Is it illegal to drive without insurance?

Driving without insurance is usually illegal, and if you’re caught you could face fines, a suspended license, or worse depending on where you live.

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Andrew HurstAndrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Edited by

Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Updated|5 min read

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In most states, you can’t drive without car insurance. All but two states (New Hampshire and Virginia) require drivers to have a minimum amount of insurance or face fines and fees, license or registration suspension, and even jail time.

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The penalties for getting into an accident without car insurance are even more serious than if you’re just caught driving uninsured. And remember that without car insurance to cover the costs, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for the damage from an accident, which could total tens of thousands of dollars.

Key takeaways

  • It’s illegal to drive without car insurance in most states.

  • If you’re caught without insurance, you could have to pay a fine, have your license and registration suspended, and you could face jail time.

  • The penalties for getting into an accident without insurance are even more serious, and include higher fines and longer license suspensions.

  • Thanks to so-called “no pay, no play” laws, if you’re in an accident that’s someone else’s fault and you don’t have insurance, you may not be able to get a payout from their insurance either.

Can you drive without car insurance?

No, you can’t drive without car insurance.Driving uninsured is illegal in most states, and even in the states where it’s technically allowed, you should still have car insurance to cover the costs if you’re in an accident. 

If you get pulled over while driving without insurance, the consequence can include:

  • Fines: States determine fines in part based on how many times you’ve been caught driving uninsured, so if you’re a repeat offender your fines will be higher.

  • Suspended license: If you’re caught driving without insurance, your license may be suspended for a certain number of days or until you show proof of insurance.

  • Suspended registration: Driving without insurance can also lead to your car’s registration being suspended for a certain number of days or until you can prove that you’re insured, and the car can’t be driven until the registration is reinstated. 

  • SR-22: States often require drivers to get SR-22 insurance after they’re caught driving uninsured. You’ll have to find a company willing to offer you a policy with an SR-22 and pay a yearly filing fee for a set amount of time based on your state’s rules.

  • Fees: Reinstating your license or registration both require administrative fees that are separate from any fines. You may also have to show up in court.

  • Higher insurance rates:Driving uninsured means you’ll pay more for car insurance when you finally get a policy, because you’ll be considered a high-risk driver.

  • Jail time: If you can’t pay your state’s fine for driving without insurance, you may have to serve time in jail. The jail time becomes longer for repeat offenders, or after a serious accident.

If you hit someone while driving without insurance, your penalties will be more severe. You would also have to pay for any damage that you caused by yourself, since you don’t have insurance to cover the costs. That adds thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars on top of any fines or penalties.

Why is it illegal to drive without insurance?

Driving without insurance is illegal because it puts other drivers at risk. If you cause an accident and you’re uninsured, the other driver might not be able to get back the money they’re owed to cover any injuries or damage.

How driving without insurance affects future premiums

If your driver’s license or registration is suspended for driving without car insurance, you’ll have to get insured before you can drive again. And when you do, your rates will be more expensive than average.

Insurance companies charge more for drivers who have a gap or lapse in their insurance record. A lapse can be any amount of time that you weren’t insured, even a day or two depending, on the rules in your state.

Your insurance will also be more expensive if you have to get an SR-22 or FR-44 to prove you have coverage. Your insurance company will submit the forms for you, but drivers who need an SR-22 or FR-44 are considered high-risk and will pay much higher rates, making it hard to find affordable insurance coverage

There’s also a required service fee for filing an SR-22 or FR-44, but usually it’s not very much.

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What is the penalty for driving a car without insurance in every state?

Penalties for driving without car insurance vary from state to state, but can include fines, license suspension, or, more rarely, jail time and vehicle impoundment. 

The penalty for driving without insurance in your state also depends on your own record. If you’re a repeat offender, you’ll face steeper fines and longer mandatory license or registration suspensions.

States usually have even more severe penalties for getting into an accident without insurance.

State

Fine amount

Other penalties

Alabama

$500 to $1,000 fine

$200 to $400 re-registration fee

Must get proof of insurance

License suspended for 6 months

Alaska

$500 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended for 90 days to 1 year

Arizona

$500 to $1,000 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended for 3 months to 1 year

Arkansas

$50 to $1,000 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

California

$100 to $500 fine

License suspended for 1 to 3 years

Car may be impounded

Colorado

$500 to $1,000 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended for 4 to 8 months

Connecticut

$100 to $1,000 fine

License suspended for 1 to 6 months

$175 fine to reinstate license and registration

Delaware

$1,500 to $3,000 fine

License suspended for 6 months

District of Columbia

$500 fine, plus 50% increase for subsequent offenses

License suspended for 30 to 60 days

Florida

$150 to $500 fine

License suspended until fine is paid

Georgia

$25 to $160 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Hawaii

$500 to $1,000 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended for 3 months to 1 year

Idaho

$75 to $1,000

Jail sentence for up to 6 months

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Illinois

$500 to $1,000 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance or up to 4 months

Indiana

$250 to $1,000 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Iowa

$250 fine

Must get an SR-22

Vehicle can be impounded

Kansas

$300 to $2,500 fine

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Kentucky

$500 to $1,000 fine

Jail sentence up to 90 days

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Louisiana

$500 to $1,000 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Vehicle can be impounded

Maine

$100 to $500 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Maryland

$1,000 to $2,000 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Massachusetts

$500 to $5,000

Driver must get high-risk insurance

License suspended for 60 days to 1 year

Michigan

$200 to $500 fine

License suspended for 30 days or until driver has proof of insurance

Minnesota

$200 fine

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Mississippi

$1,000 fine

License suspended for 1 year or until the driver has proof of insurance

Missouri

Up to a $500 fine

License suspended for up to 1 year

Additionally fines for license reinstatement up to $400

Montana

$250 to $500 fine

Jail sentence up to 10 days

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Nebraska

$50 (reinstatement fee)

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Nevada

Up to a $1,000 fine depending on lapse

Must get an SR-22

License suspended for 30 days

New Jersey

$300 to $5,000 fine

License suspended 1 to 2 years

New Mexico

$300 to $1,000 fine

Jail sentence up to 90 days

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

New York

$1,500 fine

License suspended until a $750 fine is paid

North Carolina

$50 to $150 fine

Registration suspended up to 30 days

North Dakota

Minimum $150 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Ohio

$100 to $600 fine

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance or up to 2 years

Registration suspended for 30 days to 5 years

Oklahoma

$350 fine

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Oregon

$250 fine

Must get an SR-22

Pennsylvania

Minimum $300 fine

License and registration suspended for 3 months

Rhode Island

$100 to $500 fine

License suspended for 3 to 6 months

South Carolina

$100 to $500 fine, plus per day fee

License and registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

South Dakota

$500 fine

License suspended for up to 1 year

Registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Tennessee

$300 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Texas

$175 to $1,000 fine

License suspended for 2 years after second offense

Utah

$400 to $1,000 fine

Must get an SR-22

License and registration suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Vermont

$500 fine

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Virginia*

$600 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Washington

$550 fine

License suspended if the driver causes damage

West Virginia

$200 to $5,000

License suspended for 30 days, then 90 days for each offense after the first

Wisconsin

$500 fine

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Wyoming

$250 to $1,500 fine

Must get an SR-22

License suspended until driver has proof of insurance

Collapse table

Table shows the range of penalties for first-time and repeat offenders.

*  Virginia doesn’t require insurance, but uninsured drivers have to pay a fee.

States where you don’t need insurance to drive

Drivers in New Hampshire and Virginia can drive without car insurance, but it’s more complicated than just not signing up for coverage.

In Virginia, drivers have to pay a fee of $500 if they want to drive without insurance. If you’re caught driving uninsured without having paid this fee, you’ll face a $600 fine and will have to get an SR-22 for three years.

In New Hampshire, you don’t have to pay a fee , but you do have to show that you would be able to pay for the damage and injuries after an at-fault accident. You would also have to get insurance if you’ve been involved in an accident or have gotten a DUI.

What happens if I get into an accident without insurance?

When you get into an accident without insurance, your penalties will be more severe than if you were just caught driving without car insurance. This can mean longer license suspensions and higher fines. In more severe cases, you’d have to go to jail — especially if you injure someone else.

Penalty for not having insurance after an at-fault accident

Besides the legal penalties, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any damage you cause while driving uninsured. That means the cost of the other driver’s injuries and damaged property, but it also means any legal fees if the other driver sues you.

If you don’t have the money to pay for the damage you caused, your wages could be garnished, which means the other driver can receive money directly from your paycheck until your debt is paid. Driving without insurance can also lead to your assets (like a car, house, or bank account) being seized to pay for the cost of the damage you caused.

The other driver could file a claim with their car insurance, but their insurance company would also be able to come after you for the damage that you caused while driving uninsured.

Penalty for not having insurance after a not-at-fault accident

You can still face fines, license and registration suspension for driving uninsured even if you’re in an accident caused by another driver.

In some states you may not be able to make a third-party claim with the other driver’s insurance if you were driving without insurance — even if they were clearly at fault. In states with what’s sometimes called a “no pay, no play” law, uninsured drivers can’t make claims after a not-at-fault accident for certain types of damage.

The exact details of no pay, no play laws vary by state. Most of the time you won’t be allowed to make claims for non-economic damage (like pain and suffering), but some states limit the amount you can collect for injuries and physical damage too.

States that have a version of a no pay, no play law are:

  • Alaska

  • California

  • Indiana

  • Iowa

  • Kansas

  • Louisiana

  • Michigan

  • Missouri

  • New Jersey

  • North Dakota

  • Oklahoma

  • Oregon

How to avoid driving without insurance

Even drivers who don’t mean to drive without insurance can inadvertently break their state’s laws and face legal penalties for being uninsured. Here’s what to consider to make sure you don’t accident drive without car insurance:

  • If you make monthly car insurance payments, set up auto-pay or EFT payments to make sure you don’t actually miss any and risk having your policy canceled.

  • When you buy a new car, make sure to add it to your existing car insurance policy within the allotted grace period. 

  • If you switch car insurance companies, make sure your new policy starts the same day your old one ends, so you don’t have a lapse in coverage.

If you accidentally find yourself uninsured, your state may have a period — for example, 30 days after you’re found out to be uninsured — during which you can pay a “lapse fee” and avoid more serious penalties. Take any warning that you get from your state about a possible lapse seriously and get covered.

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What to do if you can’t afford car insurance

You might risk driving without car insurance because you simply can’t afford coverage. But since the cost of fines, fees, increased premiums, and costs from an accident can quickly add up (and be more expensive than getting a policy in the first place), it’s better not to risk driving uninsured.

You can lower your insurance costs and avoid facing penalties for driving without coverage by following these steps:

  • Shop around for insurance: The best way to make sure you get the cheapest car insurance is by comparing quotes from more than one insurance company and choosing the one that offers the best deal.

  • Know how much coverage you need: You might not need to get a lot of insurance for your car, especially if it’s older. Getting rid of full-coverage can lower your rates if you don’t need the extra coverage.

  • Sign up for per-mile car insurance: If you don’t drive often, you can save by signing up for per-mile insurance, which charges you based on how much you drive..

  • Join an existing policy: If you live with your parents, you don’t need to get your own policy. You can avoid the high rates that young drivers usually have to pay by joining your parents’ insurance.

  • Look for low-income assistance: Some states, including California and New Jersey, offer special programs to help low income drivers afford necessary car insurance coverage. If you can’t find affordable car insurance, contact your state’s DMV to find out if they offer a similar program. 

Frequently asked questions

How long can I drive without insurance?

It’s illegal to drive without your state’s minimum required amount of car insurance for any amount of time, even if you’ve just bought a car. If you’re caught, you’ll face a range of legal consequences, but you might be able to pay a fee and avoid more serious penalties.

What counts as proof of insurance?

Every state has its own guidelines for what counts as proof of insurance, but most of the time you can show your insurance ID card, a letter from your insurance company, a mobile app, and sometimes even a picture of your policy on your phone.

Can I insure a car without a driver’s license?

You can sometimes get car insurance without a license by including the name and license number of the primary driver, and then excluding yourself from coverage. If you’re unlicensed, it’ll be harder to find a company that will work with you.

Is it illegal not to have car insurance if you don’t have a car?

No, laws about having car insurance only apply to car owners. You don’t need car insurance in order to drive a friend’s car, or a rental car, you just need car insurance if you own a car.

Author

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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