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: Apr 13, 2022

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Key takeaways...

  • A car’s insurance, safety inspection, and registration are all considered important factors for car insurance
  • A recently expired registration and/or safety inspection (three to six months) would be minor violations and more than likely result in a written/verbal warning
  • A long-expired registration and/or safety inspection are considered criminal acts and may result in the insurance company canceling your policy

There are many components to keeping a vehicle on the road from regular maintenance and oil changes to important paperwork and financial documentation like:

All of these things are taken into account when considering if car insurance is valid, and whether or not an insurance policy premium will increase.

Are you looking for more affordable auto insurance? Enter your ZIP code above and compare at least three to four policies today!

The Impact of Expired Safety Checks on Car Insurance

Perhaps the most minor offense one can commit (in the eyes of the law) when taking care of their vehicle is to let their vehicle’s safety inspection lapse.

These inspections are currently required on a regular basis (typically annually) in eighteen states, while Alabama and Maryland require them only when buying, selling, or transferring the vehicle.

In most states, proof of a current inspection is indicated by a sticker on one of the vehicle’s windows and will be checked by police officers in the event of a moving violation.

A driver who gets pulled over for speeding can have their inspection checked, as well as their proof of insurance and current registration.

If an inspection has lapsed, the offense is considered a minor violation and not a moving violation. Moving violations result in “points” on a driver’s license and will ultimately lead to increased premiums.

However, this minor violation an expired safety inspection rarely has an impact on premiums of one’s insurance policy.

It’s important to keep a vehicle’s safety inspection current and not make a habit of getting pulled over for moving or non-moving violations.

While the best car insurance companies will forgive one lapsed safety check, they will be on the lookout for patterns that indicate a lack of maintenance, a tendency toward moving violations, or other things that may increase the risk a driver presents.

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Expired Vehicle Registrations and Insurance Policies

All fifty states require a vehicle to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles in the state of the primary owner’s residence, and this registration is required to be renewed on an annual basis.

It is illegal to drive a vehicle that lacks a current and valid registration, and in the event of a moving violation, this may lead to further complications.

Most states differentiate between a recently expired registration and one that has been expired for a longer time. The cut-off for a “recently expired” registration is generally three or six months and results in a warning and a far lesser fine.

A recently expired registration is not considered a moving violation and will not appear on someone’s driving record. Its effect on insurance premiums and validity will be minimal if any.

After three or six months, the offense is considered more severe in fact, most states consider driving a vehicle with a long-expired registration to be considered a criminal act.

A long-expired registration is also considered a moving violation and can result in points on a driver’s license as well as tarnish their driving record and most likely result in a stiff hike in premiums.

However, if a vehicle’s insurance is fully paid and up-to-date, the car’s insurance is still considered valid in most cases that do not involve criminal activity.

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Lack of Registration vs. Lack of Proof

There is also an important distinction to be made between a driver whose vehicle has lapsed in registration, and a driver who just forgot to place their proof of registration in their car in the event of a traffic stop or emergency.

While it is considered a minor violation to have a recently-lapsed registration, drivers who lack sufficient proof of a current registration are generally given a verbal or written warning and reminded to place the document in their car for future use.

This warning hardly ever goes on one’s driving record and does not affect insurance premiums or the validity of an existing insurance policy.

Insurance Policies, Expired Registrations, and Criminal Activity


When comparison shopping for insurance policies in your state, it’s important to pay attention to the fine print that determines when an insurance policy is valid or invalid and what constitutes an invalidation of the policy.

Many insurance companies will cover vehicles with a lapsed registration or safety inspection up to a point, but draw the line at criminal activity. Check car insurance rates by state and find the best insurance plans.

That criminal activity is defined by the state in which a vehicle is registered, driven, and insured; some states consider it a crime to drive a vehicle whose registration has been expired for more than six months.

Most drivers who have not renewed an annual registration for more than half a year are presumed to be subverting the system, leading to criminal complications.

In this event, an insurance company may well decide to cancel a policy. If a criminal act was committed during an accident or emergency, they might also decide to retroactively cancel the policy and not cover any losses, damages, or expenses from that accident.

For this reason, the fine print of each company’s car insurance policy is just as important as the monthly premium amount, level of coverage, and special discounts.

Always know what a car insurance company requires of its drivers to avoid unpleasant surprises during an emergency or even a routine traffic stop.

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Keep Finding the Best Deals

Car insurance companies are in the business of assessing the risk posed by those they insure.

For this reason, it’s good to be diligent about vehicle maintenance, registration, and required safety inspections all truly minor aspects of vehicle ownership that can play a major role in its cost.

Insurance policies in good standing will cover non-criminal drivers who merely forgot to renew their registration or get their vehicle inspected, but a pattern of these problems may result in a higher premium. Don’t lose any more money on car insurance!

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!

Looking for better and more affordable auto insurance? Enter your ZIP code below and start comparison shopping today!