UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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If you get pulled over by a police officer, you may need to provide proof of insurance. But what exactly is proof of insurance? How do you prove to a police officer that you have insurance? Do you need to provide proof of insurance at the DMV? Today, we’re answering all your questions about proof of insurance and how it works.
What is Proof of Insurance?
Proof of insurance, sometimes called POI, is a document that proves your car is insured.
When you buy a car insurance policy, your insurance company will send you a document in the mail. This document is meant to be placed in your vehicle as proof that you’re insured. If you’re in an accident, if you’re pulled over, or if you’re renewing your vehicle license, then you may need to provide proof of insurance.
Typically, your proof of insurance comes on a small, wallet-sized card.
The card features basic information about your insurance policy. It might have your name, for example, and your address. It will feature the make and year of the vehicle, the renewal dates for the policy, the name of your insurance company, and your policy number.
Some states have another type of proof of insurance: some states require drivers to put proof of insurance stickers on their license plates. Although some states have removed this requirement, other states continue to require drivers to display these stickers. The stickers indicate the year or month when your car insurance expires.
Do I Need Proof of Insurance?
In order to legally drive on public roads in the United States, you need to have at least liability insurance coverage. The only exception is New Hampshire, where car insurance isn’t technically required, but you still need to carry proof of coverage with you at all times.
In most states, you’ll need to provide proof of insurance when you register your vehicle. You’ll need to prove your vehicle is insured before it can be registered with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
You’ll also need to provide proof of insurance when pulled over. A law enforcement officer might require you to prove your vehicle is insured. If your vehicle is uninsured, or if your vehicle insurance has expired, then you may face fines or other consequences.
Finally, you may need to provide proof of insurance after an accident. You and the other driver may exchange insurance cards to easily record the other driver’s information.
How Do I Get Proof of Insurance?
Typically, you will get proof of insurance from your auto insurance company after you buy a policy.
If you purchased instant car insurance, then you may be able to print off proof of insurance online. Typically, however, your proof of insurance is mailed to you in the same package as your insurance declaration page and other policy information.
If you need proof of insurance because you lost your card, then you should be able to get another card from your insurance company. Proof of insurance can be obtained by logging onto your insurance company’s website or by calling the company’s customer service.
If you’re renewing your car insurance policy, then your new proof of insurance card should arrive in the mail a few days before your last insurance policy expires.
Most insurance companies will send two proof of insurance documents for each vehicle. You’re supposed to keep one proof of insurance card in your vehicle at all times, while the other can be kept in the house or used for verifying documents – say, when you need to visit the DMV.
Can I Use Electronic Proof of Insurance?
A growing number of states are allowing drivers to hold electronic proof of insurance cards. Electronic proofs of car insurance come in the form of mobile apps or digital files. Larger insurance companies have mobile apps, and you can verify car insurance by logging into your account via these mobile apps.
If you get pulled over or need to provide proof of insurance for any reason, then you can pull out the app and provide electronic proof to the officer – assuming you live in a state where electronic proof of insurance is permitted.
As of 2016, all states except Connecticut and New Mexico allow drivers to provide electronic proof of insurance during a traffic stop. The District of Columbia also does not allow electronic proof of insurance.
Electronic proof of insurance doesn’t have to be an insurance card: some states allow you to display a picture of your insurance card, for example, or hold a PDF file of your insurance document on your phone.
Proof of insurance is an important document proving that your vehicle is legally allowed on the road. Make sure you have proof of insurance before you drive. Please call your insurance agent if you lost or misplaced your card so that they can send you a replacement immediately.