Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001 and has an undergraduate degree from Manhattan College in ...

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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. Joel...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 24, 2021

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For many of us, purchasing insurance is a hassle, generally done at the last minute to avoid any sort of penalty. We might talk to an insurance agent once a year to renew our policies. For an increasing number of people, it’s even less frequent than that. Many people buy their insurance online and let it auto renew each year.

Of course, this is how many people end up with cookie cutter insurance that doesn’t always make sense for them. It’s not just about getting the best price. If you’ve installed custom parts, especially if you’re restoring a classic car, you’re paying for coverage. But if you don’t have specialty coverage, all the nonstandard parts you’re paying for won’t be covered in the event of damage or a total loss. While specialty coverage may cost more than bargain policies from companies like GEICO or Progressive, you could also be sure you’d get money back to cover your losses.

Whatever coverage you have, it’s not enough to just pay for the policy. You also need a proof of insurance card or other documentation. If you’re pulled over, in an accident, etc., they’ll ask for your insurance ID card or declarations. If you don’t have it on you, you could end up with a hefty ticket and a mandatory court appearance in some cases.

What constitutes proof of insurance?

While this is a convenient service, it is by no means hard to come by or exclusive to any one company. Let’s look at how this “magical” process works.

You have proof of insurance if you carry a declarations page or an ID card issued by the insurance company you purchased from. Generally, auto insurance companies will send this proof of insurance coverage every renewal period. If you’re on electronic notifications, they may send it via email.

These are documents, normally kept in your glove box, that demonstrate you carry at least the mandatory minimum auto insurance required in your state.

An insurance agent is also capable of creating an ID card for you if you visit their office.

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How do I obtain instant proof of insurance?

Really, what we are talking about here is insurance companies that sell over the phone or online.

As discussed previously, if you work with an agent, they can type you up a temporary card in most cases.

Here’s how it works when buying over the phone or online:

– A PDF file of your ID card is generated when your insurance policy is bound (purchased).

– The PDF file is emailed or faxed to you.

– If emailed, you print the PDF and stick it in your glove box.

That’s it…seriously! It’s not necessarily rocket science, but if you need proof of insurance fast, it serves the purpose.

In today’s market, there’s another common way to get proof of insurance in seconds. All the big insurers and many smaller companies now have active website portals and apps you can download on your phone or any other mobile device. Your login is typically the same on websites and apps. If you’re using your phone, it’s best to also have a printout or picture on your phone. Unfortunately, you can find yourself in a pickle if you get into an area with bad cell phone reception.

What if I get pulled over with no proof of insurance?

If the company you purchase your auto insurance policy from doesn’t offer instant proof of insurance, you may land yourself in hot water in the event you’re pulled over. Typically, insurance companies also report your status to the state. In states like Georgia, there’s occasionally an overlap between when your old insurer reports the cancellation and when your new insurer reports your policy as active.

If you can’t display proof of insurance, you may be issued the dreaded “no proof” citation. This is true whether you just can’t get it up on your mobile app, don’t have the paperwork on hand, or if you’re actually uninsured.

Assuming you can’t get or don’t opt for the instant proof of insurance and are issued a citation, you will likely receive a court date. If you have insurance, you can stop by the court clerk’s desk and clear things up. Keep in mind, if it gets to court, they’ll want proof you were insured when you got pulled over.

It’s possible to go to court with your proof of liability insurance once it’s mailed to you.

You might also be able to provide proof of insurance to the courthouse via fax or mail in some counties, which will save you the trip.

Read your no proof of insurance citation or call the courthouse to determine if this is acceptable in the county you received the ticket.

Of course, if you had instant proof of insurance (or didn’t wait until the last minute to purchase car insurance), you could have avoided the whole ordeal to begin with.

As always, it is recommend that you get insurance quotes online and/or speak with an independent agent in order to make sure you’re getting the best coverage at the lowest rate.

Remember, it makes more sense to shop early and get the best deal than it does to shop late and potentially pay a higher overall insurance premium just to make sure you can get “instant proof.”

(photo: ben_osteen)