Jessica Sautter is a Content Writer for with a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Sep 29, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you own a car, the vehicle must be on file with the DMV before it can be driven or even parked on public roadways
  • There are two ways to register a vehicle in your name. One way is to apply for a vehicle registration so that you’re issued license plates. The second way is to file the vehicle as planned non-operable where you’ll be issued a filing that you should keep in your glove compartment
  • If your vehicle is registered, it’s your responsibility to carry insurance on it. Failing to carry insurance on a vehicle with a valid registration is against the law, even if the vehicle isn’t being operated
  • If your vehicle is filed as non-operable, you don’t have to carry insurance on the vehicle. While liability insurance isn’t required, most experts recommend that you carry at least comprehensive physical damage coverage on parked cars
  • Since auto insurance is required to maintain license plates, you do need at least liability coverage to park your car on public property. If the car has a Planned Non-Operable tag, you can’t drive, tow, store, or park the car on public roads for the entire registration period

The only thing worse than coming out to your vehicle to find a parking ticket on your windshield is coming out to discover that your vehicle has been towed.

If you park your vehicle on the road near your home without insurance, there’s a chance that your car could be towed away and impounded. The only way to get your car back is to prove your identity and pay hook-up, towing, and storage fees.

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Since parking your uninsured vehicle on the road can turn into an expensive mistake, it’s important that you comply with the law.

Sure, drivers park their uninsured cars on public roads all the time without penalty, but a time will come where an official will order for the car to be towed. Parked cars often need insurance. Here’s what you should know:

Table of Contents

Understanding Why Vehicles Need to Be Registered


The state has a Department of Motor Vehicles to provide identification, motor vehicle licensing, and driver licensing services to residents of the state.

The agency plays a major role in helping educate the public and enforce state legislation. All cars operated on state highways and local roads must be registered through the DMV.

Since you have to report your vehicle’s status as soon as you take ownership, you need to learn what the purpose of a vehicle registration is.

This registration identifies a car, the car’s legal owner, where the vehicle is stored, and how much the owner must pay in taxes to drive the vehicle on public roadways. You can’t drive, tow, or park a car on public roads without valid license plates.

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Any Car That Has Valid License Plates Must Have Insurance

You need to have active registration placards to drive your vehicle and park it on public roads, but does that mean that you need insurance? In most states, auto insurance is mandatory.

When you’re required to purchase motor vehicle liability insurance, having a registration means that you have to have insurance.

While auto insurance is typically required, there are states where you don’t have to maintain insurance.

In Virginia and New Hampshire, you can pay an uninsured motorist fee and you don’t have to pay premiums each and every month. Since there’s an exception to the general rule, you don’t always have to have insurance just to own a registered vehicle.

Alternative Ways to Satisfy the Law


If you live in a state with financial responsibility laws, there are alternative ways to prove that you are financially responsible enough to own a vehicle without buying insurance. You can deposit cash with the treasurer, apply for a self-insurance certificate, or apply for a surety bond.

If you comply with an alternative filing method and the DMV accepts the proof, you don’t technically need insurance to maintain your registration or park your car on the road.

With this being said, alternative methods generally cost more than buying insurance in the first place.

Can you park a vehicle that’s filed as Planned Non-Operable on the road?

If you’re not driving your vehicle regularly, it may make more sense for you to report your vehicle as Planned Non-Operable.

Filing the car as PNO means that you don’t plan on driving, storing, parking, or towing the vehicle on the road or a highway for the entire registration period.

If your vehicle currently has a PNO filing, you can only keep it parked in your driveway or on private property elsewhere.

You don’t need insurance on the car to do this but you can’t park the car on the road with or without insurance because it violates the conditions to pay the small PNO fee. If you do park the car on the road, it can be towed and impounded.

You should always maintain insurance or an acceptable type of financial responsibility when you’re parking your car on public property.

If you don’t have insurance and you need to move your car, it’s time to price how much liability insurance will cost. Use an online quote comparison tool and you can find affordable insurance and apply for it all in a matter of minutes.

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