Why You Shouldn’t Drive Without Car Insurance
An estimated one in eight drivers in the U.S. does not have auto insurance, amounting to a whopping 28 million uninsured motorists across the country.
Not carrying car insurance may seem like a smart idea when you have other bills to pay, but it only takes one accident to lead you down a road of significant financial hardship. You may be on the hook for fines, the cost of repairs or medical bills, and could even face jail time.
Every state has a law requiring drivers to take financial responsibility if they, or someone driving their car, cause an accident. The best way to adhere to these laws is to purchase car insurance. While it is wise to buy a policy with generous coverage, even carrying the minimum liability can help offset devastating costs from a car accident.
The Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance
Motorists face many consequences for hitting the road without auto insurance. While some penalties are more severe than others, all of the examples below can cause unnecessary financial and emotional stress.
The most common repercussion for driving without auto insurance is a ticket. Depending on your state, expect to pay between $100 and $1,500 if you are caught driving without car insurance for the first time.
2. License suspension
License suspension policies vary by state. For example, Colorado and Kansas will not give your license back until you purchase an auto insurance plan, while Mississippi and New Jersey may suspend your license for up to one year.
3. Vehicle impoundment
Some states penalize uninsured drivers by seizing their vehicles. In order to get your vehicle back, you not only have to show proof of an insurance policy, but also pay the tow and storage fees.
4. Registration suspension
Several states revoke your vehicle registration until you provide proof of insurance. It is illegal to drive an unregistered vehicle, and you typically need to pay the DMV a fine in order to reinstate it.
5. Jail time
Jail time is rare for drivers caught without insurance, but most states include it as a potential penalty, especially for repeat offenders.
Is Car Insurance Required?
Car insurance is required in every state except Virginia (if an uninsured motorist fee is paid) and New Hampshire.
Even when it’s not required, car insurance protects you, your passengers, and any other motorists you encounter on the road. Standard policies typically include:
- Bodily injury liability, which covers medical bills if you’ve injured someone in an accident
- Property damage liability, which covers property damage you’ve caused in an accident
- Protections against uninsured and underinsured motorists
How to Purchase Car Insurance if You Are Uninsured
You can still buy car insurance even if you were previously driving without it. However, you may encounter denials and more expensive premiums because you will have a “coverage gap” on your record. Insurance companies see this as a sign that you are a higher risk to insure, and they will charge more as a result.
If you are purchasing car insurance for the first time, consider comparing quotes from at least three companies before committing. Rates can vary widely from one insurer to another, so you might be able to find a cheaper policy for the same level of coverage.
What Happens if I Get Into a Car Accident Without Insurance?
Causing a car accident can be inconvenient and costly if you don’t have car insurance, whether or not you’re at fault. You could face the following penalties:
- Financial liability for bodily injuries and property damage
- License suspension
- Vehicle impoundment
- Towing fees
If you are at fault in a car accident, expect to pay out of pocket for any damages to the vehicles involved, including your own. You will also be on the hook for medical expenses incurred by the other driver, their passengers, and pedestrians injured in the accident.
If you are not at fault, you may still be liable for repairs to your vehicle. That is because several states have so-called “no pay, no play” laws, which limit compensation for drivers without insurance.
Sometimes, it can be challenging to determine who is at fault in the accident. Without car insurance, you may be forced to advocate for yourself to the other person’s insurance company. In these circumstances, you will likely end up paying for repairs to your own vehicle.
How to Avoid Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
The best way to protect yourself from the risks of driving without insurance is to simply not do it! Purchase car insurance and make sure it stays current by:
1. Paying your bill when it is due
Missing a payment can cause your auto insurance to lapse or become invalid.
2. Following through when switching auto insurance companies
It is common for drivers to have an annual contract with their car insurance companies. Once a year, before your contract is up for renewal, it is wise to compare prices for other insurance policies that fit your needs.
If you decide to switch, it’s vital that your new policy takes effect the day your old policy ends so there is no lapse in coverage.
3. Notify your car insurance company if you are switching companies
Don’t get stuck paying for two policies on the same vehicle. Always notify your car insurance company if you want to stop coverage. This will prevent late fees or miscommunication between you and your insurer.
Can You Lose Points for Driving Without Insurance?
Not every state uses a point system for violations. States that do utilize a point system usually track moving/traffic violations. Driving without insurance is not usually a part of point deductions.
Is Driving Without Insurance a Misdemeanor or a Felony?
In most states, a first-time offense for driving without insurance doesn’t qualify as a misdemeanor or felony.
However, second or third offenses can qualify as misdemeanors and carry heavier fines, a loss of registration, or even jail time.