Sure, it might sometimes feel like car insurance exists just so you have an extra bill to pay. But the moment you’re in an accident you’ll quickly remember just how important car insurance is.
While car insurance is definitely a good thing to have (and in most states a legal requirement), there are some drivers who would rather drive uninsured, save some money each month, and take their chances on not being in an accident or getting their car hit. It’s a high-risk, low-reward option, but some people feel it’s in their best interest.
The penalties for driving without car insurance vary from state to state. Here’s what happens in Virginia if you’re caught with no auto insurance.
Is car insurance required in Virginia?
Virginia is one of only two states (New Hampshire being the other) where car insurance isn’t required. This means drivers aren’t legally required to have car insurance if their car is registered in Virginia. However, that doesn’t mean you can just buy a car and take off. In Virginia, you still need to provide proof of something in order to legally drive, it just doesn’t have to be insurance. You have two options.
The first option is to just buy car insurance, with a minimum coverage of $25,000 bodily injury (per person), $50,000 bodily injury (per accident), and $20,000 property damage.
The second option is to pay an uninsured motor vehicle fee.
What is an uninsured motor vehicle fee?
An uninsured motor vehicle fee is a $500 fee that you pay in order to not carry car insurance. By paying this fee, you are acknowledging that you do not have car insurance, and that you are financially responsible for any damages caused by your car. The uninsured motor vehicle fee is a yearly fee, so you’ll have to pay $500 every year.
What’s the penalty if you don’t have car insurance or the uninsured motor vehicle fee?
In Virginia, you cannot drive your car if you do not have either car insurance or the uninsured motor vehicle fee. If you have neither, then you’re subject to a pretty severe penalty.
If you’re caught driving without insurance or the uninsured motor vehicle fee, then you can be fined $500, have your license suspended, have your vehicle registration suspended, and be hit with a Class 3 misdemeanor. Needless to say, these are all pretty bad things to have.
It’s worth noting that you don’t need to be in an accident in order to be caught having not paid the uninsured motor vehicle fee. The DMV tracks your information, and if they notice that you are a licensed driver with a vehicle in your name, but have neither car insurance nor the uninsured motor vehicle fee, you could be in trouble.
Are you protected with the uninsured motor vehicle fee?
The only thing that the uninsured motor vehicle fee protects you from is being penalized for not having car insurance. It doesn’t actually cover your car at all. Furthermore, if you are unable to cover the costs of an accident that you caused, you will still be in legal trouble, with or without the uninsured motor vehicle fee.
It’s smartest to just opt for car insurance. However, if you live in Virginia, you do have an alternate option.