What Happens if You're Busted Driving Without Insurance?

Fran
Fran Majidi
August 6, 2019

In every state there is a minimum requirement for car insurance and minimums vary. Most states require that you drive with liability coverage at the very least. Some states require personal injury protection (PIP) as part of their minimum requirement. Aside from laws requiring car insurance, lienholders require comprehensive and collision if you’re leasing or financing a car. 

If you’re caught driving without insurance, you can get your license suspended. After that happens, some insurers will refuse to provide you coverage because you were driving without insurance. You may need to file an SR-22 to get insured again not to mention hefty license reinstatement fees. 

Not only will you get a costly ticket for driving uninsured, but if you’re involved in an accident, you may have to pay for all the costs for repairs to both cars out of pocket. You may also have to pay the fees associated with impounding if the police have your vehicle towed. As if all of this weren’t bad enough, you can also go to jail for driving uninsured, depending on where you live.

Your first offense may get you off with just a ticket but repeat offenders will mostly live out an expensive nightmare. Read on for details about why driving without insurance is bad news.

How Much Is a Ticket for Driving Without Insurance?

The fine for driving without insurance differs from state to state. It can be as little as $0 (the starting range in Vermont, which maxes out at $500) or as high as $5,000 (high-end of range in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, and West Virginia). In California, fines can be as high as $720, in Texas as much as $1,750 and in New York up to $1,500. And that’s not including damages and injuries if you’re involved in an accident. However, if getting busted is the worst part of it, you’re still probably paying more in fines than you would paying for your state’s minimum requirement for insurance. 

Even if you are insured but fail to show proof of insurance you can get a ticket and fine so expect large figures if you’re ticketed for driving without car insurance -- except maybe in Vermont.

In Which States Can My License Get Suspended for Driving Without Insurance?

Of 49 states, 22 monitor registered vehicles electronically to see if they are insured. These 44 states suspend licenses for driving without car insurance:

  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Maine
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Montana
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Utah
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming

What if I Have an Accident Without Car Insurance?

Just think about how much repairs to a car can cost and then double it. If it’s a simple fender bender, it can cost you hundreds if not thousands of dollars to repair, depending on the severity of the accident. Medical payments will also need to be made if any of the drivers and passengers are injured. You may be thinking the only consequence of getting caught driving without a license is a ticket for a couple of hundred dollars but if you do get into a car accident without any insurance, you can be sued for thousands of dollars.

Have you heard about the “no pay, no play” law with car insurance? Some states, like Louisiana, have laws on the books that restrict your right to sue for damages if you were uninsured but the accident was the other driver’s fault. Let’s say the accident was not your fault but you had no car insurance: Depending on the laws in your state, you may be stuck with paying for your own damages even if the other driver wrecks your car and injures you and your passengers. If it’s not clear whose fault the accident was, you won’t have an advocate fighting for you and you will likely lose the case and have to pay for your own damages at the very least.

If you lose your license because you were driving uninsured, you may have to file an SR22, which is expensive and created for especially high-risk drivers. You’ll likely pay hundreds if not thousands more a year with an SR22 filing than paying for minimal insurance.

Can I Go to Jail for Driving Uninsured?

Yes, in most states, driving uninsured is a misdemeanor that can lead to a prison sentence. Some states are more severe with punishment than others. For instance, you can face up to a year in prison if you’re caught driving uninsured in Michigan.

Usually, repeat offenses will put you behind bars in most states. Your first offense, you may be able to squeak by without any jail-time, unless you have a serious accident or were driving under the influence as well as driving uninsured.

Do Local Authorities Actively Monitor Uninsured Drivers?

Yes, some states monitor drivers actively and some at random. In some states, the authorities do passive checks, but most states do have a system of cross checking registered cars for proof of insurance. This means that you can get ticketed and have your license suspended without even getting pulled over. 

What Should I Do if I am Driving Uninsured?

You may only have to pay a couple of hundred dollars a year to get insured. Don’t even think about driving uninsured as an option because one ticket may be more than what you’d have paid and your insurance rate will go up for years if you try to buy it after you’re caught driving without insurance. You’ll also likely need to file an SR-22 certificate to get insured after a misdemeanor, which is very expensive. Instead of having a misdemeanor on your record and lots of hefty fines and fees, compare auto insurance quotes with just one company. Enter your zip code to get started and to see several free car insurance quotes by filling out one brief form.

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