Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • If your car isn’t running, you still need to have insurance on the car if it will still be registered
  • To avoid paying tag fees, some people will file their vehicle as non-operational and pay a small fee for the filing
  • When your car has a filed non-op tag, you can only legally park the car in storage or on private property
  • When you’re going to drive or tow your vehicle to the shop, you need to buy insurance on it first
  • You’ll legally have to buy whatever coverage and limits are mandatory in your state before the car is moved

If you don’t maintain your vehicle on a regular basis, you’ll eventually experience a vehicle breakdown.

It’s crucial that you do the following whenever you’ve reached the common mileage milestones

  • change your oil
  • top off your fluids
  • replace your belts
  • service your transmission

It doesn’t just cost money to get a car, it also costs money to keep your car running.

When you own a car that’s not running, insurance can be a complicated subject area. By law, you still may have to carry insurance on a car that’s sitting and in need of maintenance or repairs.

There are ways to avoid paying for premiums when you take the right steps in notifying the DMV of your car’s current condition.

If you need to get insurance, make sure you compare quotes first. Use our free tool to make sure you get the best rate possible.

Here’s what you need to do to insure a car that needs to be towed to the repair shop.

What is a vehicle registration?


When you buy a car or you’re given a vehicle, the first thing that you must do after the transaction is complete is to register the car in your name.

The fees that you pay to register a car are used in your city or your state to maintain public roads.

To legally drive a car, tow a car, or park a car on these public roads, the car has to have tags.

You have to register a car in at least one name. You can also register the vehicle in multiple names or in your business name if it’s used for business.

The name that’s found on the registration is the name of the legal party who must pay for damages when the car is involved in an accident. It’s also the name of the person who’s responsible for insuring the car.

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You Need Insurance on Any Car That’s Registered

You might think it’s pointless to buy insurance on a car that’s not being driven, but the state doesn’t see it this way. State officials will assume that all vehicles that have valid tags are in a condition where they can be driven.

There’s no way for the state to know that your registered car isn’t running unless you tell them this.

You must always have at least a minimum amount of insurance on a car that is currently registered in your name.

It doesn’t matter if the car is rarely driven or if it’s been parked for six or more months, as long as you have a registration you’ll need at least liability insurance to satisfy the state laws.

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Is it okay to let your registration expire on a car that’s sitting?

One solution that seems reasonable when your car is parked on private property is to let your registration lapse. This way, you’ll be able to save money on registration fees and insurance. Unfortunately, this isn’t the way to save money.

If you let your registration expire by choosing not to pay your fees at renewal time, it makes things difficult when you’re ready to sell your car or drive it again.

You have to have a registration to drive the car but you can’t just reactivate it by phone. You’ll have to pay not just the registration fees but other fines for paying late.

If the car is parked on a public road without a registration, it could wind up being fined and impounded.

What does it mean when you file your car as non-operational?


If you plan on storing your vehicle and your renewal is coming, you’ll be given the option to apply for a Planned Non-Operation filing. To file your car as non-operational, you’ll pay a small fee to the DMV.

The fee is well worth it because you won’t get stuck paying late fees for the full registration amount that you’re not paying.

Not just anyone should apply for a PNO filing. Before you determine that this is the best option for you, you need to consider how long the car will be parked before you take it to get repaired.

If it will only be a few weeks, it’s better to renew your registration. If it will be months before you drive or tow the car, a PNO filing does make sense.

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You Can’t Remove Insurance from a Financed Car

You may be able to take insurance off of your car when it’s filed properly but not if it’s financed. Few things are worse than financing a car that breaks down.

You still have to pay the car note and you still have to pay for full coverage auto insurance. If you don’t, you’ll be fined even more for ignoring the terms of the lending contract.

When it’s time for you to finally repair your car, you need to put insurance on the car if you haven’t already. Many people don’t realize that cars need to be insured when they are going to be towed or driven in public.

If you’re calling a tow truck to come to the house to pick up the car, you need to call and get at least a short-term insurance policy.

What type of insurance do you need to buy?


You need to buy at least liability insurance to move your car for maintenance purposes.

If there are other types of insurance required in your state, you must buy those options as well. If you’re only buying insurance to maintain and then sell the car, you may want to purchase a short-term insurance policy.

Auto insurance doesn’t cover maintenance costs but you’ll need it when you transport your car to a shop for servicing or repairs.

If you don’t have a policy in place now, it’s time to start shopping before you make your appointment with a mechanic. Get instant quotes now and you’ll be able to find the best-priced plan for immediate coverage.