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What documents do you need to get car insurance?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Auto insurance is one of many modern necessities, as driving without insurance is illegal in all 50 states. Getting auto insurance can be a bit of a process, but it can be helpful to ensure a smooth process by knowing in advance what is expected of you. 

One of the first steps when planning to get car insurance is to look at the paperwork that you will need. This is something you can do even before you decide on an insurer and policy, as nearly all of them will require these documents.

If you’re wondering “what documents do I need to get car insurance”, then you’ve come to the right place. In general, these documents will include but are not necessarily limited to, driver’s license, social security number, bank information, and vehicle information. 

For undocumented citizens looking for car insurance, the process can be a bit more complicated, but this guide can help answer your questions.

Your driver’s license

While some companies will provide auto insurance to someone without a driver’s license, these offers are rare and pricey. This should be no surprise, considering that driving without a license is a legal offense and implies to the insurer that you are a high-risk driver. Remember, auto insurers focus upon the financial risk associated with insuring any particular driver and vehicle, above all else.

Indeed, risk is one of the first things that they will use your driver’s license to measure. By running your license number, insurance companies can see your driving history and use that record to determine just how risky you are to insure. The cleaner your record is, the lower your rates will be. A poor driving history, with accidents and citations, will typically result in the insurer quoting a higher price.

Your social security number

Perhaps the most sensitive form of documentation you’ll need for auto insurance is your social security number. Social security numbers are unique to each person and allow the insurance companies to gain more accurate records about potential customers. Providers use this information to help determine whether to accept a customer application and determine that customer’s rates.

Your social security number allows insurers to see your credit history, criminal charges you might have faced, and your insurance claims history. While it is risky to give out your social security number to just anyone, it is common for customers to provide this number to their provider. Each of these inquiries helps the insurer to calculate your premium, using proprietary systems to weigh financial risk and base the personalization of the rate upon that.

Your bank information

Your auto insurer will also likely want to know your checking account number and the associated bank routing number to set up automatic payments for your premium. The easiest way to do this may be to bring a voided check with you when you apply for auto insurance. Providing your bank information allows you to enroll in automatic payment plans, this may even qualify you for a discount on your premium.

Beyond the benefits of enabling auto-payments, this information can also be used by certain insurers to check other things such as credit history, payment history and your credit utilization rate. While your insurer can use your bank information to check on these histories, sometimes your social security number is used as well.

This information is used by the insurer to help calculate risk levels of customers, which in turn, is used to calculate premium rates. The better your credit score and payment history, the lower your premiums are likely to be.

Your vehicle information

Copies of your vehicle registration are necessary to prove ownership of the vehicle and so the insurer will know the details of the car they are being asked to cover. Specifically, the insurance company will want to know the make, model and year of the car, the vehicle identification number (VIN), what safety and anti-theft features are installed, and an estimate of how many annual miles it will be driven.

This information allows the insurance provider to calculate various risk levels for the vehicle, including loss of vehicle to theft, the chance of injury in a collision, and some factors that affect the likelihood of accidents. Providers may also investigate the car’s history to determine if there is any pre-existing damage. Knowing the car’s history helps insurers avoid paying for damage that occurred before coverage began.

Most of the necessary information can be found in your vehicle registration papers. You can also find your VIN on the vehicle or in your registration papers. The location of the VIN varies by car, but they can be somewhat concealed for security reasons. Determining how many annual miles you expect to drive can be a little tricky. A useful method is to write down the distances you travel over the course of a normal week, and then multiply that by 52.

Other information you may need to provide

The documents mentioned above are going to be the primary ones requested in the process of obtaining auto insurance, but there are other pieces of information that your auto insurer may request. 

If you have any dependents of driving age within your home, the insurer will likely need some details about them. It is common for proof of residency and information about parking accommodations to be requested. The company will also need to know how many people will be driving any car that is to be insured.

Beyond these details, there are some decisions to be made. You will need to determine how much coverage you want and whether you want more than your state-required liability coverage. You will also need to decide on the size of your deductible. The smaller the deductible, the more insurance will provide on their end in the event of a claim, but the higher your premiums will be.

It can be helpful to write out any additional questions or concerns you might have ahead of time. When you go in for your appointment, bring your list of inquiries with you. Doing this will give you time to research and consider all your options while making sure you don’t forget any pressing issues that you have.

The takeaway

  • Your driver’s license is needed to verify your status as a legal driver and to research your driving history
  • Your social security number allows the insurer to perform credit checks and check potential criminal history
  • Your bank information is primarily necessary if you want to enroll in an automatic payment plan
  • Your vehicle information is how the company will know which car to ensure and how expensive it will be to repair in the case of an incident

The paperwork necessary to buy auto insurance can be extensive, but most of these documents are easy for you to obtain. Your personal documentation should be fairly easy to retrieve and the vehicle information can be found on the vehicle registration form that came with the car. Once you have your paperwork in order, all that is left is to shop around and apply for auto insurance. Remember to compare premiums and coverage options between companies and to keep an eye out for discounts. See our comprehensive guide on auto insurance questions for further reading.

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