How do I know if I have car insurance?

When you buy a car for the first time, it's your responsibility to purchase auto insurance to cover it. Driving without minimum coverage is illegal in 48 states.

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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: Oct 26, 2021

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Advertiser Disclosure: We strive to help you make confident auto insurance decisions. Comparison shopping should be easy. We are not affiliated with any one auto insurance provider and cannot guarantee quotes from any single provider. Our partnerships don’t influence our content. Our opinions are our own. To compare quotes from many different companies please enter your ZIP code on this page to use the free quote tool. The more quotes you compare, the more chances to save.

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Here's what you need to know...

  • If you’re unsure if you have an insurance policy or note, make sure to establish that so you can start managing your car insurance policy
  • Most states require vehicle owners to buy auto insurance and keep the insurance active while their vehicles have plates
  • If you purchase a vehicle from a private seller or a dealership, it’s your duty to insure the car in your name to comply with state laws and lending requirements
  • When you have an existing insurance policy, you will have automatic coverage on newly acquired vehicles for up to 30 days depending on your company’s terms and conditions
  • When you apply for insurance, the company will issue you a temporary ID card. Once the policy had been underwritten, you’ll receive a notice that the policy has been issued, and the notice will include your policy number and term information
  • In some states, insurance information is electronically reported to the Department of Insurance. If you don’t have a valid insurance policy, the company will ask you to provide your insurance information to avoid registration suspensions

When you buy a car and register it in your name, you’re legally responsible for any damages that you may cause while the vehicle is being operated. Since most states hold negligent drivers accountable for their actions, auto insurance is a common requirement.

If you live in a state where insurance or proof of financial responsibility is mandatory, you can be penalized for failing to comply with the law.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to familiarize themselves with the law when they buy a car.

If you live in a state that doesn’t ask for proof of insurance when you’re registering your car, it’s easy to break the law without knowing it. Here’s how you can determine if you have car insurance or not.

No matter if you have coverage now or not, start comparison shopping to make sure you have the best rate by entering your ZIP code in our tool above!

Is there coverage on a vehicle you just purchased?

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If you’ve never owned a vehicle or an insurance policy, it’s your duty to buy insurance when you buy a car for the first time.

You may be listed as a driver on your parent’s or a roommate’s policy, but the coverage from the policy won’t extend to a car that you purchase solely in your name.

Since you don’t have an existing policy that will provide automatic coverage, you don’t have insurance on your new vehicle until you apply for coverage and make your first payment.

If you haven’t solicited quotes, fill out an application for coverage, and accepted an offer for insurance, you don’t have coverage on your new car.

You can’t buy insurance on a vehicle that you don’t have an insurable interest in. You can’t buy insurance on a car until you sign a finance agreement or a bill of sale.

Just because you can’t secure coverage before you officially take ownership doesn’t mean that you can’t price the cost of coverage in advance.

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How do you get insurance for a new car?


It’s best to start requesting quotes for certain vehicles when you’re about to do a test drive with a private seller or when you know what type of car you want at a dealership.

By getting a quote on different makes and models, you can make an informed purchase. Shopping around is the most efficient way to find the most affordable premiums.

Only after you purchase the car should you provide your VIN and other vehicle details that are needed to submit an application.

During the application phase, you need to provide detailed information on your licensing status, your driving record, and more.

Just remember to be upfront when answering questions so that your rates don’t change after the application is underwritten.

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Is there coverage on a new vehicle if you have existing coverage in your name?

If you already have an active insurance policy, and you’re purchasing a new car, the newly acquired vehicle will have coverage for a limited period.

Policyholders who aren’t sure whether or not they have coverage can find this information in the Personal Auto Policy contract booklet.

Typically, a newly acquired vehicle that’s not replacing a vehicle on your policy is covered for 14 to 30 days, with four days of automatic full coverage on basic policies.

If the car is replacing a covered vehicle, the new car will have insurance for the remainder of the term, even if you don’t contact your agent to make the necessary changes.

How do I know if my insurance term ended?


If you pay your insurance in advance, you might not know if your coverage is still active. The best way to find out is to locate your declarations page and look at the expiration date.

If you can’t remember whether or not you paid in full, call customer service and ask. Insurance companies must send you a written notification when your coverage cancels.

In many states, insurance companies are required by law to electronically notify the state when coverage starts or stops. If you don’t have insurance on file, it’s time to buy a policy that satisfies state law.

One way to keep your premiums low is to compare premiums with leading carriers.

Use our FREE online rate comparison tool by entering just your ZIP code then you can bind a value-priced policy that provides you with financial protection.

Free Auto Insurance Comparison

Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.

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