A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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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, mainly in the insuranc...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Oct 19, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • When you apply for an auto insurance policy and it’s issued, you’ll receive a declaration’s page that shows your policy number and pertinent policy information
  • It’s important to keep your policy documents while the term is active so that you can verify coverage limits and covered vehicles/drivers
  • If you own your own business or you’re an independent contractor, you should keep your policy documents as proof of a write-off until the following tax season
  • If you’ve had a claim, it’s important to keep your valuation and settlement documents until the claim is closed. You also may be able to write-off some damages for your tax return with the proper proof
  • When you’re switching carriers, you may need to provide proof of prior insurance to receive prior insurance discounts and even experience discounts

When you sign up for a new auto insurance policy, you receive a large envelope full of booklets, pamphlets, and papers. Going through each and every piece of paper can be difficult because the average person doesn’t really understand the insurance lingo that’s used within the contract and on the policy declaration’s page. Even so, all of the paperwork you’re sent at policy inception is important, and you need to keep it until it no longer serves a purpose. Compare car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

If you’re the type of person who likes to hold onto documents just in case you might need them, you could easily pile up counters, tables, desks, and files cabinets with all of the invoices and mail that you receive each year. This is why it’s important to go through old documents and clean out the outdated files that you’ll never really need to reference. As you’re going through your records, you might be perplexed as to when insurance records are considered shred-worthy. Here’s a guide to help you minimize the clutter without throwing out pertinent documents.

What is the declarations page?

Perhaps the most important document that you receive when you buy auto insurance coverage is the declarations page. This is the document auto insurance companies send out that provides information about what’s insured, who’s insured, when the property’s insured, how much the property is insured for, and how you’ve been rated as a policyholder.

It’s the one official document you’ll receive that shows not just how much you pay in total, but how much you pay for every coverage you’ve selected.

Every time you make changes to your policy you’ll receive an amended declarations page with the new details and the new pricing breakdown. If you make even just a few minor changes each term, you’ll have piles of amended documents and envelopes in a matter of just a few policy periods.

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When is it time to trash the declaration’s page?

If you want to conquer the clutter, you’re free to shred your old declarations page as soon as your new policy renews. There are some exceptions to the rule, but typically you can throw out your insurance policies once every year. Since the coverage has renewed under a new policy term, the old term documents aren’t really relevant.

The same generally goes for many other financial documents, like bank statements and utility bills and medical bills you’ve paid. You don’t need to hang onto these documents for longer than one year.

When are there exceptions to the one-year rule?

There are a few instances where you may actually need your declarations page for longer than just 6 months or a year. Before you toss your insurance documents or slip them into the blades of a shredder, you should think about your own personal situation. Here are some scenarios where having a past declarations page can be handy:

  • You’re Claiming Insurance Premiums When You File Taxes

If you’re self-employed or you’re an independent contractor, you might be eligible to write off some of your monthly expenses at tax time. For contractors and business owners who use their personal vehicle for business, writing off things like mileage and auto insurance expenses is an option.

To support your filing, you should always have a copy of the premium costs so that you can deduct a pro rata portion of your expenses based on your usage. Keep the declarations page in your tax file until it’s time for you to shred these files. Most experts recommend keeping your tax records for 3 years.

You might also need other insurance documentation when filing your taxes. A 1095 form, for instance, is proof of your health insurance coverage for tax purposes.

If you run a business, your business insurance can be declared on your taxes along with your other business expenses.

  • You Have a Pending Claim to File

If you have a claim to file and your current term has ended, it’s best to keep your old declarations page until the claim is settled. Since the claim is filed against an old term, you can see which coverage options you carried at the time the loss occurred. The insurer will also have this on file if you’ve already discarded the documents.

  • Proof for Prior Insurance Discount

If you’re going to switch insurers, it can be very helpful to have old declarations pages on hand. Many companies ask if an applicant has insurance and how long they’ve been insured with a carrier to rate a policy. The prior insurance proof gives you experience and prior insurance discounts. Old declaration’s pages might tell you when your policy originated if you don’t remember.

What are auto insurance ID cards?

In most states, drivers are required to carry auto insurance ID cards with them at all times when they’re driving a vehicle that they own. This is how you show proof of insurance when you get pulled over. Failing to carry the ID cards with you can land you in court presenting proof and paying a fine. ID cards can be disposed of when the term ends or when you no longer own a vehicle.

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What is the personal auto insurance policy booklet?

In addition to your declaration’s page, you’ll receive a Personal Auto Policy agreement when you sign up for insurance. You’ll also receive another booklet when there are amendments made to the insuring contract that you should be aware of. You can dispose of a policy booklet when you receive a new updated version of the form. Keep the most up-to-date agreement so that you can reference it if you have questions about policy terms, conditions and provisions.

Do you have to keep the paper copies?

If you were already shred-happy and you disposed of documents that you need, there are ways to get the information that you need. Here are some solutions to store your documentation or to access it once it’s gone:

  • Contact your prior insurer to request a Letter of Experience as proof of coverage
  • Ask your old carrier to fax a declarations page for tax filing
  • Store electronic copies of your dec pages and old claims forms on your computer
  • Use cloud-based storage so that you can keep digital copies of your documents for access anywhere

Basically, you can trash your insurance documents as long as you have access to that information somewhere else.

Keep in mind, there are some documents you might acquire that you should keep physical copies of forever, such as birth certificates, your marriage license, and your mortgage documents.

What’s the bottom line?

You don’t need to hold onto every for 5, 7 or 10 years. It’s okay to get rid of ID cards, invoices, and even declaration’s pages when they are outdated. If you’re interested in shopping for auto insurance coverage, get your most recent declaration page out and start to compare premiums. Use an online auto insurance premium comparison tool to retrieve multiple quotes at once. Once you compare the costs, you can activate a policy and file those documents. Enter your zip code in our FREE tool below to compare car insurance rates now!