How do I find out if a car has auto insurance? (How to Check Vehicle Insurance)

Learning how to check vehicle insurance requires a combination of detective work, knowledge, and persistence, but it can be done. Follow our guide on how to look up an insurance policy number.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 25, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • Whenever possible, get insurance information from the owner of the vehicle
  • The police and motor vehicle division may also be of assistance
  • Knowing the VIN and license plate number can make the process easier

When it comes to your own vehicle, you should have a good handle on your car insurance situation. In addition to knowing which company handles your policy, you know how to look up a policy number, have a general idea of your deductible and basic coverage, and if the policy is still current.

Unfortunately, this same level of knowledge does not apply to other cars. Unless you have a crystal ball that is set to magically determine the car insurance status of another vehicle, you will have to engage in some detective work to find out if a car other than yours is insured.

When You Need to Look Up an Insurance Policy Number

There are a number of situations where you will need to learn if another car is insured. The most obvious is when you have been involved in an accident. This is especially true if you are in a hit and run where the other driver flees the scene but you are able to get a license plate number. Or if you discover damage to your car and a helpful witness provides you with some information to identify the offending car.

There are many additional scenarios where you will need to know the car insurance coverage of another vehicle. Here are some examples:

  • If you are borrowing a friend’s car and you don’t have your own car insurance policy.
  • If you own your own company and your employees drive their own cars as part of their jobs. 
  • People who are going through a divorce will often want to be sure their soon-to-be ex-spouse is keeping the coverage active on a vehicle that is registered for both of them. 
  • If you work in a school and parents help provide transportation to students on field trips, you definitely want to learn the car insurance status of these helpful parental volunteers.

No matter why you want to find out if another car is insured, please also keep in mind that car insurance is mandatory to operate a vehicle on the roads in almost every state. If you operate a vehicle without insurance coverage, there are penalties you face.

Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance by State
StatesFirst Offense PenaltiesSecond Offense Penalties
AlabamaFine: Up to $500; registration suspension with $200 reinstatement feeFine: Up to $1,000 and/or six-month license suspension; $400 reinstatement fee with four-month registration suspension
AlaskaLicense suspension for 90 daysLicense suspension for one year
ArizonaFine: $500 (or more); license/registration/license plate suspension for three monthsFine: $750 (or more within 36 months); license/registration/license plate suspension for six months
ArkansasFine: $50 to $250; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee; the court may order impoundmentFine: $250 to $500 fine — minimum fine mandatory; suspended registration/no plates until proof of coverage plus $20 reinstatement fee. The court may order the car to be impounded
CaliforniaFine: $100-$200 plus penalty assessments. The court may order the car to be impoundedFine: $200-$500 within three years plus penalty assessments. The court may order the car to be impounded
ColoradoFine: $500 minimum fine; 4 points against your license; license suspension until you can show proof to the DMV that you are insured. The courts may add up to 40 hours of community service$1,000 minimum fine, and a license suspension for four months, four points against your license. The courts may add up to 40 hours of community service
ConnecticutFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for one month (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement feeFine: $100-$1000; suspended registration/license for six months (show proof of insurance) with $175 reinstatement fee
DelawareFine: $1500 minimum fine; license/privilege suspension for six monthsFine: $3000 minimum fine within three years; license/privilege suspension for six months
FloridaSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $150 fee for first reinstatementSuspension of license and registration until reinstatement fee is paid and non-cancelable coverage is secured; $250 fee for the second reinstatement
GeorgiaSuspended registration with a $25 lapse fee and a $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes dueWithin five years: Suspended registration with a $25 lapse fee and $60 reinstatement fee. Pay any other registration fees and vehicle ad valorem taxes due
Hawaii$500 fine or community service granted by a judge. Either license suspension for three months or a required non-refundable insurance policy in force for six monthsFine: $1500 minimum fine within five years; either license suspension for one year or a required non-refundable insurance policy in force for six months
IdahoFine: $75; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.Fine: $1000 maximum fine within five years and/or no more than six months in jail; license suspension until financial proof. No reinstatement fee.
IllinoisLicense plate suspension until $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proofLicense plate suspension for four months; $100 reinstatement fee and insurance proof
IndianaLicense/registration suspension for 90 days to one yearWithin three years: license/registration suspension for one year
IowaFine: $500 if in an accident; Otherwise, fine: $250; community service in lieu of fine. Possible citation/warning if pulled over plus removal of plates and registration possible when pulled over without insurance and reissued upon payment of fine or completed community service, proof of insurance, and $15 fee; possible impoundment when pulled overN/A
KansasFine: $300 to $1000 and/or confinement in jail up to six months; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $100Fine: $800 to $2500 within three years; license/registration suspension; reinstatement fee: $300 if revoked within previous year, otherwise $100
KentuckyFine: $500 to $1000 fine and/or sentenced up to 90 days in jail; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shownWithin five years: 180 days in jail and/or $1000 to $2500; license plates and registration revoked for one year or until proof of insurance is shown
LouisianaFine: $500 to $1000; If in a car accident, fine plus registration revoked and driving privileges suspended for 180 daysN/A
MaineFine: $100 to $500; suspension of license and registration until proof of insuranceN/A
MarylandLose license plates and vehicle registration privileges; pay uninsured motorist penalty fees for each lapse of insurance — $150 for the first 30 days, $7 for each day thereafter; Pay a restoration fee of up to $25 for registrationN/A
MassachusettsFine: $500 to $5000 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or lessWithin six years: License/driving privileges suspended for one year
MichiganFine: $200 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for one year or less; license suspension for 30 days or until proof of insurance; $25 service fee to Secretary of StateN/A
MinnesotaFine: $200 to $1000 (or community service) and/or imprisonment for up to 90 days; License and registration revoked for no more than 12 monthsN/A
MississippiFine: $1000; driving privileges suspended for one year or until proof of insuranceN/A
MissouriFour points against driving record; the driver may be supervised; suspended until proof of insurance with $20 reinstatement feeFour points against driving record; the driver may be supervised; suspended for 90 days with $200 reinstatement fee.
MontanaFine: $250 to $500 fine and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 daysFine: $350 and/or imprisonment for no more than 10 days — within five years; license and registration revoked until proof of insurance and payment of reinstatement fees within 90 days
NebraskaLicense and registration suspension; reinstatement fee of $50 for each; proof of insurance to remain on file for three years
NevadaFine: $250 to $1,000 depending on the length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, an SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; reinstatement fee: $250Fine: $500 to $1000 depending on the length of lapse; registration suspension — until payment of reinstatement fee and, depending on circumstances, SR-22 (proof of financial responsibility) if lapsed more than 90 days; Reinstatement fee: $500
New HampshireNot a mandatory insurance state. Proof of insurance may be required as the result of a conviction, crash involvement, or administrative action. If you are required to file proof of insurance and vehicles are registered in your name, you will be required to file an SR-22 Certificate of Insurance.N/A
New JerseyFine: $300 to $1000; license suspension for one year; pay surcharges for three years in the amount of $250 per yearFine: up to $5000; two-year license suspension; 14-day, mandatory jail term, and an additional mandatory 30 days of community service
New MexicoFine: up to $300 and/or imprisoned for 90 days; license suspensionN/A
New YorkFine: up to $1500 if involved in accident plus $750 civil penalty; license and registration suspension – revoked for one year; suspension of the license if without insurance for 90 days; suspension lasts as long as registration suspension; Suspension of registration: equal to time without insurance or pays $8/day up to thirty days for which financial security was not in effect, $10/day from the thirty-first to the sixtieth day $12/day from the sixtieth to the ninetieth day and proof of security is provided. Or for the same time as the vehicle was operated without insurance.N/A
North CarolinaFine: $50; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in a car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate feeFine: $100 within three years; registration suspension until proof of financial responsibility but 30-day suspension if in a car accident or knowingly driving without insurance; $50 restoration fee plus license plate fee
North DakotaFine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; Proof of insurance must be provided for one year; license with a notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50, and the fee to remove this notation is $50.Fine: up to $1500 and/or 30 days in prison; 14 points against license plus suspension; license plates impounded until proof of insurance (provided for one year) plus $20 reinstatement fee; license with a notation requiring that person keep proof of liability insurance on file with the department. The fee for this license is $50 and the fee to remove this notation is $50.
OhioLicense/plates/registration suspension until requirements are met, and a $100 reinstatement fee is paid; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three to five years; If involved in an accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)License/plates/registration suspension for one year; $300 reinstatement fee; maintain special high-risk coverage on file with the BMV for three or five years; if involved in an accident without insurance: all above penalties and a security suspension for two years and an indefinite judgment suspension (until all damages are satisfied)
OklahomaFine: $250; jail time up to 30 days; license suspension with $275 reinstatement fee. Police can seize license plates and assign temporary plates and liability insurance — in effect for 10 days and can also impound the vehicle. The cost of the temporary coverage is added to the administrative fee and any fines paid for plates to be returned. If the car is impounded, the owner must also pay towing and storage fees.N/A
OregonFine: $130-$1000 ($260 is the presumptive fine); If involved in an accident — at least a one-year license suspension; proof of financial responsibility required for three yearsN/A
PennsylvaniaRegistration suspended for three months (unless lapse was for less than 31 days and the vehicle not operated during that time); $88 restoration fee plus proof of insurance required to get it back; $500 civil penalty fee is optional in lieu of registration suspension plus $88 restoration fee — can only use this option once within a 12-month periodN/A
Rhode IslandFine: $100 to $500; license and registration suspension up to three months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50Fine: $500; license and registration suspension up to six months; reinstatement fee: $30 to $50
South CarolinaFine: $100-$200 or 30-day imprisonment; failure to surrender registration and plates when insurance lapses; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement feeFine: $200 and/or 30-day imprisonment — within 10 years; license/registration suspended until proof of insurance plus $200 reinstatement fee
South DakotaFine: $100 and/or 30 days imprisonment; license suspension for 30 days to one year; filing proof of insurance (SR-22) with the state for three years from the date of conviction. Failure to file proof will result in the suspension of vehicle registration, license plates, and driver's license.N/A
TennesseePay $25 coverage failure fee within 30 days of notice; if not paid, then an additional $100 coverage failure fee with suspension or revocation of registration plus reinstatement fee of no more than $25N/A
TexasFine: $175 to $350 fine; plus, pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements)Fine: $350 to $1000; pay up to a $250 surcharge every year for three years (may be reduced with certain requirements); suspend the driver's license and vehicle registrations of the person unless the person files and maintains evidence of financial responsibility with the department until the second anniversary of the date of the subsequent conviction; Impoundment: for 180 days and cannot apply for a release of the car without evidence of financial responsibility and impoundment fee of $15/day.
UtahFine: $400; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement feeFine: $1000 — with three years; license suspension until proof of insurance (maintained for three years) and $100 reinstatement fee
VermontFine: up to $500; license suspended until proof of insuranceN/A
VirginiaFine: The driver may pay a $500 Uninsured Motorists Vehicle fee to drive without insurance at your own risk. If this fee is not paid in lieu of insurance, all driving and vehicle registration privileges will be suspended until a $500 statutory fee is paid, proof of insurance is filed for three years, and a reinstatement fee (if applicable) is paidN/A
WashingtonFine: Up to $250 or moreN/A
West VirginiaFine: $200 to $5000; license suspended for 30 days with reinstatement fees, unless there's proof of insurance and $200 penalty feeFine: $200-$5000 fine and/or 15 days to one year in jail — within five years; license suspended for 90 days and registration revoked until proof of insurance.
WisconsinFine: up to $500N/A
WyomingFine: up to $750 fine and up to six months in jailN/A
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As you can see, driving without insurance could stack up to some pretty hefty fines among other consequences that make driving uninsured a great risk.

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How to Check Vehicle Insurance Information

If you have been in an accident, asking the other driver about his or her car insurance should be your first step when preparing car insurance claims. Exchanging information about your policies will be useful. 

Be sure to get the following information:

  • Other driver’s name
  • Contact information
  • Insurance company
  • Policy number

If the other driver is understandably nervous, remind them how to find out the insurance policy number of the vehicle by checking the glove box for vehicle documents that are usually kept there.

In cases where this is not possible, you might wonder if you can find out if a car is insured. Fortunately, you can. 

If you know the vehicle license plate number, this is a solid place to start. And if you can look up the insurance policy by VIN or the driver’s license number of the car’s owner, this can also be useful.

The police should also be able to help you determine if another car is insured, especially if you have been in a collision with that vehicle. The license plate number and incident report should be all you need to get the ball rolling. 

Another approach is to go through the local Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). But keep in mind that the DMV may not be able to release all the information you need. At the very least, you will have to provide your personal information and a valid reason for your inquiry to get started.

Other Proof of Ownership 

As you research and determine if a car has insurance, there may be questions about who actually owns the vehicle. To help determine this, it is good to be aware of other ways to prove ownership of a car. 

These include the manufacturer’s certificate of origin which the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes comes with a new vehicle to verify that a car company made the car. 

You can also obtain a letter of release from a lienholder that shows you paid off a vehicle and now own it. 

In addition, a bill of sale and registration certificate will show who bought and registered the car. By filling out some paperwork at the DMV and sending a certified letter to the seller, you should be able to prove ownership.

How to Find Out if a Car is Insured: The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are several situations where knowing if a car is insured is crucial. Fortunately, there are just as many ways to weed out the information yourself, either by asking the driver or figuring it out through some solid detective work, if a car is insured. 

By knowing this information before you get behind a wheel you don’t own, you can save yourself a great deal of stress and fines.

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