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How to get car insurance before buying a car

car dealership

Written by Elizabeth Rivelli

Reviewed by Alyssa DiCrasto

In most states, vehicle owners are required to carry a minimum amount of car insurance. When you buy a new car, you typically need to show valid proof of insurance to the salesperson before they will hand over the keys. That means you must have a car insurance policy at the time of purchasing a new or used car.

Fortunately, getting car insurance before buying a car is pretty simple, even if you don’t already have auto insurance. In this guide, we’ll explain how to get car insurance before buying a car and what steps you need to take to get proof of insurance.

Do I need car insurance before buying a car?

Because auto insurance is a legal requirement in most states, you must have car insurance before purchasing a car. The only states that don’t require car insurance are New Hampshire and Virginia. In these two states, car insurance may not be required when purchasing a new car.

To drive your new car home from the dealership, you must show proof of car insurance to the salesperson. If you don’t have valid proof of car insurance, you probably won’t be allowed to drive the car off the lot. You would only be allowed to take the car home once you had purchased a car insurance policy for the vehicle.

How to get car insurance before buying a car

The process of purchasing car insurance before buying a car depends on whether you already have a policy.

If you have an existing policy, all you need to do is add your new vehicle. You’ll probably be required to provide the VIN, make, model, year, mileage, and trim level. If your car insurance company has a mobile app or online account access, you can probably do this while you’re waiting at the dealership.

You can also check to see if your insurance policy has a grace period. During this grace period, new cars are automatically covered for a short period, like 30 days, before they must be added to your policy. Not all car insurance policies have this feature, so you should call your car insurance company to find out.

If you don’t already have car insurance, you will need to open a new policy for the vehicle you’re buying. Because most major car insurance companies allow you to get quotes and purchase coverage online or through a mobile app, you can likely purchase a policy while you’re at the dealership. That way, you can leave with the car on the same day you buy it.

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Do I need proof of insurance before buying a car?

Yes, proof of insurance is required when you purchase a vehicle. Typically, valid proof of insurance can be an insurance binder or an insurance ID card. Most car dealerships will not complete the sale until you have proof of insurance. Otherwise, it could pose a liability for the seller if you drive off the lot uninsured and get into an accident.

Keep in mind that the rules around proof of insurance might be different if you purchase a vehicle through a private sale. In this case, the seller may assume that you already have auto insurance and might not ask to see your proof of coverage. However, you’re still legally required to have insurance on the vehicle before you drive it.

How do I get proof of insurance before buying a used car?

If you’re wondering how to get proof of insurance before buying a car, the process is usually quick and easy.

If you have access to digital policy documents through your provider’s app or online portal, you can download your ID cards or another form of proof of insurance online or on your phone. Most dealerships will accept both physical and digital proof of insurance. Once you show your proof of insurance certificate to the dealership, you will be able to resume the transaction and get the keys.

It’s important to keep your insurance ID cards in your vehicle’s glovebox or somewhere else that is easily accessible. If you get pulled over or get into an accident, you will need to show your proof of insurance.

What is the best car insurance company?

The best car insurance company is different for every driver. It depends on factors like your location, coverage needs, and vehicle type. Before you purchase car insurance, it’s a good idea to shop around and compare several providers. You should also get quotes to see which insurer can offer you the lowest rate.

Take our short quiz to see what you can expect to pay at top car insurance companies near you. See your matches and find an insurance policy that fits your budget.

About Rate Retriever

At Rate Retriever, our mission is to make the way you shop for insurance transparent and fair through user-friendly tools that respect your privacy and deliver reliable, comprehensive results 

So we took everything we hated about comparing insurance quotes online – the spam, the long questionnaires, the limited choices, the inaccuracy of quote prices – and threw it out the window, favoring a short form that more accurately estimates what you’ll pay at each of the top insurance providers near you. 

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We may earn a commission when you click one of the links or call one of the providers listed on our site; however, we do not allow our partnerships to influence which information we provide. 

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