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Do you need insurance to register a car?

Car on roadside

Written by Elizabeth Rivelli

Reviewed by Alyssa DiCrasto

Purchasing a new or used car is an exciting time, but there are a few things you need to do before you can get behind the wheel. First, you must purchase car insurance for the vehicle. Auto insurance is a legal requirement in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia. You also need to register the vehicle with your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

When registering the vehicle for the first time, you will need to present several documents. In most states, this includes proof of car insurance. If your state requires proof of insurance for registration, and you don’t have coverage, the DMV won’t allow you to register the vehicle. In this article, we’ll explain how car insurance affects your vehicle’s registration.

Do you need insurance to register a car?

In most states, you need car insurance to register a vehicle. You must carry at least the minimum amount of coverage required in your state. This typically includes personal liability insurance, uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance, and/or personal injury protection (PIP), depending on where you live.

If you don’t have proof of car insurance when you visit the DMV, you’ll probably get turned away and will need to return once you’ve purchased auto insurance. If the dealership is registering the vehicle on your behalf, they will request a copy of your proof of car insurance to complete the process. Remember—you will need to get auto insurance before you can purchase the vehicle.

What states do not require you to have insurance to register a car?

There are a handful of states that don’t require car insurance to register your vehicle. The seven states that don’t require proof of insurance are:

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

Keep in mind that New Hampshire and Virginia are the only two states on this list that don’t require car insurance at all. In the other five states, you still need car insurance to legally drive your new vehicle. You won’t need to show proof of insurance to register your vehicle in these states, but you will face consequences if you drive uninsured.

Can I register a car without insurance?

You can register a car without insurance, but only in several states. Most U.S. states require drivers to submit proof of car insurance when registering a vehicle.

However, you typically only need to show proof of auto insurance when registering a vehicle for the first time. You will have to renew your registration every year or two, but you usually don’t need to provide updated car insurance information. The DMV assumes that you will continue to carry car insurance that meets your state’s legal requirements.

If you get caught driving without car insurance, it’s possible that your registration could be suspended. In this case, you wouldn’t be allowed to drive your vehicle until you purchased car insurance and went through the process of reinstating your registration with the DMV.

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Does registration and insurance have to match?

In most states, your registration and car insurance don’t have to match. Meaning, if your name is on the vehicle registration but not on the car insurance policy, or vice versa, you won’t get penalized.

While this doesn’t happen often, there are certain situations where the registration and insurance might not match. For example, maybe you have a teen driver in your household that has a vehicle registered in their name. The car insurance policy, however, may be in you name if they’re under 18 or you’ve added them to your policy (often, it’s cheaper for teens to be added to an existing policy than to purchase their own).

What do I need to register my car?

In addition to proof of car insurance, there are several other things you will need to register your vehicle. Here are some of the documents you might need to register the vehicle for the first time:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Odometer statement
  • Bill of sale
  • Sales tax receipt
  • Inspection report or smog test results
  • Car title
  • Signed lease agreement

After completing the necessary registration application, you will give your documentation to the DMV agent who will review and process it. Then, you’ll pay the fee and receive your temporary registration. The fees can usually be found on your state DMV’s website.

If you need car insurance to register a new vehicle, it’s a good idea to shop around for coverage and compare rates. This can help you find the most affordable policy for the type and amount of coverage you want. Take our short quiz to see what you can expect to pay at top car insurance companies near you.

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