Do I need auto insurance to get a license plate?

Only some states require proof of auto insurance coverage to register your car and get license plates. Make sure to meet your state's minimum liability requirements.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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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...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
Licensed Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Apr 23, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • 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
  • Some 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

When you buy a new vehicle or you’re moving from one state to the next, it’s your responsibility to register the vehicle.

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.

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.

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.

Enter your zip code into the FREE tool above to compare car insurance rates from multiple companies!

One step to prepare to submit a complete application is to get auto insurance. Here’s what you need to do:

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 wait 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.

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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 carrier 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)

Step Three: Get Quotes for Coverage

Now that you have an appointment and you know what type of coverage you must carry, you need to start to get premium quotes.

Quotes are estimates that will help you price shop and choose a value-priced policy from a respected carrier.

Make sure that you compare the cost for different limits of coverage and research each company before you make a final decision.

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.

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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 a definite that the DMV agent will ask to see the proof, but having it can prevent delays.

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

When your plates are issued, it’s tempting to let your coverage lapse. 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.

Enter your zip code below to find the car insurance coverage you need today!

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