As states try to stop drivers from operating vehicles without auto insurance, more of them are requiring proof of insurance at the time the owner applies for car registration. All states now require some form of car liability coverage and even the ones that don't require proof of auto insurance for registering a vehicle require it in other instances—like when pulled over for a traffic stop. Insurers all provide this type of documentation, but there are different methods for getting it. Before the era of the Internet, all companies handled this via mail and most companies will still send permanent and replacement cards via the postal service.
Trade-In on a New Vehicle
If you trade your car in for a new one, most states will allow you to use proof of insurance from the original vehicle as documentation for the new acquisition when doing your registration. This can be helpful if your insurance company sends new cards or proof of car insurance letters via regular mail. Most companies will allow you to change coverage from one vehicle to another over the phone and have coverage start immediately. So the only real delay is in getting the physical documents. If your state doesn't allow this you'll need to visit your agent (if you have one) in person or call the company to see what options you have. If you bought your insurance policy via the Internet they should have some method for getting your new documentation printed out.
Adding an Another Vehicle
When adding a vehicle, though, the process can be a bit more difficult. Some states will also honor your existing car insurance card as proof of car liability coverage on the new vehicle. For those whose states don't, though, you'll need something else to complete your car registration. If you do business with your insurance company via the Internet you can again turn to the system they have put in place to print your own proof of insurance card or proof of car insurance letter. This can save headaches by cutting down the delay for the physical card to arrive in the mail. Once more if you have an in-person agent you'll probably need to pay a visit.
Registering Your First Vehicle
The problem is compounded if you are trying to register your first vehicle. In those cases, you don't have an old proof of insurance card to use. So, calling in for coverage is generally out of the question if your state requires proof of insurance to do your car registration. In that instance you'll either need to sit down with an actual live representative or use the Internet to get your insurance coverage. If you go the "live person" route, they'll certainly provide you with either a card or proof of insurance letter on the spot. As mentioned in the previous paragraph, Internet-based policies will always provide some method of making the documentation available for you to print.