Why Don’t States Verify Insurance When Registering Your Car?

Last Updated on April 6, 2023

While all states, except for New Hampshire and Virginia, require that drivers have at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, some don’t require proof of insurance when registering vehicles.

Why Don't States Verify Insurance When Registering Your Car?Illinois, Montana, Washington, and New Hampshire are the only states that allow you to register your car without showing proof of insurance. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t purchase car insurance. If you get pulled over and don’t have any car insurance, you can still face a variety of punishments, which vary by state.

Some states take driving without insurance more seriously than others, but you can expect to at least pay a steep penalty. Other states incorporate jail time for multiple offenses. Click here to view the penalties for being caught driving without insurance in your state.

In states that don’t require proof of insurance to register a vehicle, it’s the result of the state legislature. For one reason or another, the state legislature decided against verifying insurance prior to registration. The only question is – why? Why do the DMVs (or, in some states, the MDVs) in Illinois, Montana, Washington, and New Hampshire allow you to register a vehicle without proving you have car insurance? Below, we’re explaining everything you need to know about insurance proof and registering your vehicle.

Why Don’t You Need Insurance to Register Your Car in Some States?

Different states have different procedures to make sure all citizens are insured before they hit the road. Some states have complex computer systems that automatically verify coverage with the insurer at the DMV/RMV during registration and some states have not invested in that technology yet.

While these methods ensure most people buy insurance coverage before driving, some people still do slip through the cracks. People who are going to skirt the law and drive without insurance are going to do it regardless of when you try and verify their coverage. Whether you verify insurance coverage at vehicle registration or not, if people cannot afford auto insurance and still need to drive, they will simply risk driving without it.

Different Regulations in Each Different State

The United States federal government does not set the rules of the road. It’s up to each state government to set its own rules and regulations for operating motor vehicles. This is why some states require insurance coverage prior to registration and some states do not. It’s also why some states, like New Hampshire, do not require insurance coverage at all. And why some states, like Michigan, have insurance requirements so stringent that insuring your vehicle there is almost unaffordable.

In Montana, for example, the Vehicle Services Bureau requires you to pay a fee of $87.50 when registering a vehicle. You need to visit your local county treasurer’s office to complete the registration process. You’ll also need to pay $10 for the Montana Highway Patrol Salary and Retention Fee, a county tax, and a $6 optional state parks support fee. If you’re keeping your existing plates on your vehicle, then you’ll also pay a $5 insurance verification fee. You are not required, however, to provide proof of insurance at any point during the vehicle registration process.

Nevertheless, the state of Montana – as well as the states of Illinois and Washington – all require you to carry proof of insurance with you at all times. If you get pulled over and are unable to provide proof of insurance to a law enforcement officer, then you may face a fine of $250 or $500. Just because you’re not required to show proof of insurance when registering your vehicle doesn’t mean you can avoid carrying proof of insurance with you at all times.

In New Hampshire, you’re still required to carry proof of some type of financial responsibility – but their insurance laws are different from the laws in other states. You’re not required to have car insurance in New Hampshire, but you’re still required to have proof that you can cover your liability if you’re involved in an accident – which is why most New Hampshire drivers carry car insurance anyway.

Final Word on Proof of Insurance When Registering a Car

Ultimately, there’s no good reason why certain states don’t require proof of insurance when registering a vehicle. Generally speaking, you should still carry proof of insurance with you at all times when driving.

If you aren’t sure whether your state requires proof of insurance, check with your local DMV for rules and regulations. Keep in mind that every time you purchase a new car, you must comply with all insurance and DMV rules.

Each state has different regulations when it comes to registering a motor vehicle. Some states require that you renew your vehicle every year while others allow you to only do it several years at a time. Sometimes, you can renew your vehicle online, but you’ll still need to provide proof of insurance.

Of course, registration may not be the only thing that’s required of you to drive a car in your state. Some states require an emissions check to make sure the car complies with state laws. Most states require that your car pass an inspection, which is meant to check that your car is able to safely operate on the roads. If you have a motorcycle that needs to be registered, check with your state DMV as well. There may be different specifications.

Regardless, do your research before registering any vehicle. Being prepared and having all of the necessary paperwork will save you time (and a headache) when you go to register your vehicle.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for InsurancePanda.com and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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