What Is Proof of Insurance?

When you buy car insurance, your insurer will provide an insurance ID card or other official document to verify that you have at least the state’s minimum required amount of coverage.

Christy Rakoczy
Written byChristy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy

Christy Rakoczy has been a personal finance and insurance writer for over a decade. Her work has been published on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo Finance, Credit Karma, Forbes Advisor, and more. Christy has a JD from UCLA School of Law and previously worked as a data analyst for Blue Cross and as a paralegal studies instructor before transitioning to writing full time.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
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Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

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Konstantin Halachev
Data reviewed byKonstantin Halachev
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  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

Updated February 22, 2024 at 4:00 PM PST

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Most states require drivers to have car insurance, and proof of insurance shows that you’re obeying your state’s coverage laws. Proof of insurance is typically an insurance ID card, but it can also be other documents your insurer provides.

You need proof of insurance when buying or renting a car, when a police officer stops you for a traffic incident, and after an accident. Courts may require you to show proof of insurance if you fail to provide it when a law enforcement officer asks for it or if you’ve been convicted of a serious traffic violation, like driving under the influence or reckless driving.

This guide explains how proof of insurance works, what it looks like, and when you may need it.

Quick Facts
  • Washington, D.C., and every state but New Hampshire require drivers to have at least a minimum amount of liability insurance.

  • An insurance ID card that an insurer issues is valid proof of insurance.

  • Many states collect data from insurance companies to confirm vehicles are properly insured.

What is proof of insurance?

The specific requirements for proof of insurance can vary by state, but the following documents generally are valid proof of insurance:

  • A copy of an insurance ID card issued by an insurer

  • An insurance policy declaration page listing vehicles and drivers covered by the policy

  • A copy of a binder of insurance signed by a licensed insurance agent or broker (this is typically temporary proof of insurance valid only for a limited time after first buying a policy)

  • A copy of an application for insurance submitted to a state’s assigned risk or high-risk plan

  • A letter from an insurer on company letterhead signed by an agent or other authorized representative of the insurance agency that verifies proof of financial responsibility

You can usually show proof of insurance in paper or electronic form, as long as you can display the digital form on a mobile device like your smartphone.

Good to Know

Many states also require insurance companies to provide electronic proof of insurance to the state’s department of revenue or department of motor vehicles. When states have this requirement, insurance ID cards alone aren’t enough to provide proof of coverage. The state must have your coverage information in its records for your insurance to be valid.

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What information does proof of insurance provide?

While the specifics can vary by state, the following details must usually be on the insurance ID card or other documents serving as proof of coverage:

  • An indication that the card is a Financial Responsibility Identification Card

  • The insurer’s number assigned by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners

  • The name of the insured driver

  • The driver’s address

  • The vehicle’s year, make, and model

  • The full vehicle identification number (VIN)

  • The insurance policy number

  • The effective dates that show when the policy went into effect and when it expires

Some states regulate the dimensions and weight of the card as well.

Do the Names on Your Registration and Insurance Have to Match?

Do the Names on Your Registration and Insurance Have to Match?

How to get proof of insurance

When you sign up for insurance, your insurer will usually mail you a card unless you’ve opted for paperless documents. You can also access a digital insurance card or coverage information on your insurance company’s website or mobile app, or you can call your insurance agent to ask them to mail, fax, or email a copy of your insurance card.

In most cases, these steps are the easiest way to get proof of insurance:

  1. Create an online account with your insurer.

  2. Visit your insurer’s website or download its mobile app.

  3. Access the insurance card electronically, often under your policy documents section in the app or online.

How much does it cost to get proof of insurance?

You should be able to get proof of insurance for free. In fact, you can often find the necessary documents by signing into your insurer’s mobile app or website.

When you need to show proof of insurance

You may need to show proof of insurance in many different situations. Although the rules vary by state, here are some common examples of situations where you’ll be asked to provide proof of coverage:

  • Buying a car

  • Registering a vehicle

  • Renting a car

  • Completing a driving test

  • When stopped by law enforcement

  • If you’re involved in a car accident

If your state requires insurance companies to notify them of coverage and your insurer doesn’t provide the information, authorities may also contact you to find out whether you actually have at least minimum coverage.

If you can’t provide proof of insurance to law enforcement and you get a ticket or a citation, you may need to provide proof of insurance in court.

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What to do if you’re stopped without proof of insurance

If a police officer stops you, they may request your proof of insurance. If you don’t have a paper copy of your documents, try to get it by signing into your company’s website or mobile app using your phone or mobile device.

If you can’t show any paper or digital copies of an insurance ID card, you may face penalties for failure to provide proof of coverage.

Penalties for not having proof of insurance

If you have insurance coverage but don’t have proof of insurance, you could get a ticket, a fine, or other penalty, such as required community service. In some cases, it’s possible to get the charges against you dismissed if you can show the court that you had insurance coverage at the time of the citation.

Consequences of driving while uninsured

While penalties vary by state, driving without the required insurance has serious consequences that can include:

  • Arrest or ticket

  • Vehicle impounding

  • Suspension of your vehicle registration

  • Suspension of your driver’s license

  • Civil penalties (including per-day penalties)

  • Community service

  • Insurance surcharges

You could also face additional criminal penalties if you have a fake insurance card instead of legally valid coverage.

What Happens If You Get Into a Car Accident Without Insurance?

What Happens If You Get Into a Car Accident Without Insurance?

Proof of insurance FAQs

If you still have questions about proof of insurance, this additional information may help.

  • What is proof of insurance if you need an SR-22?

    An SR-22 is not insurance — it’s a certificate of responsibility that proves you have at least the state-minimum required car insurance coverage.

    States usually require an SR-22 from high-risk drivers, such as those guilty of driving without insurance or who have been convicted of a DUI or other serious traffic infractions. Insurers often charge policyholders to file an SR-22 with the state, and not all insurers offer them.

  • Does proof of insurance show coverage types?

    Many drivers use insurance cards for proof of insurance, and these don’t show coverage types. An insurance binder or insurance declaration page can sometimes serve as proof of insurance. These documents include more details about the kinds of coverage the driver has.

  • Can you show proof of insurance on your phone?

    While rules vary by state, it’s generally acceptable to show proof of insurance in digital form. Many insurers provide an ID card accessible from their mobile app or website so drivers can get proof of coverage on their phones.

  • How long does it take to get proof of insurance?

    Insurance companies often make digital or electronic proof of insurance available immediately after you buy a policy. For people who choose to have physical insurance cards mailed, it can take longer — often 10 to 14 days.

Christy Rakoczy
Christy Rakoczy

Christy Rakoczy has been a personal finance and insurance writer for over a decade. Her work has been published on USA Today, MSN, Yahoo Finance, Credit Karma, Forbes Advisor, and more. Christy has a JD from UCLA School of Law and previously worked as a data analyst for Blue Cross and as a paralegal studies instructor before transitioning to writing full time.

Evelyn Pimplaskar
Edited byEvelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
Evelyn Pimplaskar
Evelyn PimplaskarEditor-in-Chief, Director of Content
  • 10+ years in insurance and personal finance content

  • 30+ years in media, PR, and content creation

Evelyn leads Insurify’s content team. She’s passionate about creating empowering content to help people transform their financial lives and make sound insurance-buying decisions.

Featured in

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Konstantin Halachev
Data reviewed byKonstantin HalachevVice President of Engineering
Headshot of Konstantin Halachev, VP of Engineering at Insurify
Konstantin HalachevVice President of Engineering
  • 7+ years experience in data analysis

  • Ph.D. in Computational Biology

Konstantin has led data teams across multiple industries, including insurance, travel, and biology. He’s led Insurify’s engineering team for more than three years.

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