While it may seem a bit odd, there are situations in which you might need to determine if a vehicle has car insurance.

Some situations when you might not know if a car has insurance includes:

  • You inherited a vehicle from a family member.
  • You’re going through a divorce.
  • You’re taking over the finances of an elderly relative

In these situations, you may not know if there’s coverage on the vehicle. Plus, even if it’s insured, you may be in the dark about which car insurance company wrote the policy.

Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about tracking down the auto insurance information for a vehicle.

Does my car have insurance?

Before you hit the road in any car, you should know if the vehicle is insured.

It’s illegal in almost every state to drive without auto insurance. Beyond the legal issues, if you’re in an accident while driving an uninsured vehicle, you’ll be financially responsible for any damage you cause.

You also need to provide auto insurance information to register a car, renew the plate and change ownership. That makes knowing if the vehicle is insured extremely important.

How to find out if a car has insurance?

When it comes to finding out if a vehicle is insured, there are few things you can easily check to find insurance details. After that, the search may get a bit more complicated.

Either way, the more information you have about the vehicle, the better. If possible, track down the: 

  • VIN number (vehicle identification number)
  • License plate 
  • Registration

If you have access to the vehicle and the owners’ financial records, which would be possible if you inherited a vehicle or dealing with an elderly relative’s finances for them, you may be able to determine if the car is insured quickly.

Here are a couple of places to check:

Look in the vehicle for proof of insurance

Most people have at least one auto insurance card in their car. Even if it’s expired, there’s a good chance the vehicle is still insured with the same company.

Check the:

  • Glove box
  • Center console
  • Visor 
  • Anywhere else you think of where car insurance information may be stored

If you find proof of insurance, call the insurer to make sure coverage is up to date.

Review financial documents

If you’re taking over your parents’ or other family member’s  finances, reviewing their financial documents will often help you track down the insurance company information.

If you see a monthly or annual payment to an insurance company, give them a call to ensure the insurance policy is still in force and get coverage details.

Check emails

If possible, go through the vehicle owner’s emails to look for any correspondence from insurance companies. If you find anything, contact the insurer for more car insurance policy details.

If you don’t have access to the inside of the vehicle or the owner’s financial records, it’s still possible to find out the car insurance company. It will just require a bit more legwork.

There’s no national database of insurance or vehicle information in the U.S. It’s all done at the state level, which makes it a bit more difficult

Here are a few methods to try:

New insurance quote

If you have the vehicle’s VIN number and some basic details, an insurance agent may be able to help you out. You can check car insurance by VIN number because insurers typically run a CLUE report on a vehicle when writing a new car insurance policy to determine coverage lapses.

A CLUE report shows insurance details for a specific vehicle or person. CLUE stands for comprehensive loss underwriting exchange. It’s a database that allows automobile and homeowners insurance providers to exchange information about claims for loss of property.

Unfortunately, not all insurance companies participate in CLUE, so this method isn’t guaranteed.

Secretary of State or DMV Office

This method may work, but it depends on the state and its policies about releasing information to the public. In many states, the Secretary of State or Department of Motor Vehicles may track insurance coverage information.

Contact your local office to see if they keep tabs on insurance information and if that info is available to the public. In most cases, they check car insurance by number plate, so you’ll need a license plate or VIN number of the vehicle in question. A small fee may be charged as well.

Check with major auto insurance companies

There is a good chance that the vehicle is insured by a major national insurance provider like Progressive, Allstate, State Farm or numerous other insurance companies that operate in your state.

Call a variety of insurers to see if there’s already a car insurance policy in place. You’ll need some basic information, such as the VIN or license plate number or the name and basic details of the person who owns the vehicle.

Check with local police

This one also depends on local policies. Most police officers can check if a vehicle is currently insured as driving without insurance is a serious driving infraction. Whether they release that information to you depends on the local policies, but it doesn’t hurt to check.

How to find out if a car is insured after an accident?

Another situation where you may need to determine if a vehicle is insured is after an accident. If you’re involved in an accident, it’s important to get the other driver’s insurance information. Here are a few tips on what information to gather after an accident.

Get a police report

You should always get a police report, even for small accidents. It will help if you have to file a claim. The police also gather a wide array of information about both the vehicles and drivers, which can help find insurance information.

Gather info

After an accident:

  1. Collect as much information as possible about the other vehicle and driver
  2. Jot down the license plate number and their driver’s license number, name, address and phone number, if possible
  3. Take photos and video of the damage to both vehicles from numerous angles.

Ask the other driver

Ask the other driver for their car insurance information. In most cases, they will be happy to provide you with their policy details. In other cases, they may not be insured, have car insurance that expired or don’t have their insurance information with them at the time.

In this case, you may have to do some digging to find their insurance information. Check with the police officer. They should be able to pull that information. You can also call their insurance company if they know the insurance company’s name but not the policy details.

If the other driver provides their insurance details, it’s always a good idea to call their insurance company at the accident scene to verify their coverage is in force.

Uninsured driver

If the other driver is without insurance, you’ll have to turn to your insurance company for coverage. However, you’ll need to carry uninsured driver coverage. In most states, uninsured driver coverage isn’t required. So, if you’re not carrying uninsured driver coverage, you’ll be on the hook for the cost of repairs.

Not knowing if a vehicle is properly insured can turn into a major legal and financial headache if you hit the road in an uninsured vehicle. So, always verify insurance coverage before driving a car if you’re not sure