Last updated: July 2022

Washington Car Insurance Guide

Wherever you live and drive in the Evergreen State, having adequate car insurance is both a legal requirement and commonsense protection. This is your guide to Washington state's car insurance laws and minimum auto insurance requirements. Keep reading to learn about minimum liability limits, the penalties for driving without insurance, auto insurance coverage definitions, and more. 

Personal Auto Insurance

An auto insurance policy is a contract between you and your auto insurer. You agree to pay the premium amount, and your insurer agrees to pay for your losses, according to your policy's terms and conditions.

You need auto insurance to drive legally in Washington state. Drivers are required to carry bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage at a minimum.

Washington State Auto Insurance Laws

Even though state law requires drivers to maintain auto insurance coverage on all registered vehicles, an estimated 17.4% of Washington drivers are uninsured, according to the Insurance Information Institute. That's why it's so important to make sure you have adequate coverage.

All drivers in Washington state must maintain coverage that complies with the state's minimum auto insurance limits of 25/50/10. (Read more under Washington State Minimum Insurance Requirements.)

Additionally, the state requires drivers to provide proof of insurance in the event of a traffic stop or auto accident. You'll receive an auto insurance identification card when you purchase an insurance policy. According to the Washington State Department of Licensing, your proof of insurance card must include all of the following:

  • Name of the insurance company
  • Policy number
  • Policy start date
  • Policy expiration date
  • Vehicle information (year, make, or model of the insured vehicle) or the name of the insured driver

The penalties for driving without insurance in Washington can be steep, so it's a good idea to understand the insurance laws. Failing to meet insurance minimums or show proof of insurance can result in fines, license suspensions, and other consequences.

Washington State Minimum Insurance Requirements

Car insurance coverage is mandatory in Washington state, and your coverage must meet the state's minimum liability requirements for you to drive legally. The minimum auto insurance requirements in Washington include:

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage for injury or death of one person per accident
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage for injury or death of any two or more people per accident
  • $10,000 property damage liability coverage for damage to the property of others per accident

It's important to note that while 25/50/10 insurance coverage is required to drive legally in Washington, the amounts may not provide the level of protection you'd want if you were involved in an auto accident, especially if you were at fault.

Purchasing the minimum amount of car insurance required by state law is cheaper than buying a policy with more coverages or higher limits. Still, in doing so, you assume more risk in the event of an accident. 

Many drivers opt for additional coverages to bolster protection, like uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM). Washington state doesn't require drivers to carry UM/UIM, which can protect you if you're in a hit-and-run or accident caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver who can't cover your claims. If you only have minimum liability auto insurance, you would likely be on your own to pay for your medical expenses, vehicle damage, etc. (Learn more about UM/UIM below.)  

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in Washington State

Driving without car insurance is a significant risk. Not only do you run the risk of being involved in an accident that could upset your financial well-being, but you also face some pretty steep penalties if you get caught. The penalty for driving without insurance in Washington is a minimum $550 fine

You could face penalties for any of the following insurance-related scenarios: 

Canceled insurance

Did you know your insurance company can notify the state if your insurance lapses and you aren't in compliance with state laws? The state will suspend your license, and you'll get a letter with instructions on how to reinstate your driving privileges.

From there, you must turn in your license at a driver licensing office. You may not drive a motor vehicle during the suspension and won't be able to reinstate your license until your insurance company verifies your coverage. Additionally, you may be required to file an SR-22 endorsement on your auto policy. (Learn more about SR-22 below.) 

Failure to pay accident damages

If you don't have insurance, cause a car accident, and don't pay the resulting damages, your license could be suspended for years. Failure to satisfy a civil court judgment will result in a 10-year suspension, which can be extended for another 10 years.

Failure to show proof of insurance

Under state law, drivers must be able to display proof of insurance upon request. Failure to show proof of insurance is a traffic infraction, and knowingly providing false proof of insurance is a misdemeanor. 

Car Insurance Coverages Required in Washington

Drivers in Washington state must carry two types of liability insurance: bodily injury and property damage. In addition to purchasing state minimums, many drivers add optional coverages to their policies for more protection. Some drivers may be required to carry specific coverage based on their driving history. 

Here are some auto insurance coverage terms you may encounter if you're shopping for a policy:

Bodily Injury Liability Coverage

If you injure another person while driving your vehicle, bodily injury liability coverage (BIL) can offer financial protection according to your policy's terms and conditions. BIL can pay for the other person's medical expenses and, if necessary, your legal fees. 

Washington car insurance laws mandate minimum BIL limits of $25,000 for injury or death to any one person in an accident and a minimum of $50,000 for injuries or death to any two or more people in an accident.

Property Damage Liability Coverage

Property damage liability coverage (PDL) can pay to repair or replace damage you cause to another person's property while operating your vehicle, based on the details in your policy. This type of liability coverage can pay to fix the damage you cause to fences, light posts, mailboxes, vehicles, and other property. Washington drivers must maintain a minimum PDL limit of $10,000 per accident.

Uninsured Motorist Coverage

Washington state does not require drivers to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage (UM/UIM), which is an example of an optional coverage many drivers add to their policies for additional protection. UM/UIM can protect you if you're involved in an accident with an uninsured or underinsured driver who can't cover your claim or if you're the victim of a hit-and-run. Without this coverage, you would likely be responsible for covering your medical bills, car repairs, and other expenses yourself.

State law requires insurers to offer UM/UIM at the same limits as your liability coverage. However, because these coverages are optional in the State of Washington, you are allowed to reject them in writing. 

While opting out of UM/UIM will result in a lower premium, it's important to know that going without these coverages puts you at a higher financial risk if you're the victim of a hit-and-run or in an accident with an uninsured/underinsured driver.

Personal Injury Protection

State law also requires insurers to offer personal injury protection (PIP), the benefits of which often apply no matter who is at fault in an accident. PIP can pay for your and your passengers' medical expenses and lost wages, among other benefits, up to your policy's limits.

Like UM/UIM, the decision to buy PIP is yours. Your auto insurer must offer it to you, and if you don't want it, you must reject it in writing. Otherwise, your auto insurance company will add it to your policy.

Washington SR-22 Insurance

An SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility is often called "SR-22 insurance," but it's not insurance. It's a record your auto insurer files on your behalf with the state that certifies your financial responsibility (aka state-compliant insurance coverage) for a registered vehicle. In other words, it affirms that you have at least the minimum amount of auto insurance required by the state and are therefore able to pay for damages you cause driving.

There are several reasons why you may be required to get an SR-22 endorsement on your auto policy, including if you've:

  • Been convicted of a DUI/DWI
  • Caused an auto accident
  • Gotten caught without insurance
  • Committed repeat traffic offenses

Washington Nonstandard Auto Insurance

Some auto insurance companies consider drivers with a history of accidents, traffic citations, DUI/DWI convictions, or other infractions "high risk" and may refuse their business. High-risk auto insurance, also called non-standard auto insurance, is a coverage option specially designed for these drivers. However, the coverage may be more restrictive than a standard policy and come at a higher cost.

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in Washington?

Car insurance premium amounts depend on a few factors. How much you pay for car insurance in Washington state is influenced by things like:

  • Your vehicle make, year, and model
  • Your age
  • Your driving history
  • Your ZIP Code
  • How much you use your vehicle
  • The coverages and limits you select

With affordable auto insurance rates and flexible payment options, Direct Auto makes it easy for drivers to stay legal on the road. As a Direct customer, you can decide on your down payment amount or monthly payment amount*, and payment due date, plus take advantage of car insurance discounts to make your coverage work for you:**

  • Multi-car discount
  • Homeowner discount
  • Good student discount
  • Senior driver discount
  • Paid-in-full discount
  • Electronic funds transfer discount

Washington Commercial Auto Insurance Policies

Business-owned vehicles must be insured with a commercial auto policy that meets Washington's mandatory insurance minimums. Commercial auto insurance coverage can protect drivers who use a vehicle to perform job-related duties other than commuting.

Minimum Commercial Auto Insurance Requirements

The minimum commercial auto insurance requirements in Washington are the same as those for personal vehicles: 25/50/10.

  • $25,000 bodily injury liability coverage for injury or death of one person per accident
  • $50,000 bodily injury liability coverage for injury or death of any two or more people per accident
  • $10,000 property damage liability coverage for damage to the property of others per accident

Keep in mind that the liability limits for a commercial vehicle depend on your business, needs, and vehicle type. For example, a business-owned sedan can usually be covered by the same liability limits as a personal vehicle, while a larger commercial vehicle necessitates higher limits. There are several factors that impact how much commercial car insurance you need, including: 

  • Vehicle size, type, and weight
  • How the vehicle is used
  • If it transports passengers
  • If it carries hazardous materials
  • If it's a for-hire taxi

Commercial Auto Insurance Coverages

As with personal auto insurance, there are several optional types of commercial auto coverages that offer more protection for your business and employees: 

  • Hired auto and employer's non-ownership liability coverage
  • Fire and theft with combined additional coverage
  • Loss of use coverage
  • Towing and labor reimbursement coverage

Direct Auto offers commercial auto policies for fleets of up to 20 vehicles, plus flexible payment options, discounts, and policy terms of 6 and 12 months.*** Click here to learn more about commercial auto insurance, or get a free, no-obligation quote by calling 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or stopping by a Direct location near you.

Get More Information

Curious about the coverages you need to drive legally in Washington state? Want a free, no-obligation quote on car insurance? Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT (1-877-463-4732) or visit a Washington Direct location near you. 

Washington Insurance Resources

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