Purchasing car insurance: for US citizens, it’s often a rather mundane chore—something that whittles away at disposable income, but without which we would be both legally and financially vulnerable each time we got behind the wheel. Savvy drivers spend time finding a good policy that doesn’t cost too much but still offers peace of mind, and while the whole process might not be the most exciting way we could think to spend an evening, most citizens never doubt that as long as we pay for coverage, we’ll get a policy.
But for the approximately 10 million undocumented citizens in the U.S. who are of legal driving age, shopping for car insurance can be impossible. That’s because the majority of car insurance companies require a driver’s license before they will sell you a policy. While there are companies who will work with unlicensed drivers, not having a valid driver’s license limits you on your options.
- Hawaii (effective January 1, 2016)
- New Mexico
Another way undocumented citizens can obtain a driver’s license is through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, available in all 50 states and D.C.
Carriers That Work with Undocumented Citizens
Jordan Perch, from DMV.com told Quoted: “Even though insurance regulations vary between states, insurance companies in all states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants are allowed to sell auto insurance to citizens who don’t have proof of legal presence in the U.S.”
Perch said, “Undocumented immigrants who live in one of the states that have immigrant-licensing laws should not have a problem acquiring car insurance as long as they meet their state’s driver licensing requirements.”
But what about drivers in the 39 states that do not grant driver’s licenses to undocumented citizens? You guessed it: people often drive uninsured. Perch told Quoted, “The Insurance Research Council estimates that about 14% of all drivers in the U.S. lack proper documentation,” which means 14% of drivers on the road have no way of legally obtaining car insurance.
Jordan Perch told Quoted, “The most important thing that undocumented immigrants seeking car insurance should remember is that they must have at least the minimum liability coverage required by the state they live in, which covers property damage and bodily injuries.”
Perch also told us about programs some states offer that help undocumented citizens buy car insurance more easily. Perch said, “California has launched the Low Cost Auto Insurance program, that makes car insurance more affordable for low-income drivers who don’t have a proof of legal presence in the state.” In order to be eligible, drivers must:
- Hold a valid California driver’s license
- Own a car that is worth less than $25,000
- Be at least 19 years old
- Meet income eligibility guidelines (household maximums: $29,425 for 1 person, $60,425 for families of four)
Insurance through California’s program costs between $213 and $472 per year, depending on driving record and county.
Supporting Legal Driving for All
In the United States, it’s unlawful for anyone to drive uninsured (except in New Hampshire, where drivers can forgo insurance if they prove they can cover damages in a wreck they cause). US citizens have a vested interest in making sure every driver on the road is insured, and not just because access to insurance means less financial and legal instability. Even if you and your family are able to easily and legal purchase car insurance, if you get in a wreck with someone without insurance, the chances the other party will flee the scene is greatly increased, and the chances you’ll see any compensation (if the other party is at fault) is dramatically reduced.
Making car insurance available to all US citizens doesn’t mean everyone will follow the law and drive with their state’s minimum insurance requirements, but it will help. In New Mexico (a state which has been trying to repeal the law granting driver’s licenses to all residents) the percentage of uninsured drivers went from 33% to 9%, once all drivers had the option of legally obtaining a license and insurance.
KITV.com notes, “While undocumented immigrants are the biggest population helped by [laws granting residents driver’s licenses regardless of documentation], advocates say many will benefit, including domestic violence survivors and victims of natural disasters.”
We ask commenters to add to the conversation: if you’ve had experience with purchasing car insurance while undocumented, we’d like to know what your experience was like. We’d also appreciate stories from people who are currently trying to get car insurance—or would like to get car insurance—but have hit logistical roadblocks.