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Part of the responsibility of owning and registering a vehicle is maintaining auto insurance. While having auto insurance is a requirement in most states, it’s also personally beneficial since your liability coverage provides injury and property damage payments to the other party if you’re at fault in an accident — saving you from steep out-of-pocket costs. Between fines, suspensions and impounding fees, the penalties for driving without insurance in Texas can be costly. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team used its decades of combined industry experience to break down what you can expect if caught driving without insurance in the Lone Star State.
Texas car insurance laws
Texas car insurance laws are straightforward: you must prove financial responsibility to operate a vehicle legally. Most people do this by maintaining a minimum level of liability coverage on an auto insurance policy.
The required minimum liability limits in Texas are 30/60/25, or:
- $30,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $60,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $25,000 property damage liability per accident
Additionally, you must carry current proof of insurance in your vehicle and present it to law enforcement if asked.
Although rare, Texas law also allows drivers to opt out of carrying state minimum car insurance by depositing $55,000 with the comptroller or county judge. These funds are set aside for the driver to pay for the other party’s damages in the event of an at-fault accident.
Penalties for driving without insurance in Texas
The average cost of car insurance in Texas is $1,868 per year for a full coverage policy and $551 per year for a minimum coverage policy. Some Texans drive uninsured as a cost-saving measure, but the associated fees and penalties can quickly exceed the average cost for an auto policy.
|Penalty type||First offense||Subsequent offenses|
|Fines||Up to $350||Up to $1,000|
|Driver’s license surcharge||$250 a year for three years||Additional $250 a year for three years|
In addition to fines and surcharges, repeat offenders can expect:
- Vehicle impoundment and associated fees
- Vehicle registration suspension
- License suspension and reinstatement fee
- SR-22 requirement
- Up to six months in jail if uninsured in an accident
Fines and surcharges aside, it’s essential to look at the risk of driving uninsured holistically since some penalties are hard to quantify. For example, if the DMV impounds your vehicle, you will have to pay daily impound fees and you may miss time from work if you don’t have access to another car.
To ensure that its drivers maintain minimum insurance requirements, the state implemented a program called TexasSure. TexasSure is an electronic database that connects your insurance information to the DMV, and if your policy lapses, your car insurance company will automatically notify the DMV using TexasSure. Once the lapse is reported, the DMV will send you a letter requiring you to provide proof of insurance within 10 days. If you cannot provide the requested information in that timeframe, you could face fines and penalties.
Getting into an accident without insurance in Texas
In Texas, getting into an accident without liability insurance can have devastating financial consequences. Suppose you’re at fault in an uninsured accident. In that case, the courts could liquidate your home, retirement fund or other assets to cover the other party’s medical expenses, property damage and court costs. Since car accidents can potentially reach hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, an uninsured at-fault driver could face bankruptcy. You will also probably be required to carry an SR-22 on your policy.
An SR-22, or certificate of financial responsibility, is a form your insurance company files with the DMV. This form certifies that you carry at least the minimum amount of liability coverage in your state, and in Texas, you must maintain an SR-22 for two years when they are required. Any time your policy lapses, your insurance company will automatically notify the DMV, and you will have to refile the SR-22. This lapse usually results in a suspended license and a $100 license reinstatement fee.
Even if you are not at fault in an uninsured accident, the DMV may still require you to carry an SR-22 — it all depends on if you were issued a ticket. Regardless of fault, law enforcement can give you a ticket if you did not have insurance at the time of the accident. If this is your second ticket for no insurance, then an SR-22 is required.
Frequently asked questions
Based on our research, USAA and Geico are among the best car insurance companies in Texas. Depending on your needs, however, this answer can change. For instance, some drivers think that the company that offers the most discounts is the best, while others are looking for a company with convenient digital tools for policy management. Before shopping, it may be helpful to write down what you are looking for in an auto policy.
Car insurance companies use proprietary algorithms to analyze more than a dozen rating factors to determine a premium. Some of these rating factors include your driving history, location, type of vehicle you insure and in some states like Texas, your credit score. Because insurance is so personalized, no one company is cheapest for all. However, shopping around with multiple companies can help you find the cheapest car insurance company in Texas for your unique circumstances.
The cost of car insurance in Texas is slightly higher than the national average at $1,868 per year for a full coverage policy and $551 for minimum coverage. However, you could be paying more or less depending on your circumstances. Most insurance professionals recommend you request free car insurance quotes at your renewal to ensure you get the best rate possible for your specific coverage package.
If the state requires you to carry an SR-22, you must contact your current car insurance company to let them know. Not all companies offer SR-22 filing services, but if yours does, they will electronically file an SR-22 with the DMV. There will probably be a small fee associated with filing the SR-22, but it is only due at the time of filing and not at every renewal. Do note that if your policy lapses or you switch companies, you will have to pay another fee to have your SR-22 refiled. If your company doesn’t offer SR-22s, you will need to shop for a company that does.