Do I need auto insurance to get a license plate?

You need auto insurance to get a license plate in most places. Forty-three states and the District of Columbia require proof of auto insurance coverage to register your car and get license plates. Make sure to meet your state's minimum liability insurance requirements. There are only seven states that don't require auto insurance to get a standard license plate or temporary plate. Learn more about if you need proof of insurance to get tags.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 16, 2021

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Summary Stats
Things to KnowSource
43 states and the District of Columbia require proof of insurance to register your vehicleState DMVs
Most states require at least minimum liability coverage in order for you to legally driveInsurance Information Institute
When you move to new state, most will require you to register your vehicle within the first 30 to 60 days of establishing residencyState DMVs
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When you buy a new vehicle or you’re moving from one state to the next, it’s your responsibility to register the vehicle. And you may be wondering, do I need auto insurance to get a license plate in my new state?

Or can I get insurance without a license plate? Do I need insurance to get a tag?

Ultimately you’ll need both (so if you’re looking to instantly buy cheap auto insurance online, you can do that quickly), and applying for a vehicle registration through the DMV isn’t just recommended, it’s required.

If you fail to register the car and display your license plates on your vehicle where the placard is visible, you can be cited or worse. Read this article to learn more.

Enter your ZIP into our free tool to compare quotes on auto insurance to get a license plate. We’ll provide auto insurance rates from multiple companies today so you’ll have the coverage you need to register your vehicle.

Auto Insurance and License Plates

You’re probably aware that in order to legally drive you need both insurance coverage and a registered vehicle. But which comes first? Do you need insurance to get plates and tags? Do you need a license plate to get insurance?

Read through the next few sections to learn the answers to these and other questions.

Do you need auto insurance to get a license plate?

In order to get a license plate or tags for your vehicle, you must register it. But can you get a license plate without insurance? Do you have to have insurance to get a tag?

The answer is, it depends. All but seven states require proof of insurance in order to register a vehicle. Take a look at this table to see the full list of which states do and don’t require insurance for a license plate.

States That Require Proof of Insurance to Register a Vehicle
StateRequires Proof of Insurance to Regsiter a Vehicle
District of ColumbiaYes
New HampshireNo
New JerseyYes
New MexicoYes
New YorkYes
North CarolinaYes
North DakotaNo
Rhode IslandYes
South CarolinaYes
South DakotaYes
West VirginiaYes
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So can you get license plates without car insurance? Technically you can, but only in Arizona, Mississippi, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, and Wyoming.

Do I need license plates to get auto insurance?

Can you get car insurance without a license plate? Since, as you already know, typically you have do have insurance to get plates and register your vehicle, it follows that you are not required to have your vehicle registered (including tags and license plates) in order to purchase insurance.

In fact, you don’t even need to own a vehicle in order to obtain certain kinds of car insurance coverage, like non-owners insurance.

How do I get auto insurance to register my vehicle?

There are a number of reasons why you might need to register a vehicle. This can include purchasing a new one, moving to a new state, etc.

For example, if you move to New Mexico, you’ll be required to register your vehicle in the state within 60 days.

Can I get plates without insurance? You know the answer is probably no. So what do you need to do?

No one wants to visit the DMV, but visiting the DMV unprepared is what will leave you making multiple trips to complete a single transaction.

When you’re ready to register your vehicle, there are a few things you can do to make sure you’re ready before making your trip to the DMV.

While sitting at the DMV and waiting for your number to be called is on the bottom of the list of things that you’d like to do, you can get in and out if you’re prepared.

For example, one step to prepare to submit a complete application is to get auto insurance; we’ve outlined the steps you’ll need to take to buy that auto insurance in the next several sections.

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Step One: Make an Appointment with the DMV

Most states have changed their inconvenient system to reduce the time it takes to complete typical transactions at the DMV. If you don’t want to sit for hours in the lobby just waiting to be called to the counter, make an appointment at your local office.

By doing this, you can register a car or even change your license all at a specific time of day.

Step Two: Find Out What Type of Auto Insurance is Required By Law

Motor vehicle liability insurance is mandatory in most states. If you’re in a state where auto insurance is compulsory, it’s your duty to review the minimum auto insurance requirements.

If you carry what’s required by law and you buy your coverage from a company licensed in the state, you’ll be in compliance with the insurance law.

While the actual limits that are required vary from state-to-state, most states require the same mandatory coverage options. If you’re not familiar with what a basic policy consists of, here’s a list of what you can expect to see on a bare minimum policy:

  • Bodily Injury
  • Property Damage
  • Personal Injury Protection (required in no-fault states)
  • Uninsured Motorist Protection (required in some states)

Watch this video to learn more about liability insurance coverage.

What are the minimum auto insurance requirements? In this table we list the minimum required insurance in every state in the country.

Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements by State
StateInsurance required in the stateMinimum liability limits
AlabamaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
AlaskaBI & PD Liab50/100/25
ArizonaBI & PD Liab15/30/10
ArkansasBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
CaliforniaBI & PD Liab15/30/5
ColoradoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
ConnecticutBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
DelawareBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/10
District of ColumbiaBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/10
FloridaPD Liab, PIP10/20/10
GeorgiaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
HawaiiBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
IdahoBI & PD Liab25/50/15
IllinoisBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
IndianaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
IowaBI & PD Liab20/40/15
KansesBI & PD Liab, PIP25/50/25
KentuckyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
LouisianaBI & PD Liab15/30/25
MaineBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM, Medpay50/100/25
MarylandBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/15
MassachusettsBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/5
MichiganBI & PD Liab, PIP20/40/10
MinnesotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM30/60/10
MississipiBI & PD Liab25/50/25
MissouriBI & PD Liab, UM25/50/25
MontanaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
NebraskaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
NevadaBI & PD Liab25/50/20
New HampshireFR only25/50/25
New JerseyBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM15/30/5
New MexicoBI & PD Liab25/50/10
New YorkBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/10
North CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM30/60/25
North DakotaBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/25
OhioBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OklahomaBI & PD Liab25/50/25
OregonBI & PD Liab, PIP, UM, UIM25/50/20
PennsylvaniaBI & PD Liab, PIP15/30/5
Rhode IslandBI & PD Liab25/50/25
South CarolinaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
South DakotaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
TennesseeBI & PD Liab25/50/15
TexasBI & PD Liab, PIP30/60/25
UtahBI & PD Liab, PIP25/65/15
VermontBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/10
VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/20
WashingtonBI & PD Liab25/50/10
West VirginiaBI & PD Liab, UM, UIM25/50/25
WisconsinBI & PD Liab, UM, Medpay25/50/10
WyomingBI & PD Liab25/50/20

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To make this information easier to decipher, we’ve also listed and explained the terms below.

Auto Insurance Terms
BIBodiliy Injury
PDProperty Damage Liability
PIPPersonal Injury Protection
UMUninsured Motorist
UIMUnderinsured Motorist
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If you don’t meet the minimum requirement, you can expect to face fines and even suspension of your driver’s license. If you need to find cheap auto insurance, your best bet is to shop around.

Step Three: Get Quotes for Coverage

Now that you have an appointment and you know what type of auto insurance coverage you must carry, you need to start to get quotes. Quotes are estimates that will help you price shop and choose a value-priced policy from a respected company.

Make sure you compare the cost for different limits and types of coverage and research each company before you make a final decision. Auto insurance rates to get a license plate don’t need to be costly.

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Step Four: Bind Your Coverage Before Going to the DMV

Once you have selected a policy, you need to activate the coverage before you go to the DMV. It’s your duty is purchase insurance and then maintain continuous coverage as soon as the car is registered.

If you’re not driving the car to the DMV, you can select the date of your appointment as the effective date.

If you’re driving the car directly to the DMV to get your plates, you need to have insurance for the ride there just in case you crash.

Step Five: Bring Your Proof of Insurance With You

One of the great things about technology is that you can have your proof of insurance emailed to you or printed from the internet right after you activate your coverage.

Make sure to print the ID cards before you go to the DMV.

It’s not definite that the DMV agent will ask to see the proof, but having it can prevent delays.

What do you do if you are in a state with electronic insurance verification?

Many states have electronic insurance verification and can verify your car insurance with just your VIN. 

It’s not a bad idea to have your proof of insurance with you just in case. The last thing you want is to have to take the time to go back to the DMV.

Step Six: Checklist of Items to Bring When You Register Your Car

There are certain things that you will need to bring with you to complete your registration. 

Items will vary by state, but the most common are:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Proof of ownership of the vehicle
  • Application for the license plate
  • Inspection paperwork if your state requires it
  • Fee for your license plate and title
  • Proof of insurance

Making sure you have everything when you go to the DMV will help you avoid frustration and another trip.

Step Seven: Keep Your Auto Insurance Payments Up-to-Date

When your plates are issued, it’s tempting to let your coverage lapse. But the last thing you want to do is violate the law and have your registration suspended.

Insurance companies often electronically report your coverage to the DMV. If the state sees that you have canceled your coverage, your tags will be suspended and you will be fined.

While you do have to visit the DMV to apply for plates, you don’t have to spend hours of your day taking care of business. If you do your homework and you prepare yourself for the process before you go to the site, you can get in and out of the office quickly.

Never go to the DMV without active insurance. If you don’t have coverage, use an online quote comparison tool, and compare rates today.

What happens if I let my insurance expire?

Since most states require at least minimum car insurance, letting your insurance expire will cost you time and money.

In some states, you will be fined, your driver’s license can be suspended, and you can face jail time. This is especially true if you cause an accident with no auto insurance.

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The Bottom Line for Auto Insurance and License Plates

Do you have to have insurance to get a tag? And do you need insurance to get plates? The answer to both of these questions is typically yes.

But there are a few things to keep in mind when it comes to auto insurance and registering your vehicle:

  • If you own a vehicle that you plan on operating, it’s your duty as the legal owner of the vehicle to register it and display your license plates on the vehicle at all times
  • When you don’t have a valid license plate or a temporary placard, you can’t legally operate or park the vehicle on public streets and highways
  • If you recently purchased a vehicle or you’re moving to a new state, it’s your duty to apply for your license plates and tags in your state of residence
  • Most states will ask to see your proof of insurance before you’ll be issued plates and tags, but that’s not a requirement everywhere
  • You need to carry the minimum amount of mandatory insurance that’s required in your state, even if you’re not required to show proof when you’re submitting your application

Need to buy auto insurance to get a license plate for your car? Enter your ZIP to find the car insurance coverage you need in order to be able to register your vehicle and legally drive in your state today.

If you still have questions, keep reading.

Frequently Asked Questions: Auto Insurance and License Plates

Still have questions about insurance, license plates, and registering your vehicle? Read through these frequently asked questions, including how to get a license plate without insurance, to learn more.

#1 – How do I get a license plate without insurance?

Do you need insurance to get a license plate?

If you’re wondering how to get license plates without insurance, as we noted earlier, the only way you can is if you live in a state that doesn’t require proof of insurance to register your vehicle.

#2 – Do I need insurance for temporary plates?

Do I need proof of insurance to get tags? Do you need insurance for temporary plates? Unless you live in one of the states that don’t require proof of insurance, you’ll need insurance even for temporary plates and tags.

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