In 49 out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, driving without auto liability insurance is against the law. Even New Hampshire, the only state in the union that does not mandate insurance, requires drivers to demonstrate that they can pay for damages in the event they get into an accident and are found at fault.
Still, the existence of uninsured motorist coverage is proof that not all drivers opt for adequate insurance. As of 2012, 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. Oklahoma topped the list in 2012 with 25.9% of drivers going without insurance, while Massachusetts saw only 3.9% of its drivers opting out of the legally required insurance.
That number is on the decline; 20 years earlier, over 15% of drivers were uninsured, per the IRC. Still, given that drivers average a collision claim every 17. 9 years, it makes sense to make sure you’re covered.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.