Best Car Insurance Rates in Montana (2021)
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UPDATED: Mar 26, 2021
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|Montana Statistics Summary||Details|
|Miles of Roadway||73,567|
|Number of Registered Vehicles||441,392|
|Most Popular Vehicle||F150|
|Uninsured Driver %||9.9%|
|Driving Fatalities||Speeding: 67
|Average Annual Premiums||Montana: $1,380
|Cheapest Providers||SAFECO and USAA|
The Big Sky State definitely lives up to its name. With over 147,000 square miles and a population of 1.062 million, Montana is the fourth-largest state by area with the 43rd-largest population. Forty-six out of the 56 counties average six or fewer people per square mile. That’s a lot of sky for each person.
Montanans and tourists – over 12 million of them – spend much of their time in the great outdoors. The state is a paradise for those that love to hike, fish, ski, camp, or just be outdoors. Montana has 3,000 named lakes and reservoirs, 10 national forests, 43 state parks. Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks make being outside a must.
If you would rather spend your time exploring instead of chasing down car insurance, you’ve come to the right place.
There’s no need to spend hours researching car insurance. We’re here to help you get all the coverage you need, at a great price. Let us do the work for you.
Our guide will tell you everything you need to know about car insurance in Montana. We’ve researched the laws, coverages, and statistics that you need to make the best decision.
You can even get free quotes just by entering your ZIP code above.
Average Montana Car Insurance Coverage and Rates
Car insurance is not only a legal requirement, it’s also an essential part of being a responsible driver. In a state that has 9.9 percent of its population driving without insurance, it is important to make sure you are covered.
What is the correct amount of coverage for you? What is the minimum the state requires? How do you know if you are making the best choice?
Let’s dive into the information and help you become confident in all things car insurance for Montana.
What is Montana’s car culture?
Montana has over 73,000 miles of roads to explore. In Montana, you’ll find everything from the mountains to the prairies, and even a few larger cities. But with millions of tourists visiting each year and huge numbers of animals, like grizzly bears and elk, no one here drives like famous Montanan Evel Knievel.
Full-size trucks, like the Chevy Silverado 1500 or the Ford F150 with the off-road package, are the most popular vehicles in the state. Cattle outnumber people in Montana, so it’s no surprise the trucks are used for ranching and farming.
Since average snowfall in the larger cities can equal 30-50 inches and up to 300 inches in the mountains, the sports cars you find will be for the summer months only.
How much coverage is required for Montana minimum coverage?
Montana is an at-fault state. That means that the person who caused the accident will be held responsible for damages.
Liability insurance is the minimum insurance you can carry in the state. It will cover the property damage, medical, or other costs of other drivers, but it does not cover any costs the at-fault driver incurs. This type of insurance would not cover any damages to you or your property. It would also not cover injuries to anyone else in your car.
Montana follows the 25/50/20 rule. That means that you have to carry these minimums:
- $25,000 liability coverage for bodily injury or death for one person in an accident caused by the insured driver.
- $50,000 liability coverage for total bodily injury or death of multiple people in an accident caused by the insured driver.
- $20,000 liability coverage for property damage in an accident caused by the insured driver.
In some cases, the damages caused by an accident may exceed these coverages. You could be held responsible for any additional costs. Luckily, there are other types of car insurance as well as liability. You can pick the coverage that suits you best.
Watch this video for an explanation of the different types of car insurance.
What are the forms of financial responsibility in Montana?
Montana allows for either paper or electronic forms showing your insurance coverage.
Montana uses an online verification system to confirm at least the minimum coverage for drivers in the state.
The Montana Insurance Verification System (MTIVS) allows drivers to verify their insurance status online. The police can then access the online system as needed.
Say you are cruising down the Going to The Sun Road and get stopped by a Montana Trooper. You can’t find your insurance card or the one you have is expired. What do you do? There’s no need to worry if you have put your information in MTIVS. The trooper can access the information right then.
There are stiff penalties for not having insurance that involves fines and possible jail times.
- First Offense – Fine of $250 – $500 or up to 10 days in jail
- Second Offense – Fine of $350 minimum or 10 days in jail, revoked driver’s license for 30 days, and five points on your license
- Third or more Offense – Fine of up to $500 and/or up-to six months in jail
It’s definitely worth the time to put your insurance information in MTIVS and the cost of being insured.
How much percentage of income are premiums in Montana?
Just how affordable is insurance in Montana? How much of your income goes to car insurance?
Let’s take a look at a three-year trend showing the cost of full coverage versus the disposable income of Montanans.
|Insurance as %|
of Income 2014
|Insurance as %|
of Income 2013
|Insurance as %
of Income 2012
In 2014, Montanans spent just over 2 percent of their disposable income on their car insurance. The disposable income in 2014 was $36,041, while the average full coverage policy was just $868.55.
The national average was almost 2.5 percent. The national average disposable income in 2014 was $40,859 and the average policy was $981.77. Montana falls just below those numbers.
Of course, rates have changed since that study, but it gives you an idea of what percentage of your income will be spent on your car insurance. It’s easy to see that car insurance is an affordable part of your budget.
What are the core coverages in Montana?
Below is a list of coverages and their costs in 2016, compiled from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, or NAIC.
|Coverage Type||Montana Average||National Average|
As you can see, Montana is well below the national average, except in comprehensive coverage. Comprehensive coverage costs about $80 more in Montana than the national average.
Montana requires you carry liability insurance, but having additional coverage can wind up saving you money if you are in an accident.
What additional liability is available in Montana?
Let’s look at loss ratios for additional liability insurance in Montana. The loss ratio refers to the difference between what an insurance company brings in as premiums and what they payout for claims. A loss ratio of 60 percent means that a company pays out $60 for every $100 they bring in.
|Additional Coverage||2015 Loss Ratio||2014 Loss Ratio||2013 Loss Ratio|
As you can see from the table, the loss ratio for companies in Montana is between 60 percent and 70 percent.
If a company has too little loss, it means they are charging premiums but not paying claims. If they have too much loss across several years, the company isn’t financially stable. Too much loss can also signal a rate increase. Companies in Montana seem to have a good mix.
What add-ons, endorsements, and riders are available in Montana?
Additional coverage is generally a good idea. You want to make sure that you are covered for any out-of-pocket costs.
These are just a few of the additional coverages you can purchase, depending on your specific needs.
- Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) – covers the difference between what a vehicle is worth and what you owe on it
- Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP) – adds an extra layer of liability protection
- Rental Reimbursement – covers any vehicle rental expenses while your car is being repaired
- Emergency Roadside Assistance – useful if your car breaks down, runs out of gas, gets a flat tire, or you lock your keys in your car
- Mechanical Breakdown Insurance – covers car repairs not related to an accident such as brake or transmission repair
- Non-Owner Car Insurance – liability insurance for those that drive but do not own a car
- Modified Car Insurance Coverage – covers specialty modifications like a supercharger or custom paint job
- Classic Car Insurance – rates can be lower depending on the usage of the car
- Pay-As-You-Drive or Usage-Based Insurance – rates depend on the driver’s habits and behaviors
Make sure to speak with your insurance agent to go over any additional coverages that might be a good fit for you.
Do gender and age affect my car insurance in Montana?
Gender does not affect your car insurance in Montana. In fact, Montana was the first state to establish unisex insurance rates. You cannot be charged more for insurance based on your gender, but rates can vary based on age and marital status.
The table below shows a few carriers in Montana and what they charge based on age and gender. The data is based on purchased coverage, includes high-risk drivers, and includes additional coverage purchased.
|Company||Married 35-Year-Old Female||Married 35-Year-Old Male||Married 60-Year-Old Female||Married 60-Year-Old Male||Single 17-Year-Old Female||Single 17-Year-Old Male||Single 25-Year-Old Female||Single 25-Year-Old Male|
|Mid-Century Ins Co||$2,755.44||$2,755.44||$2,462.45||$2,462.45||$7,395.41||$7,395.41||$3,016.88||$3,016.88|
|SAFECO Ins Co of IL||$1,021.71||$1,021.71||$999.67||$999.67||$2,064.28||$2,064.28||$1,218.77||$1,218.77|
|State Farm Mutual Auto||$1,640.33||$1,640.33||$1,439.41||$1,439.41||$4,814.65||$4,814.65||$1,776.55||$1,776.55|
The data above shows you can be charged more based on age but not on gender. Single 17-year-olds were charged the highest rates, and married 60-year-olds were charged the lowest rates.
Lower rates for older people make sense. The longer you drive, the more experience you have. More experience makes you a better driver.
Allstate charges $10,484.90, the largest amount for teen drivers. Safeco charges the least at $2,064.28. That’s a huge difference. Safeco also charges the least for 60-year-olds at $999.67 and Progressive Northwestern was the highest at $2,901.06. That is a 90 percent difference between teen drivers and older drivers.
Looking at these numbers may make you want to tell your teen they have to wait until they’re 25 to get their driver’s license. Thankfully, there are ways to save on teen car insurance. This video has some great tips on how to bring down that high insurance policy.
What are the cheapest rates by ZIP code in Montana?
Did you know that where you live can affect your car insurance rates? If you live in an area with high theft or insurance fraud, you can wind up paying more for your car insurance. Insurance companies may try to recoup some of their losses by spreading them across everyone’s policies.
The table below shows the 25 least expensive ZIP codes to live in. You can search for your ZIP code in the box below.
|ZIP Code||Average||Allstate F&C||Mid-Century Ins Co||Geico General||SAFECO Ins Co of IL||Depositors Insurance||Progressive NorthWestern||State Farm Mutual Auto||USAA|
The ZIP code of 59635 has the cheapest average annual insurance in the state, with an average rate of $2,866.45. ZIP codes 59602 and 59626 also had very similar rates.
Living in any of these top 25 ZIP codes could save you money.
Now let’s look at the more expensive places to live. This table shows you the 25 most expensive ZIP codes in Montana.
|Zipcode||Average||Allstate F&C||Mid-Century Ins Co||Geico General||SAFECO Ins Co of IL||Depositors Insurance||Progressive NorthWestern||State Farm Mutual Auto||USAA|
The most expensive ZIP code is 59089, with an average premium of $3,457.80. That’s a difference of $591.35 a year, just based on where you live.
How does your ZIP code stack up? Are you living in an area that raises your rates simply because of your ZIP code?
What are the cheapest rates by city in Montana?
Let’s break the data down by cities. These tables will show you the least and most expensive Montana cities for car insurance.
Here is a list of the cities with the least expensive car insurance rates. If you live in one of these 25 cities, your average rates are some of the cheapest in the state.
If you live in East Helena, Helena, or Fort Harrison, your insurance rates are the lowest in Montana.
Now let’s take a look at the cities with the most expensive average car insurance rates.
Residents of Wyola, Noxon, and Fort Smith have some of the highest average insurance rates in the state.
The state average annual rate for car insurance is $3,220.84. People in East Helena will pay $342.39 LESS than the average, and residents of Wyola will pay $236.96 MORE than the annual average.
Enter your ZIP code below to view companies that have cheap auto insurance rates.
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Best Montana Car Insurance Companies
There are hundreds of companies that offer car insurance in Montana. All of them are approved and monitored by the state of Montana so that they comply with the laws.
How do you figure out which one is the best?
How do you determine the most reputable, the least expensive, and easiest to deal with?
No worries here. We’ve compiled all the data for you. Keep reading to see what the industry experts say so you can make the best possible choice for yourself.
What are the financial ratings of the largest car insurance companies in Montana?
Financial ratings include things like market share and loss ration. AM Best rates insurance companies based on financial strength.
|Company||A.M. Best Rating|
|State Farm Group||A++|
|Allstate Insurance Group||A+|
|Farmers Insurance Group||A|
|Liberty Mutual Group||A|
|QBE Insurance Group||A|
|Mountain West Farm Group||A-|
As you can see, all of the 10 largest companies in Montana had at least an A rating. State Farm, USAA, Geico, and Travelers all had A++ ratings.
Which car insurance companies have the best ratings in Montana?
In 2019, J.D. Power ranked overall customer satisfaction for insurance companies throughout the country. The ratings are based on five factors: interaction, policy offerings, price, billing process, policy information, and claims.
These are the findings for the Northwest region that includes Montana.
|Company||Points - Based on a 1,000 Point Scale||Circle Rating|
USAA has the best rating but is only available to the military and their families. The best-rated company for customer satisfaction is Pemco, with a five circle rating. They are available to everyone.
Progressive, Liberty Mutual, and Nationwide all have the lowest rating, with only a two circle rating.
Which car insurance companies have the most complaints in Montana?
All companies will receive complaints from time to time, no matter how great they are. What really matters is how well those complaints are handled.
Remember the top 10 largest car insurance companies in Montana that we looked at earlier? Now, let’s look to see how they stack up with complaints.
|Allstate Insurance Group||1||0.5||163|
|Farmers Insurance Group||1||0.59||7|
|Liberty Mutual Group||1||5.95||222|
|Mountain West Farm Group||1||1.47||10|
|QBE Insurance Group||1||32.86||4|
|State Farm Group||1||0.44||1482|
Only three companies had more than a 1 percent complaint ratio for 2017. The company with the best ratio was Travelers with a 0.09 ratio. They only received two complaints that year. State Farm had the most complaints with 1,482. They also have the most customers.
What are the cheapest car insurance companies in Montana?
Now to the information you’ve been waiting for. This table shows eight car insurance companies and how their premiums stack up against the state average.
|Company||Average||Compared to State Average||Percent Difference|
|SAFECO Ins Co of IL||$1,326.11||-$1,894.73||-142.88%|
|State Farm Mutual Auto||$2,417.73||-$803.11||-33.22%|
|Mid-Century Ins Co||$3,907.55||$686.70||17.57%|
The state average for car insurance in Montana is $3,220.84.
As you can see, Safeco has the lowest rate of $1,326.11. That is an incredible 142.88 percent below the state average.
USAA and State Farm also fall below the state average.
Allstate shows the highest premium at $4,672.10. This is 31.06 percent above the state average.
Does my commute affect my car insurance rate in Montana?
The more you drive your car, the more chance you have of an accident. In some cases, this can lead to higher insurance rates. Let’s look at some of the insurance companies in Montana to see if a longer commute equals a higher cost.
|Company||10 Mile Commute, 6000 Miles Annually||25 Mile Commute, 12,000 Miles Annually|
It’s good to know that half of these companies do not charge more for a longer commute. Allstate charges the most for a commute at least 25 miles. This is over $220 above policy with a 10-mile commute.
Working closer to home might save you some cash, as well as time.
Can coverage level change my car insurance rate with companies in Montana?
These are eight companies in Montana along with their rates based on coverage levels. This will give you a good idea of what to expect based on the type of coverage that is right for you.
|Company||Low Coverage||Medium Coverage||High Coverage|
Liberty Mutual is the cheapest for all coverage levels, ranging from $1,231.99 to $1,416.55. Allstate is the most expensive insurance on the list, ranging from $4,449.47 to $4,905.69.
Once you determine what the right amount of coverage is for you, you can compare that to the companies listed above.
We’ve talked about some factors that influence your car insurance rates, like your age, where you live, how far you commute, and what coverage you choose. There are more factors like credit history and driving records to consider as well. Let’s take a closer look at those now.
How does my credit history affect my car insurance rate with companies in Montana?
Believe it or not, your credit score affects your car insurance rates.
According to Experian, the average credit score in the US is 703. That falls in what they consider the “good” range. The average for a Montanan is 720, also in the good range.
Let’s look at how your rates change with your credit scores.
Liberty Mutual is the only company that did not charge more for fair or poor credit.
These are the average premiums you will pay based on your credit score:
- Good credit (670+) = $2,563.51
- Fair credit (580-669) = $2,960.10
- Poor credit (300-579) = $4,138.92
As you can see, keeping a good credit score can save you hundreds, or even thousands. If your credit score falls below the good range, don’t worry. You can always work to improve it.
Watch this video for tips on improving your credit score.
How does my driving record change my rates with car insurance companies in Montana?
It should be no surprise that your driving record affects your car insurance rate. Drivers who are high-risk pay more for insurance than drivers who have not been ticketed for speeding, being in an accident, or having a DUI.
Let’s look at just how much those high-risk behaviors can affect your rates.
|Company||Clean Record||1 Speeding Ticket||1 Accident||1 DUI|
Let’s make this even easier. These are average premiums you will pay based on your driving record:
- Clean Record = $2,578.83
- 1 Speeding Ticket = $2,928.73
- 1 Accident = $3,406.71
- 1 DUI = $3,969.11
Having one DUI on your record will cause you the biggest increase. If you have multiple convictions on your driving record, your rates can skyrocket.
In addition to the possible fines and jail time, your insurance rates will increase if you do not keep a clean driving record. You can save thousands of dollars just by obeying the driving laws in Montana.
Which car insurance companies are the largest in Montana?
This table breaks down the 10 largest car insurance companies in Montana .
|Company Name||Direct Premiums Written||Loss Ratio||Market Share|
|QBE Insurance Group||$22,480||62.39%||3.10%|
|Allstate Insurance Group||$29,149||47.79%||4.02%|
|Mountain West Farm Group||$38,879||58.37%||5.36%|
|Farmers Insurance Group||$64,633||46.34%||8.91%|
|Liberty Mutual Group||$93,428||56.54%||12.88%|
|State Farm Group||$166,714||58.29%||22.99%|
You can see the State Farm Group has the largest market share and a good loss ratio. Farmers Insurance Group has a low loss ratio. However, it is important to note that it also has a small part of the market.
How many car insurance companies are available in Montana?
There are hundreds of companies licensed to sell insurance in Montana. Most of them are considered foreign insurers. Foreign just means that they are out of state.
This will show you how many carriers are domestic (in-state) and how many are foreign.
- Domestic: 14
- Foreign: 822
Even though there are less than 20 domestic carriers, you have hundreds to choose from when you include the foreign carriers. This gives you lots of options to look for the perfect plan for you. Make sure to get lots of quotes to compare policies.
Just like every state, Montana has its own set of driving and insurance laws. Knowing and obeying these laws is crucial to being a good driver and keeping insurance rates low. Breaking laws can lead to fines, imprisonment, and higher rates.
It can be confusing and time-consuming to track down these laws yourself. Don’t worry, we’ve done it for you.
Keep reading to explore our guide to Montana’s insurance laws. We’ll look at everything from how laws are determined to teen driver laws as well as rules of the road, and DUI laws.
What are the car insurance laws in Montana?
How State Laws for Insurance are Determined
The Office of Montana State Auditor and the Commissioner of Securities and Insurance ensures that insurance companies in Montana follow the laws in place and help navigate insurance costs for the citizens. They are also available to answer any questions or concerns you might have about your insurance company.
Now that we know who upholds the laws, let’s look at the laws themselves.
Montana does not require a driver to have windshield coverage. Liability insurance does not cover a broken windshield but comprehensive coverage usually does. Adding comprehensive coverage may mean you would not have to pay out of pocket for a windshield repair or replacement.
There are also laws regarding your windshield itself. You must not have anything blocking or impairing your vision through the windshield. This would include tint that is too dark, stickers, or even chips or cracks that obstruct the driver’s view.
SR-22 is a certificate that you request from your insurance company to show the state that you have the minimum insurance required by law. You would need to request this certificate if you have committed risky behavior while driving, including multiple accidents, DUI, reckless driving, speeding, etc. This is in addition to any penalties or fines you would be charged by law enforcement.
Requesting this certificate signals your insurance company that you are a high-risk driver and will likely lead to increased rates.
Unfortunately, Montana does not have government-assisted low-cost insurance plans for low-income families. However, there are other discounts you can ask for:
- Safe-driver discounts
- Bundled plan discounts
- Multiple car discounts
- Student discounts
- Military discounts
Make sure you talk with an insurance agent about these and other discounts. Adding multiple discounts can save you a lot of money.
Automobile Insurance Fraud in Montana
The Insurance Information Institute or III defines insurance fraud as lying to or by an insurance agent for financial gain and is illegal in Montana.
Common types of fraud are:
- misrepresenting damages
- inflating claims
- staging accidents
- falsely reporting stolen vehicles.
This video details some of these types of fraud.
Nationally, car insurance fraud totaled about $7 billion in 2012. The costs, of course, result in higher premiums as insurance companies try to recoup their losses.
In Montana, the Office of the Montana State Auditor, Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance is responsible for investigating and prosecuting securities and insurance fraud.
If you are convicted of insurance fraud, there are stiff penalties in Montana. You may:
- Pay up to $1,500 if the amount of fraud is less than $1,500 and/or receive up to six months in jail
- Pay up to $50,000 if the amount of fraud is more than $1,500 and/or receive up to 10 years in jail
However, if you are involved with or know someone who has committed insurance fraud, you may receive immunity from civil charges if you testify or provide information to the commissioner.
Committing insurance fraud is not work the risks involved.
If you need to file a report of insurance fraud or have questions, you can contact this office:
- Office of the Montana State Auditor
Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance
Statute of Limitations
A statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time you have to file a lawsuit after an incident.
Montana law gives you up to two years to file a claim for property damage.
You will have three years to file a claim for personal injury from a car accident. If someone dies from an accident, the three years starts from the date of death.
After that time is up, you can no longer seek either personal or property damages.
Montana Specific Laws
Each state has its own specific laws governing the roads, licensing, and insurance needs. These are a few to get us started.
Drivers may only use studded tires from October 1 to May 1.
Montana increases penalties for violations in work zones. These penalties are called “Work Zone Enhancements” and double the original fine for each violation.
One of the oddest laws we found is still active. It is illegal to have a sheep in the cab of your truck without a chaperone.
Do you have questions about Real ID or have a teen that getting ready to drive? Let’s dive into some of the more widespread laws on the books.
What are the vehicle licensing laws in Montana?
There are laws in Montana that concern how to receive and keep a driver’s license. Let’s dive into Real ID, teen driving, license renewal, insurance needs, and new residents.
Montana complies with the Real ID law. The Read ID combats identity fraud and offers a more secure form of identification. Licenses with a Real ID will have a gold star in the upper right-hand corner.
After October 2020, you must have a license with the Real ID to board any flight or access any federal government facility.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
Not only is it illegal to drive in Montana without insurance, but it is also a bad idea financially. Legally, you must carry at least liability insurance. If you do not, you run the risk of fines, jail time, and lawsuits.
If you are caught driving with no insurance, the first offense could result in:
- Fine of $250-$500
- Up to 10 days in jail.
A second offense faces these penalties:
- Minimum fine of $350
- 10 days in jail
- Have your license revoked for 90 days
- Receive five points on your driving record. (A license will be revoked if 30 points are accumulated.)
Three or more offenses can face:
- $500 fine
- Up to six months in jail
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Teen Driver Laws
There are rules governing when teens can get their restricted and full licenses. This table will break those down for you.
|License||Age Requirements||Requirements / Restrictions|
|Learner's||14.5 with driver's ed or 16 without driver's ed||50 hours of driving, 10 at night
Licensed adult supervising
|Restricted||15 with driver's ed or 16 without driver's ed||1st six months - only one passenger under 18
2nd six months - up to 3 passengers under 18
No driving 11 pm to 5 am
|Full||1 year or age 18, whichever comes first||None|
Montana allows teens to begin their driving career at age 14 1/2 if they are taking or have taken driver’s education. Otherwise, they must wait until 16 years old if they do not want to take a driver’s education course.
Once they have their restricted license, teens can begin driving with certain requirements. The state puts restrictions on how many other teens can be in the car and the hours in which a teen can drive.
Although teens with a restricted license are not allowed to drive from 11 pm to 5 am, there are some exceptions. Teens may drive during that time if they are:
- Supervised by a licensed adult 18 years old or older
- Going to or from employment
- Going to or from a school activity
- Going to or from a religious activity
- Driving for emergency purposes
- Driving for farm purposes within 150 miles of the farm
- Under specific instruction from a parent or guardian
There are also penalties if a teen breaks these rules. If a teen breaks the first year rules, they will face 20 to 60 hours of community service. Two or more offenses will mean a six-month license suspension.
Since teen drivers have little experience, they are at a higher risk for accidents. This video shows what one school is doing to remind students of the risks involved with driving.
Older Driver License Renewal Procedures
Renewing your driver’s license once you are 75 years old is very similar to renewing it when you are younger. You must take a vision test each time and can only renew by mail or online every other renewal, no matter your age.
The main difference is that once you reach 75 years old, you must renew your license every four years instead of every eight years.
If you move to Montana from another state, you have 60 days to change your license. As a new resident, you must provide proof of identity, proof of Montana residency, and proof of authorized presence.
Proof of identity would include your current driver’s license, birth certificate, or valid passport.
Proof of Montana residency would include utility bills, rental or mortgage papers, bank statements, or a payroll check with your Montana address listed.
Proof of authorized presence would include a birth certificate, a valid passport, or a valid passport card.
License Renewal Procedures
If you are under 75 years of age, you will renew your driver’s license every eight years. You must pass a vision test for each renewal. You can choose to renew online or by mail every other renewal.
You may renew your license six months before it expires to three months after it expires.
If your license is more than three months expired, you will have to reapply as a new driver. You will need to provide proof of identity, residency, and retake all tests.
Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
Montana does not have a negligent operator treatment system, but there are other laws in place for reckless and careless driving.
Montana makes a distinction between reckless and careless driving. Each of them carries different penalties.
Reckless driving is defined as “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Willful means it was intentional and wanton means the person understood what they were doing and did it anyway. Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Montana but still carries serious penalties.
Penalties for reckless driving:
- First offense: $25 to $300 fine and/or 90 days in jail
- Second offense: $50 to $500 fine and/or 10 days to six months in jail
- Third offense within 12 months: one-year license suspension
- Offenses with death or serious injury: up to 12 months in jail and/or maximum $10,000 fine
- Five points are added to your driving record for each conviction. Getting 15 or more points within 36 months can lead to your license being suspended.
Careless driving is similar to reckless driving. The major difference is the intent. Someone can be driving carelessly and not intend to or realize it.
Penalties for careless driving:
- First offense: $10 to $100 fine
- Second offense: $25 to $200 fine
- Third offense: $50 to $500 fine
- Offenses with death or serious injury: up to six months in jail and/or maximum $5,000 fine
- Four points are added to your driving record for each conviction.
An example of careless driving would be speeding less than 20 mph over the limit. There is no intent to harm anyone, but it is still breaking the law.
Reckless driving would be knowingly having faulty breaks or passing a stopped school bus. In those instances, hurting someone is a real possibility.
Driving recklessly or carelessly can lead to fines, jail time, and car insurance increases. High-risk driving can lead to losing your license if you continue to be convicted. Make sure you are driving carefully to avoid those outcomes.
What are the rules of the road in Montana?
Each state develops its own driving laws. Let’s take a look at some of the things you need to know when you drive in Montana.
Fault vs. No-Fault
Auto accidents can result in varied damages to your vehicle, yourself, and others.
If you are in an accident, who is liable for those damages? Who is required to pay for damages?
The answer is that it varies from state to state. Some states are considered at-fault and some are no-fault.
Montana is an at-fault state. That means that if you are found to have caused the accident, you and your insurance company are responsible for the damages. It will be up to your car insurance to pay for any property or physical damages of the other driver. You can also be sued personally for anything your insurance doesn’t cover.
That is why it might be a good idea to consider carrying more than liability insurance.
No-fault means that you have to recover damages from your own insurance company, even if you didn’t cause the accident. Thankfully, Montanans don’t have to worry about that.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws
Montana law states that anyone six years and older must wear a seatbelt. A driver can’t be stopped for not wearing a seatbelt, but can be ticketed if they are stopped for another reason. The ticket for not wearing a seatbelt is $20.
If a child is under 5-years-old and weighs less than 60 pounds, the child must be in a child seat.
There is no law that restricts allowing people to ride in the bed of a pickup truck.
Not wearing your seatbelt can result in more than just a fine. You are much more likely to be injured in an accident if you are not wearing a seatbelt.
Occupants in the rear seats should always wear a seatbelt, too. Watch this video to see what happens when a passenger in the backseat doesn’t wear a seatbelt. Not only do they injure themselves, but they also hurt other occupants.
Keep Right and Move Over Laws
I’m sure we’ve all felt the frustration of having a slow driver in the left-hand lane. Trying to get around them can sometimes be annoying and even dangerous.
Drivers in Montana should always drive in the right lane unless passing slower vehicles. By law, you must stay in the right lane if you are moving slower than the traffic around you.
If there is an emergency vehicle, tow truck, or maintenance vehicle on the shoulder of the road, you must move over when approaching. If you are unable to move over, you must slow down at least 20 mph.
This video made by a county plow driver details what he has to deal with when people do not pay attention and give him the space he needs to work. This makes it dangerous for everyone.
Montana has different speed limits depending on the type of vehicle you are driving and the road you are on.
Rural interstates are 80 mph if you are driving a car or 70 mph if you are driving a truck. Urban interstate’s speed limit is 65 mph.
Other roads are 70 mph during the day and 65 mph at night.
Knowing the speed limit for the road you are on and the vehicle you are in can save you money on speeding tickets and higher insurance rates.
Ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft have become increasingly popular. Insurance companies have had to reevaluate the policies offered and make changes since the vehicle is sometimes a personal car and sometimes commercial.
If you drive for a rideshare company, you will be covered under their liability insurance policies while you have a fare.
What happens in the meantime, like when you are driving to pick up a customer? Your personal insurance may cover it, but many car insurance companies require you to purchase additional coverage.
Check with your insurance company to make sure you are covered.
Automation on the Road
Automated driving is becoming a hot topic around the country as technology gets more and more advanced. State laws and insurance companies have to rethink their driving laws and car insurance requirements.
How will new technology shape the landscape of driving and affect insurance rates? Will rates go up as drivers are more hands-off or will the automation make vehicles safer by taking out the human element? All of those factors, among others, must be considered when discussing the changes that are coming to laws and policies.
Most newer vehicles have some sort of automated technology already included. Cars now will keep you in your lane, brake if you get too close to the car in front of you, and even park for you.
Some vehicles, like the Tesla models, even have the ability to perform almost all of the driving for you.
Although Montana has not currently passed any laws regarding automated driving, you can be assured it will be addressed soon. As technology grows by leaps and bounds, automated vehicles will increasingly be available. Each state and insurer will have to figure out what that looks like.
What are the safety laws in Montana?
Each state has laws that cover a variety of safety concerns. We’ve already touched on some of them like seatbelt, speed limit, and move over laws.
Keep reading to learn Montana’s laws about DUI, impaired driving, and distracted driving.
Montana ranks fourth in the U.S. for DUI accidents and ties for first for the number of DUI related deaths.
How are DUIs determined and what are the consequences?
Montana laws that determine driving under the influence are decided by blood alcohol content (BAC), which is the amount of alcohol in blood after drinking. The number of drinks needed depends on several factors: gender, body size, and type of alcohol consumed.
For adults, anyone with a BAC of 0.08 percent or higher, is considered under the influence. This limit is reduced to 0.04 percent for commercial drivers and 0.02 percent for anyone under 21 years old.
We’ve already discussed how a DUI can increase your car insurance rates. Those convicted of DUI face stiff legal penalties as well. See the chart below for details.
|Penalty||First Offense||Second Offense||Third Offense|
|Jail||Up to 6 months, 24 hour minimum||Up to 1 year, 5 days minimum||Up to 1 year, 30 days minimum|
|Fines||$600 to $1,000||$1,200 to $2,000||$2,500 to $5,000|
|License Suspension||6 months||1 year||1 Year|
|Ignition Interlock Device (IID)||Period of probation||Period of probation||Period of probation|
|Treatment||Substance abuse assessment||Chemical dependancy treatment||Chemical dependancy treatment|
Having one DUI conviction can cost you up to $1,000 and six months in jail. Your license will also be suspended for six months. If you are a commercial driver, you could lose your commercial license permanently as well.
Montana has an implied consent law. That means that when you receive a Montana driver’s license, you agree that you will consent to a blood or breath test if requested.
If you refuse a blood or breath test, your license will be suspended for six months the first time. If you refuse twice in five years, your license will be suspended for one year. Even if you refuse, law enforcement can still require a blood test with a warrant.
In 2017, Montana had 56 alcohol-related driving fatalities, which was 30.1 percent of all traffic fatalities in the state. The U.S. average was 29.3 percent. That puts Montana just above the national average.
Forty percent of drivers involved in fatal crashes in Montana were repeat offenders. That’s almost double the national average of 25.4 percent.
With all of the rideshares out there, there is no good reason to attempt to drive after drinking. Keep yourself and others safe by calling for a ride.
Marijuana-Impaired Driving Laws
Although federal law makes marijuana illegal, some states have begun to legalize the use.
Montana only allows the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes. In order to use the herb legally, you must have a registry identification card issued by the state. Any other usage is illegal, and you could be fined or put in jail.
Montana law makes it illegal to drive a vehicle with more than 5 ng/ml of THC in the blood. The penalties are similar to those for DUI, as this falls under the definition of driving while impaired.
Distracted Driving Laws
We’ve all seen someone driving a car and texting, putting on makeup, eating, playing with their climate controls or navigation, or even dealing with their kids or pets. Those are all examples of distracted driving and cause thousands of accidents a year and increase insurance rates.
The most common distraction is texting and driving. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.”
Surprisingly, Montana is the only state that does not have some sort of a law restricting cell phone usage while driving. Some towns have had to take it upon themselves to create these laws to cut down on distracted driving.
You need to know the laws for these towns when you travel or live there.
- Missoula has banned text messaging while driving.
- Billings, Butte, Bozeman, Columbia Falls, Great Falls, Helena, and Whitefish have banned drivers from text messaging and using hand-held cell phones.
- In Anaconda-Deer Lodge, Baker, Butte-Silver Bow, and Hamilton, drivers are banned from all handheld cell phone use.
This video details how distracted you truly are when you text and drive.
Driving in Montana
We’ve already covered car insurance rates and laws for Montana. Now let’s focus on the safety of driving in the state.
In this section, we’re going to learn about thefts, fatalities, emergency response times, and what traffic looks like.
How many vehicle thefts occur in Montana?
Having your car stolen means you lose time and money. The type of car you drive and the city you live in can increase your chances of having your vehicle stolen.
These are the top 10 vehicles stolen in 2015.
|Rank||Make/Model||Year of Vehicle||Thefts|
|1||Chevrolet Pickup (Full Size)||1999||165|
|2||Ford Pickup (Full Size)||1995||145|
|3||Dodge Pickup (Full Size)||2006||78|
|4||GMC Pickup (Full Size)||2008||55|
|8||Chevrolet Pickup (Small Size)||1995||24|
|10||Ford Pickup (Small Size)||2000||22|
The top 4 vehicles stolen were full-size trucks.
The number of vehicle thefts varies from city to city. The table below is the data the FBI compiled from 2016.
|City||Motor Vehicle Thefts|
|Total for Year||1641|
Montana had 1,641 car thefts in 2016. More than half of the thefts for the year occurred in Billings, which had 842. Some cities like Baker, Ennis, and Fort Benton didn’t report any thefts.
How does your city and vehicle stack up? Are you at a higher risk of vehicle theft? This gives some clarity on why your ZIP code can increase your insurance rates.
How many road fatalities occur in Montana?
The sad fact is that people die in auto accidents every day.
What is the most fatal highway in Montana?
What are the conditions that lead to these deaths?
Where do most of these deaths occur?
NHTSA keeps track of those answers and more. We will answer those questions for you below.
Most Fatal Highway in Montana
US Highway 2 is the most dangerous highway in the state. Part of the reason that the fatality rate is so high is location. It takes an average of 80 minutes to be reached by emergency responders if you have an accident on US Highway 2.
Fatal Crashes by Weather Condition and Light Condition
Accidents can happen no matter the weather or light conditions. This table will show you what those conditions were when fatal accidents happened in 2017.
|Weather Condition||Daylight||Dark, but Lighted||Dark||Dawn or Dusk||Other / Unknown||Total|
As you can see, most of the accidents happened under normal weather conditions in the daylight. That data shows that for 2017, the fatal crashes in Montana were caused by factors other than weather or light conditions.
Fatalities (All Crashes) by County
Where you live or travel can affect your chances of being in a fatal crash.
Check out this table detailing the counties in Montana and the fatal crashes that happened from 2014-2018.
Do you live or travel in any of these high fatality counties?
|Big Horn County||9||11||13||13||12|
|Deer Lodge County||1||4||3||2||1|
|Golden Valley County||0||0||0||0||0|
|Judith Basin County||2||5||1||0||1|
|Lewis and Clark County||6||15||4||11||7|
|Powder River County||1||1||0||1||1|
|Silver Bow County||7||6||3||5||2|
|Sweet Grass County||1||1||1||1||1|
Yellowstone and Missoula counties had the highest number of fatalities. Yellowstone is the most densely populated county in Montana so it makes sense that most traffic fatalities would be there also.
Several counties reported no fatalities during that timeframe. Fallon, Golden Valley, and Wibaux counties all had no reported fatalities.
Accident fatalities are more likely to occur on rural roads versus urban roads. NHTSA compiled data from 2009 – 2018. Their findings are below.
In the 10 years that are represented, rural areas had 1,843 fatal crashes, while urban areas only had 182. One factor is the amount of time it takes for someone to receive medical care.
Fatalities by Person Type
This table will show what type of vehicle the person was in for fatal crashes from 2014 – 2018 and if they were an occupant.
|Light Truck - Pickup||47||24||53||24||43||23||40||22||44||24|
|Light Truck - Utility||35||18||39||17||41||22||43||23||37||20|
|Light Truck - Van||9||5||4||2||7||4||6||3||8||4|
|Light Truck - Other||0||0||5||2||1||1||1||1||0||0|
|Bicyclist and Other Cyclist||2||1||1||0||3||2||1||1||2||1|
You can see that most people killed in an auto accident were in passenger cars. Light pickup trucks were very close to cars in the percentage of deaths. Nonoccupants such as bicyclists and pedestrians account for very few of the fatalities.
Fatalities by Crash Type
Fatalities can be broken down by crash type. Factors like how many cars involved, speeding, rollover, road departure, and intersections are all taken into account by NHTSA when compiling data.
|Involving a Large Truck||12||20||25||24||17|
|Involving a Rollover||104||116||104||90||80|
|Involving a Roadway Departure||145||164||142||139||141|
|Involving an Intersection (or Intersection Related)||19||37||15||23||28|
|Total Fatalities (All Crashes)||192||224||190||186||182|
Most of the crashes were single vehicle and involved a roadway departure or rollover. These types of accidents can especially be deadly if people are not wearing their seatbelts.
Five-Year Trend For The Top 10 Counties
This table breaks down the top 10 counties for fatalities from 2014 – 2018.
|2||Big Horn County||9||11||13||13||12|
|10||Lewis And Clark County||6||15||4||11||7|
|Sub Total 1.||Top Ten Counties||109||114||118||105||102|
|Sub Total 2.||All Other Counties||83||110||72||81||80|
The top 10 counties had more fatalities in that time period than the rest of the counties combined.
Yellowstone County had the most fatalities in that timeframe. Fergus County had the fewest in the top 10.
Fatalities Involving Speeding by County
Speeding can be a major factor in fatalities. This table breaks down how many fatalities involved speeding in each county. Search for your county to see how many speeding fatalities were recorded.
|Big Horn County||1||3||8||2||2|
|Deer Lodge County||1||2||0||1||0|
|Golden Valley County||0||0||0||0||0|
|Judith Basin County||0||4||1||0||1|
|Lewis and Clark County||1||3||3||4||4|
|Powder River County||0||1||0||0||0|
|Silver Bow County||3||3||0||1||0|
|Sweet Grass County||0||1||0||0||1|
Yellowstone and Flathead counties had the most speeding fatalities in the state for the five-year period.
Eight counties reported no fatalities involving speeding. Those counties are Carter, Daniels, Fallon, Golden Valley, Granite, Petroleum, Pondera, and Wibaux.
Fatalities in Crashes Involving an Alcohol-Impaired Driver by County
Sadly in this day and age, some people still continue to drink and drive. This table will break down fatal crashes where alcohol was a factor.
|Big Horn County||4||5||6||5||8|
|Deer Lodge County||0||2||0||0||0|
|Golden Valley County||0||0||0||0||0|
|Judith Basin County||0||0||0||0||1|
|Lewis and Clark County||1||1||4||4||2|
|Powder River County||0||1||0||0||1|
|Silver Bow County||1||2||0||1||0|
|Sweet Grass County||1||0||0||1||0|
Yellowstone and Big Horn counties had the most fatal crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver from 2014-2018.
Eight counties also reported no alcohol-related traffic fatalities.
Teen Drinking and Driving
Just as with adults, teenage drinking and driving is a serious problem. According to data from 2016, Montana ranks fifth in the nation for DUIs under 18 years old, and eighth in the nation for DUIs for those 18-21 years old.
|DUI Arrests Under 18 Yrs Old||Rank||DUI Arrests 18-21 Yrs Old||Rank|
Over 4,000 people under the age of 21 were arrested for DUI in one year. That number is very worrisome.
EMS Response Time
EMS response time can literally be the difference between life and death. In a state as large as Montana, the response times can vary wildly depending on where you are. Let’s look at the difference between rural and urban average response times in 2017.
|Area||Time of Crash to EMS Notification||EMS Notification to EMS Arrivial||EMS Arrival at Scene to Hospital Arrival||Time of Crash to Hospital Arrival||Total Fatal Crashes|
Rural and urban areas differ greatly in the time it takes to get someone to the hospital after a crash. On average, people get transported to the hospital 25 minutes faster than in urban areas. Perhaps that is why the number of fatalities is so much lower in urban areas.
What is transportation like in Montana?
DataUSA has compiled information about how people in Montana get around. Let’s dive into car ownership, commute times, and other transportation.
In 2018, there were over 806,000 licensed drivers in Montana. With a state population of 1.062 million, that means that about 75 percent of the population is a licensed driver.
Most households in Montana own two cars. That is similar to the national average of 1.88 per household.
Montana workers have an average commute time of 17.2 minutes, much lower than the national average of 25.7 minutes.
A small portion of Montanans has what is considered a “super commute” of more than 90 minutes.
An overwhelming amount of workers in Montana drive alone. Seventy-five percent of you like your alone time on your drive to work.
Only 9.45 percent prefer to carpool and 7.3 percent work from home.
The rest of the workers walked, bicycled, took public transit, or called a taxi or rideshare.
Traffic Congestion in Montana
Since the average commute time is under 20 minutes, Montana does not have traffic data in Inrix, TomTom, or Numbeo. It’s safe to say that traffic congestion is at a minimum in Montana.
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