Jane from Binghamton, NY Asks – “Why don’t states verify that motorists have insurance when one is registering a vehicle?

Our answer:

While all states except for New Hampshire require that drivers have at least a minimum amount of liability insurance, some don’t require proof of insurance when registering vehicles. Illinois, Montana, Washington, and New Hampshire are the only states that allow you to register your car without showing proof of insurance. That 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 serious than other, but you can expect to at least pay a fine while others incorporate jail time for multiple offenses. In states that don’t require proof of insurance to register a vehicle, it’s the result of state legislature.

vehicle registrationWhy 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?

There’s no good answer to that question. In Montana, for example the Motor Vehicle Division 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 car insurance – 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.

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 your purchase a new car, you must comply with all insurance and DMV rules. Some states also 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, that may not be the only that’s required. 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. No matter what, do your research before registering any vehicle. It will save you time if you have all the necessary paperwork before going through the registration process.