D.C. Mayor Mayor Marion Barry yesterday said all District of Columbia motorists should be required to carry insurance, but stopped short of taking sides on a pending D.C. Council vote on what type of insurance the city should require.

Barry, at his regular monthly news conference, also said he has asked City Administrator Elijah Rogers to review a police department contract to buy 90 squad cars from Curtis Chevrolet at a price more than $134,000 higher than bids offered by the Ford and Chrysler auto companies.

He declined to say whether he would hold up the contract until the Government Accounting Office can review the police department's procedures, as the losing companies have requested.

On the auto insurance question, Barry said, "I'm for compulsory insurance in the District." He said the city needs to do something about the large number of vehicles here -- as many as 40 percent of the 250,000 registered -- that do not carry any type of insurance.

"If I had my preference, I would be leaning toward no-fault," said Barry, breaking a long public silence on the issue that has split the council. However, he said he will not lobby for no-fault and that he would sign a bill requiring compulsory liablity insurance if the council adopts one. The vote is set for Tuesday.

The compulsory bill, given preliminary approval by the council after it voted 7 to 6 against no-fault last week, would require all motorists to carry insurance that would pay personal injury and property damage claims based on who causes an accident. Geico, the city's largest auto insurer, has predicted that passage of that bill will cause insurance rates for all city motorists to increase sharply.

Asked about the police department's car contract, Barry said he generally does not involve himself in city contracts let for under $5 million.He said his general policy is to favor local businesses, whose bids sometimes might be "slightly higher," over businesses in other states that do not contribute as much to the local economy.

The mayor said he was not aware of any contracting errors involving the planned purchase of the police cars from Curtis Chevrolet, a Georgia Avenue dealer.