We are an independent, advertising-supported comparison service. Our goal is to help you make smarter financial decisions by providing you with interactive tools and financial calculators, publishing original and objective content, by enabling you to conduct research and compare information for free – so that you can make financial decisions with confidence. The offers that appear on this site are from companies from which TheSimpleDollar.com receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where products appear on this site including, for example, the order in which they appear. The Simple Dollar does not include all card/financial services companies or all card/financial services offers available in the marketplace. The Simple Dollar has partnerships with issuers including, but not limited to, American Express, Capital One, Chase & Discover. View our full advertiser disclosure to learn more.
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.
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.
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. 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
|State||Penalty||Average premium for failure to show documents violation|
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.
These states allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
The District of Columbia also applies rules that allow undocumented immigrants to obtain a driver’s license.