How can I find out if a car has insurance?

Find out if a car has insurance by getting the vehicle and policy info from the owner and verifying it through the car insurance company. We offer six ways you can gather the information you need.

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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 need to know...

  • If you’d like to verify a car is insured, the best option is to ask the vehicle owner directly for proof of active coverage
  • When reviewing documentation provided by the vehicle owner, don’t assume coverage is active
  • While the Drivers Protection and Privacy Act does protect personal information, you’re free to ask for insurance information through the state motor vehicles agency if you were involved in an accident with the vehicle

Driving a car that’s uninsured can have some serious repercussions. Unfortunately, verifying that a vehicle is insured isn’t so easy when you’re not the owner of it. You should have the owner call and verify coverage is active in front of you. Whether you’re borrowing the car, or you’re involved in an accident and there are damages which require auto insurance coverage be active, it’s better to know what you’re up against.

If you really need to verify that a vehicle has active coverage, you may need to get resourceful. You can’t call the insurer directly, but there are alternatives that will protect your interests when there’s a potential for financial loss.

The following are some of the steps you can take to go about getting insurance information when you seriously need it.

Should you also need to compare companies in order to find a policy to protect you and your vehicle, we have a free comparison tool that will let you compare quotes from different companies.

Scenarios Where You Might Need Insurance Information

You don’t need to check if someone’s car is insured every day. There may be days, however, where verifying insurance could really save you a huge financial hassle down the line.

Here are some of the most common scenarios where the average person or entity would need to find out if a car has insurance:

  • You’re borrowing a friends car and don’t have insurance of your own
  • You’re in the middle of a divorce and want to be sure that your spouse is keeping coverage active on the car that’s registered in both of your names
  • You own a small business and have employees drive their own cars in the course of employment
  • You’re an administrator at a school and need proof of insurance for parents to drive for field trips
  • You’re involved in an accident with the driver and want to verify the insurance information provided is valid

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Step One: Verifying Coverage Through the Owner

The easiest way to see if a car is insured is to ask the owner directly.

If you trust the owner, you may be able to just trust that the proof of insurance or declaration’s page provided represents coverage that’s active.

Unfortunately, you might not be able to trust that these papers are really valid if you’re not close to the vehicle owner or if they’d benefit from being dishonest.

This is especially true in the event of an automobile accident where you don’t know the motorists involved. If it were simply the case where you were borrowing the car from a friend, chances are you will be able to trust them. However, someone could lie to you about their vehicle being insured, when in fact they don’t have an insurance policy active at the time of the accident.

Step Two: Checking the Validity of the Coverage Provided

When you ask the owner for insurance information, you’ll need the name of the company, the license plate number, and the policy number.

If you’re not confident that the ID cards or other policy documents are valid, you should ask the owner to call the insurer.

The insured can authorize the company to give you information on the policy so that you know what is on the policy, who’s covered, what vehicles are listed and what to do when said coverage expires. As mentioned above, this can come in handy if you’re borrowing a friend’s vehicle, but it’s going to be a little different if you’re asking for the information because you’re filling out an accident report.

When asking for the vehicle identification information, especially if it’s because the vehicle was involved in an accident, make sure the other driver knows it’s for insurance purposes. If it’s for any other situation, chances are the owner of the vehicle will know why you’re asking.

Step Three: Checking Status of Insurance on a Vehicle That You Own Through the Insurer

If you’ve co-signed a loan on a vehicle or you’re the registered owner of a vehicle with your estranged spouse, you may be able to verify a car’s covered all by yourself.

This is because you have an insurable interest in the car. If you know what company the car is insured with, the easiest way to see if there’s liability coverage is to call the company directly.

If you’re not listed on the policy as a named insured, you might have to provide proof that you’re an owner of the car before the company representative will be willing to tell you the policy is canceled or active.

To prevent this from becoming a problem, you should require that you’re a named insured or a loss payee on the policy when you agree to be on a loan or title. This gives you power over being able to see the information on the auto insurance policy at any time, even after a separation.

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Step Four: Checking the Status of a Vehicle That You Own Through the Motor Vehicle Agency

If you own the vehicle and don’t know where the vehicle is insured, you could check to see if insurance is filed with the motor vehicle agency in your state.

Many states allow owners to do this so that they can be sure that they are in compliance with the mandatory insurance laws.

To verify coverage exists, the state must have an electronic verification program in place. This means that real-time insurance information is reported daily.

If the state that you live in has an owner search tool, you’ll need to enter the plate number and VIN to see if coverage has lapsed or needs to be verified. Since each state has insurance requirements, this can be a helpful way to determine coverage and whether or not it’s active.

Step Five: Asking the Other Party For Insurance Information Following an Accident

When you’re in an accident, it’s your right to gather third-party insurance information. This helps make it possible to file a claim in a timely manner.

It’s important that you get as much information as possible to protect yourself.

Here’s an accident checklist showing what you should collect so that your claims adjuster can do their job in investigating the claim:

  • VIN of all vehicles
  • License plate numbers
  • Registered owner’s name and address
  • Driver’s license number of operator
  • Phone number of driver, passenger, owner, and witnesses
  • Insurance company name, policy number, phone number, expiration date

Step Six: Call Law Enforcement or the State

If the driver runs or you’re unable to collect insurance information, you have the right to get information through the police, traffic courts, the motor vehicle agency or your insurer.

An accident is one qualifying event under the Drivers Privacy Protection Act that gives you the right to access insurance records.

Finding out insurance information can be a hassle, but it’s easier when you file a claim. If you’ve suffered a loss, your insurer will try hard to get insurance information. Your insurance provider will want to have their own assets covered, which is why uninsured drivers are universally dangerous. Not only do they pose a risk while driving, insurance companies will sometimes offer special coverage that protects their customers against them.

Claimants who aren’t happy with the service their insurer has provided should start to shop around for coverage. If you’re now concerned about the type of coverage you have, and want to look elsewhere, don’t forget about our comparison tool, which will help you to compare quotes from various companies.

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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