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Q

How long can you drive with an expired license?

A

Though a few states may have a short grace period for license renewal, once your driver’s license expires you are no longer legally allowed to drive.

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By 

Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Published March 4, 2022 | 3 min read

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Your driver’s license doesn’t stay good forever. Depending on the laws in your state, your driver’s license will need to be renewed every 4-6 years, usually on your birthday.

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It is important to renew your driver’s license before it expires, in order to avoid any penalties. But what happens if you forget to renew your license? If you keep driving after your license has expired, you could face fines, tickets, or even jail time and your car insurance company may deny any claims.

Key takeaways

  • Depending on the state where you live, you could be ticketed, fined, or even given jail time if you are caught driving with an expired license.

  • If you go too long without renewing your license, you may have to pay a hefty fee or even take another driving test before your state will allow you to renew your license.

  • Once your driver’s license expires you are no longer legally authorized to drive, which means your insurance company may not cover you if you are in an accident.

  • Most states allow you to renew your driver’s license online, in person, or through the mail.

Can you drive with an expired license?

Legally, no. Driving with an expired license is against the law, because the state needs to verify that you are still capable of driving safely and that the information your state’s DMV has about you as a driver is accurate.

Some states offer a short grace period, usually less than 30 days, during which you can renew your license after it expires without a penalty. If you go too long without renewing your license, you may have to pay a hefty fee or even take another driving test before your state’s DMV or equivalent agency will allow you to renew your license.

What happens if you drive around with an expired license?

If you get pulled over and your license expired recently, you might get lucky with a warning and instructions to head to the DMV as soon as you can. But if the police officer who pulled you over isn’t feeling very understanding that day, or your license has been expired for a while, you may face serious consequences for not renewing your license.

Driving around with an expired license is against the law. Depending on your state, you could be ticketed, fined, earn points on your license, or even given jail time if you are caught driving with an expired license.

Am I insured if my license has expired?

Once your driver’s license expires you are no longer legally allowed to drive, which means your car insurance company may not cover you if you are in an accident. But this depends on a few different things, including the specifics of your insurance policy and the driving laws in your state.

Some car insurance companies may still cover you based on what type of grace period, if any, your state offers to drivers with an expired license. This isn’t guaranteed, however, so drivers who haven’t renewed their license should be prepared to pay out-of-pocket if they are at-fault in an accident. That’s another good reason to keep your license up to date — because an at-fault accident with an expired license could wind up costing you hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. 

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How to renew your driver’s license

Most states offer three options for renewing your license: online, in person, and through the mail. Not every state offers the same choices, however, so it is important to look up your state’s rules before renewing your license.

1. Renew online

Most states offer drivers the option to renew your driver’s license online, but there are usually exceptions. For example, Connecticut allows drivers to renew their license online except for a handful of specific cases, including drivers who need to upgrade to a REAL ID, are not a U.S. citizen, or need to update the name on their license.

2. Renew in person

Every state allows drivers to renew their driver’s license in person. Make sure you check your state’s DMV website so you have everything that is required to renew your license before you get in line at the DMV.

3. Renew through the mail

Most states will give you the option to renew your driver’s license through the mail if you meet certain criteria. For example, people who are medically unable to appear in person or are on active military duty are usually given the option to renew their license by mail. You can check your state’s DMV website to find out if you qualify to renew your license by mail and print out any necessary forms.

Why does a driver’s license expire?

There are a number of reasons states ask you to renew your driver’s license regularly, including:

  • So you can take the eye test to prove you can see well enough to drive.

  • So your state’s DMV or equivalent agency can get your most recent address, an updated photo, and otherwise update all of your information in their system.

  • As a form of fraud prevention, so that if your license gets lost or stolen, there’s a limit to how long someone else might be able to fraudulently use it.

Penalties for driving without a license by state

The penalties of driving without a license are determined by your state. Some states treat driving with an expired license no differently than driving without a license at all, while other states have lighter punishments for people who had an active license and just didn't renew it [1] .

StatePenalty for driving without a valid license
AlabamaDriving without a valid license in Alabama is a misdemeanor, with a fine of $10 to $100 and a $50 traffic fund penalty.
AlaskaDriving without a valid license in Alaska is traffic infraction; it won't result in jail time but does come with a fine of up to $300.
ArizonaDriving with an expired license is an infraction and usually comes with a $120 fine.
ArkansasDriving without a license in Arkansas is a misdemeanor that comes with up to six months in jail and up to a $500 fine.
CaliforniaDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor and comes with up to six months in jail and up to $1,000 in fines.
ColoradoDriving without a valid license is a class 2 misdemeanor and usually results in a $35 fine.
ConnecticutDriving without a valid license is an with a $75 to $90 fine. Subsequent violations are misdemeanors with a $250 to $300 fine, 90-day suspended license, and possible jail time.
DelawareDriving without a valid license is punishable a fine of $50 to $200 for a first offense or $100 to $500 for a second offense.
FloridaDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor with a fine up to $500 and a maximum of 60 days in jail.
GeorgiaDriving without a valid license is punishable by a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
HawaiiDriving with an expired license is punishable by up to 30 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
IdahoDriving without a valid license in is an infraction punishable by up to a $150 fine for a first offense.
IllinoisDriving without a valid license is a class A misdemeanor resulting in up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $2500. Your car will also be impounded and released only to a licensed driver and you will be prohibited from obtaining a license for two months on a first offense.
IndianaDriving without a valid license can earn you 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
IowaDriving with an expired license is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $625.
KansasDriving without a license is class B misdemeanor earning up to six months in jail and a maximum $1,000 fine as well as a 90-day period before your license can be reinstated.
KentuckyDriving without a license is a B misdemeanor that comes with up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $250.
LouisianaDriving without a license is a misdemeanor that comes with up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
MaineDriving without a license is a class E crime with a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum six months in jail.
MarylandDriving without a license can result in a fine of up to $500 and a maximum 60 days in jail.
MassachusettsDriving with an expired license is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine and/or jail time.
MichiganDrivers without a valid license will face up to 90 days in jail and a fine of $50 to $100.
MinnesotaDriving with an expired license can result in $200 worth of fines and surcharges.
MississippiDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor with a fine of $200 to $500 and/or up to six months in jail.
MissouriDriving without a valid license is a class D misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500 and points on your license.
MontanaDriving with an expired license is a ticketable offense.
NebraskaDriving without a license is a misdemeanor with a fine of up to $500, one point added to your license, and up to 3 months in jail.
NevadaDriving without a license is a misdemeanor that can come with up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,000.
New HampshireDriving on an expired license is a violation with up to $1,000 fine for a first offense and a class B misdemeanor for a second offense.An unlicensed driver who also commits a traffic violation will be ineligible for a driver's license for 12 months.
New JerseyDriving without a license can result in a fine of $200 to $500 and up to 60 days in jail and you could be prohibited from obtaining a driver's license for at least 180 days.
New MexicoDriving without a license is a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $300 and/or a maximum 90 days in jail.
New YorkDriving without a license is a misdemeanor that comes with a fine of $75 to $300 and up to 15 days in jail.
North CarolinaDriving without a license is a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $200 and up to 20 days in jail, depending on your criminal history.
North DakotaDriving without a license is a moving violation that carries a $20 fine and 4 points on your license.
OhioDriving without a valid license is a ticketable offense.
OklahomaDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of $50 to $300.
OregonDriving without a license is a class B traffic violation with a fine of up to $1,000.
PennsylvaniaDriving without a valid license is a summary offense with a fine of $200. If the driver's license was expired for less than one year, the fine is just $25.
Rhode IslandDriving without a valid license results in a $250 to $500 fine and a second offense a $350 to $500 fine. Drivers who are charged due to an expired license can avoid conviction if they renew their license within ten days of being convicted.
South CarolinaDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor, punishable by a $50 to $150 fine or 30 days in jail.
South DakotaDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor that comes with a fine of $500 and up to 30 days in jail.
TennesseeDriving without a valid license is a class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $50 and/or up to 30 days jail.
TexasDriving without a valid license comes with a fine of up to $200.
UtahDriving with an expired license is an infraction and comes with a $50 fine.
VermontDriving without a valid license comes with a $162 fine, but a second violation within two years will result in up to 60 days in jail and a maximum $5,000 in fines. If you drive with a license that's expired for more than 14 days you will be ticketed.
VirginiaDriving without a license is a class 2 misdemeanor with a fine of up to $1,000 and a maximum six months in jail.
WashingtonDriving with an expired license is a traffic infraction with a $250 fine. The fine is reduced to $50 if the driver obtains a valid license before the court date.
West VirginiaDriving without a license is a misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $500.
WisconsinDriving with an expired license comes with a fine of $100 if your license that was expired for less than three months, otherwise the fine is between $200 and $500.
WyomingDriving without a valid license is a misdemeanor and usually comes with a fine of $150.

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Frequently asked questions

How long can you go without renewing your driver’s license?

You need to renew your license before it expires or potentially face consequences in every single state, so really there is no amount of time you can spend driving without renewing your license.

How long can you drive with an expired license plate tag?

License plate tags are designed to show law enforcement that your registration is current and they typically expire in a specific month, so if your tag expires on July 3rd you likely won’t face any consequences for it until August rolls around. Each state has their own rules, however, so you need to look up the laws in your state to know exactly how long you have to get new tags for your license plate.

What if I was driving with an expired license during COVID?

Most states paused their drivers license renewal process during the height of the pandemic, so drivers who were unable to renew their license because the DMV wasn’t open in their state weren’t in any trouble. Drivers were expected to renew their license when the DMV reopened, so if your license expired in 2020 and you still haven’t renewed it, you need to get your license updated as quickly as possible.