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Penalty for Driving Without Insurance

There are a lot of reasons people consider driving without car insurance: It’s not that big of a deal—I’m not hurting anyone. Nothing bad will happen since I’m a good driver. It’ll save me so much money.

But driving uninsured is a big deal. You’re risking fines, jail time, and a suspended license or registration—plus having to pay for repairs and medical bills if you get in an accident. That risk just isn’t worth taking.

Still on the fence? Let’s take a look at the real costs of driving without car insurance and what you can do if you’re currently uninsured.  

Can You Drive a Car Without Insurance?

Technically, yes, you can drive a car without insurance. You can also stick your hand in a snapping turtle’s mouth or go bungee jumping without the bungee.

Just because you can do stupid things doesn’t mean you should. And driving without insurance is really, really stupid.

That’s because car insurance is required in every single state except New Hampshire and parts of Alaska. There are actual laws against driving without insurance—and actual consequences if you break them.  

What Happens if You’re Caught Driving Without Insurance?

You’ll get hit with a penalty, that’s what!

Do you have the right auto insurance coverage? You could be saving hundreds!

How big of a penalty depends on where you live. Each state sets its own laws about how much car insurance you need and what happens if you don’t have it. The one thing they have in common? If you get pulled over without proof of insurance, you’re in for a headache.

Now, most states do give grace for honest mistakes—like if you forgot your new proof of insurance cards on the kitchen counter and just happened to get pulled over that day. You’d probably get a small window of time to show proof of insurance to the proper authorities.

But if you actually don’t have insurance? You’re looking down the barrel of some pretty hefty punishments.

Fines 

The fines for driving without insurance vary from state to state, but a typical amount is $500 to $1,000 the first time you get busted.

The average annual cost of insurance is $644 for liability—so if you have to pay just one fine, you’ve spent just as much, if not more, than if you had just gotten insurance in the first place.1 And for every offense after that, the fine goes up—sometimes to thousands of dollars.

Trust us, there are much easier ways to afford car insurance.

Suspensions

Most states will hit you with suspensions to keep you off the road while you’re uninsured. Here’s what they suspend and why:

  • Registration, so you can’t keep driving your uninsured vehicle
  • Driver’s license, so you can’t drive any vehicle

Some states may suspend both your license and registration. You may even have to return your suspended license plate or driver’s license to the local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Want to reinstate your registration or license? You’ll have to pay for new ones—plus reinstatement fees that can cost up to a few hundred dollars. (Some states, like Delaware, also charge you a fee for every day that your registration is suspended.2)

Many states require you to insure your vehicle and get a special document called an SR-22 to prove that you’re covered before they’ll reinstate you.

Impoundment

Typically, the law enforcement officer who catches you driving without insurance can have your car towed away and locked up. And some states allow this even if it’s your first offense.

When you go to get your car back, be prepared to break out your wallet. Most impound lots charge you to release your vehicle—and then charge extra fees for every day that it sat in their parking area.

Imprisonment 

That’s right—you can go to jail for driving without insurance. Jail time ranges from a few days to a few years depending on where you live and how many times you’ve broken the law.

As far as we’re concerned, even one day in jail is too many! Plus, you won’t be able to work from jail—so you’ll miss out on paychecks or even lose your job. That will put a ton of financial stress on your family on top of the emotional stress of your arrest.

It’s much easier to learn how to get the right insurance—before you have to learn how to get along with your cellmates.

Penalty for Driving Without Insurance in Each State

In case you’re wondering about your state’s laws, here’s the rundown of penalties for first-time offenses in each state:

State

Fines

Suspension

Jail Time

Alabama

Up to $500

Registration

None

Alaska (in areas where insurance is required)

$500–1,000

Driver’s license

Up to 90 days

Arizona

$500+

Registration and driver’s license

None

Arkansas

$500+

Registration

None3

California

$100–200, plus penalty assessments

None

None4

Colorado

$500+

Driver’s license

Community service

Connecticut

$100–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 90 days

Delaware

$1,500–2,000

Registration and driver’s license

None

District of Columbia

Up to $500

Registration

Up to 90 days

Florida

$30

Registration and driver’s license

None

Georgia

$200–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 1 year

Hawaii

$500

Driver’s license

None

Idaho

$75

Driver’s license

None

Illinois

$500–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

None

Indiana

Up to $1,000

Driver’s license

None

Iowa

$250

None

None

Kansas

$300–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 6 months

Kentucky

$500–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 90 days

Louisiana

$175

None

Up to 30 days

Maine

$100–500

Registration and driver’s license

None

Maryland

Up to $1,000

Registration

Up to 6 months

Massachusetts

$500

Driver’s license

Up to 1 year

Michigan

$200–500

Driver’s license

Up to 1 year

Minnesota

$200–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 90 days

Mississippi

$500

Driver’s license

None

Missouri

$300

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 15 days

Montana

$250–500

None

Up to 10 days

Nebraska

Up to $1,000

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 6 months

Nevada

$600–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

None

New Hampshire

N/A

N/A

N/A

New Jersey

$300–1,000

Driver’s license

Community service

New Mexico

Up to $300

Registration

None

New York

$150–1,500

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 15 days

North Carolina

Up to $1,000

Registration and driver’s license

None

North Dakota

$150+

Registration and driver’s license

None

Ohio

$100

Driver’s license

None

Oklahoma

Up to $250

Driver’s license

Up to 30 days

Oregon

$130–1,000

Registration and driver’s license

None

Pennsylvania

$300

Registration and driver’s license

None

Rhode Island

$100–500

Registration and driver’s license

None

South Carolina

$445

Registration and driver’s license

None

South Dakota

$500

Driver’s license

Up to 30 days

Tennessee

$125

Registration and driver’s license

None

Texas

$175–350

None

None

Utah

$400

Registration and driver’s license

None

Vermont

$47–622

None

None

Virginia

$500 uninsured motor vehicle fee or $600 noncompliance fee

Registration and driver’s license

None

Washington

Up to $250

Driver’s license

None

West Virginia

$200–5,000

Registration and driver’s license

15 days to 1 year

Wisconsin

Up to $500

Registration and driver’s license

None

Wyoming

Up to $750

Registration and driver’s license

Up to 6 months5

 

Keep in mind, fines and reinstatement fees will be way higher for additional offenses. Plus, states that don’t jail first-time offenders may arrest you if they catch you driving uninsured again. And that’s just for driving around! Heaven help you if you get into an accident—especially if it’s your fault. In fact, accidents are the reason it’s illegal to drive without insurance.

Why Is It Illegal to Not Have Car Insurance?

Because car accidents are expensive. They cost Americans $242 billion every year for immediate expenses like car repairs, medical bills, and lost income and workplace profit. Counting all accident-related costs (like quality of life or fatalities) makes that number jump to $836 billion.6

In fact, someone who is critically injured in a wreck will typically face up to $1 million in accident-related costs.7 If their insurance doesn’t cover it all, they’ll be buried under a mountain of bills they can’t afford to pay.

Most people don’t have a million dollars to fork over after an accident. You know who does? Insurance companies. That’s why insurance is so critical—and why it’s required by law in most of the U.S. Its whole purpose is to protect you and people around you from financial ruin after an accident.

What Happens if You Get in an Accident Without Insurance?

Oh, man, this is a nightmare. You’ll face your state’s penalties for driving without insurance—and then some. (Most states have laws that make the punishment for driving uninsured worse if you get in a collision.) 

Then we deal with the accident itself.

When the Accident Is Not Your Fault

The at-fault driver will probably have to pay for the damage to your car and any medical treatment you need—as long as they have insurance. (If they don’t, you’ll both be in a mess.)

There’s a catch, though: Some states have no pay, no play laws. These laws ban you from suing the other driver or their insurance company for noneconomic damages, like pain and suffering, after an accident.

Some states’ no pay, no play laws also count against economic damages. So you can’t sue for medical bills, car repairs or lost wages because you missed work due to an accident.8 

In these states, you’re at the mercy of the other driver’s insurance company. You may even have to pay a certain amount out of pocket before the insurance will help out or before you can sue for economic damages (if your state allows that). You’re also on your own for expenses their insurance won’t cover.

When the Accident Is Your Fault

Again, you’re facing a fine, suspensions and possible jail time. As for the accident . . .

The person you hit might have uninsured motorist insurance to help pay for repairs and medical bills. That said, if the damages cost more than their policy limit (aka how much the insurance company will pay), you’ll be responsible for the rest.

And if they don’t have uninsured motorist coverage? That’s really bad news. The other driver or their insurance company can sue you for any and all damages you caused. If you don’t cough up, courts can make your employer garnish your wages until your debt is paid.

Clearly, driving without car insurance is stupid, and it’s freaking expensive if you get caught. The fact of the matter is, you can’t afford not to have car insurance.

Getting the Car Insurance You Need

Believe it or not, you can find affordable car insurance. Maybe it’s as simple as making small lifestyle changes (like trimming down your cell phone plan or eating out less) so you’ve got money to spend on insurance.

Maybe you’re in a truly tough financial situation, though, and the thought of buying car insurance just sounds overwhelming. Listen: It doesn’t have to be that way! You can get rid of financial stress and take control of your money.

In the meantime, you need car insurance to protect yourself so that one accident or traffic stop doesn’t ruin your financial future.

The great news is, liability (the type of insurance required by state law) is generally one of the cheapest car insurances. And it’s one of the easiest to get.

Not sure how much coverage you need? Not to worry! We have a whole network of independent insurance pros called Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). They’ll look at your situation and shop around with multiple insurance carriers to get you the best coverage based on your car and financial goals. Best of all, they do this at no extra cost to you—so you can just pay your insurance premium and enjoy the open road.

Find your auto insurance agent today!

 

Ramsey Solutions

About the author

Ramsey Solutions

Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners.

Who Has the Best Car Insurance? 

Who Has the Best Car Insurance? 

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Who Has the Best Car Insurance? 

Big-name companies love to say theirs is the best.
Want an honest answer? Ask an independent agent.
Find Better Rates