How to Get Proof of Insurance Before Buying a Car

To get proof of insurance before buying a car, you’ll need the make, model, and VIN of the new vehicle, as well as a great insurance quote.
Written by Brittni Brinn
Reviewed by Hillary Kobayashi
When you decide on a car to buy, you can provide proof of insurance by requesting your insurance company to email or fax your proof of insurance to the dealership or by showing your valid insurance card.
  • Proof of insurance
    is documentation that proves you and your vehicle are insured in case of an accident or other incidents resulting in property damage.
  • You’ll need to know what vehicle you’re buying before you get a
    car insurance policy
    —including the make, model, and vehicle identification number (VIN).
  • Your insurance company can email or fax your proof of insurance to the dealership, or you can show them a valid insurance card before securing your
    car loan

What counts as proof of insurance?

Your proof of insurance can be in one or more of the following forms:
  • Insurance card from your provider
  • Document from your insurance company listing your name, policy number, effective dates, and the vehicle(s) covered by your insurance plan
  • Digital copy of your insurance card via your provider’s mobile app (accepted in all states except for New Mexico)
  • Proof of payment via email or fax from your provider (if you haven’t received your insurance card)
  • In Massachusetts, the registration and title application form (RTA)
Some car dealerships may allow a 14 to 30-day grace period for you to update your existing car insurance; others may ask you to sign a legally-binding document saying that you have the liability coverage dictated by state law.

What is it for? 

Proof of insurance is documentation that proves you and your vehicle are insured and meet
your state’s minimum insurance requirements
in case of an accident or other incident resulting in property damage.
In every state except New Hampshire, you have to carry a certain amount of
liability insurance coverage
—but your proof of insurance can also indicate any additional insurance, such as
collision coverage
comprehensive coverage
Keep in mind: You’ll also need to show your lender proof of insurance if you are financing your new vehicle with a
car loan
, and you’ll need it to register your vehicle with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).

You need proof of insurance when you take delivery of your new car—not before

You can start looking for an auto insurance policy before you buy a new vehicle—but you won’t be able to finalize the policy or get proof of insurance until you have specific personal and vehicle details.
Whether you’re buying new or used, you don’t require insurance until you actually take possession of the vehicle.

Step 1: Get car insurance quotes using the make and model of your desired vehicle

Getting an exact quote requires the VIN of the vehicle you’re purchasing. If you don’t yet have this, you can use the year, make, and model to get a fairly good estimate.
Here’s what else you’ll need:
  • Policyholder information: Legal name, birthday, and driver’s license number
  • Additional driver information: Names, birthdays, and driver's license numbers 
  • Address: Your address—and the address where you’ll be parking your vehicle, if it’s different
  • Vehicle information: Make and model, or vehicle identification number (VIN) if you have it
  • Previous coverage: The declarations page from your most recent car insurance policy
  • Desired coverage: The car insurance coverage and starting date for your new policy
Most of the time, going with the first car insurance quote you find won’t get you the best deal. It’s a good idea to shop around and get quotes from at least three to five auto insurance companies—as well as your current insurance agent—and compare them to make sure you’re not overpaying for coverage. 
Expert Tip Most insurance providers will give you
online quotes
, or you can use a comparison shopping app like Jerry to compare multiple rates fast.

Step 2: Choose your new car

You’ll need to select your new vehicle before you can finalize insurance coverage.
Auto insurance rates can change depending on vehicle details, so you might find that the quotes go up or down based on the car you choose.

Step 3: Finalize your policy using your new vehicle details

Provide your car insurance company with the VIN of your new car and purchase date. They’ll use this to finalize your quote—and then you can purchase the insurance policy.
Expert Tip If you’re in a hurry or you need to buy car insurance while you’re at the dealership, worry not! Most insurance providers offer
same-day coverage

Step 4: Secure your proof of insurance

Once you’ve paid the premium for your new policy, your insurance provider will send your proof of insurance. Here’s how you can get it:
  • Mail: Your insurer will mail out your paper insurance ID card once you’ve paid your first installment.
  • Email: Your insurer may send you a temporary digital copy of your insurance card while the physical one is in the mail. You can also request a copy of your insurance card and print it out to keep in your car.
  • Your provider’s mobile app: Many car insurance companies—including
    State Farm
    , and
    —provide access to your insurance card via your smartphone.
  • Fax or email directly to your dealer: Your provider can send the required documentation to the dealership you’re buying your car from to verify your auto insurance coverage.
With your proof of insurance in place, you’re all set to purchase your new vehicle!

Things to remember about your proof of insurance

  • Keep your proof of insurance with you whenever you get behind the wheel: If law enforcement finds you uninsured, it can result in a ticket, fine, and other penalties.
  • Make copies so you don’t get stuck without a backup: Whenever your policy renews, your provider will send you an updated insurance card. It’s a good idea to take a photo or print out a copy of your card in case the one in your glove box is lost, damaged, or stolen.
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To get a new insurance policy, you’ll need to provide personal information and driver’s license numbers for all of the drivers on your policy, the car’s VIN, and the coverage that you want. 
Once you’ve secured your policy, your provider will send you your proof of insurance.
In the majority of cases, you must show your dealer proof of insurance to verify that you have purchased your state’s required liability insurance or can otherwise demonstrate financial responsibility. You will need your coverage to be in effect in order to drive your new car off the lot.
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