Registration Requirements: Should I get car insurance or registration first?
So do you register or insure a car first? States require proof of insurance before allowing you to register because doing so helps reduce the number of uninsured drivers on the road. (For more information, read our “When Do I Need to Insure My New Car?“).
When you purchase a new car, one of your first steps is to go the DMV for registration. To save time and trouble, bring a copy of your insurance policy with you to the DMV to show them in person. Some states’ motor vehicle departments are able to look up your insurance electronically if you provide them with the name of your insurance company, but it makes it easier to have your policy in hand. An insurance card will likely suffice. Make sure to also bring your vehicle’s original title and proof of identity. If you purchased the car from someone else, the title must show that the previous owner has signed it over to you.
Your auto insurance policy must meet the minimum requirements outlined by the state you live in. Minimums may include, but are not limited to, bodily injury and property damage liability insurance, uninsured motorist coverage, and personal injury protection. You must also have insurance coverage from the state in which you live, not a state you were living in before, if you’ve recently moved.
Neither insurance nor registration is optional. You can be prosecuted and fined for driving if you don’t have both of these. You will have to pay all registration fees at the time you register your vehicle. Once you’ve registered, keep your proof of registration in the vehicle at all times. (For more information, read our “Understanding Car Registration: Do You Need Insurance?“).
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Will I be suspended if I don’t get car insurance before registration?
You must maintain your insurance coverage throughout the duration of owning your car or you’ll risk having your registration suspended. Some states will give you leeway in purchasing coverage on a new car, but if you don’t provide proof of coverage within a specific timeframe they will suspend your registration. You will have to pay a reinstatement fee for registration suspension, so it’s wise not to risk it. Check your local DMV for specifics on the requirements for when to provide coverage after purchasing a car, and make sure you know your state’s insurance requirements so you can choose the appropriate auto policy.
If you or your insurance provider cancels your insurance for any reason and you have an insurance lapse, your state department can suspend your vehicle registration. Your state will outline the amount of time you have to obtain new coverage before suspending registration.
If it’s time for you to start shopping for car insurance, give an insurance agent a call. He or she can help ensure that you sign a policy that stays within your budget and gives you all the coverage you need. Auto insurance companies have different methods for determining rates, so comparison shopping is the best way to find cheap car insurance.