Car insurance is a requirement in nearly every state in the U.S., but there is still a significant percentage of drivers across the country who do not have coverage. Although it may seem like an acceptable risk to save money and drive without insurance, consider this. If you are stopped by the police — and especially if you are in an accident — you could face fines, lose your license or worse, in addition to being liable for injuries or damages if you were at fault.


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Driving without insurance

Auto accidents can range in severity from minor to devastating. But even if the other driver caused the collision, driving without insurance can still have consequences.

At-fault accidents without insurance

If you are at fault for an accident and have insurance, it would likely cover accident-related damages up to your policy’s coverage limits. However, if you cause an accident while driving without insurance, you may face serious consequences and out-of-pocket expenses, including but not limited to:

  • Repair and replacement costs: You are typically responsible for paying for the damages you caused. That means repairing or replacing any vehicles and property that you damaged.
  • Medical expenses: If the other driver, their passengers or anyone outside your vehicle was injured in the accident, you might be responsible for paying for their medical expenses.
  • Legal fees: If you cannot pay for the damages you caused, the other driver could potentially sue you for compensation, including the cost of their legal fees.
  • License suspension or revocation: Most states will likely suspend your license for driving without insurance. And if you have been caught driving without insurance before, your license may be revoked.
  • Required forms: Some states may require that you have an SR-22 or FR-44 on file with your DMV before reinstating your license. These forms prove to the state that you are maintaining auto insurance coverage. You will need to obtain car insurance at this point since these forms are filed directly by insurance companies.
  • Vehicle impounding: The officer who arrives on the scene may choose to tow and impound your vehicle if you were driving without insurance.
  • Fines: You may have to pay a fine if you were caught driving without insurance, which could be steep depending on the details of your accident.
  • Jail time: A first offense may not land you in jail, but multiple incidents of driving without insurance might increase the chances of jail time.
  • More expensive insurance: Insurance companies tend to view drivers who have caused accidents as higher risk. The same goes for those who have had a lapse in coverage. This means you’ll likely be paying higher premiums than the average driver pays for insurance.

Although some drivers have medical payments or PIP coverage to help cover medical costs, if you are found liable for an accident, the injured party or their insurance company may try to recoup those costs from you. However, some states are considered no-fault states, so it is a good idea to speak to an insurance professional to understand what you could be responsible for in an accident without the proper coverage.

Not-at-fault accidents without insurance

If you are involved in an accident but did not cause it — perhaps you are rear-ended by another driver — not having insurance can still be problematic.

  • License suspension or revocation: You can potentially lose your license even if you are not at fault for an accident. If police are called to the scene, your state will most likely require you to submit proof of insurance. If you are unable, your license could be suspended.
  • Fines: If your state fines drivers who don’t have insurance coverage, you may have to pay despite not causing the accident.
  • Vehicle impounding: A law enforcement officer may decide to impound your vehicle once they discover that you were driving without insurance, regardless of fault.
  • Out-of-pocket expenses: Vehicle damage is not always the result of collisions on the road. A tree limb could fall on your vehicle, for example, or your car could be stolen. If you do not have an insurance policy that includes coverage for these incidents, you will be responsible for the necessary repairs or replacement of the vehicle.

Accidents in states that don’t require car insurance

Insurance is mandatory in all but one state in the U.S. — New Hampshire. Most have minimum car insurance requirements, although you can purchase a higher level of coverage if you wish. In many cases, experts recommend having higher coverage limits than the minimum required to provide better financial protection in the event of a serious accident.

Even if you are driving in an area where insurance is not required, you may still face consequences if you are at fault in an accident.

At-fault auto accidents

New Hampshire is the only state that does not require car insurance to be on the road legally. But that does not mean you would be off the hook if you cause an accident.

If you opt to drive uninsured in New Hampshire but are the at-fault driver in an accident, you are still liable for the other party’s damages and injuries. If you are unable to pay for the injuries, property or vehicle damage you cause, it can result in license and registration suspension. You may also be responsible for your own medical costs if you are injured in the accident.

Not at-fault accidents

If you are involved in an accident where you are not the at-fault driver, the at-fault party’s insurance company will typically pay for your injuries and vehicle damage even if you are not insured. However, if their coverage is not sufficient and you do not have coverage, you could end up paying out of pocket for the rest of your medical bills and vehicle damage.

If you do not comply with the state’s insurance or financial responsibility requirements, you risk having your license and registration suspended, whether or not you’re at fault.

How to find affordable car insurance

Although choosing to go without insurance may save you money in the short term, if you are the cause of an accident without insurance, you might find yourself liable for thousands of dollars of medical care or property damage. If budget is your primary concern, there are ways to save on your car insurance.

  1. Compare multiple policy quotes. Get quotes from several insurance providers to compare prices, coverage options and discounts before making a purchase.
  2. Ask about discounts. If you are looking for the best price, inquire about available discounts. You may qualify for a better rate with discounts for safe driving or bundling multiple policies.
  3. Always drive safely. Generally, drivers without accidents on their records qualify for lower insurance premiums. Maintaining a clean record can help you avoid surcharges on your policy. Safe driving behaviors could also mean saving extra money by using a telematics device that tracks your driving and earns you a discount.
  4. Find the right coverage for your needs. It is equally important to not over-insure yourself as it is to avoid underinsuring yourself. Speak with a licensed insurance agent about your situation to understand your coverage needs. If you are comfortable carrying higher deductibles, for example, and paying more out of pocket in a claim, increasing your comprehensive and collision deductibles may be worth considering to save on car insurance costs. Reviewing your liability and medical coverage is also worth considering to find the right coverage at the best price.

Frequently asked questions

    • Rates vary by provider and depend on individual rating factors like the state you live in, your driving history, the car you drive and the coverages you choose. The cheapest company for one person may not be the cheapest company for someone else. That’s why it can be a good idea to ask for quotes from several insurers before choosing a company. You might also consider getting fresh quotes each year at your policy’s renewal time in case another company comes in cheaper and you decide to switch to them.
    • If another driver hits you and they do not have insurance, you have a couple of options. If you have uninsured motorist coverage, you may be able to file a claim to see if your injuries and vehicle damage are covered by your own policy. You can also seek legal action and file in court against the at-fault driver for failing to show proof of insurance and causing an accident as an uninsured driver.