Driving Without Insurance in California: Penalties and What You Need to Know

If caught driving without car insurance in California, expect to lose your license, face penalties, and pay higher insurance premiums. Here's insight on what happens after driving without insurance in California.
Written by Cheryl Knight
Reviewed by Carrie Adkins
California laws
require drivers to carry a minimum amount of
liability insurance
on any vehicle they own.
Without insurance, drivers cannot register their vehicle each year and they face stiff penalties if caught. And if caught multiple times within a certain time period, the penalties and fines continue to grow. At worst, drivers can expect to lose their license or even to have their vehicle impounded.
What penalties and fines do drivers face if caught driving without
car insurance
in California?
is here to let you know.
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Penalties for driving without car insurance in California

During a traffic stop in California, the law enforcement official will ask for your driver's license, vehicle registration, and
proof of car insurance
. While you do face penalties for failure to produce the first two items, not having car insurance is a serious violation, resulting in a fine, potential loss of your license, and possible impounding of your car.
A first time offense for driving without car insurance in California will result in a $100 to $200 fine, with a possible penalty assessment of $260 to $520. A second offense will result in a $200 to $500 fine and penalty assessments of $520 to $1,300.
What if you have insurance, you just don't have proof of your insurance with you when you get pulled over?
Unfortunately, California law states that you should keep a copy of proof of financial responsibility in the form of an insurance card in your car at all times. Luckily, you can appeal for a reduced fine in court if you can later show that you have insurance for the car in question.

Penalties in California for driving without insurance and getting into an accident

Driving without insurance is even worse if you get into an accident. California requires car owners to keep a minimum amount of liability insurance on any vehicle they drive. Your vehicle may be impounded if you don't have the required insurance and you get into an accident. You will also face the following penalties:
Offense with an accident
License Suspension
First offense
$100 to $200 plus a penalty assessment of $260 to $520
Mandatory one-year suspension. License reinstatement is possible if you maintain an SR-22 and proof of financial responsibility for three years
Second & subsequent offenses
$200 to $500 plus a penalty assessment of $520 to $1,300
Up to four-year suspension. License reinstatement is possible during the last three years of suspension if you provide an SR-22 and maintain it
If you don't have insurance coverage and the court suspends your license, you may have to file an SR-22 form to get your license back.

What is an SR-22?

SR-22 form
, or Certificate of Financial Responsibility, states that you have the minimum amount of liability car insurance according to California laws. California requires drivers to carry the following minimum amounts of liability coverage:
  • $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person per accident
  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident
  • 5,000 of property damage coverage per accident
Once you file an SR-22 with an insurance company, you can then apply to have your license reinstated. An SR-22 costs anywhere from $25 to $50 and stays on your record for at least three years. Filing an SR-22 also places you into a high-risk driver category, which results in higher premiums.
Drivers caught driving without car insurance in California have to contend with a variety of fines and penalties, up to and including loss of their license or having their car impounded.
To avoid the hefty fines and penalties associated with driving without insurance in California, keep your insurance up to date and always have a copy of it in your car when driving.

How to get cheap car insurance in California

If you're struggling to afford car insurance in California, you can apply for the
California Low Cost Auto Program
, which helps low-income drivers find affordable car insurance.
Another way to get cheap car insurance in California is to use an insurance broker, like
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