proof of insurance requirements for each state in the table below.

State Proof of Insurance Requirements
Alabama Before Registering
Alaska Before Registering
Arizona Before Driving
Arkansas Before Registering
California Before Registering
Colorado Before Registering
Connecticut Before Registering
Florida Before Registering
Georgia Before Registering
Hawaii Before Registering
Idaho Before Registering
Illinois Before Registering
Indiana Before Registering
Iowa Before Registering
Kansas Before Registering
Kentucky Before Registering
Louisiana Before Registering
Maine Before Registering
Maryland Before Registering
Massachusetts Before Registering
Michigan Before Registering
Minnesota Before Registering
Mississippi Before Driving
Missouri Before Registering
Montana Before Registering
Nevada Before Registering
New Hampshire No Requirements
New Jersey Before Registering
New Mexico Before Registering
New York Before Registering
New Carolina Before Registering
North Dakota Before Driving
Ohio Before Registering
Pennsylvania Before Registering
Rhode Island Before Registering
South Carolina Before Registering
Tennessee Before Driving
Texas Before Registering
Utah Before Registering
Vermont Before Registering
Virginia No Requirements
Washington Before Driving
Washington, D.C. Before Registering
West Virginia Before Registering
Wisconsin Before Driving
Wyoming Before Registering

What Happens If I Try to Register a Car Without Insurance?

If you try to register a car without insurance in a state that requires it, you won’t be able to obtain vehicle registration. However, you’ll be allowed to register your vehicle once you’ve purchased a policy. In states where insurance isn’t necessary before registration, you’ll be allowed to move forward with the process.

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