What Happens If You Get Caught Driving Without Insurance?

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In almost every state in the U.S. — the exception being New Hampshire — you are required by law to carry auto insurance if you have a vehicle registered in your name. The consequences of not doing so vary from state-to-state but generally include fines and fees that are more costly than car insurance premiums.

What are the consequences of driving without auto insurance? They may include fees, the impounding of your vehicle, loss or suspension of your license and even jail time. Let’s take a closer look at what happens if you get caught driving without car insurance.

Do you have to have insurance to drive?

In 49 states and the District of Columbia, a minimum amount of auto insurance is required by law. In New Hampshire, it is required under certain conditions. If you have an accident without insurance, there are stiff penalties.

Although the mandatory amounts differ from state-to-state, the requirements for all states include the following:

  • Bodily injury liability: This covers medical costs for injuries incurred by the people in the other vehicle. It ranges from $10,000 up to $50,000 per person and $20,000 up to $100,000 per accident, depending on your state.
  • Property damage liability: This part of your policy covers damage to the other driver’s vehicle and to any personal property in the car or that is damaged by the accident (such as a fence or light post). It ranges from $10,000 to $25,000.

Some states also have other requirements, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, medpay or personal injury protection (PIP). The latter two cover your medical costs in the event of an accident and are mandatory in some states, optional in others.

What are the consequences of driving without insurance?

What happens if you drive without auto insurance varies based on a number of factors, including the state you are in when it happens, and whether this is your first or a repeat offense. It also matters whether you have been pulled over for a routine traffic stop, or if your lack of auto insurance is discovered following an accident.

What are the consequences if you get pulled over without insurance?

In most states, if you are pulled over for the first time and you have no auto insurance, there will be a fine. In California, for example, you will pay close to $500 for a first offense. In addition, other states, such as Florida, will suspend your driver’s license and registration and require significant fees to have them reinstated.

In some states, including California, the law enforcement officer who pulls you over has the right to impound your vehicle immediately if he or she deems it necessary. You would then be responsible for towing fees and other costs involved and might not be able to get your vehicle back until you have proof of auto insurance.

Although it’s unlikely to happen with a first offense, most states also reserve the right to jail you for driving without auto insurance.

Once you have been cited for not having auto insurance, your rates to be insured will rise significantly because you are considered an at-risk driver. You won’t be eligible for clean driving record discounts and may see annual premiums in the four-digit range.

What are the consequences if you get into an accident without insurance?

If you get into an accident without auto insurance, you will face some serious consequences. You will be subject to all the penalties described above and are more likely to have your license suspended and vehicle impounded. You are also more likely to need to file an SR-22 form with your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

There may be injuries and property damage as a result of the accident, and you may be liable for it all, especially if the other driver doesn’t carry uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage. If you are at fault in the accident, the responsibility to pay these costs rests on your shoulders.

If you are unable to pay this, may you face the risk of bankruptcy or other financial distress. Because costs for medical care can run into six figures, this could be a disaster that impacts you for the rest of your life.

How do you get car insurance when you are uninsured?

If you have been driving without auto insurance, it is possible to purchase a policy that will cover you to the extent of your state’s regulations and beyond. You may not be eligible for the lowest premium because driving without insurance puts you in a higher-risk category. But you could find reasonably priced coverage if you shop carefully.

As a first step, take a look at major auto insurers, such as Geico and Progressive, because they offer very competitive rates and coverage can be purchased online or through agents. Also, check out regional insurers that offer coverage in your state who might be more willing to overlook your faults and provide reasonably priced coverage. Finally, if necessary, assess insurers such as The General and Acceptance Insurance, which specialize in coverage for high-risk drivers.

Frequently asked questions

Is driving without car insurance a felony?

In all states where required and Washington D.C., driving without auto insurance is classified as a misdemeanor. However, this does not mean that there aren’t significant penalties involved, including jail time, especially if you are a repeat offender.

Can my license be suspended for driving without car insurance?

This is a common consequence if you are caught driving without insurance.

What can I do if I can’t afford insurance?

It is your responsibility to have insurance if you are driving a motor vehicle. Shopping around for quotes from a variety of companies may reveal some lower-priced options that will work for you, especially with discounts. A few states, such as California and New Jersey, offer low-priced auto insurance options for those who cannot otherwise afford it.

What are my state’s minimum requirements for insurance?

The Insurance Information Institute publishes a chart that lists the minimum auto insurance requirements for each state and the District of Columbia. You can check this to see what the minimum liability requirements are for where you live and if there is any additional type of insurance coverage you are required to have.