Auto insurance can be complicated, but you shouldn't risk driving without coverage.

 

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 state-mandated minimum car insurance requirements that must be met to drive there legally. The only exceptions are the states of New Hampshire and Virginia, which do not require car insurance to drive but instead require a demonstration of financial responsibility in case of an accident.

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 below, and we’ll help you start comparing car insurance quotes instantly. Or, give us a call at (844) 246-8209 for free, personalized quotes.

 

In this article:

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.

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 a 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’re 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

Borrowing a car here and there generally doesn't require one to get a policy to drive some else's car. But if you're using 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:

 


 

What Are The 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.

Situation Penalty

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

Alabama

BI/PD

25/50/25

Alaska

BI/PD

50/100/25

 

Arizona

BI/PD

15/30/10

Arkansas

BI/PD, PIP

25/50/25

 

California

BI/PD

15/30/5

Colorado

BI/PD

25/50/15

Connecticut

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/20

 

Delaware

BI/PD, PIP

25/50/10

Washington, D.C.

BI/PD, UM

25/50/10

 

Florida

PD, PIP

10/20/10*

 

Georgia

BI/PD

25/50/25

 

Hawaii

BI/PD, PIP

20/40/10

 

Idaho

BI/PD

25/50/15

Illinois

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/20

 

Indiana

BI/PD

25/50/25

Iowa

BI/PD

20/40/15

Kansas

BI/PD, PIP

25/50/25

 

Kentucky

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM

25/50/25

 

Louisiana

BI/PD

15/30/25

Maine

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM, MedPay

50/100/25

Maryland

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM

30/60/15

Massachusetts

BI/PD, PIP

20/40/5

Michigan

BI/PD, PIP

20/40/10

 

Minnesota

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM

30/60/10

Mississippi

BI/PD

25/50/25

 

Missouri

BI/PD, UM

25/50/25

Montana

BI/PD

25/50/20

Nebraska

BI/PD, UM UIM

25/50/25

Nevada

BI/PD

25/50/20

 

New Hampshire

Financial responsibility only

25/50/25*

 

New Jersey

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM

15/30/5

 

New Mexico

BI/PD

25/50/10

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

 

Ohio

BI/PD

25/50/25

Oklahoma

BI/PD

25/50/25

Oregon

BI/PD, PIP, UM, UIM

25/50/20

 

Pennsylvania

BI/PD, PIP

15/30/5

 

Rhode Island

BI/PD

25/50/25

South Carolina

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/25

South Dakota

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/25

Tennessee

BI/PD

25/50/15

Texas

BI/PD, PIP

30/60/25

Utah

BI/PD, PIP

25/65/15

Vermont

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/10

Virginia

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/20*

Washington

BI/PD

25/50/10

West Virginia

BI/PD, UM, UIM

25/50/25

 

Wisconsin

BI/PD, UM, MedPay

25/50/10

Wyoming

BI/PD

25/50/20

 

*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.

 


 

What Is Automobile Self-Insurance For Your Car?

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: 4.5 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: 5.0 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 2020, 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?

Do you need insurance before you buy a car?

Not necessarily. If you have an existing car insurance policy, you don’t need to get additional car insurance before buying a car. Typically, car insurance providers give customers anywhere from a 30- to 90-day grace period where you’re covered in your new car. Be sure to update your provider of the switch or addition before the grace period expires to avoid a lapse in coverage.

If you already know what car you will be buying, you can go ahead and get coverage for that car before you head to the dealership or private seller. If you don’t have an auto insurance policy at all, you should get one if you plan to drive your car home after purchasing it.

Consider these tips on how to make buying car insurance before buying a car easier:

  • Ask the dealership to tell you the model, year, and VIN of the car you want to buy.
  • Compare quotes from multiple car insurance providers to be sure you’re paying the best price for your car insurance.
  • Have your license number, social security number, and other personal information on hand. You’ll need this information to purchase an auto insurance policy online or in person.

Can someone drive your car if they’re not on your insurance?

You can allow someone not listed as a driver on your policy to drive your car. It’s important to know your coverage will be held primarily responsible for damages if that driver gets into a wreck or otherwise causes damages or injury to another driver. This applies even if the person driving your car has their own car insurance coverage for a different vehicle.

Read our other articles on car insurance: