Will Insurance Cover an Unregistered Car?

May 7, 2024

First things first: you cannot drive legally in the United States if your vehicle is unregistered. If you are unsure about the status of your car, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for guidance.

At the same time, you can insure your vehicle even if it’s not registered for various reasons. You may need insurance for an unregistered vehicle if you’re buying a new or used car, or you may need it to reinstate a suspended registration.

Here are some common questions about unregistered car insurance that we will cover down the road:

  • Can you get car insurance without registration?
  • Can you get car insurance with an expired registration?
  • Can you insure a car that is not registered with you?
  • What happens if you get in an accident without registration?

Read on to learn more about unregistered vehicle insurance and its nuances.

What Is Vehicle Registration?

Car registration in the United States legalizes a vehicle’s ownership and allows it to move on public roads.

The registration process and requirements generally include the following:

  1. Applying for registration at your state’s DMV. You will need to provide documents such as proof of ownership, proof of insurance, identification, odometer disclosure, and some more.
  2. Paying registration fees. The registration cost typically includes a registration fee, license plate fee, and sales tax.
  3. Obtaining license plates. Once your application is approved, you will receive two license plates that must be affixed to the front and rear of your vehicle.

Remember that driving an unregistered car is illegal in the United States.

Do I Need Registration to Get Insurance?

In most states, you must get car insurance before registering your vehicle. That is, you must get an insurance policy that meets your state’s minimum requirements before you can get your license plates and legally drive on public roads.

Happy woman has just purchased her auto insurance

Unregistered Vehicle Insurance and Registration

The biggest nuance to understand about unregistered vehicle insurance is that it’s intended for car owners who will not drive their cars. Otherwise, driving an unregistered vehicle will be against the law).

Will Insurance Cover an Unregistered Car?

Yes, there are types of auto insurance that can cover an unregistered vehicle. For example, if you keep your unregistered vehicle in storage, you might consider buying storage auto insurance.

Likewise, if you’re moving between states, there will surely be a period when your vehicle is not registered. If you want it covered during this period, you might also want to consider buying a specific type of car insurance.

Will Insurance Cover an Accident if Registration Is Expired?

Generally, whether your registration is expired doesn’t determine whether your insurance provider covers you or not if you have an active auto insurance policy for the vehicle in question.

However, driving with an expired registration, and even more so if your unregistered vehicle is involved in an accident, will surely result in penalties and possibly even more severe legal consequences.

Likewise, driving an unregistered vehicle with insurance might be considered negligent behavior by some insurance companies, which may complicate the claiming process or even invalidate your coverage for the accident.

Last but not least, most insurance companies require your vehicle to be registered before they agree to insure it. Registered vehicles usually meet specific safety standards, making them less risky to insurance agents.

Do I Need To Insure an Unregistered Car?

StateNeed for proof of insurance
Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, WyomingRequired before registration
Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, Tennessee, Washington, WisconsinRequired before driving
New HampshireNot required

As you can see, most states require car insurance before registration. You must take out an insurance policy before getting license plates and legally drive on the roads.

How Do I Insure a Car Before I Register It?

Obtaining insurance is often the first step in the registration process. Many jurisdictions require vehicle owners to have valid insurance before driving them on public roads.

Let’s consider the main steps of obtaining car insurance before registration:

1. Prepare the Necessary Documents

  • Technical information about the vehicle: car make, model, year of manufacture, VIN code
  • Driving history: driver’s license, data on accidents and violations
  • Personal information: address, contact details

2. Choose the Policy That Suits Your Needs

It is worth considering the level of coverage you need, such as third-party liability and property liability, and making sure the policy has the minimum coverage required by your state government.

3. Complete the Registration

After confirming the policy, you can purchase it online, by phone, or through an insurance agent. The confirmation of insurance in the form of an insurance card or a digital document signals the completion of the registration procedure.

a man standing next to a car with a broken down car

Can You Insure a Car With an Expired Registration?

Expired registration does not directly impact your auto insurance as long as you pay your insurance premiums on time each month. This means that your policy remains valid, and you will be covered in the event of an accident, theft, vandalism, or other events covered by your policy.

Even if your registration is outdated, you may still be able to apply for compensation from the other driver who was at fault in the accident. Why so? Because the vehicle owner’s civil liability auto insurance (BI/PD) and registration are separate processes.

So, does expired registration affect insurance? Actually, no.

Can You Get Insurance with Expired Tags?

Since expired registration is a driving offense, it does not directly affect your driving ability. This means that expired tags will not lead to the automatic cancellation of existing insurance coverage.

However, an expired registration may make it challenging to obtain new insurance, as most insurance companies require valid registration to obtain or renew a policy.

Likewise, expired registration increases insurance rates. Even with the extension of the current policy, the company may consider the registration period a sign of negligence and increase the rates.

What Happens if You Get in an Accident With an Unregistered Car?

An accident with a car insured but not registered is scary.

Here’s what you can do, though:

1. Stop and Make Sure Everyone is Safe

Check for casualties. If anyone is injured, call an ambulance. Turn on the emergency alarm and display the emergency stop sign.

2. Exchange Information With Other Drivers

Record names, addresses, and telephone and insurance policy numbers of other drivers. Take photos of the damage to all vehicles, the scene of the accident, and other essential details.

3. Report the Accident to the Police

In case of an accident with an unregistered car, it is mandatory to contact the police. State officials must record the fact of driving an unregistered vehicle, which may have legal consequences for the person responsible for the accident.

They will also draw up a protocol about the accident, which will be helpful in when you submit an insurance claim.

4. Contact Your Insurance Company

In case of an accident with an unregistered car, you must also provide information that your vehicle was not registered.

 is making a call at the same time

Notifying the insurance company about the accident must be accompanied by providing them with the information you have collected, including the police report and photos. The sooner you do it, the better because the insurance agent will help file a claim and compensation for damages. Avoid admitting fault in the accident before you talk to your insurance company.

Get Your Auto Insurance Quote Online at CoverExplore

As complex as purchasing insurance on an unregistered vehicle might be, experts at Cover Explore will dissect your issue on the fly to provide a tailored solution specifically for you.

Call us at 888-432-7716 with any questions. Get your online quote in minutes.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you insure or register a car first?

In most cases, you will want to get car insurance before registering your vehicle, which is a necessary step in the registration process in many states. After obtaining car insurance without registration, you will have one month to register your vehicle.

Can you drive with insurance but no registration?

Driving a car with only insurance and no registration is illegal. A valid registration proves the car meets safety standards and is legal to drive.

Is Insurance Valid if Registration Is Expired?

Yes, the insurance remains valid if the registration is expired. However, it is essential to note that insurance and registration are two separate processes. Your insurance is independent of whether your registration is up-to-date.

Can You Insure a Car That Is Not Registered?

In some cases, you can insure an unregistered car. For this, you need to get a temporary registration that allows you to insure and drive the vehicle for a limited period of time, usually a few weeks or months.

Victoria Berezhetska

Victoria Berezhetska is a Content Lead at Phonexa.com and an expert contributor to CoverExplore. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration, with extensive working experience as a PR specialist and content writer. At CoverExplore, she helps customers find the right educational material through easily digestible blog posts and buying guides backing their insurance coverage choice. Victoria covers diverse topics around digital and insurance marketing, including auto, home, health, and life insurance.

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