Driving without insurance in North Carolina is illegal, and individuals who do not have an active policy may face several types of penalty, including fines and license suspension. It’s important to understand NC driving without insurance laws in order to be sure you are legal when behind the wheel. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team reviewed state regulations to help you understand what is required in order to drive legally in the Tar Heel State.

Minimum insurance required in North Carolina

In North Carolina every driver must purchase at least a minimum amount of car insurance. If you do not and you are pulled over, you could receive a citation. It is easy to get pulled over in North Carolina for driving without insurance because the state requires all insurers to notify the DMV anytime a driver’s policy lapses.

The minimum amount each driver must have in North Carolina is:

  • Bodily injury liability: $30,000 per person; $60,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability: $25,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury: $30,000 per person; $60,000 per accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist property damage: $25,000 per accident

While the minimum amount of car insurance will cover you from a legal standpoint, you might want to consider purchasing collision and comprehensive coverage as well to be more financially protected.

  • Collision insurance: Collision insurance is a type of auto insurance that covers the cost of damage done to your vehicle if you are involved in an accident. It provides financial protection for physical damage caused by the incident.
  • Comprehensive insurance: Comprehensive car insurance provides coverage for any damage that is done as a result of a non-collision-related event. This could include theft, vandalism, natural disasters or falling objects. It provides financial protection for a wide range of incidents beyond typical accidents.

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Penalties for driving without insurance in North Carolina

If you are caught driving without insurance, North Carolina assesses fines that could total $100–$200. While some drivers may be tempted to forego insurance due to cost, the fines assessed for doing so would be in addition to other penalties such as license and vehicle registration suspension. The max fines factored could add up to more than the average monthly output for car insurance premiums. It may be relieving to know the average cost of car insurance in North Carolina is considerably less than the national average, at $1,713 per year for full coverage, or just $143 monthly.

Because driving without insurance in North Carolina is considered a misdemeanor, there are several penalties you may face. Generally, the severity of the punishment increases with each offense.

Probation/jail Fines License suspension Vehicle registration suspension
1st Offense 1-45 days of probation $50 civil penalty fee; $50 reinstatement fee 30-day suspension 30-day suspension
2nd Offense Jail or probation up to 45 days $100 civil penalty fee; $50 reinstatement fee 30-day suspension 30-day suspension
3rd and subsequent Offenses Jail or probation up to 45 days $150 civil penalty fee; $50 reinstatement fee 30-day suspension 30-day suspension

Getting into an accident without insurance

Accidents can happen to anyone, even the safest of drivers. If you are involved in an accident while driving without insurance in NC, and you are found to be responsible for the accident, you could face serious financial challenges. Even if you are not at fault, you are likely to face penalties, as we’ve outlined below.

Not at fault

Even if you did not cause the accident, the officer at the scene will most likely give you a ticket for not having insurance. If your car is drivable after the accident, you most likely will not be allowed to drive it once the police know you do not have insurance, so you may also need to pay towing and impound fees. Nevertheless, you will still be able to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company, assuming they are adequately insured.

At fault

North Carolina is an at-fault/tort state, which means the driver responsible for the accident is financially responsible for any damages caused by the collision. Though the minimum liability limits are $30,000/$60,000 for bodily injury and $25,000 for property damage, damage can easily exceed these amounts. Even disregarding medical costs (which could be astronomical depending on the accident), you could also be responsible for a fairly expensive property damage bill. A new Honda Odyssey, for example, costs around $28,240. If you totaled one of these vehicles, you could be responsible for that entire amount out of pocket, which is enough to ruin most people financially.

All of these financial consequences are in addition to potentially losing your license, paying fines and even going to jail. With these impacts in mind, it’s important not only to carry an auto insurance policy, but to carry one with sufficient financial protection to protect your finances. Minimum coverage, although typically cheaper, can often leave you with considerable out-of-pocket costs in the event of a more serious accident. Purchasing higher limits can help reduce your financial risk and offer greater peace of mind.

Frequently asked questions

    • The best car insurance company is not the same for every driver, since finding the best policy for your needs means knowing what your priorities are. For example, if you have a young person in your household, you may want to look at insurers that write the best policies for teen drivers. If you work from home or are retired, a company that offers low-mileage insurance may be a better bet for your needs. If you have a military connection, a company that offers insurance geared toward military needs may have the best options for you. Once you’ve considered the factors that matter most to you, you may want to consider gathering quotes from several carriers to see who offers you the cheapest rate on a policy that is tailored for your needs.
    • You can usually still obtain car insurance even with a suspended license. If you get caught driving without insurance in North Carolina, your license may be suspended for 30 days. You can start searching for providers to secure coverage within this time so that you can show proof of insurance when it’s time to reinstate your license (which is often a requirement for reinstatement). Keep in mind that even if you secure coverage, your driving privileges would still be on hold for the duration of the suspension period.
    • The cheapest car insurance in North Carolina is different for everyone because insurance premiums are calculated using several rating factors about the vehicle, location and driver(s) on the policy. State laws differ as to which personal factors can be used by insurance companies to calculate premiums. It is worth noting that, in North Carolina, gender is not allowed to be considered a factor in insurance premiums.

      Bankrate did a little research into major car insurance providers in North Carolina. Our study found that Geico and State Farm offer some of the cheapest annual rates for full coverage insurance. You may consider starting with these companies in your search, but there may also be other insurers that are not on our list that offer cheapest rates for your situation.