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.
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. In some states, it's cheaper to acquire the minimum liability insurance than it is to get a ticket.
|State||Penalty||Average Annual Premium w/ Failure to Show Documents Violation|
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.
If you’re caught driving without insurance, it will be up to the officer's discretion whether or not to tow your vehicle.
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.
Dynamic auto insurance data methodology
Methodology: The auto insurance rates displayed above and throughout this page are dynamic, meaning the data will refresh when the most recent information is made available. Rates are based on a sample driver profile — a 30-year-old single male driver with a Honda Accord and full coverage. This profile was adjusted based on common pricing factors used by major car insurance companies, like age, coverage level, driving record and others.
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?
|Alaska||Passive monitoring||$500/license suspension|
|Arizona||Active monitoring||$500-$1,000/license suspension|
|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|
|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.
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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.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
- The Zebra’s insurance content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
- The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
- The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.