New Hampshire may be one of the smallest and least populated states in the nation, but the Granite State still prides itself on its “Live Free or Die” motto and unique governing policies. Thus, many laws that the rest of the nation considers standard are quite different in New Hampshire. For drivers, the biggest difference is that New Hampshire is the only state in the union that does not legally require drivers to carry auto insurance. At The Zebra, we’re often asked why and how this can be, so we dug into New Hampshire auto insurance history and policy – here’s what we’ve learned:
New Hampshire’s Insurance Requirements: Unlike Any Other U.S. State
New Hampshire’s motor vehicle laws do not require drivers to carry auto insurance – as long as they meet one financial requirement. The critical point to note is that if a New Hampshire driver has the financial means to cover property damage and medical bills for an accident he or she caused without auto insurance, he or she does not need to have an auto insurance policy.
According to New Hampshire Statute RSA 264, drivers must provide proof of their ability to pay the New Hampshire state minimum insurance requirements of 25/50/25. This means that in order to legally not carry insurance, drivers have to prove that in the event of accidents they cause, they can pay $25,000 towards bodily injury or death to one person, or $50,000 for two or more people, and $25,000 for property damage. In order to make it official, drivers forgoing insurance have to deposit at least $75,000 in either money or securities with the State Treasurer, bring the receipt to the Department of Safety, and then they will be issued a Certificate of Deposit in the name of the covered driver. If a driver causes an accident and doesn’t have either insurance or a Certificate of Deposit, his or her license will be suspended until the bills are settled.
The New Hampshire Department of Insurance, as well as many other legal entities in the state, strongly encourages all drivers to carry auto insurance. Still – perhaps a telling detail about the participation in the state’s auto insurance opt-out – drivers who do buy auto insurance in New Hampshire must also carry uninsured motorists coverage.
All in all, not having auto insurance, even though it’s legal, can still be an incredible gamble – even if you’ve got the cash. One property damage payment of $25,000 could be the same as 27 years of payments on the average auto insurance policy premium (which is about $900 a year). And if personal injury factors in and the bill climbs toward $75,000, that’s over 83 years of regular payments. When you consider that the average U.S. driver is involved in a car crash every 10 years, protecting yourself with auto insurance seems like the smart bet, even if it’s not technically required.
“Live Free or Die”
New Hampshire’s lack of required auto insurance is only one of its unique state policies. The Washington Post writes, “The state has historically been a limited-government, independent-friendly place,” a notion that’s echoed in its laws.
New Hampshire’s striking state motto, “Live Free or Die,” comes from one of its most memorable Revolutionary War heroes. John Stark coined the phrase, which reads in full, “Live free or die; Death is not the worst of evils” in 1809, and it officially became the state motto in 1945, a bold assertion of independence from a larger governing body.
Many New Hampshirites are so strongly in favor of small government that for the past 15 years, a Libertarian group known as the Free State Project has been plotting to reform the state government by recruiting 20,000 like-minded activists to move to the state. Mother Jones explains: “By accruing a critical mass of small-government advocates in a state with just 1.3 million people, the project seeks to exert substantial influence on state politics to create a utopia of social liberties and deregulated markets.” The plan is all still speculative, says Mother Jones, but the group has yet to give up.
Other Interesting New Hampshire Laws
In New Hampshire, “Live Free or Die” is epitomized in several other state rulings that go against the trend of what most of the rest of the nation considers standard:
- There is no seat belt law on the books for adults (but kids under 18 must wear one). In every other state in the union, there’s either a primary or secondary seat belt law for both adults and children.
- Motorcycle operators in the state don’t have to wear helmets (for many, a bandana suffices).
- State legislators are only paid $100 a year to limit career politicians from holding the positions. Compare that with Ohio’s $60,000 per year, or Michigan’s $71,000.
- In New Hampshire there is no capital gains tax (only eight other states share the policy), personal income tax (like six other states), or sales tax (like four other states).
New Hampshire’s politics are not subtle, and many of the laws are directed at minimizing government intrusion into what many in the state see as the private affairs of citizens. Less auto insurance regulation is just a piece of New Hampshire’s effort at a small, unobtrusive government and fiercely independent citizens.