How do I find out if a car has auto insurance? (Laws + More)

Almost every state requires car insurance, but 13% of U.S. drivers are unsinsured. To find out if a car has insurance, you'll need information like the VIN, license plate number, or driver's license number of the owner. Your state DMV may be able to help.

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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
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UPDATED: May 6, 2020

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Things to Remember
Summary DetailsFrom Experts...
The average number of uninsured drivers in the United States is 13%Insurance Information Institute
If you're involved in a car accident, one of the first steps is to file an accident report with the police.Insurance Information Institute
The driver’s license number and address of the driver could also be useful in determining if the vehicle has auto insurance coverage.Insurance Information Institute
When trying to find out if a vehicle has auto insurance coverage, the more information you have the better.Insurance Information Institute
Ask for the other driver’s proof of insurance and jot down the license plate number.Insurance Information Institute
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How do I find out if a car has auto insurance coverage? If you find yourself in a situation where you need to know if a car has insurance who the insurer is — maybe you’ve forgotten who your insurer is or you were the victim of a hit and run — don’t worry. Here’s how to find out if someone has auto insurance coverage.

While the information you find depends on the laws of the state you live in and how much information they’re able to disclose, this guide will walk you through how to find out someone’s car insurance company.

Need to find auto insurance for your own vehicle? Start your search for the best auto insurance rates by entering your ZIP code in our free tool above.

How to Find Out if a Car Has Auto Insurance

It’s the law in most places that you must have auto insurance, but as you probably know, not everyone follows the law. And this particular law might not seem like a big deal until it affects you. If you’re in an accident with a driver who doesn’t have auto insurance, you’ll have to go to your own insurance company to cover the damages.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), in 2015, an average of 13 percent of motorists were uninsured across the U.S. Here’s a look at the states with the highest percentage of uninsured motorists.

Highest Percentage of Uninsured Motorists
RankStatePercent Uninsured
1Florida26.70%
2Mississippi23.7%
3New Mexico20.8%
4Michigan20.3%
5Tennessee20%
6Alabama18.4%
7Washington17.4%
8Indiana16.7%
9Arkansas16.6%
10D.C.15.6%
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And in this table, a look at the states with the lowest percentage.

Lowest Percentage of Uninsured Motorists
RankStatePercent Uninsured
1Maine4.50%
2New York6.1%
3Massachusetts6.2%
4North Carolina6.5%
5Vermont6.8%
6Nebraska6.8%
7North Dakota6.8%
8Kansas7.2%
9Pennsylvania7.6%
10South Dakota7.7%
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In order to be covered by your insurance company if you’re in an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have auto insurance, it’s essential that you purchase uninsured motorist coverage. But this is just a worst-case scenario; the person may, in fact, have a car that is insured.

But before delving too deeply into the details of how to find out if a car is insured, we’re going to look at why you might need to know this in the first place.

When might I need to know if a car is insured?

While one of the most common situations in which you may need to know whether a car is insured is when you’re involved in an accident, there are several other situations that might require you to verify insurance status, like the following:

  • If you’re borrowing a friend’s car and you don’t have your own insurance.
  • If you’re in the midst of a divorce and want to make sure that your spouse is keeping the coverage active on a car that’s registered in both your names.
  • If you own a small business and have employees that drive their own cars for their jobs.
  • If you’re an administrator at a school and need proof of insurance for parents to drive for field trips.

In some of these situations, you may have a vested interest in the car, so finding out the insurance status is to your benefit.

Another reason you may need to find out a car’s insurer is that auto insurance is required by law in most places whenever you drive. You’re not the only person who can be affected by a driver without insurance in an accident.

If you know someone is driving around uninsured, it’s your responsibility as a driver and a citizen to alert the proper authorities. Without coverage, they could cause an accident that ends up costing someone else a lot of money.

How do I find out if a car is insured?

The most important tool to have when you’re trying to determine whether a vehicle has auto insurance is the car’s information. The more information you have, the better. Learn all you can about the vehicle and carefully observe its details. The most common method is to check car insurance by VIN number (vehicle identification number) or look up car insurance by license plate.

If you can’t find an insurance company by VIN number, how can you look up someone’s car insurance? The driver’s license number and the driver’s address can be just as useful in determining if the vehicle has auto insurance coverage.

There is no single motor insurance database for the USA (unlike in other places, like the UK). Instead, you’ll need to look at the state level.

If you can’t get the information yourself, it’s wise to contact your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV), which is also known in some states as the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) or Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). If the state department is allowed to give you this information, they will provide you with the necessary forms.

Don’t have time to visit the DMV in person? No worries. You can visit your state’s DMV website to see if the forms are available online.

Don’t know where to find your state’s DMV information? The California DMV conveniently lists all of the various state DMV websites in one place. This is a good place to start whether you’re wondering how to find out if someone has car insurance in California or trying to check car insurance status in Texas. You can also check the status of another person’s insurance there if you have the correct information. The other way to go about this is through your Secretary of State’s office.

All you have to do is call the office or go there in person to get information about insurance. You can also check your own policy, as it’s always good to make sure you’re covered.

In fact, some Secretary of State offices are so on top of your insurance that they’ll even let you know if your policy is up to date (Texas is a state in which you can do this). As the old saying goes, it’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially because driving without auto insurance can have legal and financial consequences for you, and can also cause major problems for other people if you get into an accident.

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Info on the Other Driver’s Auto Insurance After an Accident

If you’re in an accident, it’s vital to collect the other driver’s insurance information, since there’s a good chance you’re going to need that when filing a claim with your own insurer.  We’ve talked about a couple of ways to find out if a vehicle is insured. Watch this video to learn a bit more about this process.

The video has some very helpful tips and ideas that we’ll examine later in this article; these include contacting the police, going to your local DMV (which we’ve already discussed), and getting information about the necessary documents of the other driver.

Stick with us to learn what to do after an accident to protect your assets.

What should I do after an auto accident?

If you are involved in a car accident, one of the the first steps is to file an accident report with the police. The officer should provide you with a report number that you can give to your insurance company. The insurance company will then investigate the accident to determine who was at fault. If the other driver was at-fault, information on insurance will be obtained through the police station.

In most cases, you should not have to do any of your own investigating to find out if another driver has auto insurance. However, it’s still a good idea to exchange information with the other driver when you’re involved in an accident. Always ask for the other driver’s proof of insurance and jot down their license plate number.

Having the other driver’s license number and insurance information will allow you to check with the auto insurance company directly if you need to verify an active auto insurance policy. This is also something you can provide to your insurance company, as it may speed up the processing of your claim.

Should I ask the other driver if their car is insured?

While it never hurts to ask this question, you should keep in mind that the person may lie to you about having coverage. In addition to asking about whether or not their car is insured, it’s probably wise to get this information, too:

  • The driver’s name and address
  • The driver’s insurance company name and information about their policy
  • Witness statements and contact information — this is very important

Additionally, it’s always a good idea to get pictures of the accident so  you have visual proof of what damage was caused. This is especially important if the damage could be used as proof that you were not at fault.

How will I know if the auto insurance is current and active?

Of course, the person’s insurance coverage also needs to be active for it to do you any good. They might show you their insurance information, but how can you tell if the policy is current? Ideally, you should have the person call the insurance company in front of you to verify that the insurance is active.

The driver’s information is protected by the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act (check the FAQ section at the bottom of this post for more information), but you are absolutely allowed to ask for insurance information from the state motor vehicles agency if you were involved in an accident with a vehicle.

You can also always call the police, and they will be able to help you verify whether or not an insurance policy is active. We’ll discuss how you can get the police to help you with this and other insurance-related issues later on in this article. It’s also important to know that these methods of verifying whether someone has active insurance do not only apply to accidents.

Will I have to provide proof of ownership after an accident?

Sometimes, but not always. In some cases, you may not be listed on the policy, so you’ll need to provide proof of ownership of the car. This is because of the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act, which we’ll talk more about later.

If you need to prove your ownership of a car, you can use any of the documents below:

  1. Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin: The Manufacturer’s Certificate of Origin (MCO), also sometimes called the Manufacturer’s Statement of Origin (MSO), usually comes with a brand-new vehicle to prove it was manufactured by the car company. If you’ve held onto this, you can use it to prove your ownership of the vehicle.
  2. Letter of Release From Lienholder: A letter of release is sent to you by the bank or the finance company once a car is completely paid off and registered solely in your name, and it proves you own the car.
  3. Bill of Sale and the Registration Certificate: This can prove your ownership because it shows that a transaction occurred and that the vehicle now belongs to you.
  4. DMV Paperwork and Proof of a Certified Letter Sent to the Seller: Lastly, you can prove your ownership of the vehicle by filling out some paperwork from the DMV. The paperwork will ask for details about the origin of the vehicle, its mileage, the history of the vehicle, and the last transaction that was made between you and the previous owner.

For the DMV paperwork, you may also need valid and recorded attempts to contact the previous owner and ask for the title of the vehicle. If you follow these procedures and present the letters to the DMV, you may be able to prove ownership, even without the title.

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What should I do if the accident was a hit and run?

Hit and run accidents are stressful. When it happens, you may be in shock or confused and unsure of exactly what you need to do. Watch the video below in which a police officer from Florida provides advice on what steps you should take.

If you’re involved in a hit and run accident, obtain the vehicle’s license plate number if possible. Then, go to your local police agency to file a report and check if car is insured by the license plate number.

Even if you don’t have the license plate number, you’ll still want to file a report so the police can investigate and try to determine who is responsible for any damage to your vehicle.

Your insurance agency may require you to file a report in the event of a hit and run incident. If you did manage to obtain the license plate number, then the police should be able to direct you through the next steps in the process.

The next step is likely to contact your DMV with the license plate number and police report.

With this information, you’ll be able to fill out the necessary forms to determine if the car has an active auto insurance policy. You may want to contact your insurance company for guidance as well. The purpose of finding out the insurance information for the other party is to avoid having to file a claim with your insurance company.

When you file a claim, you run the risk of having your insurance rates raised when the policy is renewed. The insurance company doesn’t want you to file a claim any more than you do. Why? They are responsible for paying any costs for legitimate claims. If there’s a way to avoid filing a claim, your agent should provide you with that information.

What should I do if the DMV can’t provide me with the other driver’s insurance information?

The only instance in which you should need to obtain this information yourself is in the event of a hit and run. The police station will be able to guide you to the next step of the process. If the DMV is not the correct agency to contact regarding the insurance information, the police station should know which agency is. If all else fails, the DMV may be able to guide you to the correct agency to obtain this information.

In the event of a hit and run, what is the most important piece of information you need to obtain?

As previously mentioned, if a hit and run occurs and you are unable to exchange information with the driver, the best thing you can do is to get the vehicle’s license plate number. You may be able to figure out the car’s insurance status with this information alone.

If you get to the stage in which you have to figure out another driver’s auto insurance info on your own, make sure to contact your local DMV for further information.

The Bottom Line

Now that you know how to find information on auto insurance coverage for other drivers, what’s the bottom line?

  • If you don’t know whether other drivers have an active insurance policy (whether its because you’re an employer, you’re in an accident, or the other reasons we discussed), you have some options for how to find that information
  • Always make sure you have the auto insurance coverage you need (work with a licensed insurer to purchase the right coverage for your location, lifestyle, and needs)
  • If you are in an accident, make sure to obtain all the information you can from the other driver, to ease the claims process

FAQs

If you still have questions about the process of finding out information about a car’s insurer, this section is for you. Let’s break it all down.

How can I make sure a car I have a vested interest in is insured?

Are you in a situation where you need to know if your estranged spouse is keeping coverage on the car? Well, you can go about this in a way that’s actually pretty painless. According to FindLaw, because you have an insurable interest in the car, you can call the insurance company directly and ask them if it’s insured.

But what is insurable interest? Well, it’s basically when any damage to the entity — in this case, a vehicle — would cause you a financial loss. Because the damage affects you directly, you have the right to make sure that the car you have a vested interest in is insured.

What is the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act?

We mentioned the Driver’s Privacy and Protection Act earlier. What exactly is it and how does it pertain to auto insurance coverage information? The Driver’s Privacy and Protection Act protects drivers’ privacy by limiting who can access personal information assembled by the State Department of Motor Vehicles.

It was created in 1989 after there was a series of abuses involving drivers’ personal information held by the government. In fact, people were put in harm’s way because it was so easy to obtain home addresses from the DMV.

This act prohibits any State DMV, officer, employee, or contractor from using personal information about an individual received by the department in connection to a motor vehicle record. The act has penalties for violations, and the individual whose information was released can take civil action against the violator.

Additionally, there was a recent amendment to the act that requires states to get permission from individuals before their personal motor vehicle records can be sold or released to third-party marketers.

What insurance information will I need if I’m in an accident?

If you’re involved in an accident, the priorities are to check yourself for injuries, check passengers for injuries, and then to get to safety. After all of this is completed and you’ve called 911, it is imperative that you exchange information with the other driver, regardless of whose fault the accident was. You’ll need to give and receive the following information:

  • A full name and all the necessary contact information
  • The insurance company and its policy number
  • A driver’s license and the car’s license plate number
  • The type, colors, and model of the other person’s vehicle
  • Where the accident took place

It is essential that this information is exchanged in order to make the insurance companies’ processes happen as smoothly as possible. And, in addition to always exchanging information, always contact the police, even if it’s just a minor fender bender.

What coverage do I need if the other driver is uninsured?

If another driver has given you the runaround after an accident they caused and you find out they don’t have insurance, you’re probably wondering where that leaves you. Court bills can be expensive if you sue them, or you may never even see the other driver that hit your car in the parking lot.

In cases like these, the best coverage option is uninsured motorist coverage. If you have this coverage, your insurer will cover the costs of repairs to your vehicle if you were the victim of a hit and run or the other driver doesn’t have insurance. Take a look at this video to learn more.

We’ve now reached the end of our guide on how to find insurance information for a car. We this helped you with your detective work. If you’d like to find insurance for yourself, you can use our free rate tool below. Just enter your ZIP code to get started.

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