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Tennessee drivers must meet the state’s car insurance requirements before hitting the road, or face tickets, fines and potentially even jail time. But even beyond the legal consequences, not having a car insurance policy — with enough coverage — could cause devastating financial consequences if you cause a car accident. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team explains how much car insurance you need to drive legally in Tennessee, and what might happen if you drive without it.
Minimum insurance required in Tennessee
Tennessee drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance for each vehicle they own. Without it, drivers could receive a ticket for no insurance or receive more severe penalties. Starting January 1, 2023, Tennessee updated its minimum requirements for car insurance. The new liability limits are:
- $25,000 per person for bodily injury liability
- $50,000 per accident for bodily injury liability
- $25,000 per accident for property damage liability (increased as of January 1, 2023)
However, if you can prove you have the finances to take responsibility, you could satisfy the legal requirement without the required insurance minimums. You can do this with the Department of Revenue in one of three ways:
- Post a bond of $65,000.
- Provide a cash deposit of $65,000.
- Maintain a single limit policy of not less than $65,000 in liability coverage
When driving, be sure to carry proof of insurance or Financial Responsibility so you can provide it when needed. If you do not, you could receive a penalty for driving without insurance in Tennessee.
Keep in mind that the minimum car insurance requirements to drive legally in Tennessee will not cover any damage to your own vehicle, and that the state’s required liability limits may not be high enough to cover vehicle damage or injury to someone else if you cause an accident. Many insurance experts recommend carrying full coverage car insurance to better protect your finances in the event of an accident.
Penalties for driving without insurance in Tennessee
In Tennessee, driving without insurance or failing to provide proof of Financial Responsibility could subject you to the following penalties:
- A suspended driver’s license until you can provide proof and pass the driver’s test again.
- A $300 fine
- Vehicle towing
Prior to penalties being levied, the Department of Revenue will send a notification to provide insurance verification. You are given 30 days to provide a response. If one is not received, expect penalties to follow.
Getting into an accident without insurance
Driving without insurance and getting into an accident in Tennessee can have serious financial implications. Not only could you have to pay fees and penalties and have your driver’s license suspended, but you could also pay out-of-pocket for injuries and property damage if you drive in Tennessee without car insurance and cause an accident. Since Tennessee is an at-fault state, the consequences may be even more severe. You could also receive a Class A misdemeanor and pay up to $2,500 in fines and face jail time.
You can also be sued, which would require you to pay additional fees for court and a lawyer. Typically, the car insurance company will help cover representation for you if you are sued as the result of an accident, but you will have to pay for representation yourself if you do not have auto insurance. Even in the future, when shopping for car insurance, it may come up in your driving history, which could further impact your premium.
Frequently asked questions
Providing false car insurance information in Tennessee to avoid tickets or penalties for driving without insurance is considered insurance fraud and is a crime. If you are charged with a Class A misdemeanor for providing false insurance information, you could face up to 11 months, 29 days in jail and up to $2,500 in fines.
The average cost for car insurance in Tennessee is $371 per year for the state minimum coverage and $1,429 per year for full coverage. Although full coverage is more expensive, it does provide higher liability coverage to protect you financially in the event of an accident, as well as collision and comprehensive coverage for your vehicle. Whether minimum or full coverage car insurance will best fit your needs, it is likely to be much more costly to drive without auto insurance in Tennessee.
In 2017, the James Lee Atwood Jr. Law went into effect, bringing with it stiffer penalties for failure to provide proof of insurance during a traffic stop or at the scene of an accident. The fine was increased from $100 to $300 and chargeable as a Class C misdemeanor, which could include up to 30 days in jail.