How long should you keep your auto insurance records?

If you are wondering how long to keep the insurance record, the answer depends on the type of document. In general, you should keep insurance policy documents until the policy expires and all claims (if any) are settled. But there may be exceptions, especially if you own a business or are self-employed. Below, Bankrate’s team of insurance experts break down everything you need to know—from how far back to keep insurance documents to the safest way to dispose of your car insurance records.

Insurance documents you should keep

It’s a good idea to keep your auto insurance statements and related documentation until your auto insurance policy expires. These records may include:

  • Your insurance ID card. This document serves as proof of insurance. It must be provided when requested by a police officer or when you are involved in an accident in many states. Keep this card for the duration of the policy, either in your wallet, glove box or center console, or as a digital file that you can easily access on your smartphone.

  • The declarations page of your car insurance policy. An insurance declarations page gives you a snapshot of your policy’s coverage types and limits, as well as details of what may be excluded from your policy. Keep this document in a safe and accessible place — such as a file cabinet or desk drawer — until the policy period is no longer active and all open claims during the period have been resolved.

  • Documents related to a claim. If you have an open claim with your auto insurer, keep all receipts, repair bills and any other documentation related to the claim. These documents can be discarded once you receive a check and the claim is officially closed.

  • Your monthly billing statement. It may be a good idea to keep monthly statements until your payment is processed or the policy period ends. If your policy applies to a business, speak to your tax professional first, as they may recommend keeping statements for several years. Statements should be kept in a secure place, such as a locked cabinet or drawer.

Insurance documents you don’t need to keep

Determining how long to keep old insurance policies and other records also involves knowing what you can throw away and when. Here are a few items you don’t need to keep indefinitely:

  • Your primary policy document. This is the multi-page document that includes all the details of your policy limits, discounts, coverage, policy endorsements and more. Many people choose to keep these pages until they renew their policy, although it may not be necessary if your insurer provides digital access to these documents through your online account. If your insurer doesn’t, hold off on all paperwork until you receive a new policy packet in the mail when you renew. Once your policy has expired and you have paid it in full, it is safe to dispose of these documents.

  • Canceled checks from premiums paid. Many banks no longer return your canceled checks. If yours does, you can destroy the checks after reconciling them with your account.

  • Previous ID cards. Most car insurance policies last from six months to one year. When your policy is renewed, you will receive a new set of ID cards with details of the current policy period and expiry date. Once ID cards expire, they are no longer needed and can be shredded.

Find out more: How to read a car insurance policy

How long to keep insurance records

How long you should keep insurance statements depends on whether you have open claims and how you use your vehicle. Some of the most extensive insurance documents, such as the full policy jacket (also known as the policy form), do not need to be kept for more than one year.

Once you have a new policy in hand, the old one can usually be dropped—unless there’s an open claim that still needs to be resolved. In this case, it is a good idea to keep all documents, including receipts for car repairs and medical care, until the claim is settled and all payments are received.

If your policy is for a business, you may need to keep insurance documents for tax purposes for up to seven years. Consult your tax professional for advice. Storing insurance documents in a climate-controlled location can prevent mold or fading, and a waterproof and fireproof safe can protect them even more. Once it’s time to dispose of the documents, a cross-cut shredder is one of the best ways to avoid identity theft because of the sensitive information the paperwork may contain.

If for some reason you accidentally throw away the current policy documents, don’t worry. Your insurer will have copies of all documents on file and you may also be able to access them online. A quick call to your agent or customer service should be enough to get you a new copy to replace the one you discarded.

How to properly dispose of old insurance policies

Identity theft is on the rise in the U.S., according to the Insurance Information Institute. Your policy documents may contain names, addresses, policy numbers and other personal information, and an enterprising thief can use this information for personal gain if your documents are found in the trash or in a landfill. In general, you should always shred anything that has your name or identifying details on it.

A small home shredder should be fine for disposing of old insurance documents. A cross-cut shredder will cut pages in two directions, making it difficult for would-be thieves to get information from discarded documents. If you don’t have a home shredder, some office supply stores offer shredding services, and many local banks or companies host free shredding days.

Frequently Asked Questions

    • While there isn’t one “best” auto insurance company for everyone, Bankrate has identified the companies that offer the best rates, the most coverage options and superior customer service in our list of the best auto insurance companies for 2023. Getting of quotes from these companies can be a good place to start your car insurance search.

    • When you purchase a new policy when renewing or switching companies, you can discard old policy documentation once you receive the new documents. However, you should keep old insurance policies if there is an open claim or the possibility of an open claim. And if you’re renewing, you may want to keep your billing statements and declarations page from your old policy. Finally, remember that you always need a valid car insurance card when you drive.

    • You should keep old insurance claim documents until the claim is officially closed, the policy expires, and you receive all the payments you are entitled to. Once the claim is complete, it is safe to shred the documents in a cross-cut shredder. Before shredding, you can scan the documents or photograph them to store them digitally or in the cloud if you like.

    • Storing your insurance documents in a fire and waterproof lockable box and/or in a climate controlled space is usually a great way to protect them from many home and weather hazards. Avoid storing loose documents in your basement in case your home experiences a flood. You may also consider storing documents on a flash drive or similar device. Alternatively, for a small fee, sites like Dropbox and iCloud will store digital documents online so they’re accessible no matter where you are or what device you’re using.

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