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What Happens if You're Caught Driving Without Car Insurance?

Driving without car insurance is illegal. If you're caught, you'll get slapped with tickets and fines as well as the suspension of your license and registration. You may even end up in prison! Each state sets its own minimum requirements and you will need to meet them if you want to drive legally. In most states, the penalties for driving uninsured increase in severity for repeat offenses. The financial consequences of a second or third violation will be more costly than the cost of buying car insurance.

Below we provide a state-by-state breakdown of the consequences of driving without insurance.

Is it Illegal To Not Have Car Insurance?

There are 48 out of 50 states with state laws mandating auto insurance. New Hampshire does not enforce mandatory car insurance but drivers are still encouraged to carry basic liability auto insurance and property damage coverage. Virginia drivers can opt to pay a $500 fee to legally drive their vehicles without insurance.

If you're caught driving without car insurance in states that require it, you may be subject to penalties, such as fines and the suspension of your driving privileges.

What Happens if You Get Pulled Over for Driving Without Insurance?

The penalties for driving without insurance will vary by state, but will often include fines, suspension of your license and registration, vehicle impoundment and even imprisonment. Some states may increase the severity of the penalty for each subsequent violation.

Ticket and fines

If pulled over for driving uninsured, you may get a ticket and accrue points against your driving record. For the first violation, you can expect to pay a fine ranging from $100 to $1,000 depending on your state. Some states may enforce fines up to $5,000 on a driver's second offense. With the average cost of car insurance being $1,450.92 per year, meeting your state's minimum requirements can be more cost-effective than getting caught with a second violation.

The penalties for driving without insurance include fines, suspension of your license and registration, vehicle impoundment and even imprisonment.

SR-22

If you're caught driving without a license you may need to file an SR-22 to restore your driving privileges. An SR-22 form, also called a "Certificate of Financial Responsibility," is proof supplied to your state's DMV that you have auto insurance. Your insurance company will notify the DMV if you do not maintain your coverage. Once proof of insurance is confirmed, your driver's license may be restored and your vehicle released, if impounded.

License suspension

If you're caught driving without auto insurance, some states may temporarily pause your driving privileges by suspending your driver's license, registration and license plates. The suspension may be a fixed period, such as three to six months. Other states may restore your driving privileges as soon you show an SR-22 form and require that you maintain proof of insurance for a fixed period, such as six months.

Vehicle impoundment

Your state has the authority to legally impound your car for a fixed period if you're caught driving without insurance. In Texas, for example, vehicles may be impounded for up to 180 days. The vehicle is typically returned to the driver once they show proof of a valid driver's license and auto insurance. Since drivers may be responsible for storage fees incurred daily, it incentivizes drivers to obtain insurance as soon as possible.

Imprisonment and community service

Beyond the suspension of your license, driving without car insurance can land you in jail for one day to one year (see our table below for more information).

A judge may sentence you to complete a certain number of hours of community service within a predetermined period. Examples of community service may include cleaning up public works, volunteering for charity organizations or some other type of work that would benefit the general public.

Other financial consequences

Getting caught driving uninsured comes with a slew of financial costs with some associated with the above penalties. These fees may include:

  • Reinstatement fees when filing to restore your suspended driver's license.

  • Fees when filing R-22 insurance.

  • Higher insurance rates because car insurance companies flag you as a high-risk driver.

  • Daily vehicle impoundment fees.

  • Lost income from time spent in jail.

There are 48 out of 50 states with state laws mandating auto insurance.

How Much Is the Fine for Driving Without Insurance?

Fines incurred for getting caught driving without insurance may range from $100 to $5,000 based on your state and the number of offenses. In many states, the fine will increase for subsequent violations. The fine ranges below are based on first and second offenses.

State

Fine

State

Fine

Alabama

$200-$300

Montana

$250-$500

Alaska

$100-$250

Nebraska

$50

Arizona

$972-$1,883

Nevada

$250-$1,000

Arkansas

$50-$500

New Hampshire

No mandatory insurance law

California

$100-$500

New Jersey

$300-$5,000

Colorado

Up to $1,000

New Mexico

$300-$1,000

Connecticut

$100-$1,000

New York

$150-$1,500

Delaware

$1,500-$4,000

North Carolina

$50-$100

Florida

$150-$250

North Dakota

$150-$5,000

Georgia

$200-$1,000

Ohio

N/A

Hawaii

$100-$5,000

Oklahoma

Up to $250

Idaho

$75-$1,000

Oregon

$130-$1,000

Illinois

$501-$1,000

Pennsylvania

$300

Indiana

$150-$225

Rhode Island

$100-$500

Iowa

$250

South Carolina


Kansas

$300-$2,500

South Dakota

$100-$200

Kentucky

$500-$2,500

Tennessee

$100

Louisiana

Up to $500

Texas

$175-$1,000

Maine

$100-$500

Utah

Up to $1,000

Maryland

Up to $2,500

Vermont

$250-$500

Massachusetts

$500-$5,000

Virginia

$600

Michigan

$200-$500

Washington

$250

Minnesota

$200-$1,000

West Virginia

$200-$5,000

Mississippi

$500

Wisconsin

Up to $500

Missouri

Up to $300

Wyoming

$250-$1,000

Source: Consumer Federation of America

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Other Penalties by State

Beyond tickets and fines, the penalties for getting caught driving without insurance vary by state. Some states may sentence you to time behind bars or the suspension of your driving privileges, while others may not.

If pulled over for driving uninsured, you may get a ticket and accrue points against your driving record.

Below, we've compiled a list of some (but not all) penalties you may expect if you're caught driving uninsured. Keep in mind, however, that the judge may impose more severe or lenient sentencing within the law at their discretion.

State

Length of suspension of driver's license or registration

Other penalties

Alabama

6 months

Imprisonment up to 6 months

Alaska

3-12 months


Arizona

3-6 months


Arkansas

Until proof of car insurance provided


California


Impoundment of vehicle

Colorado

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment up to 12 months; community service

Connecticut

6 months


Delaware

6 months


Florida

Until proof of car insurance provided


Georgia

6 months

Imprisonment up 12 months

Hawaii

3-12 months

Community service

Idaho

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment up 6 months

Illinois

3 months


Indiana

3-12 months


Iowa


Impoundment of vehicle; community service; removal of plates

Kansas

Until proof of car insurance provided


Kentucky

12 months

Imprisonment of 3-6 months

Louisiana

License suspension

Impoundment of vehicle; removal of plates

Maine

License suspension


Maryland



Massachusetts

12 months

Imprisonment up 12 months

Michigan

30 days

Imprisonment up to 12 months

Minnesota

1-12 months

Imprisonment up to 90 days; impoundment of vehicle; community service

Mississippi

12 months


Missouri

90 days

Imprisonment up to 15 days

Montana

90 days

Imprisonment up to 10 days; removal of plates

Nebraska

Until proof of car insurance provided and reinstatement fees are paid


Nevada

Until proof of car insurance provided


New Hampshire

No mandatory insurance law


New Jersey

Up to 2 years

Imprisonment up to 14 days; community service

New Mexico

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment for 3-6 months

New York

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment up to 15 days

North Carolina

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment or probation up to 45 days

North Dakota

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment for 30 days; removal of plates

Ohio

12 months


Oklahoma

Until proof of car insurance provided

Imprisonment for 30 days; impoundment of vehicle

Oregon

Until proof of car insurance provided


Pennsylvania

3 months


Rhode Island

3-6 months


South Carolina

Until proof of car insurance provided


South Dakota

30 days-12 months

30 days

Tennessee

Until proof of car insurance provided


Texas

Until proof of car insurance provided

Impoundment of vehicle

Utah

Until proof of car insurance provided


Vermont

Until proof of car insurance provided


Virginia

Until proof of car insurance provided*


Washington


Community service

West Virginia

30 days

15 days-12 months

Wisconsin



Wyoming


6 months

Source: Consumer Federation of America
*Applies to drivers that do not have car insurance and did not pay the $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee.

What Are the Consequences of Getting Into an Accident While Uninsured? 

Whether it's yours or the other driver's fault for causing an accident, there are repercussions to driving uninsured.

If you're at fault for causing the accident, you are vulnerable to being sued by the other driver. If you suffered vehicle damages, you bear the full brunt of the cost of repairs. However, your auto insurer may have helped absorb some of the costs if you had been insured. Even if you repair your vehicle, however, a judge may revoke your driver's license and impound your vehicle for driving uninsured.

If you are not at fault for causing an auto accident, you may still face penalties, including fines and the suspension of your license. Certain states, like California or Kansas, may limit what an uninsured driver can sue for, restricting the amount you can claim from the at-fault driver. You may be able to collect compensation for medical services and property damages but you may be restricted from suing for non-economic damages, like pain and suffering.

What To Do if You're Driving Without Car Insurance

If you're currently driving while uninsured, we recommend that you stop and consider the serious consequences. Even if a fine seems minimal for a first offense, the financial setbacks can be more far-reaching than you think. In many cases, you may have to pay several fees for restoring your driving privileges, if revoked. You may also be required to file form SR-22, which may lead to higher premiums if your insurance company flags you as a high-risk driver.

If you're caught driving without a license you may need to file an SR-22 to restore your driving privileges.

If cost is a concern for you, many insurance carriers offer discounts that can lower your premiums. California, New Jersey and Hawaii have state programs for drivers that might be unable to afford insurance — qualified drivers are typically required to fall below a certain income threshold.

Compare insurance rates to find the lowest price. Different car insurance companies may charge different rates for the same levels of coverage. Shopping around and comparing quotes from multiple carriers can help you find the right coverage at the best price.

If you had car insurance but couldn't provide proof when pulled over

If you do have car insurance but couldn't show proof when pulled over, you may be able to dismiss your citation. You must show proof to the court within a certain time frame that you had valid insurance at the time of your citation, which should include the coverage period, covered vehicle and the auto insurance policy number.

Do not attempt to fabricate auto insurance. The court may contact your car insurance company to determine the validity of the documents you submitted. Supplying false information may lead to additional penalties.

Tip: Avoid this entire process by keeping proof of car insurance and car registration easily accessible in your vehicle — many drivers keep it in the glove compartment, center console or overhead sun visor. Also, consider taking a picture with your mobile device.

States With the Highest Percentage of Uninsured Drivers

The states with the highest percentage of uninsured drivers are Mississippi (29.4%), Rhode Island (16.5%) and Missouri (16.4%) according to 2019 data by the Insurance Research Council.

Below are some of the worst states for drivers and carrying uninsured motorist coverage is helpful for protecting you and your vehicle. Uninsured motorist coverage helps pay for your losses if you get into an accident with an uninsured driver.

Rank

State

Percentage of Uninsured Drivers

1

Mississippi

29.4%

2

Rhode Island

16.5%

3

Missouri

16.4%

4

Colorado

16.3%

5

Alaska

16.1%

6

Indiana

15.8%

7

Maryland

14.1%

8

Kentucky

13.9%

9

Oklahoma

13.4%

10

Wisconsin

13.3%

Source: Insurance Research Council

FAQs

What happens if you don't have car insurance?

The penalty for getting caught driving without insurance may include fines, suspension of your driver's license and registration, imprisonment and more. Some states increase the severity of the penalty (e.g., higher fines or increased jail time) for subsequent violations.

How much are the fines for driving a vehicle without insurance?

For a first offense, driving without insurance can result in fines ranging from $50 to $1,000 depending on your state. For subsequent violations, states may enforce higher fines. For example, the state of Hawaii may impose a fine of up to $5,000 on the second offense.

What happens if an uninsured driver runs into me?

If you get into an accident with an uninsured driver, you can file a claim with your own insurance company if you have uninsured motorist coverage or personal injury protection (PIP) or Medpay coverage.

Can I file a claim against uninsured drivers?

You can seek reimbursement for losses from your own insurance company if you have uninsured motorist coverage, personal injury protection or Medpay coverage. Suing an uninsured driver for compensation is an option, but there is often little financial benefit because most uninsured drivers don't have the financial resources to maintain auto insurance in the first place.

Can you register a car without insurance?

Some states may require you to supply proof of registration at the time of registration while other states may give you a time period after registration to submit insurance documentation. California drivers, for example, have 30 days to submit proof of insurance or registration will be suspended and the uninsured car may not be operated or parked on public roadways.

Is it illegal to drive with no insurance?

Yes, driving without auto insurance is illegal in 49 out of 50 states — New Hampshire has no mandatory car insurance law. Penalties for getting caught driving without insurance will vary by state and often include fines, suspension of your driver's license and registration and imprisonment.

What happens if you let your insurance lapse?

Letting your car insurance lapse leaves you vulnerable to the full financial burden of repairs and medical bills following an auto accident, legal penalties (e.g., fines, suspension of your license, jail time) and higher car insurance rates when you reactivate your car insurance policy. If you won't be driving your car for an extended period —if  you're traveling or deployed, for instance — then you may buy comprehensive-only coverage, which would cover non-collision and non-liability damages, like theft and damage by fire or hail.

Are You Driving Uninsured?

Multiple offenses of driving uninsured are often more financially draining than carrying home insurance. SmartFinancial might be able to help you find affordable car insurance that meets your state's minimum auto insurance coverage requirements. Based on your answers to a few questions, we analyze quotes and coverages from our 200+ insurance partners to potentially match you with the best insurance policy for your budget. Just enter your zip code below to receive your completely free quote.

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