Washington Car Insurance Guide
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When driving a State of Washington registered vehicle, insurance is required.

Washington minimum car insurance requirements are:

  • Auto Insurance policy with limits of at least 24/50/10 – meaning:
  • Liability coverage
  • $25,000 of bodily injury to another person
  • $50,000 of bodily injuries to all other persons
  • $10,000 of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident

While some choose to stick with the Washington state required insurance coverage, many opt to purchase additional coverage such as collision, uninsured coverage and personal injury protection for added assurance.

Alternative Options to Insurance:

Self Insurance Certificates are available in Washington.

What are the requirements?

  • You or your company must have at least 26 registered vehicles
  • You must qualify by application through Department of Licensing

Driver Records
Department of Licensing
PO Box 9030
Olympia, WA 98507-9030

In Washington, you have the option to use a certificate of deposit instead of insurance if the following requirements are met: RCW 46.29.550

  • Certificate of deposit for at least $60,000
  • Liability bond for at least $60,000
  • Bond must be filed by a surety bond company authorized by the state of Washington

Required Proof of Insurance in Washington

  • Insurance Card provided by Insurance company including all of the following:
    • Name of Insurance Company
    • Insurance Policy Number
    • Effective Date/Expiration Date of Policy
    • Accurate description of year, make/model of registered vehicle
    • Name of Insured Driver

Self Insurance certificates are issued by the state and must include the following:

  • Certificate Number issued by Department of Licensing
    • Effective Date of Certificate
    • Accurate description of year, make/model of registered vehicle
    • Name of driver covered by certificate
    • Certificate of Deposit
    • Certificate number issued by State Treasurer
    • Name of driver covered by certificate of deposit
    • Liability Bond
    • Name of company issuing bond
    • Bond number
    • Name of driver covered by bond

Washington State Department of Insurance

Office of the Insurance Commisioner – Mike Kreidler
5000 Capitol Boulevard, SE
Tumwater, WA 98501

Obtaining a Driver’s License

Here are the requirements to obtain your license if you are 18 and under:

  • Be at least 16 years old
  • Pass traffic safety education course
  • Have instruction permit for at least 6 months
  • Get at least 50 hours of supervised driving practice (10 of those at night) with a licensed passenger of 5 years or more
  • No traffic violations within 6 months of applying for license
  • No conviction of alcohol/drug offense while holding permit

Once you meet the requirements, visit your local DMV and apply for a driver license. Bring the following:

  • Signed certificate showing that you’ve passed traffic safety education course
  • Parent or guardian must sign a Parental Authorization Affidavit at the office
  • Application fee paid by cash, check. Some DMV locations accept MasterCard, American Express and/or Visa.

Here are the requirements to obtain your first license for residents over the age of 18:

  • Complete a driver license application
  • Pass knowledge test (must complete before scheduling driving test)
  • Pass vision screening and color recognition test
  • Pass driving test

The following documents are required for application:

  • Proof of identity
  • $45 license fee paid by cash or check. Ask local DMV to confirm if they accept MasterCard, American Express, or Visa
  • Social Security Number or Washington Residence Address, photo instruction permit, or ID Card

Completing Driver Education

When a child reaches the age of 15, they may enroll in a Traffic Safety Education Program. To be eligible, a student must have the following:

  • An instruction permit, issues by the State of Washington
  • If below the age of 15 1/2, a parent must grant permission to receive a permit.
  • If between 15 ½ to 17 a student must pass the knowledge test and have parent permission.
  • If the student is over the age of 18 they must pass the knowledge test

To complete a program a student must meet the following:

  • A total of 30 hours of instruction by 2 hours per day.
  • A minimum of 6 hours of behind the wheel training with a max of 1 hour per day.
  • A minimum of 1 hour behind the wheel observation
  • Parent supervision and practice of at least 50 hour with 10 hours being at night.

It is recommended that you research any driver-training program that you enroll in. You want to make sure they meet the following standards:

  • Instructors are licenses and have certificates from the State of Washington
  • They meet the state curriculum requirements
  • Check if they have received any disciplinary action for violations
  • Make sure there are enough instructors to meet student needs

You can also check if your student’s school offers any driver training programs. These programs meet the state requirements and have licensed instructors.

Knowing the Rules of the Road

Washington State provides their rules of the road online. Carefully obey these rules to qualify for the lowest auto insurance rates in Washington.

Residents of Washington typically fall into one of three insurance coverage markets: the preferred market, which offers the best car insurance rates in Washington and is available for low-risk drivers with spotless driving records; the standard market, which is offered to the average driver with fair driving records and comes with affordable auto insurance in Washington; and the non-standard market, which offers the highest premiums and is available for less-experienced drivers and those with multiple traffic tickets or accidents, as well as those who have at least one drunk driving offense.

Know Your Rates

Auto insurance rates are calculated by carefully considering all of the licensed drivers in the household, even if they are not related to you by blood, such as permanent roommates and spouses. The base rate that is used to evaluate all drivers is then adjusted, according to several factors, including:

  • Age. Statistics indicate that drivers under the age of 25 are involved in more accidents than those aged between 25 and 65. For this reason, drivers under 25 years old are considered a higher risk, so insurance companies will charge households with younger drivers more for insurance due to the increased chance of risk. In addition, those who are older than 65 years of age are often considered greater risks as well.
  • Gender. Statistical evidence suggests that men under the age of 25 are involved in more accidents than women in the same age group, so male drivers typically must pay higher insurance rates than female drivers, who enjoy some of the best car insurance rates in Washington.
  • Driving record and claims history. If you have had multiple accidents, tickets, and insurance claims, you are automatically considered a riskier driver to insure. For that reason, those with less than sterling driving records will see higher insurance rates.
  • Marital status. Statistics prove that married couples tend to have far fewer accidents than those who are unmarried, so married couples may be offered low cost car insurance in Washington when shopping around.
  • Geographical area. Those who live in a part of town where the crime rate is higher will likely see higher insurance rates as well. Likewise, those who live in an area that experiences regular traffic collisions will experience a higher insurance rate as well, as drivers living there will be more likely to damage their vehicles than those living in less hazardous neighborhoods.
  • Make, model, and year of the vehicle. The general rule of thumb is that the more expensive and high-performance the vehicle, the more drivers will have to pay to insure them due to the fact that those vehicles are more likely to be stolen.
  • Credit history. This last factor is a tricky one, as Washington actively restricts insurance companies from increasing insurance rates solely due to a driver’s credit history. However, you should be aware that your credit history may play a part in the rates you receive.

Lower Your Rates

Speak with an insurance agent and find out exactly what your insurance plan will cover for the price you are paying so that you are getting the best price for the best coverage, as opposed to simply settling for the cheapest plan that may not offer much. Compare auto insurance rates in Washington by shopping around and talking to different companies. Remember to make sure that the company is permitted to do business in Washington. If you are suspicious about any insurance company, call the Office of the Insurance Commissioner at 1-800-562-6900 to verify if any actions have been taken against that company. In addition, if an agent or company attempts to sell ERISA or union plans, contact the Office of the Insurance Commissioner to report the activity.

Inquire about discounts that a company may offer but not advertise, such as discounts for young drivers with good grades, drivers who have completed a driver’s education course, and drivers with a history of accident-free driving. All senior citizens can save money on insurance right away by taking a collision prevention class, which can be found in the Washington State Department of Licensing’s course list. Doing this can help you get the best car insurance in Washington.

In addition, pay close attention to your other insurance plans. Some plans, such as medical insurance, can overlap in coverage areas with your auto insurance plans.

Picking an Insurance Agent/Broker

Insurance agents with insurance companies aim to sell policies for commission. Insurance brokers, on the other hand, do not represent a company. Instead, they work with individual clients, assessing their clients’ needs and finding different insurance options to fit those needs. Like agents, however, they also receive a commission for the sales they make from different insurance companies. Both can help you find the best car insurance in Washington to suit your home and family.

Whether you use an agent or broker, make sure that they are licensed with the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. In addition, you can request information from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner about how many complaints have been filed against a particular agent or broker. The Office can also tell you how many times they have faced disciplinary actions.

The Office of the Insurance Commission also provides consumers with an online toolkit, which will allow insurance shoppers and holders to search for an agent and find out his or her contact information, past violations, and licensing record. You may also use it to compare agents, and to determine whether a company is permitted to sell insurance in Washington. In addition, company complaints may be accessed in the online toolkit.

If you have had issues with an insurance company, file a complaint online. You can request information on why your claim has been denied, why your insurer cancelled your policy, or even if you simply have a question about your policy. You may upload documents, track your case, and receive progress emails from the Office of the Insurance Commissioner. If you would like to file a complaint against a particular agent or broker, you may do so online as well. The Office will investigate the matter and get back to you if any formal disciplinary actions will take place.

After an Accident

Accidents happen. If you have been involved in a collision, you must immediately notify the Washington State Patrol (WSP), city police, or county sheriff. If you or someone else is injured, you may request emergency medical services at that time. Drivers should stay at the scene of the collision until released by a police officer. To expedite procedures, be prepared to give a thorough account of the events leading up to the collision to responding law enforcement members, and also take down information such as the names of the police officers and witnesses you spoke with for your own accident report. Failure to deliver an accident report in cases where the property or vehicle damage is more than $700 or if there is an injury or loss of life involved could lead to the suspension of your license or driving permit.

In addition, you must also report the incident to your insurance company as soon as possible, closely following your particular company’s procedures for filing a claim. If your collision involved another driver, you must obtain their name, address, phone number, insurance information, driver’s license number, and the make and model of the car they were driving during the collision, even if they have no car insurance in Washington. You should also be prepared to report the extent of the damage to both cars, how the accident happened, what occurred during the accident, and the names and contact information of any witnesses at the scene. Any police report filed must also be copied and sent to your insurance company.

When all of your information has been received, your insurance company will investigate your claim within 30 days and pay your claim within 15 days after settlement papers are signed. If your claim is delayed, the insurance company must notify you every 30 days until it is processed. In the event that your claim is denied, your insurance company will notify you in writing.

Your insurance company may also seek subrogation, which typically happens when someone else was at fault for an accident you were in. Your insurance will cover the costs of any medical or repair bills you had, but your insurance will then reach out to the at-fault driver’s insurance company for compensation. During this process, you should provide your insurance company with full cooperation to ensure that this process goes smoothly. If you intend to settle with the at-fault driver or their insurance company, be sure to notify your insurance company.

Insurance for High-Risk Drivers

Your driving record may prevent you from receiving any coverage, nevermind affordable auto insurance in Washington, especially if you have a lengthy history of accidents, tickets, or drunk driving. However, the state of Washington makes it possible for every driver to find insurance opportunities by offering the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan. This plan specifically covers drivers in Washington who cannot find coverage due to their driving records. In order to qualify, be sure that you meet the following criteria:

  • Be a resident of Washington or a member of the U.S. military.
  • Possess a valid Washington driver’s license.
  • Be free of debt from any previous auto insurance.

You may also be asked to provide a SR 22 form from the Department of Licensing if you were caught driving without insurance, caught driving under the influence, cause an accident without insurance, have too many traffic violations and tickets within a short time span, or have had your license suspended or revoked. Your insurance company should do this for you, but not all companies provide this service. Therefore, be sure that you’re the insurance company you pick provides this for you if you are required to hold the SR 22 form.

Additional Help

The Washington State Office of the Insurance Commissioner offers assistance to anyone shopping for insurance. They will answer inquiries related to insurance, look into complaints with specific agencies, agents, or brokers, educate consumers on insurance law and procedures, and enforce insurance law on the consumer’s behalf if needed. You can contact them at 1-800-562-6900.

Online resources include:

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