Official SafeAuto Blog

Documents You Should Always Keep in Your Car

a person reaching into their glove box
September 10, 2021

Our cars can carry some of our most precious cargo – children, spouses, parents, pets – but it can also carry so many other things too. Unlike that stale french fry under the driver’s seat and the extra hair band in the center console, there are some things that should always be in your car when you hit the road.

Vehicle Registration Your vehicle registration, which you should have received when you registered your vehicle with your state’s Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) or Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), should always be kept in your car. This document proves that you legally own the vehicle, and in the event that you should be pulled over, the law enforcement officer will need to see it. If you are unable to produce vehicle registration, you may be cited and/or fined. Vehicle registrations also need to be renewed; for some states the renewals need to happen annually but it varies by state so make sure to check with your state so you stay compliant.

Proof of Insurance In most states it is illegal to drive a vehicle without car insurance, and in those states there is usually a state minimum limit of liability that you are required to have. (To learn more about what liability is, click here.) If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer, they will usually ask to see your proof of insurance, and if you are involved in an accident you may also need to share your insurance information with others involved. You don’t need to keep all of your car insurance documents in your vehicle, but your proof of insurance should be there.

The consequences for not having insurance or not being able to show proof of insurance vary by state. In Ohio, for example, the consequences are as follows:

· First offense of not showing proof of insurance = Losing your license until the requirements are met

· Second offense = Lose your license for 1 year

· Third offense or more = Lose your license for 2 years for each offense

· You could also lose your license plates, lose your vehicle registration, pay fees and penalties, be required to maintain high-risk insurance for a few years, and file proof of that insurance with the BMV

Owner’s Manual While this might not seem as important as the documents mentioned above, you never know when you may need it. Your car could experience problems at any moment and it’s always good to know what the flashing lights and symbols are telling you.

Driver’s License We don’t recommend keeping your driver’s license in your vehicle but we do recommend never driving without it. There’s a reason that law enforcement officials always ask for “License, registration and proof of insurance”. Your license is one of the things you need when you get pulled over and it proves that you are legally allowed to be operating a vehicle! If you do not have it on you or you don’t have a license at all when being pulled over, you could face serious consequences: anything from having to submit proof of your license to a police station or court of law, all the way up to jail time. It’s also important to make sure that your license is current and has not expired. If your license has expired or is approaching its expiration date, check out your state’s BMV or DMV website for information on how to renew it, and take a look at the Insurance Information Institute’s website to find out how often you’ll need to renew it moving forward.

Ensuring you have these documents available while you’re operating your vehicle will make any run-in with the law or car issue slightly less stressful. If you’d like to learn more about what your state’s minimum limits of liability are, visit or give us a call at 1-800-SAFEAUTO (1-800-723-3288) today.

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