The Consequences Of Driving Without Insurance

Driving without insurance is against the law. Learn more about rules, regulations, and how to find an affordable policy.

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What happens if you drive without insurance?

An active car insurance policy is legally required in order to drive your vehicle. If you're caught driving without proof of insurance, you could face stiff penalties, varying by state. Potential consequences of driving without insurance include a costly ticket, license suspension, a lack of financial protection in the event of an accident, and even denial of insurance coverage if you’re involved in a wreck and deemed not-at-fault. Let’s break down what happens if you are pulled over with no insurance.

What are the penalties for driving uninsured?
  1. Is it illegal not to have car insurance? 
  2. Tickets and fines for driving without insurance: costs by state
  3. Can your license be suspended for driving without insurance?
  4. Can your vehicle be towed or impounded for driving with no insurance?
  5. What happens if you’re in a car accident without insurance?
  6. How to find cheap car insurance

 


 

Is it illegal not to have car insurance? 

Yes, it is illegal to drive without insurance in most states. However, a few states offer you the chance to be self-insured. To be self-insured, you must deposit cash or post a surety bond with your state's treasury. This amount is typically equal to the state's individual liability limits which can be in the tens of thousands of dollars. As such, self-insurance is not available as an option for most average citizens.

If you cannot produce proof of insurance or a state-posted bond while driving, you are in violation of state laws. The only exemptions to this rule are in New Hampshire and some of the more remote portions of Alaska. However, even these states can impose car insurance on drivers who have caused accidents or been convicted of serious offenses such as a DUI or a hit-and-run. Also, the at-fault driver is always responsible for the damage that they cause.

For those who have a car that is no longer driven, it may be tempting to drop car insurance coverage. However, there are a number of reasons not to do this. First, if you choose to reinstate your insurance coverage, you will face a higher rate for a lapse in coverage. Second, depending on where your vehicle is parked, it may still pose a liability risk. Car storage coverage may be a better option, as you can benefit from continuous coverage and still have some protection. However, bear in mind that most insurers have strict guidelines that must be followed in order to be eligible for this coverage.

 

Can you drive a car without insurance?

While you can try to get away with driving uninsured, it's not recommended. Property damage and bodily injury costs (like medical expenses) can quickly become unaffordable without the backing of an insurance company if you're held liable.

If you're uninsured and want to borrow a friend's car a few times a year, you could be covered if they have a permissive use clause in their policy. 

If you're buying a new vehicle, the dealership will require proof of insurance before you can drive off the lot.

 

How much is the fine for driving without insurance?

Excluding New Hampshire, every state will ticket you for driving without insurance. While the monetary penalty will vary, it ranges from $25 in Tennessee to $5,000 in Massachusetts.

STATE BY STATE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING WITHOUT INSURANCE
State Penalty Average Annual Premium w/ Failure to Show Documents Violation
Alabama $500-$1,000 $1,495
Alaska $500 $1,540
Arizona $500-$1,000 $1,572
Arkansas $50-$250 $1,896
California $100-$200 $2,005
Colorado $500 $1,759
Connecticut $100-$1,000 $1,866
Delaware $1,500-$3,000 $1,706
Florida $150-$500 $2,527
Georgia $25-$185 $1,919
Hawaii $500-$5,000 $1,104
Idaho $75-$1,000 $1,271
Illinois $500-$1,000 $1,370
Indiana $250-$1,000 $1,260
Iowa $250 $1,194
Kansas $300-$2,500 $1,750
Kentucky $500-$1,000 $2,004
Louisiana $500-$1,000 $2,703
Maine $100-$500 $1,321
Maryland $1,000-$2,500 $1,490
Massachusetts $500-$5,000 $1,877
Michigan $200-$500 $2,836
Minnesota $200-$3,000 $1,445
Mississippi $1,000 $1,576
Missouri $500 $1,956
Montana $250-$500 $1,697
Nebraska $50 $1,660
Nevada $250-$1,000 $1,801
New Jersey $300-$5,000 $1,788
New Mexico $300-$1,000 $1,391
New York $150-$1,500 $1,697
North Carolina $50-$150 $1,270
North Dakota $150-$5,000 $1,419
Ohio $160-$660 $1,050
Oklahoma $250 $1,626
Oregon $130-$1,000 $1,484
Pennsylvania $300 $1,365
Rhode Island $100-$1,000 $2,064
South Carolina $100-$550 $1,688
South Dakota $100-$500 $1,561
Tennessee $25-$300 $1,313
Texas $175-$1,000 $1,547
Utah $400-$1,000 $1,370
Vermont $0-$500 $1,121
Virginia $500 $1,126
Washington $550-$1,000 $1,381
West Virginia $200-$5,000 $1,494
Wisconsin $510 $1,177
Wyoming $250-$1,500 $1,564

 

In some states, it's cheaper to acquire the minimum liability insurance than it is to get a ticket.

 


 

Can your license be suspended for driving without insurance?

License suspension for lack of insurance varies by state.

Listed below are the states that will suspend your license for driving without insurance. This punishment is usually coupled with a hefty fine.

Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. In essence, 44 of the 49 states that require car insurance will suspend your driver's license if you're caught without proof of insurance.

 


 

Can your vehicle be towed if you don't have insurance?

You don't need to drive your vehicle to face the consequences of lapsed auto insurance. Currently, 22 states electronically monitor whether registered vehicles are currently insured. If you’re caught with a registered-but-uninsured vehicle, you will be fined.

If you’re caught driving without insurance, it will be up to the officer's discretion whether or not to tow your vehicle. Because car insurance is legally required, a police officer would be within their rights to tow your vehicle. In this case, you would face impound fees in addition to other penalties.

Unless you are involved in an accident without insurance, fines, license suspension, and auto impound will be the extent of your penalties. You would be unlikely to receive jail time after a first-time driving without insurance offense. Things get more costly if you're involved in an accident while uninsured.

 


 

What happens after a car accident without insurance

Below, we'll cover a few scenarios if you get in an accident while uninsured.

When you are at-fault

Being involved in an at-fault crash as an uninsured motorist is a very serious situation that would likely result in you being designated as a high-risk driver in the eyes of an insurance company — even if it's your first offense. If you get into an at-fault accident and you do not have insurance, you will most likely be sued by the other driver's insurance company for bodily injury or property damage (sometimes both), ranging from few hundred bucks to hundreds of thousands of dollars, depending on the severity of the incident. Not only that, but legal penalties in many states increase dramatically for drivers who cause bodily injury to others while uninsured. This infraction can stay on your driving record for years to come and affect your ability to get insurance.

 

When you are not-at-fault

This varies by state and situation. Some states have what’s called a “no pay, no play” law, limiting the compensation you can receive after a not-at-fault accident if you’re uninsured. In Louisiana, on the other hand, you will receive no compensation after an accident if you’re uninsured, regardless of fault.

If fault is difficult to determine, having an insurance company on your side is beneficial. A claims adjuster or representative will speak to the other insurance company on your behalf and pursue funds to restore your vehicle to its pre-accident condition. Without insurance, you are on your own after an accident and all the financial responsibility will fall on you.

 

When you live in a no-fault state

Some states have no-fault laws, which means that regardless of who is at-fault in an accident, each driver must file insurance claims for their own bodily injury and/or property damage with their own insurance company. However, if you're uninsured in a no-fault state and get in a collision, you won't have an insurance provider to turn to, nor can you file a claim with the other party's insurance even if you're not at-fault. You would need to cover your own vehicle repairs or replacement, medical bills and more out-of-pocket.

 


 

How to find cheap insurance if you’re uninsured

At the end of the day, the consequences of driving without proof of insurance and not meeting insurance requirements will be more costly than purchasing state-minimum liability coverage. Below are cheap car insurance rates for minimum coverage.

AVERAGE RATES FOR STATE MINIMUM LIABILITY-ONLY COVERAGE
Company Average 6-Month Premium
Allstate $378
American Family $314
Farmers $285
GEICO $232
Nationwide $223
Progressive $258
State Farm $250
Travelers $280
USAA $233

While these insurance premiums are just estimates and may considerably change based on where you live, use this data as a starting point. The best way to find cheap car insurance if you’re uninsured is to assess as many companies as possible.

If you’re an uninsured driver, enter your ZIP code below to see how cheap car insurance can be in your state.

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Which states actively monitor, suspend, and ticket uninsured drivers?

 

State Monitoring method Penalties
Alabama Passive monitoring $500-$1,000
Alaska Passive monitoring $500/license suspension
Arizona Active monitoring $500-$1,000/license suspension
Arkansas Active monitoring $50-$250
California Active monitoring $100-$200/license suspension
Colorado Active monitoring $500/license suspension
Connecticut Active monitoring $100-$1,000/license suspension
Delaware Passive monitoring* $1,500-$3,000/license suspension
Florida Active monitoring $150-$500/license suspension
Georgia Active monitoring $25-$185/license suspension
Hawaii Passive monitoring $500-$5,000/license suspension
Idaho Passive monitoring $75-$1,000/license suspension
Illinois Passive monitoring * $500-$1,000/license suspension
Indiana Passive monitoring $250-$1,000/license suspension
Iowa Passive monitoring $250/license suspension
Kansas Passive monitoring $300-$2,500/license suspension
Kentucky Active monitoring $500-$1,000/license suspension
Louisiana Active monitoring *** $500-$1,000
Maine Passive monitoring $100-$500/license suspension
Maryland Active monitoring $1,000-$2,500
Massachusetts Passive monitoring $500-$5,000/license suspension
Michigan Passive monitoring $200-$500/license suspension
Minnesota Passive monitoring $200-$3,000/license suspension
Mississippi Passive monitoring ** $1,000/license suspension
Missouri Passive monitoring * $500/license suspension
Montana Passive monitoring $250-$500/license suspension
Nebraska Passive monitoring $50/license suspension
Nevada Active monitoring $250-$1,000/license suspension
New Hampshire Passive monitoring License suspension only after accident
New Jersey Active monitoring $300-$5,000/license suspension
New Mexico Active monitoring $300-$1,000
New York Active monitoring $150-$1,500/license suspension
North Carolina Active monitoring $50-$150/license suspension
North Dakota Passive monitoring $150-$5,000/license suspension
Ohio Passive monitoring * $160-$660/license suspension
Oklahoma Active monitoring $250/license suspension
Oregon Passive monitoring * $130-$1,000/license suspension
Pennsylvania Active monitoring $300/license suspension
Rhode Island Passive monitoring * $100-$1,000/license suspension
South Carolina Active monitoring $100-$550/license suspension
South Dakota Passive monitoring $100-$500/license suspension
Tennessee Active monitoring $25-$300/license suspension
Texas Active monitoring $175-$1,000/license suspension
Utah Active monitoring $400-$1,000/license suspension
Vermont Passive monitoring $0-$500/license suspension
Virginia Active monitoring $500/license suspension
Washington Passive monitoring $550-$1,000 license suspension
West Virginia Active monitoring $200-$5,000/license suspension
Wisconsin Passive monitoring $510/license suspension
Wyoming Passive monitoring $250-$1,500/license suspension

 

*Designates a state that uses random auditing of vehicles registered in that particular state to monitor compliance with insurance laws.

**Legislation is pending for July of 2017 which will create a database for insured vehicles that will be actively monitored by the state.

***Restricts uninsured drivers’ rights to seek compensation, regardless of fault, after an accident.

Ross Martin photo
Ross MartinManager, Content Quality

As a licensed insurance agent, Ross has spent the last three years with The Zebra researching and writing insurance content aimed at helping shoppers make informed decisions.

Ross's background is in writing and education. He holds a master's degree from Royal Holloway, University of London.

Ross's work has been cited by The New York Times, Investopedia, The Simple DollarThe BalanceCar and Driver and Fox Business. He has been quoted by CNET, I Drive Safely and Kin Insurance

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

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