Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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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 Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: May 3, 2022

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Key takeaways...

  • To legally drive a car on U.S. roads, you need a valid license, vehicle registration and some level of car insurance
  • To be able to register your car, you need proof of coverage. Visit your state’s DMV office and get the full application process
  • You can register your vehicle and then present your proof of auto insurance at a later date, usually a specified time frame
  • Proof of car insurance is mandatory when getting vehicle registration
  • However, vehicle registration and auto insurance requirements vary from state to state, but you can always seek clarification via your state’s department of motor vehicles website

Can I get car insurance without registration? In the U.S., you are probably going to need a personal car to get from one point to another especially if you reside in the smaller towns.

Typically, big city dwellers don’t necessarily need to purchase vehicles to get around for a couple of reasons, but to be eligible to drive on U.S. roads, you need the following:

  • Proper registration documents
  • State-mandated liability coverage (in most states)
  • A valid driver’s license

New Hampshire is the only U.S. state that doesn’t have minimum liability auto insurance requirements.

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Getting a Driver’s License in the U.S.

Locals can easily obtain their driver’s license at their state’s DMV once they are 16 years old and have passed the necessary driving tests. Foreigners, on the other hand, need the international driver’s permit or a U.S. driver’s license to drive in the United States.

The international driving permit will translate the content of your country’s driver’s license into ten languages to facilitate navigation in and about foreign countries.

The IDP supplements your driving license, and you will need to produce both documents in situations that call for it, always carry both documents.

In some cases, your home country’s driver’s license will suffice if it’s in English.

Here’s a list of documents you need to apply for a driver’s license in the United States:

  • Social Security Administration (SSA) or Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Proof of residence or legal presence.
  • Passport (and visa)
  • Form I-94
  • Form DS 2019

Some of these documents will vary from one state to the next, confirm your state’s DMV’s website. Have alternative means of transport in place; the process could take some time depending on your individual situation.

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Obtaining Auto Insurance

As stated earlier, nearly all states in the U.S. require drivers to carry some level of insurance while driving on U.S. roads. Therefore, not many car dealerships will let you drive off with a newly purchased vehicle sans insurance, not even if you pay in cash.

Additionally, if you get caught driving without the insurance requirements, you will be ticketed, or fined.

Auto insurance coverage protects you from losses that could arise in the event of a covered accident, or if your car is stolen or destroyed by a hurricane as well as other additional risks depending on your level of protection.

The process of shopping for auto insurance can be complicated and need not be rushed. To get the best deal, take your time. Use online tools to do a side by side comparison of quotes.

Compare as many quotes as you can until you come across one that meets all your personal coverage and financial requirements.

Here are a few factors that will affect your auto insurance rates:

  • The type of your car The model of your vehicle can increase or decrease your auto insurance rates depending on the number of claims made by other drivers.
  • The value of your car The cost of repairing or replacing your car in the event of a major accident will affect your auto insurance rates. High-priced cars will get higher rates and vice versa.
  • Driving history People with no traffic rules violation records will get lower rates compared to drivers with a bad driving record.
  • Your credit history Drivers with high credit scores tend to attract lower rates as opposed to those with low credit scores. However, some states’ insurance laws prohibit insurers from using credit history to determine auto insurance rates.
  • Where you live Some cities are known to have higher crime rates than others. Also, small towns have low populations and lower insecurity levels than big cities hence low claims and auto insurance rates.

Registering Your Vehicle

This is the final step towards being able to drive in the United States legally. Unlike insurance, all states in the U.S. require vehicles to be registered, whether old (second hand) or new.

Find out how much time your state allows between purchasing a vehicle and registering it.

Upon registration, you will be issued with the following:

  • Registration certificate
  • A validation decal
  • A metal license plate

These items prove that your car has met all the state’s registration requirements and paid the necessary registration fees and taxes. Here’s a list of documents you will need to register your vehicle:

  • The driver’s license
  • Original vehicle title
  • For a new car, you will be required to present the bill of sale
  • For an imported car, you will need valid documentation from the U.S. Customs and Borders Protection Department
  • Proof of coverage (auto insurance)
  • Smog/Emissions inspection certificates
  • Proof of vehicle safety

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Reasons Insurance Companies Might Request Your Registration Documents

  • If state laws require auto insurers to ask for registration details before issuing a policy
  • Some insurers require a vehicle to have been used within the state for a specified period of time. They may need registration documents to prove that
  • To prove the availability of insurable interest

Suspension of Vehicle Registration

Vehicle registration can be suspended under any of the following circumstances:

  • If it is discovered that the initial registration information was fraudulent
  • Cancellation of auto insurance coverage
  • If you fail to provide proof of auto insurance

Both car insurance and proper registration are a requirement if you want to be able to drive legally on U.S. roads.

You need proof of auto insurance to be able to get registration documents in most states, but there are ways to get registration first then provide proof of coverage at a later date, failure to which you risk suspension of your vehicle’s registration.

Compare car insurance quotes using our free rate tool today.

Is it necessary to own a car before getting car insurance?

  • Non-owner insurance policies are essentially an additional layer of coverage
  • This form of policy coverage is for you as an individual operating any vehicle and not specifically for any particular car
  • Non-owner coverage works like supplemental insurance

Why would you need auto insurance if you don’t own a car is a very common question which on the surface does not seem very logical.

But this is, in fact, a very valid question since it is illegal to drive without car insurance whether you own the vehicle or not.

Most car insurance policies cover drivers who have the vehicle owner’s permission to use the vehicle but there are times when having your own coverage is not only preferred but also required.

Learn how to get insurance without ownership of a car below or start comparing auto insurance quotes today!

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When to get auto insurance if you do not own a car?

Using somebody else’s vehicle for random trips to the grocery store or late night runs for fast food is a normal part of everyday life.

However, if you frequently use a vehicle belonging to another person, it’s probably a wise idea to purchase what is called a non-owner auto insurance policy.

This form of policy coverage is for you as an individual operating any vehicle and not specifically for any particular car.

In order to get car insurance without registration of a vehicle, without owning a car, you’ll need to look into this non-owner’s insurance. Non-owner insurance policies are essentially an additional layer of coverage.

It protects you in case the coverage belonging to the vehicle owner does not cover your liability or an insurance claim is denied.

Non-owner policies are also very valuable for drivers who are operating vehicles where the owner has limited policy coverage which may not be sufficient in an accident.

Even though most states have minimum insurance requirements these limits can be quite low.

If the owner of the vehicle has purchased only a basic policy coverage, there is probably a lot of potential for personal liability.

What happens if I am at-fault in a car accident driving someone else’s car?

Some of the policy coverage may not extend beyond the insured for accidents you were at-fault in depending on the unique circumstances of the accident.

Other drivers can then sue you personally but with a non-owners policy in place, you will have some form of coverage.

How does non-owner insurance coverage work?

Non-owner coverage works like supplemental insurance.

When an accident occurs, any damages or claims are subject to the vehicles owners’ policy coverage.

When the owner of the vehicle has insufficient coverage then the supplemental (non-owner) insurance kicks in, up to the limits of the policy.

While non-owners car insurance is very affordable and an added layer of protection, understanding how this type of car insurance works can be a little complicated.

Speak with a licensed agent about the best insurance options available if you spend time driving a vehicle you do not own.

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Cheap Non-Owner Car Insurance Quotes Online

Car insurance comparison is always your best tool whenever shopping for any type of auto insurance, even if shopping for car insurance without owning a car.

Most insurance providers have online forms which make it simple and short to request quotes, compare rates and even a toll-free number to call with any questions.

Before making any final decisions on your insurance company, it is important to learn as much as you can about your local insurance providers, and the coverages they offer. Call your local insurance agent to clear up any questions that you might have. Questions to consider asking include, “What is the best coverage plan for me/my family/my situation?” “What are the minimum coverage requirements in my state and what form of coverage do you recommend?” “Do you guys offer any bundle discounts if I take out both my auto insurance and home insurance with you?” and “What is the average rate of insurance quotes you guys offer?”

Before making any big insurance decisions, use our free tool to compare insurance quotes near you. It’s simple, just plug in your zip code and we’ll do the rest!

Compare car insurance quotes online today with the FREE tool below!