Driving Without Insurance

Driving without car insurance is a serious offense. Getting caught will get you a hefty fine and potential license suspension–and say goodbye to cheap car insurance.
Written by R.E. Fulton
Edited by Kathleen Flear
Driving without the required
proof of insurance
is illegal in every U.S. state, carrying penalties including: 
  • Fines
  • Driver's license suspension
  • Vehicle registration suspension
  • Vehicle impoundment
  • SR-22 filing requirements
  • Jail time
  • Mandatory community service
  • It’s illegal to operate a car without insurance in most states—and every state imposes potential penalties for uninsured motorists. 
  • On average, a first offense of driving without insurance can cost over $2,000—and over $30,000 if you cause an accident while uninsured.
  • In many states, you can be convicted of a criminal misdemeanor if you’re caught driving without automobile insurance. 
  • To avoid charges for driving without insurance, make sure you have state minimum liability coverage.

State penalties for driving without insurance

Driving without
car insurance
is a serious offense that carries steep fines, loss of driving privileges, and even vehicle impoundment and/or jail time in most states. 
Even a single instance of driving without insurance could get you labeled as a high-risk driver. Insurance companies charge high-risk drivers steeper rates based on the likelihood of costly claims and violations—and some insurers may even refuse to cover you if you have a charge for driving without insurance in your record. 

What to do if you’re pulled over without insurance

If you’re pulled over by a police officer and can’t produce proof of insurance, keep in mind: 
  • Most states accept electronic proof of insurance: Unless you live in New Mexico, it’s legal to show
    a digital insurance card
    on your phone as proof of insurance. You can access this through your insurer’s mobile app. 
  • If you had insurance at the time but couldn’t prove it, you can appeal in some states: You’ll likely need to appear in court to appeal your ticket and show proof of financial responsibility. A free consultation with an attorney is a good option if you’re considering an appeal. 
  • Car insurance doesn’t apply retroactively: Even if you purchase a policy while still at the traffic stop, it won’t help you avoid a citation for driving without insurance—but it can help you avoid further consequences of
    an extended insurance lapse
What to do: If you’re pulled over without insurance, pay your fines and focus on getting insured as soon as possible to avoid repeat consequences of driving uninsured.  

What to do if you’re in an accident without insurance

If you’re in a car accident while uninsured, you face potentially astronomical financial and legal consequences—even if you’re not at fault. Here’s why: 
  • Your odds of license suspension, vehicle impoundment, and jail time go up: If you’re
    at fault in an accident without insurance
    , law enforcement is more likely to impose the steepest penalties. 
  • No pay, no play: In states with so-called “No Pay, No Play” laws, uninsured drivers can’t collect non-economic damages after a car accident,
    even if they’re not at fault
  • You can still file claims: Even if you don’t have your own car insurance, you can file bodily injury liability or property damage claims with the other party’s insurance—unless you’re 100% at fault or live in a pure contributory negligence state. 
What to do: If you’re in an accident without insurance, you can still file a bodily injury or property damage liability claim with the other driver’s insurance—but you’ll face serious legal and financial consequences if you were at fault. 
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The cost of driving without insurance

  • Average fine: $600
  • Average license reinstatement fee: $245
  • Average impound release fee: $75
  • Average towing and storage fees: $250
  • Average financial liability in at-fault accident: $28,048
    (1)
     
  • Average insurance premium increase after an insurance lapse: 52%, or an increase of $869 per year

Bottom line: A single charge for driving without insurance could cost you as much as $2,039—and if you cause an accident while uninsured, you’re looking at an average cost of $30,087.

Your DMV can find out if you’re driving without insurance 

As of 2023, 38 states and the District of Columbia have electronic liability insurance reporting systems designed to check and verify the insurance policies of vehicles registered in the state.
Some of these systems check drivers’ insurance status automatically; others simply require insurance companies to report to the Department of Motor Vehicles when a driver cancels or fails to renew their insurance coverage. 
If you live in a state with an electronic reporting system, the DMV will find out that you’re uninsured even if you aren’t stopped by police or involved in an accident. 
Check out the table below to see if your state has an automatic insurance reporting system. 
State
Electronic insurance reporting system?
Alabama
Yes
Alaska
No
Arizona
Yes
Arkansas
Yes
California
Yes
Colorado
Yes
Connecticut
Yes
Delaware
No
District of Columbia
Yes
Florida
Yes
Georgia
Yes
Hawaii
No
Idaho
Yes
Illinois
Yes
Indiana
Yes
Iowa
No
Kansas
Yes
Kentucky
Yes
Louisiana
Yes
Maine
Yes
Maryland
Yes
Massachusetts
Yes
Michigan
Yes
Minnesota
No
Mississippi
Yes
Missouri
Yes
Montana
Yes
Nebraska
Yes
Nevada
Yes
New Hampshire
No
New Jersey
No
New Mexico
Yes
New York
Yes
North Carolina
Yes
North Dakota
No
Ohio
Yes
Oklahoma
Yes
Oregon
Yes
Pennsylvania
Yes
Rhode Island
Yes
South Carolina
Yes
South Dakota
No
Tennessee
Yes
Texas
Yes
Utah
Yes
Vermont
No
Virginia
Yes
Washington
No
West Virginia
Yes
Wisconsin
No
Wyoming
Yes

Finding car insurance after driving uninsured is hard—but not impossible

Shopping for coverage
with a charge for driving without insurance on your driving record means facing steep insurance premiums. Car insurance companies view drivers with insurance lapses or traffic violations as an increased risk—and an uninsured driving charge is both. 
You may find that some insurance providers won’t even approve your application—and those that do issue sky-high insurance rates for even state minimum coverage. To find car insurance coverage within your budget after driving uninsured, try the following strategies: 
  • Compare rates from standard and non-standard insurers: Some major insurers, like Progressive, offer cheap rates to drivers with violations—but you might find a better rate with
    a smaller insurer that specializes in high-risk coverage
    , like Dairyland or Safeco. 
  • Apply for assigned risk coverage if necessary: If you’ve been rejected by multiple insurance providers, you may be eligible for your state’s assigned risk pool, which covers drivers who can’t find coverage elsewhere. 
  • Be patient: In most cases, a surcharge for driving without insurance will only stay on your policy for a few years. Maintaining your insurance at a higher price for that period means avoiding snowballing costs from repeat offenses. 
  • If you’re on a low income: Check to see if your state has a
    government-sponsored low income car insurance program
    , or adjust your coverage. 
  • If you’re an undocumented immigrant: If your state issues driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants or you’re part of the DACA program, you can purchase car insurance in the U.S. 
  • If you don’t own a car:
    Non-owner SR-22 insurance
    can help you satisfy your state’s license reinstatement requirements even if your vehicle’s registration is still suspended. 

Sources

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