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Ohio, which is now known as the Buckeye State, has strong roots in the expansion of the country. In the 1800s, Ohio was given the nickname the Gateway State because of its network of railroads, canals, and roads. It was Ohio that made it possible for residents in the eastern states to expand westward during the Westward Expansion.

Ohio is now home to 49,078 lane-miles of interstate and 262,851 total miles of road. With more than 6.2 million registered vehicles in Ohio, auto insurance is a must. That's why the state requires that all registered vehicle owners prove they are financially responsible.

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Here's your guide to Ohio auto insurance requirements to use before you shop around.

In Ohio Drivers Must Prove They Are Financially Responsible

Anyone who passes a driving test and furnishes their identification paperwork is eligible to get a driver's license. It is not until you purchase a vehicle and register it in your name that you're legally required to prove your ability to pay for the losses that you cause.

Unlike some states, Ohio has a Financial Responsibility Law instead of a mandatory insurance law. Financial Responsibility Laws (FR) basically say that you must prove that you're financially able to pay for someone else's repairs or medical bills before you have a loss. Driving your own car or allowing someone to drive your car without a filed proof of Financial Responsibility is illegal.

How much auto insurance is required in Ohio?

Purchasing auto insurance is the most popular way to comply with the Buckeye State's FR law. If you choose to buy insurance, you're required by law to buy a minimum amount of third-party protection.

You also have to buy the third-party protection from a company that is licensed by the Ohio Department of Insurance to sell auto insurance in the state.

Some states require a long list of coverage options that pay for third-party and first-party claims. In Ohio, drivers are only legally required to buy third-party liability coverage that pays to repair property or treat injured vehicle occupants or pedestrians.

Here's a breakdown of the most up-to-date coverage requirements:

  • Bodily Injury Liability (BI) – $25,000 per person, up to $50,000 per accident; BI Liability pays to cover the medical bills and other related expenses that a third-party incurs when you're liable for the damages. The purpose of BI is to protect your assets so that you don't face litigation.
  • Property Damage Liability (PD) – $25,000 per accident; PD Liability pays to repair vehicles owned by others and other damaged property that you collide with in an at-fault accident. While $25,000 won't cover for multiple totaled cars, it's enough to comply with the Financial Responsibility laws in Ohio based on what's been set by the state.

What are the alternatives to buying auto insurance?

One of the great things about Ohio state law and insurance is that you have options. If you don't want to pay premiums every month for coverage that you're not sure you'll use, you can file a different form of financial responsibility that's accepted by the state.

Here are some of the alternative options:

  • Obtain a certificate showing that you've deposited at least $30,000 in cash with the state treasurer.
  • File a certificate of bond showing that two property owners are placing real estate as collateral. The property must have at least $60,000.
  • Obtain a certificate of self-insurance through an employer.
  • Post a bond in the amount of $30,000 that's been issued by an Ohio surety company.

Why is buying insurance the best alternative?

Having options sounds like a good idea but there are some drawbacks. When you're not legally required to buy insurance, you may be more at-risk for losing property, assets, and future income. Insurance is the best protection even if you have the money or collateral to put up as a deposit.

Auto insurance is an agreement that says that the wealthy insurance company will use its money to pay for your losses when you have valid coverage. In exchange, you pay a small amount of money.

Instead of taking the gamble, you'll be certain that you have a specific level of protection, not to mention that auto policies offer supplemental damage coverage to pay for legal fees, bail bonds, and other expenses.

How does the state verify your evidence of financial responsibility?

In the past, virtually anyone could drive uninsured without many repercussions. Now, with new verification systems in place to thwart ID card fraud, it's not as easy as it was.

In Ohio, the state has a Random Selection Program to catch culprits without active insurance or a financial responsibility filing. You don't have to be pulled over to be penalized.

The Random Selection Program is a system where the Bureau of Motor Vehicles selects 5,400 vehicles each week and asks for valid proof of insurance for a specific date.

If the owner doesn't respond to the request, the registration will be suspended. If you can't provide proof, you'll be assessed a penalty and asked to pay a fine before your registration is reinstated.

What's the penalty for driving without insurance in Ohio?

Years ago, before the McCarran-Ferguson Act was passed in 1945, it was the federal government's job to set the penalties for being uninsured. Since uninsured motorists weren't a huge problem then, not much happened if you were caught.

Now, Ohio state officials have set strict penalties for those who fail to comply with the law. The penalties and consequences are greater now because of the rising rate of uninsured drivers causing damages to others. Essentially, it's in the spirit of consumer protection.

Here are no-insurance penalties that are assessed in Ohio:

  • License suspension until proof of insurance is presented for first offense
  • $100 reinstatement fee for first offense
  • $300 reinstatement fee for second offense
  • $600 reinstatement fee for third offense
  • Requirement to file proof of high-risk insurance for up to 5 years
  • Up to 60-day registration suspension of registration

Can you protect yourself against uninsured motorists?

With such steep penalties for being uninsured, it's obvious that officials are combating an all too common problem. Based on the latest report released, around 13.5 percent of drivers in Ohio don't have any proof of FR. Around 830,000 cars that are being operated do not have insurance at any given time.

If you want protection against these drivers, you can purchase an add-on provision for your auto policy. The coverage is called Uninsured Motorist Protection and it pays for your medical bills and other related expenses when you're hit by someone with no FR filing. It costs additional premiums, but it will give you much-needed peace of mind, which is another reason to carry auto insurance.

How do you cover your own vehicle?

Property Damage coverage will pay to fix cars you don't own, but what if you want your own protection? If you don't want to pay for all of your repairs or an entire replacement without any type of financial help, you have the option to add physical damage coverage to your policy. However, this coverage isn't optional when you have a loan contract.

Physical damage coverage consists of comprehensive and collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage pays for losses to the covered car caused by fire, theft, flood, explosion, vandalism, and more.

Collision pays when you're at-fault or when you collide with someone who has no coverage. Each one has it's own premium but you must have comprehensive coverage to carry collision.

How much is full coverage?

If you're debating whether or not to buy comprehensive and collision, looking at average expenditures can help. The average premium for comprehensive is $113.02 per year.

The average premium for collision comes in much higher at $251.13 per year. Since it costs almost two-thirds more for collision, you need to decide if it makes sense to buy it.

How can I cover my own medical bills?

It's also possible to buy Medical Payments coverage through your insurer. Medical payments is an add-on that will help pay for immediate treatment and medical transport no matter who causes an accident. While the limits per person are typically low, they can help you pay for your co-pay, restricted access to care, and deductibles.

Auto insurance premiums are extremely personal. They are based on your driving habits, your area, and your likelihood of filing a claim. If you want to see how much you'll pay with some of the most respected Ohio carriers, you'll need to get quotes.

The best way to research policies is to use an online rate comparison tool. Get quotes instantly and save money in a matter of minutes. 

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