Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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UPDATED: Sep 24, 2021

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Important facts to know...

  • When you own a car, the vehicle must have a valid registration to be driven, parked, or towed on public roads
  • Most states have vehicle code that requires registered vehicles to be covered by auto insurance at all times
  • If you live in a state with mandatory insurance laws, you must carry at least a minimum amount of liability insurance
  • Even though a parked car doesn’t pose a risk to public safety, since it has to be registered it also has to be insured
  • If you park a car anywhere without insurance, make sure it’s in a garage that you own or rent or on private property

Most people who own a car know that they have to have insurance and a valid license or permit in order to drive it. Driving without a license is clearly a no-go, but a lot of people don’t realize that insurance is also required. Without insurance, the owner could be cited for driving and uninsured car and order to do more than just pay a fine.

The consequences for driving without car insurance are serious because it’s often classified as a misdemeanor and not just a minor driving infraction.

Having insurance when you’re driving to and from work or school is important, but what happens when your car is parked?

Many people think that they don’t need insurance on their parked cars if they have no intentions of driving them.

While this is true in some scenarios, you should know the consequences of parking a car without insurance before you jump to cancel your policy.

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Why do all cars have to be registered?

Each and every year, vehicle owners send in their payments or visiting their local DMV offices to renew their vehicle registration. Having proof of insurance is important when one owns a vehicle. Even people who are financing or leasing cars have to license the vehicle in their names.

Vehicle registration is a requirement, but not many people ask why they have to pay these licensing fees every year.

There’s a major purpose of licensing vehicles. When a car is registered, the registration identifies who is liable for damages when something happens in the car.

The person named on the tags is also the individual responsible for paying for fines after things like toll road violations and parking infractions.

Not only do states require owners to register their car to identify who’s liable, another reason that fees are due is because they are used to pay DMV workers, maintain public roadways, and combat pollution.

Without charging fees and taxes, the budgets for road maintenance would no doubt be significantly lower, because all of these expenses would come out of the state’s budget. It can be a little hard to believe that all of that comes from you having a license and registering your vehicle!

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Do all cars need to be registered?

You need a valid vehicle registration to drive your car on public roads, to tow the vehicle from your home to another location, and to park the vehicle on the road or in a public parking lot.

Private passenger vehicles, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles all need to be registered to avoid vehicle impoundment.

Are there requirements you must meet before you can get your car registered?

The first time that you register your car, the motor vehicle agency will ask for you to present:

  • The car’s title
  • Your finance documentation
  • Photo identification such as your driver’s license
  • Payment for the fees
  • Proof of insurance

It may seem as though the application process requires a lot, but it’s only to ensure that you and your car are safely registered. As long as you have these things, you’ll be able to get your license plates.

When renewal comes around, processing the renewal of your tags isn’t all that difficult. You will need to submit your payment in the mail, online, or in person.

If the car is due for a smog check, you may have to present a certificate showing that the car has passed the emissions test.

You will need to still possess insurance, but you’re not required to show that you have insurance because most states have this information on file.

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How much insurance are you required to carry?

The requirements that you have to comply with when you own a registered car differ by state.

Insurance is mandatory in most states but there are a few that have alternative laws.

If you live in a state with mandatory insurance laws, you’ll probably have to carry at least third-party liability coverage with at least a minimum limit.

Can you remove auto insurance from a car that’s only going to be parked?

Third-party liability insurance is a coverage that will pay if you injure someone or damage their property in the course of the vehicle being operated.

Parked cars can’t really injure someone or damage someone’s property but you can’t pick up the phone and cancel the insurance as soon as the car is sitting.

You must keep your insurance on your parked car as long as it’s registered.

If you file the vehicle as non-operable, that will eliminate the required to keep insurance on the vehicle but if you plan to keep your tags valid, you will need to keep insurance at all times.

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What is a Planned Non-Op filing?

A Planned Non-Op, also known as PNO, is a filing that can be submitted to the motor vehicle agency when the car that’s previously been registered is not being driven for long periods of time.

Since the car won’t be operated, it doesn’t need to be insured with the state’s mandatory coverage.

You can’t just file your car as PNO to avoid paying high registration fees and insurance costs.

When you have a PNO filing in place, you have to store it in an appropriate place.

If the vehicle is driven or parked where it can be cited, you’ll have to pay registration dues and fees.

Do cars need to be registered to park them on streets?

Cars don’t need to be registered to be parked in your garage but they do need valid tags when you live in an area with street parking.

The rule of thumb is that you’ll have to maintain your registration as long as the car is parked on any type of public property.

Parking includes:

  • Alleys
  • At a park
  • In your apartment’s parking lot
  • A retail store
  • On the street

If you own property and you keep the car stored there, you don’t need tags or insurance.

You never want to be forced to pay for penalties because you weren’t familiar with the law. Insurance laws can be confusing when you have a car that’s not being driven.

Making sure that you have at least some form of auto insurance will save you from any sort of grief you make catch because you own a vehicle that isn’t protected. A good rule of thumb is that if you have a license and a car that you drive, you should have that car covered, even if you don’t drive it for periods of time.

If you have a vehicle you know you’re not going to be driving every day of the year, at the time of the registration process, ask if there’s a particular sort of coverage you can purchase. You may have to contact your insurance provider, but they’ll set you straight on what you need.

Use an online rate comparison tool and get your quotes instantly so that you can buy insurance right now.

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References:

  1. http://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/register-your-vehicle
  2. http://www.360financialliteracy.org/Topics/Insurance/Cars-and-Auto-Insurance/State-by-State-Minimum-Coverage-Requirements
  3. https://www.thebalance.com/parked-car-insurance-527045
  4. https://dmv.ny.gov/registration/renew-registration
  5. http://www.claimsjournal.com/news/national/2014/06/05/249762.htm
  6. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/vr/checklists/outofstate
  7. https://mvd.dor.ga.gov/tags/
  8. https://www.thebalance.com/understanding-minimum-car-insurance-requirements-2645473
  9. https://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/online/vrir/faqpno