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Is it illegal to not have car insurance?

Driving without insurance is against the law in most states. If you live in a state that doesn’t legally require car insurance and decide to go without it, you still have to comply with financial responsibility laws, like annual vehicle registration fees.

Kara McGinleyRachael Brennan headshot

By

Kara McGinley

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

&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.

Updated|6 min read

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Driving without car insurance is against the law in most states. If you live in a state that doesn’t legally require car insurance and decide to go without it, you still have to comply with financial responsibility laws, like annual vehicle registration fees.

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Even if your state is one of the two that doesn’t legally require car insurance, driving without insurance is a major risk and could leave you on your own to pay expensive bills (and if you can’t pay them you risk being taken to court). That’s why almost all states require drivers to obtain a minimum amount of car insurance coverage — to make sure you can pay for accidents or other damage.

Key takeaways

  • Drivers are legally required to have car insurance in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia. 

  • If you drive uninsured you risk fines, driver’s license suspension, and possible jail time.

  • Different states have different minimum car insurance coverage requirements, but most drivers need more than the minimum required amount to adequately protect themselves.

  • Virginia and New Hampshire do not legally require drivers to have car insurance, however you will be personally responsible for any medical expenses or bills in damages if you get in a car accident.

Am I required by law to have car insurance?

Probably — most states (except New Hampshire and Virginia) legally require drivers to have insurance for any cars they own. Car insurance protects you from the financial liability of property damage or bodily injuries you cause with your vehicle. 

If you buy the right coverage, an auto insurance policy also covers damage to your own car, including damage from collisions, theft, vandalism, and more.

If you don’t have an insurance policy and you get into an accident, you could end up with a costly bill that you have to pay out of pocket. Depending on which state you live in, you could receive a fine or potentially have your driver’s license suspended for not having an auto policy in force.

Why do states legally require car insurance?

States require drivers to have a car insurance policy to ensure that they can take financial responsibility when it comes to collisions and damages. This is why most states require drivers to at least have liability coverage, which covers bodily injury and property damage that you cause to someone else.

Liability coverage is the crucial backbone of your auto insurance policy and every state that requires car insurance will require you to have a minimum amount of liability coverage.

Each state will have minimum car insurance coverages that drivers must meet. If your vehicle is legally registered and will be driven on public roads, then you are required to meet these coverage minimums before you can actually drive your car. However, auto insurance policies are not one-size-fits-all, and you may want to add additional coverage to your policy depending on your own situation.

Some states might require you to purchase different car insurance coverage amounts. Your state might require you to have a certain amount of coverage types, like:

  • Personal injury protection: Also called PIP, it covers medical expenses and other costs if you are injured or if your passenger is injured in a collision. This is required in so-called “no-fault” states, where drivers get compensation for injuries from a car accident through their own insurance company rather than the insurance company of the at-fault party.

  • Uninsured and/or underinsured motorist insurance: Also called UM/UIM, it covers you if you get into an accident with someone who is uninsured or has only a limited amount of auto insurance.

Comprehensive and collision coverage are not required by any state, but if you lease or finance your car you may still be required to purchase these coverages by the terms of your loan.

What are the insurance requirements in my state?

Insurance requirements are set by the state, which means you may need to buy more insurance (or more types of insurance) than someone living in another state. Insurance requirements by state are listed in the chart below.

State

Required levels of coverage

Average annual cost for minimum coverage car insurance

Alabama

25/50/25

$611

Alaska

50/100/25

$433

Arizona

25/50/15

$640

Arkansas

25/50/25

$524

California

15/30/5

$601

Colorado

25/50/15

$544

Connecticut

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$949

Delaware

25/50/10, PIP 15/30

$988

District of Columbia

2550/10, UM25/50/5

$678

Florida

PIP 10, PD 10

$1,253

Georgia

25/50/25

$817

Hawaii

20/40/10, PIP 10

$424

Idaho

25/50/15

$400

Illinois

25/50/20, UM 25/50

$558

Indiana

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$453

Iowa

20/40/15

$317

Kansas

25/50/25, PIP 4.5, UM 25/50

$493

Kentucky

25/50/10, PIP 10, UM 25/50

$931

Louisiana

15/30/25

$993

Maine

50/100/25, UM50/100, MedPay 2

$448

Maryland

30/60/15, UM 30/60/15

$898

Massachusetts

20/40/5, PIP 8, UM 20/40

$612

Michigan

*50/100/10, PIP

$888

Minnesota

30/60/10, PIP 20/20, UM 25/50

$547

Mississippi

25/50/25

$543

Missouri

25/50/10, UM 25/50

$564

Montana

25/50/10

$497

Nebraska

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$424

Nevada

25/50/20, UM 25/50

$958

New Hampshire

**25/50/25, PIP 1

$462

New Jersey

15/30/5, PIP 15/250

$1,154

New Mexico

25/50/10

$459

New York

25/50/10, PIP 50, UM 25/50

$974

North Carolina

30/60/25, UM 60

$423

North Dakota

25/50/25, PIP 30, UM 25/50

$406

Ohio

25/50/25

$386

Oklahoma

25/50/25

$496

Oregon

25/50/20, PIP 15, UM 25/50

$769

Pennsylvania

15/30/5, PIP 5

$501

Rhode Island

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$868

South Carolina

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$779

South Dakota

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$339

Tennessee

25/50/15

$460

Texas

30/60/25

$643

Utah

25/65/15, PIP 3

$672

Vermont

25/50/10, UM 50/100/10

$380

Virginia

*** 25/50/20, UM 25/50

$570

Washington

25/50/10

$619

West Virginia

25/50/25, UM 25/50

$626

Wisconsin

25/50/10, UM 25/50

$348

Wyoming

25/50/20

$321

*PIP levels are determined based on your health insurance

**Coverage in New Hampshire is legally optional

***Coverage in Virginia is legally optional for a fee of $500

What happens if I get caught driving without car insurance?

If you get in a car accident and you don’t have a current car insurance policy, depending on what state you live in, there can be a variety of consequences. 

The penalties range from fines to a suspended driver’s license, or even possible jail time. If you get pulled over while driving, you are required to show police proof of insurance and your vehicle registration. If you have neither, this can also result in serious consequences.

Depending on your state’s laws, if you fail to prove that you have an auto insurance policy you could be facing:

  • Suspended vehicle registration

  • License or registration reinstatement fees

  • Your vehicle could be towed or impounded

  • Community service fine

  • Higher auto insurance rates in the future

  • Arrest and potential jail time

What documents should I keep in my car?

You should keep your insurance info and other documents in your car because you will be required to provide them if you get in an accident or if you’re pulled over by a police officer. You should also have these documents handy when you are filing an auto insurance claim.

According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, drivers should keep the following documents in their cars:

  • Car registration papers

  • Proof of auto insurance or digital proof of insurance

  • Driver’s license

Most car insurance companies have smartphone apps that let you easily pull up your policy information.

Do I need car insurance if I don’t have a car?

In short, no you do not. If you drive someone else’s car once in a while, you will be covered by their policy under what is called “permissive use.” If you drive a car that belongs to someone in your household, you should be listed as a named insured on their policy. However, there is also such a thing as non-owner car insurance.

Non-owner car insurance is something you should consider if you:

  • Frequently borrow a friend or family member’s car

  • Regularly use car-sharing services like Zipcar or Car2go

Non-owner car insurance will provide you with liability coverage, giving you extra protection and coverage if you cause an accident and are found liable for damages.

How much car insurance is legally required in your state?

Nearly every single state requires motorists to have car insurance. However, each state has different amounts of coverage requirements for drivers. 

For example, Alabama requires drivers to have a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, whereas Alaska requires drivers to purchase a minimum of $50,000 worth of that same coverage.

If you lease your vehicle or bought it with a loan, then the company you lease from or your lienholder may require you purchase more coverage to meet their lease requirements, in addition to what your state requires.

Only two states do not require drivers to carry a minimum amount of auto insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia. However, that doesn’t mean there are no consequences for going uninsured in those states — New Hampshire requires drivers to pay up to a certain limit out of pocket if you go uninsured or else you will face penalties and Virginia requires an annual payment to the state if you decide to forgo auto insurance.

→ Read more about your state’s required car insurance minimums

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Financial responsibility laws in states that don’t require car insurance

If you live in Virginia or New Hampshire, you are not legally required to have car insurance. However, there are still financial responsibility laws that you must comply with. 

Like state required car insurance coverage, financial responsibility laws will change depending on which state you live in.

  • Virginia: Drivers without car insurance must pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle annual registration fee. Uninsured drivers are also responsible for paying out of pocket for medical expenses or property damage after a car accident.

  • New Hampshire: Uninsured drivers who are determined to be at fault for a car accident are required to get insurance coverage for at least three years after the accident.

Of course, drivers can buy an auto insurance policy in both Virginia and New Hampshire to meet each state’s car insurance coverage minimums, and then the above caveats will not apply to them. 

In fact, if you own a car and you plan on driving it at all, car insurance is a good investment that can save you thousands of dollars that you might otherwise have to pay out of pocket.

Frequently asked questions

Can you go to jail for driving without insurance?

Many states include the possibility of jail time among the potential penalties for driving without insurance. Whether or not someone actually goes to jail for not having insurance will depend on their individual circumstances and the laws in their state.

What is the maximum fine for driving without insurance?

It depends on the laws in your state. For example, Connecticut has some of the most stringent laws in the nation regarding uninsured driving, with the potential of having your license suspended for up to six months and the possibility of serving up to five years in jail.

What happens if you get caught with no car insurance?

Depending on the laws in your state, you may be fined, have your license suspended, or even go to jail. The punishments typically get worse (higher fines, longer license suspension, longer jail time) if you get caught driving without insurance a second or third time.

What happens if you drive someone else's car without insurance?

Insurance follows the car, which means whoever loaned you their car is responsible for insuring it. You could still get in trouble for driving without insurance though, so make sure you know your friend has an active car insurance policy before you borrow their vehicle.

Methodology

Policygenius has analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states, plus Washington, D.C., based on the amount of insurance required by the state.

Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles per year. Rates provided are a sample of insurance costs. Your actual quotes may differ.

Authors

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

Kara McGinley

Senior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance Expert

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Kara McGinley is a senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she writes about homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

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.

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