Since we first posted this story, over half of U.S. states have legalized digital insurance ID. Check out the newest info on electronic proof of insurance.

Imagine, if you will, that you’re another happy Esurance policyholder out for a pleasant Sunday drive. You’re enjoying the grayly atmospheric winter day, not a care in the world, when suddenly you hear that dreaded sound — the whoop of a police siren telling you this isn’t going to be the best day after all.

A glance in the rearview confirms the feeling: You’re being pulled over.

The highway patrol officer issues a curt greeting, asking if you know how fast you were going back there. You sigh and admit that your eye had been on the odometer, fully aware that you were over the speed limit, if only by a mere 7 mph (or so). You think briefly about debating the matter but decide to chalk it up to a loss. No use arguing with the law, you think.

The officer asks for proof of insurance, so you pull out your smartphone and head to our mobile app to pull up your ID card. Unbeknownst to you, as you do this the officer is giving you a look like you’ve just pulled a live trout from your pocket and tried to call your mother on it.

All logged in, you find your ID card and turn your phone’s touchscreen toward the officer. And realize he’s shaking his head.

Not to mention adding another infraction to the ticket he’s writing up.

What happened!?

Although handy for your own reference, the mobile version of your ID cards doesn’t cut it when Johnny Law asks to see proof of insurance.

Just in case you may have missed it, we offer this advice on the “your ID card” page of the mobile version of our site:

Please note that the following electronic ID card is a courtesy copy. It doesn’t replace your real card, and it isn’t considered valid proof of insurance. You can print a copy of your real ID card by logging into your account at As always, feel free to contact us at 1-800-ESURANCE with any questions.

Much as we wish you could use the mobile version of our site as your legally valid insurance ID card, you just can’t. (Hey, maybe someday.) So remember to print your real ID card by logging in to your policy at our customer login.

And why?

Most states require that drivers have their insurance ID card in their vehicles at all times, and be ready to show it whenever asked to by a representative of the law.

But those aren’t the only legal requirements when it comes to your insurance ID card. Far from it! The different states also mandate what kinds of information the card needs to display, how it should be formatted, what dimensions it should be, what abbreviations are acceptable, and much, much more (trust us, you don’t really want to know all the specs).

Not the least of these pertinent requirements, however, is that it be printed. Many states also incorporate some form of anti-fraud measure to keep people from falsely using your info. In New York, for example, your card must feature an encrypted bar code that contains 20 vital bits of data about you, your car, and your insurer.

The moral of the story? If you’ve been driving around thinking your smartphone is smart, you’re probably right. But if you’ve been driving around thinking your smartphone counts as an insurance ID card, think again. We’re working hard to make car insurance as smart as possible, but for a wide variety of reasons, you still need to carry a printed copy of your insurance ID card — so, if you haven’t already, go download and print yours today!

Insurance 101 | Smart technology


about John

John Moore Williams has spent his writing career providing advice on everything from proper septic system care to where to eat in Nice (and, during his tenure at Esurance, how to find the right insurance coverages). An avid descriptive grammarian, he encourages you to end sentences with prepositions and to split infinitives whenever possible.