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Does My Car Need to Be Registered to Get Insurance?

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If you are concerned about whether your car needs to be registered to get insurance, you shouldn’t worry. You can get insurance for your car before you register it. One example of a situation where this would happen is if you just bought a car from a dealership. You would have to register your car with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or have the dealership do so for you.

But the DMV will require proof of insurance to register the vehicle. This is because most states require liability insurance. So, you need to get insurance before you can register the vehicle. Luckily, your insurance company will not require registration to begin your insurance coverage.

To help you get the best insurance coverage regardless of current car registration, our team reviewed the major insurance providers to find the best car insurance companies. We combined that information into our guides and our quote box. Just enter your zip code, and you will receive free insurance quotes from local providers in your area.

Does Your Car Need to Be Registered to Get Insurance?

No, your car does not need to be registered to get insurance. This is because insurance companies will not look at your vehicle’s registration before they begin coverage.

Buying auto insurance is designed to be simple. If you buy a new car (or a used car) from a dealership, you can get coverage online or call an insurance company to get coverage. In most cases, the process will take less than 30 minutes, and the insurance company can even email you the relevant documents. 

This allows you to get insurance coverage before driving off the lot. That is important as the dealership will not let you drive off the lot without insurance. Having coverage is a legal requirement, which is one of the reasons you can even get car insurance from the dealership.

When you buy your car, the dealership will write you a temporary license plate. You will then get official plates in the mail. They will arrive within 30 days.

You may not need to worry about going online or calling an insurance company to get coverage for a new car if you already have a policy. If you want to add a second car to your current insurance policy, you will probably have a grace period. During this grace period, your current policy should cover the new car. In this case, you can just provide the dealer with proof of your current policy. However, you will want to confirm the grace period ahead of time. You may also want to bring a copy of your insurance policy, and show the dealer the grace period section. 

If you are buying a car for the first time, you will not have an existing policy. In this case, there is no grace period – and you need to get insurance coverage for the vehicle before you can complete the purchase process.

What If You Have Insurance But No Registration?

Since you can buy insurance without your car being registered, what happens if your car is insured but not registered? Put simply, you need to register it as soon as you can.

There are two main situations when you will have to register a vehicle. The first is when you buy a new vehicle, as you will have to register it in your name. The other situation is if you move to a new state as registration is state-specific.

If you buy a car from a dealership, then registration will be a required part of the process. No reputable dealer will let you drive off the lot in your new car without setting up your registration and getting temporary plates. In this case, the dealership can guide you through the process or even take care of it for you.

If you buy a car from a private seller, then there is no dealership to guide you. Instead, you are responsible for visiting your DMV right away. You need to register the car as soon as possible. To register the car, you will need to have the bill of sale and the car title.

It is crucial that you register your new car as soon as you can and avoid driving it while it is still unregistered. You can face penalties if you drive an unregistered car. Driving an unregistered car can also lead to higher auto insurance rates in the future.

In the other situation, when you move to a new state, you also need to register the car as soon as you can. Many states will have a grace period, and if you don’t register by then, you will face extra fees or other penalties. Some grace periods are incredibly short, so take care of this as soon as possible.

When you move to a new state, you should update your insurance before you update the registration. Expect your insurance rates to change slightly, as location is one of the factors that determine the cost of insurance.

Do You Need Proof of Insurance to Register a Car?

Yes, most states will require you to have proof of insurance before you can register a car. You will visit the DMV with the necessary paperwork, including the title, bill of sale and proof of registration. If you don’t have proof of insurance, you probably can’t finish the process. Remember that this proof of insurance has to meet your state’s minimum requirements. Those typically include liability coverage and may also include uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection (PIP).

There are some exceptions to this. In some states, you only need to have insurance before you start driving the car. In these states, you don’t need an auto insurance policy if the car just sits in your garage. Because of that, the DMV will not require you to show proof of insurance, including liability coverage, before registering your car. However, that doesn’t mean you should wait to register it or get insurance. If you drive without insurance, you will still face penalties.

The states where this is the case include:

  • Arizona
  • Mississippi
  • North Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin

New Hampshire is another exception, as there are no minimum auto insurance requirements in the state. The caveat is that you will have financial responsibility for the damage from an accident you cause. Because of that, it’s still smart to have auto insurance in New Hampshire.

How to Register a Car

The process of registering a car is fairly straightforward. It has to be simple to do because so many people register their cars every day.

You will want to follow these basic steps to register your car:

  1. Gather your paperwork (proof of insurance like an insurance card, title, bill of sale and your driver’s license).
  2. Visit the DMV.
  3. You will receive temporary registration documents, with permanent ones typically arriving in the mail soon after.
  4. Fill out the vehicle registration application. This form requires you to enter your car’s make, model and year. You’ll also need to enter your license plate number, contact information, lien information (if you have an auto loan), your personal information, and your insurance company information.

Expect to pay a small fee for registering your vehicle as well. The national average is about $35, but it can vary greatly. For example, the registration fee in Alaska is $100 or $101 in Illinois, but it’s just $8 in Arizona or $6 in Minnesota. In some states, the fee may also depend on the vehicle weight or horsepower. Most states also have title fees that are usually under $100, if not under $50.

Our Recommendations for Auto Insurance

After extensive research and evaluations, our team suggests auto insurance from GEICO, USAA or Progressive. You can easily compare rates from these insurers as well as others via our quote box. We encourage you to use the quote box, as this type of comparison tool is the best way to compare various free auto insurance quotes.

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Enter your zip code to shop for the best rates in your area:

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GEICO: Most Discount Options

GEICO earned an overall rating of 4.4 out of 5.0 based on industry standing, availability, coverage, affordability, customer service, and online experience.

GEICO offers some great discounts, including for good students, new vehicles, seat belt use, airbags and military or federal employees.

USAA: Best for Military

USAA earned an overall 4.5 out of 5.0 in our comprehensive review. Some of the noteworthy discounts that USAA offers include for annual mileage, good students, vehicle storage and length of membership.

Progressive: Best for Accident-Prone Drivers

Like USAA, Progressive also earned a 4.5 out of 10. Some of Progressive’s discounts include going paperless, continuous insurance, homeowners and online quotes.

FAQ: Does My Car Need to be Registered to Get Insurance?

Can a car be insured without being registered?

Yes, you can insure a car without registering it. You actually typically have to insure a car before you can register it.

Can you get car insurance if the car is in someone else’s name?

There are a few situations when you can get car insurance if the car is in someone else’s name. The owner of the car can add you to their policy as an authorized driver. You can also get non-owner insurance. If you can prove an insurable interest, you can also get auto insurance even if someone else owns the car in most states.

Can I get insurance on my friend’s car?

If your friend adds you to their policy or registration, then you can get insurance on their car. You can also get your own policy on it if you can prove you have insurable interest. Otherwise, you may want to consider non-owner insurance.

Can I get insurance on my friend’s car?
How does insurance work if someone borrows your car?

In most cases, as long as you give the person verbal permission to borrow your car, they will be covered if they borrow your car. In most cases, your insurance will be primarily responsible for damages. However, some situations are more complicated, such as if someone regularly drives your car. In that case, your insurance company may require you to add them as a driver to your policy, but this is not always the case. As every policy is different, you need to look at your policy’s details or talk to your insurance agent to confirm.