Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Mar 4, 2022

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Just the Basics

  • Most states require proof of car insurance before you can register a vehicle
  • Talk to the auto dealer about what vehicle you want to get an accurate quote
  • GEICO and USAA have the cheapest car insurance in America

Does an unregistered car need insurance? The short answer is yes. But many drivers run into a roadblock when they want to buy a car because they’re trying to figure out if a vehicle needs insurance first or registration.

Don’t worry, we’re here to answer your questions.

Our guide explains why some states have insurance before registration. Also, we’ll explore a car insurance guide to help you choose the best insurance policy in your area.

If you want to shop for insurance before purchasing a car, enter your ZIP code in the free online quote tool above.

Will insurance cover an unregistered car?

Yes, it will. Most states in America require proof of auto insurance before registering a vehicle. You can buy car insurance the day you purchase the car.

Some of the best insurance companies allow you to buy a policy over the phone, enabling you to drive off the dealer’s lot the same day you purchase the vehicle.

Will insurance cover an uninspected car?

No, it won’t. If your vehicle needs an inspection, the car insurance company may not insure it right away.

For instance, a vehicle with a rebuilt title needs an inspection to ensure insurance risk. Auto insurance companies won’t insure a car with a higher risk of filing claims or mechanical breakdown.

Inspections are also necessary if you live in a state that requires vehicle checks before getting or keeping a car insurance policy.

Will insurance cover unregistered cars that you don’t own?

It depends on your policy. Standard auto insurance policies won’t allow you to insure a vehicle you don’t own. However, non-owner car insurance provides coverage for someone else’s vehicle.

But you have to show insurable interest (reasons why you want to invest in insuring a vehicle). Non-owner auto insurance is more expensive, but it’s helpful for drivers who use a car owned by someone else.

Why won’t insurance companies allow me to insure a car that’s not in my name?

Auto insurance companies insist that your policy and registration must match. The car owner is typically the primary policyholder, and it would be their responsibility to get insurance on the car.

You could get non-owner auto insurance if you’re a high-risk driver. If possible, ask the vehicle owner to add you as a driver on their car insurance policy.

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Which states require proof of car insurance before registration?

Most areas in the United States want you to show proof of insurance when you go to get your vehicle registered. Here’s a table that shows a complete list of states that require insurance coverage before registration.

Proof of Car Insurance Requirements by State
StateProof of Car Insurance is Required
AlabamaBefore Registration
AlaskaBefore Registration
ArizonaBefore Driving
ArkansasBefore Registration
CaliforniaBefore Registration
ColoradoBefore Registration
ConnecticutBefore Registration
DelawareBefore Registration
FloridaBefore Registration
GeorgiaBefore Registration
HawaiiBefore Registration
IdahoBefore Registration
IllinoisBefore Registration
IndianaBefore Registration
IowaBefore Registration
KansasBefore Registration
KentuckyBefore Registration
LouisianaBefore Registration
MaineBefore Registration
MarylandBefore Registration
MassachusettsBefore Registration
MichiganBefore Registration
MinnesotaBefore Registration
MississippiBefore Driving
MissouriBefore Registration
MontanaBefore Registration
NebraskaBefore Registration
NevadaBefore Registration
New HampshireNot Required
New JerseyBefore Registration
New MexicoBefore Registration
New YorkBefore Registration
North CarolinaBefore Registration
North DakotaBefore Driving
OhioBefore Registration
OklahomaBefore Registration
OregonBefore Registration
PennsylvaniaBefore Registration
Rhode IslandBefore Registration
South CarolinaBefore Registration
South DakotaBefore Registration
TennesseeBefore Driving
TexasBefore Registration
UtahBefore Registration
VermontBefore Registration
VirginiaBefore Registration
WashingtonBefore Driving
Washington, D.C.Before Registration
West VirginiaBefore Registration
WisconsinBefore Driving
WyomingBefore Registration
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As you can see, the majority of states in America require insurance before registration is issued. And you’ll have an opportunity to get insured while you’re at the dealership.

Most of the time, you can’t leave the lot until you insure the vehicle you purchased.

Does expired registration affect insurance?

An expired registration is a non-driving violation. Therefore, you won’t lose your auto insurance coverage if you’re caught with expired tags.

What happens if you get in an accident with expired registration?

The car insurance company will still cover you, depending on the nature of the accident. If you’re at fault in a car accident, your auto insurance company pays for damage and injuries if you have full coverage.

The other driver’s liability insurance policy covers your bodily injury and property damage costs when you’re not at fault in an accident. Your registration status doesn’t affect your insurance coverage.

Does car insurance cover unlicensed drivers?

Yes, they do. Insurance follows the vehicle but not the driver. If an unlicensed driver caused an accident, the insurance company still covers the not-at-fault driver.

And if an unlicensed at-fault driver is driving a car with full coverage, the insurance company covers injuries and property damage.

Can you file a car insurance claim on an unregistered vehicle?

Yes, you can. Since most states require that you get insurance first, your unregistered status shouldn’t affect your ability to file a claim.

For instance, you’re still covered if you get into an accident after buying an insurance policy and leaving the dealer’s lot. So, you can file a claim right after the car accident.

Does homeowners insurance cover damage to your unregistered car?

No, it doesn’t. You can only get coverage for your unregistered vehicle through comprehensive coverage.

For example, if a fallen limb damages your car, your comprehensive insurance will pay for the expenses. But you’ll need to pay a deductible before you can collect your claim.

Why should you shop around for car insurance quotes?

Before buying a vehicle, you should compare auto insurance quotes from multiple companies. The best insurance companies can provide quotes online, giving you more options as you shop for a car at a dealership or from private owners.

But your quotes are determined by various factors, such as driving record, age, where you live, and a vehicle’s make and model year.

If you’re not sure where to shop for car insurance, start with the top insurance companies in the United States.

Let’s look at a few estimates from America’s best auto insurance companies.

Average Monthly Full Coverage vs. Liability-Only Car Insurance Rates
CompaniesMonthly Full Coverage Car Insurance RatesMonthly Liability-Only Car Insurance Rates
Allstate$318$162
American Family$224$114
Farmers$288$147
GEICO$179$91
Liberty Mutual$398$203
Nationwide$229$117
Progressive$283$144
State Farm$235$120
Travelers$287$147
USAA$161$82
Average$260$133
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We included full and liability-only coverage to show you how car insurance varies based on coverage options and company. GEICO and USAA have lower than average rates, but they could have different auto insurance rates for you.

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Will Insurance Cover Unregistered Cars: The Bottom Line

Car insurance companies cover unregistered vehicles because the law dictates that drivers must have insurance before getting registration.

You can’t get your registration first in most areas in the nation, but you can shop for auto insurance coverage before leaving the car dealer’s lot. If you buy a vehicle on a regular business day, visit your local DMV to get the registration started.

Do you want to know which companies are best for your unregistered car? Use our free comparison tool below to compare quotes from multiple insurance companies in your area.