Driving without insurance in Washington

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Driving without car insurance in Washington can lead to fines and a license suspension. Lying about insurance, on the other hand, is a misdemeanor and can land you in jail. The purpose of car insurance is to protect the finances of the insured if an accident happens. With possible fines of up to $1,000 for driving uninsured in Washington, in addition to the potential costs of having an accident without insurance, it is a good idea to consider purchasing adequate insurance for your car.

Minimum insurance required in Washington

Washington state requires all drivers to have bodily injury and property damage liability. The minimum amounts needed are:

  • Bodily Injury liability coverage: $25,000 per person; $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability coverage: $10,000 per accident

The following coverages are also required unless a waiver is submitted to the insurance company:

  • Underinsured/uninsured motorist bodily injury liability coverage: $25,000 per person; $50,000 per accident
  • Underinsured/uninsured motorist property damage coverage: $10,000 per accident
  • Personal injury protection: $10,000 per accident

Even though Washington has minimum insurance requirements, drivers might also consider purchasing collision and comprehensive or full coverage insurance. Comprehensive coverage could financially protect you if your car is damaged by a non-driving event, such as a falling branch or a fire. Collision coverage could financially protect you if your vehicle is damaged in an accident, particularly if you were at fault.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Washington

In Washington, getting caught driving without insurance could result in fines and community service. The minimum penalty for driving without insurance in Washington is $450. It is important to note that, even if you have insurance but cannot provide proof, you will still be given a ticket. You can appeal the ticket in these situations but will still have to pay a court-processing fee of $25.

If you have a history of driving without insurance, a judge may order you to file an SR-22 with the Department of Licensing.

What is an SR-22?

An SR-22 insurance certificate is not actually insurance but rather a special certificate issued by an insurance company that proves you are adequately insured. The state typically mandates SR-22s as a response to certain driving violations, such as repeated offenses of driving without insurance.

To file an SR-22 with the state, contact your insurance provider and ask them to send an SR-22 on your behalf to the DOL. If you do not currently have insurance, your first step is to find a car insurance company that issues SR-22s.

If you are ordered to secure an SR-22, the minimum amount of time you must have it is three years. If you cancel your policy within this period, your insurance provider is required by law to notify the DOL. Once this happens, your license will be suspended until you can provide proof of coverage.

Fees from Washington’s online insurance verification system

Washington state does not currently have an online insurance verification system, which means that drivers must carry proof of insurance with them any time they are driving.

Getting into an accident without insurance

If you drive in Washington without car insurance and cause an accident resulting in $1,000 or more in damages, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to three years. To avoid having your license suspended, you may submit a deposit to the court equal to the amount of damage you caused. However, regardless of whether you do or do not submit a deposit, you will likely receive a ticket for no insurance for $550.

The other driver may also choose to take you to a civil court and sue for additional damages you caused. If this happens and you lose, any assets you possess could be seized, and your wages may be garnished. Getting into an accident without car insurance can be financially devastating, so it is a good idea to purchase as much insurance as you need to protect your finances.

Frequently asked questions

What happens if you provide false insurance information?

In Washington, driving without insurance is a violation of Washington’s financial responsibility law, which could cost you money in fines and court costs and could also result in a license suspension. Lying about insurance coverage, however, is a misdemeanor. If convicted, you could face 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.

How much is car insurance in Washington?

The average cost of car insurance in Washington state is $1,176 a year for full coverage (or $98 a month). The national average is $1,674, making Washington approximately $498 cheaper than what many Americans pay.

Just remember that what you pay in car insurance may be more or less than the average because insurance companies calculate premiums on several factors, such as driving history, claims history and type of vehicle.

Which car insurance companies are the best in Washington?

The best insurance company is different for everyone and is based on your situation. Bankrate did take a look at several car insurance companies writing policies in Washington to provide our picks for the best car insurance in Washington. These companies have lots of coverage options and discounts, as well as high customer satisfaction scores from J.D. Power and solid financial strength ratings from AM Best:

  • Geico
  • PEMCO
  • Progressive
  • State Farm
  • USAA

How do I lower my insurance premium in Washington?

While some factors that affect your car insurance rates are out of your control, there are some things you could consider doing to potentially lower your premiums, such as:

  • Compare discounts: Most car insurance companies offer several different types of discounts that can help lower your premium. Typically, one of the best discounts comes from bundling your home or renters insurance with your car insurance at the same company. Most companies also offer loyalty discounts. Speak with an agent at your car insurance company to see what discounts are available to you.
  • Shop around: When you are looking for a new policy or to switch car insurance companies, ask for quotes from multiple car insurance companies for the same types of coverage to see where you can get the best rates for your situation.
Written by
Lauren Ward
Insurance Contributor
Lauren Ward has nearly 10 years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as Bankrate, The Simple Dollar, and Reviews.com. She covers auto, homeowners, and life insurance, as well other topics in the personal finance industry.
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Insurance Editor