You need car insurance to drive legally in nearly every state. But you’re not totally home free after you buy a policy. You still need to be able to prove that you’re insured to other drivers, police, and other state officials. You can do so with a proof of insurance card (also called an “insurance ID card”). You’ll get this card from your insurer after you buy a policy. Your insurer may send it to you, let you print it online, or give you an electronic copy.
A proof of insurance card typically includes the following information:
The card should also have your insurer’s contact number and a list of the coverages included in your policy.
Why do you need this card? You may need to prove you’re insured when you:
If police ask for your proof at a traffic stop and you don’t have it, you may receive a traffic violation and could have to pay a fine.
Some states now accept electronic proof of insurance. That means when you’re stopped by police, you can prove you’re covered with a copy of your card on your smartphone or tablet.
As of February 2014, 30 states have electronic proof laws. Use the following list to find out if your state is one of them.
If you plan on using electronic proof, there are a few things you should consider:
Electronic proof of insurance may be convenient, but you should still keep a hard copy in your vehicle. If your phone dies, you can rely on the hard copy. You can also use it if you get into an accident with another driver and they don’t know that electronic proof is acceptable by law.
You need to make sure your electronic document is acceptable proof. Some state laws require an electronic copy sent to you by your insurer. Others allow you to use a snapshot of your physical card.
To be safe, ask your insurer how you can get an electronic copy. Some larger insurers have their own smartphone and tablet apps you can download and use to display your proof.
The 10 largest car insurance companies wrote more than $121 billion in premiums in 2012. That's about 70% of all car insurance premiums that year.