The Consequences Of Driving Without Insurance

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What happens if you get pulled over 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. How much is a ticket for driving without insurance?
  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 — as the at-fault driver
  6. What happens if you’re in a car accident without insurance — as the not-at-fault driver
  7. 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 the law. 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. 

 

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
StatePenaltyAverage premium with failure to show documents violation
Alabama$500-$1,000$1,661
Alaska$500$1,390
Arizona$500-$1,000$1,626
Arkansas$50-$250$1,961
California$100-$200$1,931
Colorado$500$1,841
Connecticut$50-$200$2,099
Delaware$1,500-$3,000$1,921
Florida$150-$500$2,560
Georgia$25-$185$2,011
Hawaii$500-$5,000$1,071
Idaho$75-$1,000$1,179
Illinois$500-$1,000$1,430
Indiana$250-$1,000$1,237
Iowa$250$1,158
Kansas$1,000-$2,500$1,802
Kentucky$1,000$2,410
Louisiana$100-$700$2,731
Maine$100-$500$1,021
Maryland$1,000-$2,500$1,466
Massachusetts$500-$5,000$2,144
Michigan$200-$500$3,423
Minnesota$200-$3,000$1,339
Mississippi$500$1,757
Missouri$500$1,997
Montana$250-$500$1,780
Nebraska$50$1,520
Nevada$250-$1,000$2,046
New Jersey$300-$5,000$1,917
New Mexico$300-$1,000$1,489
New York$150-$1,500$1,705
North Carolina$50-$150$1,119
North Dakota$150-$5,000$1,496
Ohio$160-$660$1,211
Oklahoma$250$1,865
Oregon$130-$1,000$1,590
Pennsylvania$300$1,522
Rhode Island$100-$1,000$2,398
South Carolina$100-$550$1,624
South Dakota$100-$500$1,951
Tennessee$25-$300$1,773
Texas$175-$4,000$1,415
Utah$400-$1,000$1,364
Vermont$0-$500$1,254
Virginia$500$1,088
Washington$450-$1,000$1,637
West Virginia$200-$5,000$1,701
Wisconsin$510$1,302
Wyoming$250-$1,500$1,638

 

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 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 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.

 


 

What happens after a car accident without 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 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.

 


 

How to find cheap insurance if you’re uninsured

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

 

CompanyAverage 6-month premium for liability-only
Allstate$402
GEICO$241
Farmers$311
Liberty Mutual$315
Nationwide$352
Progressive$342
State Farm$260
USAA$195

 

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 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?

 

StateMonitoring methodPenalties
AlabamaPassive monitoring$500-$1,000
AlaskaPassive monitoring$500/license suspension
ArizonaActive monitoring$500-$1,000/license suspension
ArkansasActive monitoring$50-$250
CaliforniaActive monitoring$100-$200/license suspension
ColoradoActive monitoring$500/license suspension
ConnecticutActive monitoring$50-$200/License suspension
DelawarePassive monitoring*$1,500-$3,000/license suspension
FloridaActive monitoring$150-$500/license suspension
GeorgiaActive monitoring$25-$185/license suspension
HawaiiPassive monitoring$500-$5,000/license suspension
IdahoPassive monitoring$75-$1,000/license suspension
IllinoisPassive monitoring *$500-$1,000/license suspension
IndianaPassive monitoring$250-$1,000/license suspension
IowaPassive monitoring$250/license suspension
KansasPassive monitoring$1,000-$2,500/license suspension
KentuckyActive monitoring$1,000/license suspension
LouisianaActive monitoring ***$100-$700
MainePassive monitoring$100-$500/license suspension
MarylandActive monitoring$1,000-$2,500
MassachusettsPassive monitoring$500-$5,000/license suspension
MichiganPassive monitoring$200-$500/license suspension
MinnesotaPassive monitoring$200-$3,000/license suspension
MississippiPassive monitoring **$500/license suspension
MissouriPassive monitoring *$500/license suspension
MontanaPassive monitoring$250-$500/license suspension
NebraskaPassive monitoring$50/license suspension
NevadaActive monitoring$250-$1,000/license suspension
New HampshirePassive monitoringLicense suspension only after accident
New JerseyActive monitoring$300-$5,000/license suspension
New MexicoActive monitoring$300-$1,000
New YorkActive monitoring$150-$1,500/license suspension
North CarolinaActive monitoring$50-$150/license suspension
North DakotaPassive monitoring$150-$5,000/license suspension
OhioPassive monitoring *$160-$660/license suspension
OklahomaActive monitoring$250/license suspension
OregonPassive monitoring *$130-$1,000/license suspension
PennsylvaniaActive monitoring$300/license suspension
Rhode IslandPassive monitoring *$100-$1,000/license suspension
South CarolinaActive monitoring$100-$550/license suspension
South DakotaPassive monitoring$100-$500/license suspension
TennesseeActive monitoring$25-$300/license suspension
TexasActive monitoring$175-$4,000/license suspension
UtahActive monitoring$400-$1,000/license suspension
VermontPassive monitoring$0-$500/license suspension
VirginiaActive monitoring$500/license suspension
WashingtonPassive monitoring$450-$1,000 license suspension
West VirginiaActive monitoring$200-$5,000/license suspension
WisconsinPassive monitoring$510/license suspension
WyomingPassive 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.

Ava Lynch LinkedIn

Based in Austin, TX, Ava has been in the insurance industry as a licensed agent for 4-plus years. Ava is currently one of The Zebra’s resident property insurance experts and has been featured in publications such as US News Report, GasBuddy, and Yahoo! Finance.