"Proof of insurance" is just what it sounds like: It’s a record showing you meet your state’s requirements for vehicle insurance. Requirements vary from state to state, but nearly all states require that you demonstrate some form of financial responsibility.
What Is Proof of Insurance?
Proof of insurance is evidence that you hold your state’s minimum requirements for car insurance. It is the most common way to show that you’ve met financial responsibility laws.
Probably the most common way to show proof of insurance is to use the insurance card your provider gives you when you purchase coverage. (This is the little card most drivers store in their glove compartments.)
Other options include:
- A copy of the declarations page (sometimes referred to as the “dec page”) that your insurance company issues when you cover your vehicle(s).
- Usually, you receive this page when you receive your insurance card.
- A copy of the insurance binder signed by the licensed insurance agent or broker.
- Typically, binders are temporary (distributed when you first obtain the policy); you might have to show more permanent proof at a later date.
- A copy of the application for any state-specific insurance program. signed by the insurance agent.
- A copy of a letter from the insurance company stating details about your coverage.
- Generally, this letter must be signed and on company letterhead.
- An electronic view of your information.
- You can show this information by logging into your account with the insurance company (using electronic means such as a smart phone app or laptop) and presenting it to the officer.
NOTE . These are just common options but not necessarily applicable to each insurance provider or state; check with your insurance company and your state’s motor vehicle agency for options specific to your state, just in case.
What Is Financial Responsibility?
By law, you must prove that you are able to pay for property damage and physical injuries your vehicle causes. This is called financial responsibility.
Each state sets its own car insurance coverage requirements and mimimum limits.
Visit our Car Insurance section and choose your state for specific information about how much insurance and which coverage types you’re required to purchase, as well as any allowable alternatives to auto insurance.
When You Must Show Proof of Insurance
Typically, you must show proof of auto insurance when:
- You take your driving test.
- Most driver testing stations don’t allow you to test in a vehicle without insurance.
- You register your vehicle .
- You’re involved in an accident .
- You’re pulled over for a moving violation .
NOTE . Many states require car insurance companies to notify the state motor vehicle agency when a registered vehicle has a lapse or cancellation in coverage. When this happens, your motor vehicle agency might contact you for proof of new coverage.
Driving Uninsured or Without Proof of Insurance
When you drive uninsured, you risk getting some pretty heavy penalties, including:
- Having your license and/or registration suspended or cancelled .
- Facing jail time .
However, if you have insurance but you can’t show proof upon request, you can still face consequences. If you can’t show proof of insurance, for example during a traffic stop, you might:
- Get a ticket for no proof of insurance .
- Face fines.
- Be responsible for related court costs .
Keeping your proof of insurance with you when driving is extremely important.
What Is SR-22 Insurance?
Contrary to popular belief, SR-22 is not a type of car insurance ; SR-22 is actually a document stating that you have insurance that covers at least the minimum liability requirements of your state.
You might be required to have an SR-22 if you:
- Have a DUI or other serious moving violation.
- Do not have insurance at the time of an at-fault accident.
- Have a certain number of traffic offenses.
- Have your license or registration revoked for any other reason.
You will be required to keep the SR-22 for a certain period of time. As long as the SR-22 is in effect, you must maintain at least the minimum insurance requirements of the state in which it was issued, even if you move to another state.*
If at any time during this period your insurance coverage lapses or is canceled, you will lose your license or registration again.
* SR-22 requirements vary from state to state, so check with your auto insurance company for more information, especially if you plan on moving to another state.