Before getting auto insurance in Wisconsin
Non-locals might think all states in the Midwest are basically the same, with many states in this region sharing snowy winters and a coastline on the Great Lakes. But try telling that to a Packers fan.
One thing that varies from one state to the next in any region of the US is the cost and requirements for car insurance. Find out what you can expect when driving in Wisconsin, from legal insurance minimums and traffic safety laws to who’s at fault in car accidents.
Average car insurance costs in Wisconsin
With average costs for car insurance landing around $1,150 annually in 2015, Wisconsin drivers can expect to pay less than the national average — around $1,300 — and way less than their neighbors across the lake. Michigan drivers could pay upwards of $2,300 for comparable coverage.
But while Wisconsin has fairly reasonable car insurance rates overall, prices vary throughout the state. If you live in downtown Milwaukee you’ll likely pay more for car insurance than drivers out in Rhinelander or the little town of Kohler. Where you live can affect your insurance costs because city living comes with some additional risks for car accidents, vandalism and theft — and more risks usually means higher premiums.
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State minimum requirements in Wisconsin
To legally drive in Wisconsin, you’ll need insurance that includes at least:
- $25,000 for injury or death per person
- $50,000 total for injury or death to multiple people in a single accident
- $10,000 for property damage
You’re also required to get uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage with the following limits:
- $25,000 for injuries per person
- $50,000 for total injuries per accident
What additional coverage can I get?
Your additional coverage options in Wisconsin are about the same as in other states, including:
- Rental car. Can help reimburse you for renting a car while your vehicle is getting repaired after an accident.
- Towing and labor. Helps pay for towing and labor costs after an accident.
- Comprehensive. Covers damage to your car caused by something other than a collision, like weather or vandalism.
- Collision. Helps pay for repairs and replacement parts if your car is damaged in an accident.
- Medical and funeral services. This coverage will help pay for medical bills or funeral services resulting from an accident.
Uninsured drivers in Wisconsin
About 14% of all motorists in Wisconsin were driving without proper insurance in 2015, according to estimates from the Insurance Research Council. This is slightly above the national average of 13%.
A collision with someone who doesn’t have car insurance will cost you. This is why Wisconsin, like several other states, mandates uninsured motorist coverage.
What can I do if I don’t want to buy car insurance in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, you can opt out of traditional car insurance coverage by making a $60,000 deposit in cash or bonds to the state treasury. If you do this, you’ll be given a certificate of financial responsibility; those funds will be used to pay for damages or injuries in the event of an accident where you’re at fault.
Can I buy temporary car insurance in Wisconsin?
Yes, you can get temporary car insurance in Wisconsin. You might need temporary coverage if you’re visiting for a month or more or don’t drive often. It’s legal to purchase short-term car insurance for less than six months, but many insurance companies don’t offer this option. Check with providers like Geico, Allstate and Progressive who advertise short-term insurance.
What happens if I’m driving in Wisconsin and I don’t have insurance?
If you’re caught driving without proper coverage in Wisconsin, you can face some fines and can have your license and registration suspended. You may be fined as much as $500 for not having insurance at all. And if you simply fail to show proof — but are able to present that proof later — you’re still likely to be fined $10. If you show fraudulent car insurance to police or the DMV you can be fined of up to $5,000. The state will also require you to file SR-22 insurance for three years if you’re caught driving without insurance.
What laws do I need to follow when I’m driving in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin shares a lot of common traffic laws with the rest of the country, and it also has a few different laws worth noting before you get behind the wheel.
- Headlights must be on between sunset and sunrise, and when visibility is below 500 feet, such as during snow, fog or rain.
- Texting while driving is prohibited, and using a phone at all is illegal for drivers with a probationary license or learner’s permit.
- Using the median crossing of a divided highway is illegal and puts drivers at risk for a serious accident and holds fines of $263.
What are the DUI penalties in Wisconsin?
Every state in the country — including Wisconsin — now has the same blood alcohol content (BAC) limits when driving: 0.08% for regular drivers and 0.04% for commercial drivers.
If you’re caught driving under the influence (DUI), you can face some steep fines, administrative penalties and possibly even jail time.
|1st Offense||2nd Offense||3rd Offense||4th Offense||5th+ Offense|
|Jail||None||5 days to 6 months||30 days to 1 year||60 days to 1 year||6 months to 6 years|
|Fines and penalties||$150–$300||$300–$1,100||$600–$2,000||$600–$2,000||$600–$10,000|
|License suspension||6–9 months||12–18 months||2–3 years||2–3 years||2–3 years|
Can I get SR-22 insurance in Wisconsin?
Yes, you can file an SR-22 certificate in Wisconsin, which is a document that your car insurance company files with the state to prove you have the legal minimum coverage requirements needed to get behind the wheel. You might need to file an SR-22 if you’ve gotten a DUI or have been caught driving without car insurance.
What happens after an accident in Wisconsin?
Even the smallest car accidents can leave you feeling shaken up. If you’ve recently been in a car accident, take a deep breath and follow these steps to keep the process as safe and headache-free as possible.
- Get to safety. Make sure you everyone involved in the crash is OK. If anyone needs medical attention, call 911 immediately.
- Exchange information. Write down the full names, cars and insurance information of everyone involved in the accident. If you can, include their addresses and driver’s license numbers in your notes.
- Contact your insurance agent. Before you’ve left the scene of the crash, call your insurance agent. Once you tell them what’s happened, they’ll be able to guide you through the upcoming insurance process and provide more specific advice to help you.
- Document the accident scene. Take pictures of the scene, and try to capture multiple angles of the damage. Take down the names of police officers and any potential witnesses to better protect your claim.
Who’s at fault after an accident?
Wisconsin is a tort or at-fault state, meaning whoever caused the crash is held responsible for damages and injuries afterward.
When should I report an accident in Wisconsin?
Not every accident will require a report to the authorities, but you must report your car crash if:
- Anyone is injured or killed.
- Anyone involved has more than $1,000 in property damages.
- Any government property has more than $200 in damages.
When should I contact a lawyer?
You might want to get in touch with a lawyer if:
- You’re being charged with a crime after an accident, such as negligence or vehicular assault.
- You plan to file a civil suit against the other driver in the crash.
- The other driver plans to file a suit against you.
- Your insurance provider is refusing to pay a claim that you believe is legitimate.
Car insurance can help to protect you and your vehicle, plus other drivers on the road — and in the state of Wisconsin, you simply can’t hit the road without it.
To learn more about these topics, from state laws and regulations to finding the best value on your coverage, visit our comprehensive guide to auto insurance.
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