Do you have to have car insurance in every state?

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Daniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Know the minimum coverage required by law for liability and property damage. For example, in Arkansas, these minimums are $50,000 for bodily image and liability and $25,000 for property damage.
  • Different car insurance companies may approach the minimum requirements in different ways, so you should make sure you are getting the minimum required coverage for your state.
  • New Hampshire and Virginia are currently the only states that do not require motor vehicle insurance

With the cost of car insurance rising in many areas, some people may wonder if there is a way around it. Drivers are under the jurisdiction of their individual states when it comes to car insurance.

It’s important that individual drivers know their rights and responsibilities that they are held accountable for in their respective states.

Also, it helps to compare various insurance companies and make sure that the coverages offered by the insurance company you choose adheres to state standards and covers the minimums that are expected in their respective state of issuance.

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States that do not require insurance coverage


If you want to totally avoid the cost of monthly premiums for auto insurance, you could consider moving to one of the states that do not require it. New Hampshire and Virginia waive the requirement for owning car insurance, provided you live up to a couple of alternate stipulations.

In New Hampshire, you are required to satisfy a personal responsibility requirement. You do not have to pay monthly premiums if you can prove the personal responsibility requirements in New Hampshire.

Virginia also does not mandate coverage with auto insurance, but you must purchase uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage ensures that, if you are hit by someone who has no coverage, your car will still be covered in an accident that is not your fault.

If you are willing to relocate to either New Hampshire or Virginia, you do not have to worry about purchasing auto insurance.

For most people, however, if they do not already reside in one of the auto insurance-exempt states, they will have to find an insurance company which offers at least the minimums required by law in their state.

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Minimums you must carry in most states


In most cases, there is both a bodily injury and liability amount minimum and a property damage minimum that you are required to have. In many states, this minimum is $50,000 and $25,000 respectively.

Insurance policies will read like this: 20/40/10. The first number is the minimum amount of liability per person that it covers in an accident for bodily injury or death.

The second number is the maximum it will cover for everyone in total in an accident. The third number is the amount of coverage the policy covers for property damage.

Keeping these three numbers in mind when you are studying insurance policies will help you stay aware of what the policy covers. Then you should compare that to your state required minimums to see if the policy fits your needs.

Other types of coverage

There are other types of auto insurance coverages that you may want to carry. You never know what may be the result of an accident, so it pays to think ahead. Check out the various coverages that each company offers and decide for yourself which one suits your needs.

Medical payments coverage

Med-pay covers the medical expenses that are a direct result of the accident in which you were involved, regardless of fault or liability on the part of the insured driver.

Collision coverage

This type of coverage pays for body damage of vehicles which are involved in a covered accident, regardless of the fault. Collision coverage allows the driver to have their vehicle repaired when damage occurs as a result of a collision.

It is important to note that collision coverage is never required by any state. Therefore, you may legally drive without it.

However, some car lender institutions and finance companies require such coverage on vehicles purchased through their finance company, to protect their investment.

It is important that you understand what your finance company’s policy is regarding such things before purchasing an auto insurance policy.

Uninsured motorist coverage

As stated, Virginia requires uninsured motorist coverage as a minimum for auto insurance coverage because they do not require state liability and personal injury minimums. Uninsured motorist coverage is an optional coverage in other states.

If you are hit by an uninsured motorist, you can still get your insurance company to pay for the damage in the event the other person was not insured.

Likewise, underinsured motorist coverage is also available in cases where the person had insurance but did not have sufficient insurance amounts to cover the damage you incurred from the accident.

What is the purpose of insurance?


Remember that the purpose of insurance is to cover a loss. People pay into insurance every month to fund the insurance company so that the people who need it will have it readily available when the time comes.

If it were not for insurance, there would be a much greater number of lawsuits due to the personal injury, death, or property loss that is suffered each year in auto collisions.

However, most insurance companies will tell you that people rarely carry enough insurance to cover the amount of loss in many cases.

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How much is enough?

While the state minimums are relatively low, you must also ask yourself the question of whether or not it is enough for you. If you were to have an accident where someone was crippled for life, your cost of liability could rise to over $300,000 in total damages if they were to take you to court.

If someone is killed or immobilized, as a result, you could be sued for the rest by the plaintiff if the accident was deemed your fault.

For that reason, many agents recommend minimums more than $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident.

Shop around and ask an agent how much coverage is a realistic amount for you to have on your auto insurance policy. With auto insurance, one must always weigh the risk of accident and loss with the amount of the premium per month.

Compare insurance policies to get the best coverage at the best rate. Start by entering your zip code into our FREE comparison tool!

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