Caught Driving With No Car Insurance? Here’s What It’ll Cost You

Most costs associated with vehicle ownership involve mandatory items. After choosing a car, owners take control of vehicle maintenance, fuel and state property tax and registration requirements. Oh, and insurance, of course. 

While the financials around vehicle ownership often stretch to near excruciating levels, the obligations remain firm. And while the temptation to cut expenses by driving without car insurance eases immediate money constraints, the long-term consequences of the decision reach titanic levels. 

The best way to keep insurance premiums budget-friendly involves a little research to find information like cheap car insurance, the best car insurance companies and average cost of auto insurance.

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      Still, the existence of uninsured motorist coverage is proof that not all drivers opt for adequate insurance. As of 2015, about one in eight drivers was uninsured, according to the Insurance Research Council (IRC). It’s also worth noting that not every state has the same percentage of uninsured drivers. Florida topped the list in 2015 with 26.7 percent of drivers going without insurance, while Maine saw only 4.5 percent of its drivers opting out of the legally required insurance.

      On a national basis, according to IRC, the rate of uninsured drivers topped in 2003 at 14.9 percent. By 2010, the rate fell to 12.3 percent and ticked up to 13 percent in 2015.

      Decide to skip car insurance, and you could wind up paying far more in damages, fines, and fees than you would for your monthly insurance premium.

      Getting into an accident with no car insurance

      The worst-case scenario is getting into an accident without car insurance. An at-fault, uninsured driver could be found liable for costs, including property damage, medical bills, and more. There’s also the possibility that the driver will sue you for damages, which could lead to the seizure of your assets to cover costs, in the event that you don’t have the money to pay.

      [ More: What Is Collision Insurance and Is It Worth It? ]

      All of this is in addition to the costs of paying for your own potential medical bills and property damage, including repairing or replacing your car. All told, you could be on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars or more — and that’s on top of any fines you might have to pay simply for getting caught driving without the legally mandated auto insurance coverage.

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      Getting caught driving with no car insurance

      Like mandatory minimum auto liability insurance laws, fines and other repercussions for driving without required insurance vary from state to state. If you have a driver’s license but don’t own a car of your own, consider non-owner car insurance options.

      The Consumer Federation of America, a non-profit research organization, compiled a list of penalties for driving without insurance in every state as of 2014. Depending on the state and how many previous offenses you’ve had, the penalty for driving without car insurance could result in:

      • Fines, ranging from $50 (in Arkansas, it’s $50 to $250 for a first offense) to $4,000 (in Delaware, where you’ll pay $1,500 to $2,000 for a first offense; $3,000 to $4,000 for a second offense).
      • Suspension of license for periods ranging from 30 days to a year – or indefinitely, until proof of insurance is filed.
      • Suspension of registration for a month to a year, or until the driver can provide proof of registration.
      • Imprisonment. Some states (including Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, and Massachusetts) reserve the right to imprison drivers for up to 90 days to a year for a first offense.
      • Traffic tickets, on top of whatever tickets you incurred for the initial violation.
      • Fines and fees, including reinstatement fees for restoring your license and/or registration.
      • Higher insurance premiums.

      [ Related: The Minimum Car Insurance for Each State ]

      In short, opting to go without the level of auto insurance that your state legally requires could cost you thousands of dollars in fees, fines, traffic tickets, future insurance premiums, and damages and healthcare costs … and that’s if no one sues you.

      For contrast, the average cost of auto insurance in the U.S. was $815 per year in 2012, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. That’s less than $70 per month — a lot cheaper than going without and getting caught, even if you don’t get into an accident.

      Penalties for driving without insurance per state 

      StatePenaltyAverage premium for failure to show documents violation

      New Jersey$300–$5,000$1,917
      New Mexico$300–$1,000$1,489
      New York$150–$1,500$1,705
      North Carolina$50–$150$1,119
      North Dakota$150–$5,000$1,496
      Rhode Island$100–$1,000$2,398
      South Carolina$100–$500$1,624
      South Dakota$100–$500$1,951
      West Virginia$200–$5,000$1,701

      If you are an undocumented immigrant

      For undocumented immigrants, obtaining a driver’s license presents its share of hurdles that add to the problem of uninsured motorists on the road. To combat the problem, legislators in some states changed the law and now allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license and to buy car insurance. 

      [ Read: The Cost of Traffic Tickets to Your Car Insurance ]

      These states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license:

      • California
      • Colorado
      • Connecticut
      • Delaware
      • Hawaii
      • Illinois
      • Maryland
      • Nevada
      • New Jersey
      • New Mexico
      • New York
      • Utah
      • Vermont
      • Washington

      The District of Columbia also applies rules that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license. 

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      Reviewed by

      • Nashalie Addarich
        Nashalie Addarich
        Insurance Editor

        Nasha Addarich is an editor at The Simple Dollar and a former attorney who specializes in home insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, and savings. She is a former contributing editor to