Traveling can be a somewhat confusing time, legally speaking, because the distant jurisdiction you're traveling in may have different requirements from your normal place or residence. And there's rather few places where people come out and say what the difference is.

Case in point: liability insurance for cars. To my understanding, many states have a requirements that drivers be covered under liability insurance. I also understand that some make it a requirement that drivers carry proof of that insurance with them in the car. I'm also lead to believe that in a few locations, not having proof of insurance on you is a traffic offence in-and-of-itself (e.g. you're still getting a ticket for it, even if you provide proof of insurance later).

Add to that that different jurisdictions have different coverage minimums, so a policy that meets minimal legal requirements in one jurisdiction may not meet requirements in another.

A further complication is that when traveling, you may be renting a car, and as such will be driving a car you don't actually own. My understanding is that most car insurance policies will also cover you in a rental car, but in my particular case I currently don't own a car, and as such I don't have a car insurance policy in my name. Previously, I've taken the rental company's liability policy, but some things I've heard indicate that I may or may not be covered from my employer and/or credit card.

I'm doubly confused at this point as reading things on the internet it seems like many of the state liability requirements are written from the perspective of requirements on car owners, not car drivers. Are rental cars somehow an exception to that rule, or do the state liability requirements somehow fall on the rental car company?

So what I'm asking is if there's a good summary of the (statutory*) insurance requirements for each state, including details about if you're required to have proof of insurance on you in the car, or can just provide it later. Also, how does driving a rental car figure into things; do the (statutory*) liability insurance requirements fall on the renter or the rental company? If I do have appropriate coverage through my employer/credit card, what counts as appropriate proof of insurance for those states which require it to be carried? Finally, what happens if I happen to have coverage which meets the requirements in one state, but doesn't quite match the requirement for the state I'm traveling in?

*) As distinct from the requirements for having someone who will pay out if you get sued.

  • 1
    In the USA, the car insurance belongs to a person? In my country, the car itself is covered by insurance, never a person. When you rent a car, the car is already covered by insurance by the rental company. If something happens, you just have to pay the insurance usage fee. Nov 18, 2015 at 23:09
  • @MarcoAurélioDeleu I doubt you are correct. At law a car is not capable of being sued; it is a piece of property. Liability for damage it caused rests either with the owner or the operator. Insurance on the car is really protecting the owner.
    – Dale M
    Nov 19, 2015 at 1:12
  • There is a classification of policies called "named non-owner" that provides liabilty insurance to someone who owns no car.
    – user662852
    Nov 19, 2015 at 13:38
  • @MarcoAurélioDeleu: Yes, I believe in the US liability insurance usually applies to the driver, not to the car. In other countries this may be different - for example, in Germany liability insurance is required by law, and must be for the car (not the driver).
    – sleske
    Jun 25, 2018 at 12:24


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