In most states, keeping an uninsured, unregistered car on a public street is illegal. Although the laws vary from state to state, in most cases, any car has to be registered and insured. It doesn’t matter whether the car is in motion or parked.

However, there are a few situations in which a parked car can be uninsured. If the vehicle is inoperable, meaning it doesn’t run or can’t be driven, you can often leave it uninsured. The state may require that you register it but may also offer an option to register it as non-operational. There are a lot of restrictions to this status.

For example, California law requires motor vehicles to have current registration if they are driven, towed, stored, parked on public roads or highways, or parked in an off-street public parking facility at any time during the registration period.

If you have an inoperable vehicle in California that will not be in any of the places listed above, you can apply for non-operational status on the vehicle and pay a planned non-operation (PNO) fee. Once this status is placed on a vehicle’s record, it remains until you decide to operate the vehicle and pay full registration renewal fees.

You can usually skip insurance on a non-operational car, but depending on the situation, you might want to consider a parked car insurance policy. This provides comprehensive-only coverage that will cover the car for things like theft or weather damage. A car with this type of policy can not be legally driven.

The bottom line? A car on public streets or parking facilities must be registered and insured. If you keep an inoperable car in your garage or driveway, you can likely register it that way and won’t require insurance.

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Michelle Megna
Contributing Researcher

Michelle is a writer, editor and expert on car insurance and personal finance. She's a former editorial director. Prior to joining, she reported and edited articles on technology, lifestyle, education and government for magazines, websites and major newspapers, including the New York Daily News.