Can you tow a car without insurance?

You can tow a car without insurance if it is unregistered and inoperable. If you have filed the vehicle with the DMV as non-operational, you are exempt from your state's liability insurance requirements. If you tow a car that has no insurance and get it repaired, you must register it and carry coverage to legally drive it. AAA will tow a car without insurance if the vehicle is inoperable and you have a AAA membership.

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UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 2, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you should know...

If you own a vehicle that’s not currently operable, you don’t necessarily have to insure it. By law, you’re only required to carry personal auto insurance on a vehicle when that vehicle is registered to be operated on public roadways. If you don’t want your car to be street legal, though, you may have to change the title. Just as companies would change a title for a totaled car being sold for parts, you’ll need to talk to your motor vehicle department about changing your non operable car title to avoid paying registration renewal fees and other costs associated with cars.

Inoperable vehicles aren’t always just sitting in your driveway or your backyard. If you finally decide that it’s time to repair the vehicle or sell it to someone who will, you might have to arrange a tow to get the car from point A to point B. Any title you do have should be under your name, especially if you’re selling or donating the car. if you don’t have a clear title or some other show of ownership, tow companies may be hesitant to help you.

So what about insurance? The towing service should have professional insurance to cover their liabilities. Generally, towing companies don’t ask for your insurance, though. If they’re towing you because of an accident, they may wait for the police to arrive to avoid unnecessary legal liability. But as long as you can prove you own the car and can pay their fees, most are willing to work with you regardless of whether your car has insurance. If your car’s title is a salvage (or otherwise not street legal) title, insurance companies also generally won’t offer policies.

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Does a parked vehicle have to be insured?

If you have no intentions of driving your car, you might be tempted to forgo paying the insurance premiums. Before you cancel your insurance, it’s important that you know when you have a legal duty to maintain state-mandated insurance coverage if your car is titled as such. You can park a car without insurance on private property. But if you try to register it later on, you’d typically have to pay for the years you missed. If it’s uninsured, you might be tempted to drive it every once in awhile. This would be illegal whether you have a salvage or junk title (making it not street legal) or if you simply have no insurance (which doesn’t meet state minimums for insurance).

By law, in a state with compulsory auto insurance requirements, any vehicle that has a valid registration must have insurance at all times. The majority of US states require liability insurance. Some also require a small amount of personal injury protection. Some states also check insurance when you update your registration.

If you have filed the vehicle with the DMV as non-operational, you are exempt from having to comply with liability insurance requirements.

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Do you have to purchase insurance when you’re towing an inoperable car?

If the vehicle is filed as a planned non-operational vehicle or if you have a junk or salvage title, you can choose to tow the vehicle without any type of insurance. The tow truck company may want documentation of this, but they will generally take care of it for you with minimal hassle as long as you can pay.

As long as the vehicle that’s towing the car has insurance, the liability coverage will extend to pay for third-party damages sustained if the trailer jackknifes and the vehicle in tow damages another car.

Some carriers will only extend liability coverage to a vehicle that’s being towed if both vehicles are owned by the same individual. This is something companies typically do their research on. If you run into issues, you can also look into it. Especially with inoperable vehicles, you’ll need more than a tow strap and a buddy with a truck to get your car to a repair shop or parts yard.

It’s important to check with your insurer to see if your personal auto coverage will pay for losses while you’re towing the vehicle that’s not insured.

Will physical damage coverage extend to the vehicle being towed?

Full coverage won’t extend to the car hitched to the lead car, even if the lead car is fully insured. Physical damage coverage only pays for claims made when the listed vehicle or a temporary substitute vehicle is involved in a loss.

Trailer or vehicles that are being towed do not qualify for the comprehensive and collision coverage extension. Even if they did, many tow truck drivers might be hesitant to offer it on inoperable or junk vehicles anyway.

If you’re worried about the vehicle getting damaged while it’s being towed, you might want to consider buying coverage on the car before you hitch it up. Of course, this depends partially on if your car is eligible for insurance. If you have questions, contacts at your local motor vehicle department can help. Insurance company customer service agents can also help.

You also should buy comprehensive and collision if you want your insurer to pay for repairs if you’re involved in an accident.

You’ll still have to pay the deductible that you’re carrying before the insurer pays.

What happens if you hire a tow company to tow your vehicle?

If you hire a tow company to take your vehicle to its final destination, you may be able to purchase extra insurance through the company. The company will be responsible for carrying the liability coverage and paying liability claims made against the driver.

If the driver is responsible for the damage to your car while it’s in their possession, the company will be liable for repairing it.

Unfortunately, if you don’t buy protection that’s offered to you, it might be difficult to prove the company’s negligence.

As far as the law is concerned, you can tow your car without insurance as long as it’s not insured.

If you want to keep your registration valid to make getting your car back on the road easier, you need to get insurance today.

Don’t worry about the price of towing with a full coverage insurance policy; compare rates today by entering your ZIP into the search box below!

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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