Should I keep my car insurance information in my car at all times?

You should keep your car insurance information in your car at all times so that it’s readily available when and if you need to present the document to law enforcement. Luckily, most car insurance companies operate online, and policyholders can easily access auto insurance information anytime from a computer or mobile app.

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Tonya Sisler has a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of South Carolina in Journalism and has worked for 15+ years in management. She has also completed a proofreading certification and is currently a professional writer.

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Brad Larson has been in the insurance industry for more than a dozen years. He started out as a claims adjuster for a national carrier. He has since switched to the agency side of the business. Brad is licensed in all P&C lines.

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Reviewed by Brad Larsen
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Oct 31, 2020

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It is a wise choice to keep your car insurance information in your car at all times because you may need to present this document while you are on the road.

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Most car insurance companies provide you with two insurance cards, one for your wallet or purse and one to put in the glove compartment. If your insurance provider only provides you with one card, the safest place is the car. If you lose your wallet or forget to put the card in your purse, you will not have to worry about obtaining a replacement.

Most women change purses on a daily basis and many times, they can leave their identification in the other bag. Placing your car insurance information in the car is a great way to avoid this common mistake.

Remove Your Car Insurance Information for Specific Reasons

You should only remove your car insurance information from your vehicle if you will not be driving the car for a certain period of time. This can be anything from having repairs done to going on vacation for a week or two.

For example, if your car is going to be at the repair or body shop for a few days, you should bring your insurance card with you to ensure the proper deductible is verified and the repairs can begin. They may need to contact your insurance company to gain permission before they can start working on your car and they usually need a copy for their files.

Once you leave the body shop and return home, you should store your insurance card in a safe place where it can be easily retrieved.

When your car has been repaired and you are ready to pick it up, make sure you bring your insurance card with you so you can drive home. If you forget, you may encounter problems if you are stopped.

If you are going on vacation and do not plan to drive to your destination, you should also remove the identification card from your vehicle. During this time, you may find it easier to carry your insurance card on you, in your wallet or purse. This is very important if you plan to rent a car because you may need to provide the rental agent with proof of insurance when you arrive.

In many cases, if you cannot show proof of insurance at the rental agency, they may require you to purchase separate car insurance and this can cause your rates to increase unnecessarily. Do not blow your budget simply because you failed to provide adequate documentation.

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The Difference between an Insurance Card and the Declarations Page

It is extremely important that you understand the difference between your actual auto insurance identification card and the declarations page that comes with your policy. Because so many car insurance companies complete their transactions online, most allow customers to print their policies and insurance cards right away. They then send their official policy and cards through the mail.

Unfortunately, some states do not recognize insurance cards that have been printed from an online website. This is where the declaration page comes in handy. If you reside in a state that does not consider a printed insurance card valid, you can utilize the declaration page until the official card is received by mail.

The declarations page is always the top page on your insurance policy and often contains the following information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Make, model, and year of vehicle
  • VIN or Vehicle Identification Number
  • Effective date of policy
  • Policy Number
  • Coverage types
  • Limits
  • Discounts
  • Surcharges

The car insurance identification card is less thorough and is more of a snapshot of the actual policy. It is much smaller and convenient to carry and has the required contact numbers if you are involved in an accident.

Reasons You Need to Present Your Car Insurance Information

There are three main reasons you will need to present your car insurance information.

If you are involved in a traffic accident, the police officer who arrives at the scene will immediately ask to see your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance. The officer records the information and forwards to the courts.

If you cannot produce a valid auto insurance card, you will very likely receive a fine and your car is towed. If your vehicle is towed, you must take the required steps to obtain auto insurance before you can pick up your car from the police impound, then you can begin the costly process of repair.

A traffic violation can be anything from failing to use your turn signals, to running a red light or speeding. After you are stopped, the police officer will again request your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance.

In addition to the ticket, you may face harsher penalties like having your car towed.

Every state is cracking down on drunk drivers and this means an increased police presence and checkpoints. If you encounter a police checkpoint, be prepared with all three documents and present them upon request.

How Every State Differs

While every state requires a specific limit of car insurance coverage, it is not mandatory that you keep your car insurance identification card in your vehicle. However, because there are specific times when you will need to present this information most agree that it is easier and a lot more convenient.

Some states, like New York, actually require you to provide them with a copy of their own to keep on file with the Motor Vehicle Commission. In fact, before you can even apply for a registration in New York State, you must obtain two original insurance ID cards. If you cannot supply them, you will not be allowed to register your vehicle.

Other states, like Washington, allow you to apply for four different types of insurance if you register and operate a motor vehicle. They include standard auto insurance, self-insurance, certificate of deposit, and liability bond.

With the exception of motorcycles, mopeds, horseless carriages and state-owned cars or trucks, all other vehicles must have one of the four listed above. Failure to present these documents is considered an infraction and a fine of a minimum of $450 can be imposed.

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The Importance of Keeping your Car Insurance Information Updated

Just because you have your car information in your vehicle does not guarantee you will not suffer harsh consequences. It is just as important that the car insurance identification cards remain valid and up to date. When you first apply for automobile insurance, your agent is required to send your information to the Motor Vehicle Commission.

If you allow your car insurance policy to lapse, due to non-payment or other reasons, the Motor Vehicle Commission is fully aware. For example, Maryland residents will receive a Financial Responsibility Filing or FR-19 form that they must complete and submit.

This form provides the Motor Vehicle Commission with written proof of responsibility. If they cannot confirm coverage, you are fined a minimum of $150 for the first 30 days you could not produce proof of coverage. Additionally, another $7 is added to the minimum amount for each additional day.

In Texas, your vehicle will be subjected to towing and fines of up to $500. In New Jersey, the same laws apply, with a few exceptions. If you allow your coverage to lapse in this state, you first receive a notice from the Motor Vehicle Commission advising you of your responsibility to insure your vehicle.

You are allotted 30 days. Should this timeframe pass without you obtaining the correct level of insurance, the car registration is suspended. You will then need to obtain car insurance and pay the restoration fee of $100 for the suspended registration.

You may not drive your vehicle until you receive a signed letter from the MVC; this can take seven to 10 days. If you do not pay the restoration fee, the next step is license suspension. If this happens, you cannot drive any motor vehicle, whether it is registered to you or not in the state of New Jersey.

Avoid Unnecessary Issues

You can avoid unnecessary issues simply. Always keep your car insurance information in your vehicle and make sure it is valid. Today, there are many ways to pay your premiums, either online or over the telephone so there is really no way you can forget. Also, if you are adding any new drivers to your policy, make sure they know where the insurance card is located.

If you are unsure of the amount of coverage you need, consult your local agent for assistance. This is especially true when you add others to your policy. Younger drivers will more than likely cause your premiums to increase because of their lack of experience. This should not deter you from being responsible.

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