Seems like we all have that one friend who is full of bad ideas. Let’s call him “Bubba.” Bubba will say, “Come on, son, let’s go to Tijuana and get tattoos” or “I got a hookup on Bitcoin. All I need is a credit card and your Social Security number” or “I’ve got a new system for winning at roulette, man. We’re gonna be rich!” If you keep hanging out with Bubba, it’ll catch up with you eventually.
Because these are all terrible ideas—just like driving without insurance is a terrible idea.
And, just like if you take enough of Bubba’s advice (“Nah, brother, that’ll clear up on its own.”), you’ll eventually pay a penalty.
If you drive without insurance and you get pulled over, there’s a penalty. And what if you’re in an accident and you don’t have insurance? That’s when things could really go south.
What is the penalty for driving without insurance?
Now, just how big of a penalty you pay depends on where you live. Almost all 50 states require you to have car insurance. New Hampshire and parts of Alaska are weird exceptions. But, if you get pulled over and you don’t have proof of insurance everywhere else, you can expect to face consequences. These could include:
Fines: You can expect to be fined if you get pulled over and don’t have car insurance. But the fines vary from state to state. First-time offenders in Arizona face a fine of at least $500.1 In Delaware, the fine is $1,500-2,000.2
License or registration suspension: Let’s look at those same two states because they both give fines and suspend your license and registration. In Arizona, they’ll suspend your license and registration for three months. If you’re caught twice, they can even confiscate your plates!3 In Delaware, they suspend your license for six months if you don’t have proof of insurance.4
Impoundment: Some states like Louisiana can impound your car on a first offense.5
Imprisonment: That’s right, in some states, they can put you in jail for driving without insurance. In Kansas, you can be sentenced to county jail for up to six months.6 In Montana, the penalty is no more than 10 days in county jail.7 Sure, that’s not as bad as in Kansas. But do you really want to spend even one day in jail? We didn’t think so.
Clearly, it’s not a great idea to drive without insurance. And we’ve only been talking about the consequences for driving around. Because heaven help you if you get into an accident and you don’t have insurance—especially if it’s your fault.
What is the penalty for getting into an accident without insurance?
Oh, man, this is a nightmare. In addition to all the penalties that apply to driving without insurance, you’ll face even more if you cause an accident without the legal amount of coverage. In other words, you will be cited for driving without proof of insurance first.
Do you have the right auto insurance coverage? You could be saving hundreds!
Then we deal with the accident.
When the Accident Is Not Your Fault
If it’s not your fault, the driver who is at fault (assuming they actually have insurance) will be responsible to pay for the damage to your car and any medical treatment you need for injuries sustained in the accident.
But, if you don’t have insurance yourself, some states have what’s called a “no pay, no play” law. It limits the amount you can sue for damages if you’re in an accident that wasn’t your fault, and it outright bans you from suing for things that aren’t related to the damage of your car—like pain and suffering.8 So, if you’re in one of those states, you probably won’t be able to recover any damages for things like missed work. Other states will make you pay a certain amount for out-of-pocket medical expenses and vehicle damages before you can sue the other motorist.
When the Accident Is Your Fault
Well, again, you’ll be cited for driving without proof of insurance and be subject to additional penalties. The person you hit might have uninsured motorist insurance. But, even then, states may impose other penalties including jail time and the loss of your license.
And not having insurance doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. Often, the other driver’s insurance company can sue you to recoup any damages you caused.
How to get car insurance
Let’s say Bubba calls you up and says, “Hey, son, can you help me pick up some alligator eggs? I’m gonna trade them for some pit bull puppies, but I need someone to distract the mothers.” You can just say no.
Well, you can also just say no to driving your car without insurance. First of all, the law says you need to have it. So, get it. But, also, it’s just a smart thing to do financially. If you own a car, get it insured.
When you get your car insured, make sure you have the right car insurance. Download our free Car Guide today!
And if you want the best deal on car insurance, talk to one of our independent insurance Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). They’ll look at your situation and get you the best coverage at the best price. Our ELPs will make sure you understand exactly how much coverage you need and how much it costs, and they’ll compare policies across a bunch of companies to get you the best deal. They also live in your community—so they’re around when you need them.