If you’re a first-time driver, you may be wondering: Do you need insurance to drive a car?
Yes, you do need insurance to drive a car. Almost every state has minimum car insurance requirements. There are only two states where you can drive without an insurance policy, New Hampshire and Virginia. In these states, you can forgo insurance, but only if you are able to prove that you have enough money to cover damages yourself should you cause an accident. Most people do not have enough assets to self insure, however, so even in New Hampshire and Virginia, drivers typically need to buy car insurance.
Below, we’ll discuss frequently asked questions about car insurance requirements and which providers we recommend from our review of the nation’s best auto insurance companies. Anytime you shop for car insurance, we recommend getting quotes from multiple providers to be sure you’re paying the right price for your coverage.
Enter your zip code on our form above, and we’ll help you start comparing car insurance quotes instantly. Or, give us a call at (844) 246-8209 for free, personalized quotes.
Why Do You Need Insurance To Drive A Car?
Car insurance protects you and your finances in the event of an accident. If you’re driving uninsured, you could face serious legal repercussions. Typically, states require two or more of the following coverages:
- Bodily injury liability insurance (BI): This covers the medical costs of the other driver in an accident you cause.
- Property damage liability insurance (PD): This type of coverage protects you from having to pay for repairs to another car or other property after an accident you cause.
- Medical payments (MedPay): MedPay covers your medical bills after an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
- Personal injury protection (PIP): PIP covers your medical bills after an accident in no-fault states.
- Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM): UM/UIM coverage pays for damages to your vehicle after an accident with an uninsured motorist or when the other driver’s insurance does not cover the full cost of damages and medical bills.
Two other kinds of coverage that are important to consider when looking for a new car insurance policy are collision and comprehensive coverage. These aren’t required by law, but are strongly recommended.
- Collision coverage: If you have this type of insurance, damages to your car will be covered after an accident, regardless of which party is at fault.
- Comprehensive car insurance: This type of insurance covers damages to your car that aren’t the result of a collision. It can include hail storms, floods, animal damage, theft, vandalism, and more.
It’s smart to get a mix of these coverages for peace of mind when you’re on the road. Accidents are bad enough without having to worry about how the cost of repairs will impact your finances.
Do You Need Insurance To Buy A Car?
Yes, you need auto insurance coverage to buy a car. In most cases, even if you go to the dealership without a specific vehicle in mind, you will need proof of insurance for purchase. You have the option to get car insurance before you buy the car or after you buy the car, but you won’t be able to leave with the vehicle until you have it.
If you want to drive the car immediately after buying it, you need to get insurance beforehand. To do this, you need to know the exact car you want to buy and which insurance carrier fits your needs.
Do You Need Insurance To Buy A Used Car?
If you already have a car insurance policy and are a vehicle owner for a different car, you’ll typically have a week to 30 days to notify your provider about a new car. If you’re adding this car onto your policy, you’ll have to pay more for your insurance.
If you plan to replace your old car with your new one, you can usually keep the same coverage. It’s still important to update your insurance agent of the switch though, so you have the right car insured.
Should You Get Insurance To Drive Someone Else's Car?
Depending on how frequently you drive a friend’s car, or any car not insured in your name, you might or might not need car insurance. With permission or consent, it’s generally not a problem if someone else drives your car.
You may be covered when driving someone else’s car even if you don’t have your own auto insurance policy. But if you don’t own a car and don’t have your own insurance, consider the following:
- If you borrowing a car frequently from someone you live with or a relative, you should be listed as a driver on their policy.
- Ask the car owner’s insurance provider if you’re covered. Typically, car insurance follows the car rather than the person, so if you’re driving someone else’s car, you could still be covered. To do this, ask the owner for their policy number, call customer service, and ask if you’re covered.
- Your last option is to consider purchasing non-owner car insurance. This is a good idea for people who frequently drive someone else’s car or rent a car.
Non-Owner Car Insurance
You aren’t required to get an insurance policy if you only drive other people’s cars occasionally. But if you use a friend or loved one’s car frequently, you might consider a non-owner policy.
Non-owner car insurance is for people who do not own a car of their own and frequently drive someone else’s vehicle. It includes liability coverage to pay for bodily injuries and property damage that you cause in an at-fault accident to another party. It does not cover damage to the car you’re borrowing, nor does it cover your own injuries in an accident you cause.
You can buy non-owner car insurance from many providers, including:
Penalties For Driving Without Insurance
Penalties for driving without insurance differ depending on your location and the situation. If you cause a collision and do not have proof of insurance (except in New Hampshire and Virginia), the penalties will be more severe than if you are fined for driving without insurance.
|Driving without insurance||Fines ranging between $25–$5,000 depending on your location|
|Causing an accident without insurance||Up to $500 in fines Suspended license and registration with a fine to get them back (90 days to 1 year) Possible jail time (up to 1 year)|
Is It Illegal To Drive Without Insurance In Every State?
New Hampshire and Virginia are the only states where car insurance is not mandatory, although we don’t recommend it. New Hampshire operates on financial responsibility laws. This means that if you’re involved in an accident, you are held financially responsible to pay for damages or injuries that you cause.
If you find that you don’t have the savings to afford the potential cost of an accident, you can purchase car insurance as normal. Drivers that do purchase insurance are required to have at least the following coverage:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability
Similarly, Virginians don’t have to buy car insurance necessarily. Although car insurance is strongly recommended in VA, motorists can choose to be held financially responsible. If drivers choose this option, they need to have the following funds on reserve in the event of an accident:
- $25,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $50,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $20,000 property damage liability
Car Insurance Laws By State
Every state has different rules about whether or not you need auto insurance to drive a car. It’s always a good idea to be aware of your state’s minimum requirements when asking yourself what insurance you need to drive a car.
|State||Insurance Required||BI/PD Minimum Limits||Self-Insurance|
|Connecticut||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Washington, D.C.||BI/PD, UM||25/50/10|
|Illinois||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|Kentucky||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Maine||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM, MedPay||50/100/25||✓|
|Maryland||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/15||✓|
|Minnesota||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||30/60/10||✓|
|Nebraska||BI/PD, UM UIM||25/50/25||✓|
|New Hampshire||Financial responsibility only||25/50/25*|
|New Jersey||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||15/30/5|
|New York||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/10||✓|
|North Carolina||BI/PD, UM, UIM||30/60/25||✓|
|North Dakota||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Oregon||BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM||25/50/20|
|South Carolina||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25||✓|
|South Dakota||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25||✓|
|Vermont||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/10||✓|
|Virginia||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/20*||✓|
|West Virginia||BI/PD, UM, UIM||25/50/25|
|Wisconsin||BI/PD, UM, MedPay||25/50/10||✓|
*In states without requirements for BI and/or PD, data represents the minimum amount motorists without insurance are responsible for in the case of an accident.
If you read the fine print of your state’s car insurance laws, you might find a section about self-insurance. Automobile self-insurance means you deposit certain cash amounts that cover the minimum liability limits required by the state. You can do this in one of two ways:
- Deposit the required cash with your local Department of Motor Vehicles or State Department of Insurance.
- Purchase a security bond.
Either way, you will have to submit proof that you have the financial capacity to cover the cost of damages or injuries you cause in an accident.
You can get automobile self-insurance in 32 states. Out of these states, only 10 allow self-insurance for people who have fewer than 25 vehicles. These states are:
Our Recommended Car Insurance Providers
Whether you’re shopping for a new car insurance policy or shopping for a new car, you need insurance to get where you want to go. We recommend getting quotes from multiple car insurance providers before deciding which one is right for you, and we can help you get started.
Enter your zip code to compare free, personalized auto insurance quotes instantly. Or, call us at (844) 246-8209.
#1 Geico: 4.6 Stars
We named Geico the best overall provider in the nation. Not only is Geico available in all 50 states, but Geico offers a wide range of coverages and discounts that could help you save money on your car insurance.
Geico coverage includes the standard types of auto insurance, plus helpful add-ons like:
- Roadside assistance
- Mechanical breakdown insurance
- Rental car reimbursement
Geico has many discounts that could help you save money on your car insurance. Some groups that qualify for discounts from Geico include military personnel, drivers who’ve been accident-free for the past five years, loyal customers, safe drivers, good students, and more. Read our Geico auto insurance review for more information about coverage.
#2 USAA: 4.8 Stars
It’s no secret that USAA has quality insurance. In our review of USAA, we named this company the best car insurance for military and their immediate family members because of its high marks from industry experts, extensive coverage, and high number of discounts.
USAA received top marks in J.D. Power studies published in 2021, plus an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best. That’s how we know USAA offers quality service and has sound finances.
Additionally, USAA has coverages like roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and accident forgiveness to protect customers on the road. And USAA offers discounts to make a car insurance policy more affordable, including:
- Military installation discount
- Family discount
- Low annual mileage discounts
- And more
Read our USAA auto insurance review for more information.
FAQ: Do You Need Insurance To Drive?
In an effort to provide accurate and unbiased information to consumers, our expert review team collects data from dozens of auto insurance providers to formulate rankings of the best insurers. Companies receive a score in each of the following categories, as well as an overall weighted score out of 5.0 stars.
- Industry Standing: Insurers with strong financial ratings and customer-first business practices receive the highest scores in this category.
- Availability: We consider availability by state as well as exclusions for specific groups of drivers.
- Coverage: This rating is based on types of insurance available, maximum coverage limits, and add-on policies.
- Cost and Discounts: Our research team reviews sample quotes for a variety of drivers in every state. Companies with lower prices and many car insurance discount opportunities receive the best scores.
- Customer Service: We comb through customer reviews and consumer feedback studies from experts like J.D. Power.
- Technology: Auto insurers with mobile apps, advanced online services and telematics are more likely to meet consumer needs.