Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • If you are pulled over by a police officer, and you cannot provide proof of insurance, you will face penalties
  • Most states require drivers to carry proof of insurance in the vehicle at all times
  • If a driver qualifies as being self-insured,  proof of insurance is usually accepted as being a copy of an SR 22 form

One of the realities of owning and driving a car in the United States is that you must in some way, shape or form, provide proof of insurance.

Whether you purchase it through a licensed car insurance company or you self-insure, it is illegal to drive in this country without protection.

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Ways to Show Proof of Insurance

In most cases, you will be required to furnish proof of insurance at the time you register your vehicle with the state.

Most states require you to carry an insurance card in your car and show it to police officers upon request.

What constitutes proof of insurance depends on the state where you live and the form of protection you’ve chosen.

Proof of insurance could be a:

  • Card supplied by your insurance company
  • SR 22 certificate
  • Copy of a bond certificate
  • Receipt of a deposit into the state insurance fund

You should check with your state’s motor vehicle department to know what is required of you.

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What will I get if I purchase insurance through a licensed provider?

By law, all car insurance companies are required to provide their customers with a valid insurance card. Typically, these cards are about the size of a large index card and contain information.

This information includes:

Each time your plan is due up for renewal, your car insurance company should provide you with new cards.

Depending on the state where you live, you may be required to furnish a copy of the new insurance cards to your DMV at the start of every renewal period. Thankfully, that’s not the case for most states.

The usual course of action is for the driver to keep a copy of the new card in his glove compartment and save any additional copies in a safe place in case the state requests one.

How do I prove insurance if I’m self-insured?

Furnishing proof of insurance when you don’t purchase a policy from a licensed provider is a more complicated issue.

You’ll need to check with your state department of motor vehicles to find out what’s required according to the method by which you are providing insurance coverage.

To give you an example of how complicated this can be; we’ll use the state of California.

According to their motor vehicle department’s website, individuals can insure vehicles by:

  • Purchasing a policy from a licensed company
  • Acquiring a $35,000 bond from a California-licensed bond company
  • Depositing $35,000 in cash with the state DMV
  • Submitting one of several forms proving financial responsibility as per state regulations

Whichever option drivers choose determines what their proof of insurance will be. For those using a bond or a cash deposit, their proof of insurance is a copy of their bond or deposit certificate.

In some cases, they will also need to furnish a letter from the DMV stating that the bond or deposit has been accepted for insurance purposes.

What if I can’t provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop?

Most states require drivers to carry proof of insurance in the vehicle at all times. This is to ensure that such evidence can be produced in the event of an accident.

If you don’t have proof insurance because you left the form at home, or you forgot to procure a copy of it, you will probably receive a citation for not having it in your vehicle.

In New York, driving without valid insurance is considered a grave offense. If found guilty, you will immediately have your driver’s license suspended for a minimum of one year.

Drivers who find themselves in that situation can free their car from impound at any time, but they won’t be able to re-register it and drive it until the registration suspension has been lifted.

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