Do I need auto insurance to get a license plate?

In the majority of states, you will need to show proof of car insurance before you are able to get your vehicle’s license plates and registration.

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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 Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 11, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • Most states require that you have proof of insurance or financial responsibility to get a license plate
  • The amount and type of insurance you need varies from state to state
  • Even if you’ll only drive a car for a short time with a temporary tag, insurance is still required

Buying a new or used car can be exciting. And, as anyone who has bought a vehicle knows all too well, it can also be a very expensive purchase.

Getting the keys to your car can feel pretty great. But your dwindling bank balance may make you wonder if you can get your new license plates and car registration now, and your auto insurance later when your budget allows. 

Do you need insurance to get a license plate? In most cases you will need car insurance before you can get your license plates. Read on to learn more.

Do you need insurance to get a license plate?

If you’re wondering “Do you need insurance to register a car and get a license plate?”, in most cases the answer is yes. 

Most states require that you show proof of insurance or show financial responsibility (proof you could cover the cost of an accident if you were to cause one)to register your car and get your license plates and tags. 

There are only eight states that do not require this for the registration process. These states are: 

  • Arizona 
  • Mississippi 
  • New Hampshire
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

New Hampshire is one of two states that does not require liability insurance to operate a car. However, if you live in New Hampshire, you will still have to prove that you could cover the cost of repairs stemming from an accident. 

Virginia also allows you to pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee to “drive at your own risk.”

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What type of car insurance do I need?

Now that you know whether you can get a license plate without insurance, you might be curious why this is the case. The laws requiring proof of insurance or financial responsibility to register your car help to keep drivers, bicyclists, and pedestrians safe while on the road and prevent anyone from facing financial hardship due to an accident. 

The amount and type of car insurance coverage required, however, does vary from state to state. While some require basic liability insurance, other states ask for more. Be sure you know the exact requirements before you register or even attempt to drive your car. 

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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Driving without the required insurance is usually considered a misdemeanor and can lead to fines and even jail time.

Do I need insurance for temporary tags?

When you buy a new or used car, you will usually receive a temporary tag to display until your regular license plate arrives. You might also need a temporary tag if you have a vehicle that you are restoring on your property, or if you are moving to the U.S. from another country and shipping your vehicle from overseas. 

The same may be true if you moved to a new state. You will need to re-register the vehicle in your new state (usually within 30-60 days). These scenarios might understandably have you wondering if you need insurance during these transitions. 

However, if you are in a state that requires insurance, you must purchase auto insurance for your temporary tag. And, in all states, it’s illegal to drive without insurance, or proof of financial responsibility as discussed above. 

How To Provide Proof of Insurance for Registration

Once you choose which insurance policy you want to buy, you will have to make sure it’s active before you register your car at your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). To make the process as easy as possible, you can find specific information for your state here.  

Bring your proof of insurance with you, along with the following:

  • Your valid driver’s license 
  • Proof of ownership of the car
  • Any required inspection paperwork
  • The application for the license plate 

If you buy your car at a dealership, this can often be handled right there. However, you will still need your driver’s license and proof of insurance. 

Looking ahead, you may be thinking, “Do you have to have insurance to renew tags?” In most states, you will, and drivers typically need to renew their registration every one to five years. 

Fortunately, most states have an online renewal process that makes it easy to pay the fee and provide proof of insurance and other documents from the comfort of home.

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Do you need insurance to get a license plate? A Final Word

You are understandably thrilled to own a car and get behind the wheel. But don’t rush the process. 

By getting your car insurance coverage in place before you get on the road, you can be sure you are a legal driver who qualifies to register your car and get license plates.

References:

  1. https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/vehicles/#insurance.asp
  2. https://www.usa.gov/motor-vehicle-services

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