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Washington Car Insurance

Washington State is like most states and requires you to be financially responsible if you drive a car.  To register a vehicle and drive on its roadways, the state requires you obtain car insurance or an alternative form of financial responsibility for your vehicle. 

Minimum car insurance requirements

You must carry limits of at least:

$25,000 of bodily injury liability per person

$50,000 of bodily injury liability per accident

$10,000 of property damage liability per accident

You will see this written as 25/50/10.  Bodily injury liability limits are average, but property damage liability limits are low.  If you hit a newer vehicle, your limits could be easily exceeded.  To better protect your assets, higher limits are recommended all around.  Liability limits of 100/300/50 or 250/500/100 would be much less likely to be surpassed.

Alternative methods of financial responsibility

While buying car insurance is the easiest route to obtaining financial responsibility for your vehicle, Washington State law allows these alternative methods:

- Self-insurance - If you have 26 or more vehicle you may qualify for self-insurance. 

- Certificate of deposit – The deposit must be for at least $60,000. 

- Liability bond – The bond must be for at least $60,000 and filed by a surety bond company authorized to do business in Washington.

Proof of auto insurance

Your insurance card, or electronic proof of car insurance, must be provided upon request.  Failure to do so is a traffic infraction that is punishable by a fine of up to $450 according to the Washington Department of Licensing.  If you were involved in an auto accident while uninsured, your license might be suspended for up to three years.

If your vehicle is registered in another state and you travel through Washington you must still be able to provide proof of its car insurance (what is required in your home state) to law enforcement or face penalties.

Failure to pay for accident damages

If you fail to pay for accident damages -- due to being uninsured or your limits were exceeded before the harmed party was fully compensated -- a civil judgment can be placed on you for repayment.  If you fail to satisfy a civil court judgment for collision damages within 30 days, your license can be suspended for 10 years.  The license suspension can be extended for an additional 10 years.

If your license is suspended in this manner, you’ll need to pay the judgment (in agreed upon payments or in full) and file proof of financial responsibility via an SR-22 form to get it reinstated. 

Rating factors for Washington car insurance

The basic rating factors for auto insurance are the same, but how insurance company weighs each item varies, thus, it’s important to shop around to get the best car insurance rates.  Without comparison shopping you could easy overpay for your auto policy.

Rating factors looked at by insurers:

- Your age

- Your gender

- Your marital status (Washington requires insurers to consider domestic partnerships the same as married couples for rating purposes)

- Where you live

- Your driving record and driving experience

- Your claims history

- Your credit history

- Your vehicle

The coverages, limits and deductibles you choose will also make a difference in how much you will pay in premiums.

Driving record matters

Washington doesn’t have a points system, but that doesn’t keep your driving record from being a main rating factor for insurance companies (who makes up its own points system).

Even without a points system, if you receive too many tickets your license can be suspended by the state.  If you’re convicted of six moving violations in 12 months, your license will be suspended for 60 days. 

You can be placed on probationary status for one year if you receive four moving violations in a 12-month period or five moving violations in a 24-month period.

When on probation you can be suspended for 30 days if you are convicted of two or more moving violations – and placed on another year of probation. 

It’s best to keep a clean driving record, not only will it keep your license in good standing with the state, but help you obtain cheaper car insurance rates.