What Happens When You Are Caught Driving Without Auto Insurance?
By, Content Director
By, Director, Corporate Communications, Insurance Information Institute
In most states, driving without insurance is an offense that comes with hefty consequences. Aside from New Hampshire and Virginia, all states require some form of auto insurance to legally drive and/or register your vehicle.
And if you get caught driving without car insurance, the penalties can be severe. Besides having your license and registration suspended, you may be required to carry SR-22 or FR-44 insurance, which refers to certificates of financial responsibility required to be filed by high-risk drivers and which can increase your auto insurance rates.
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Car insurance is regulated at the state level. Most states have laws on the books that require car insurance to drive and/or register your vehicle.
Depending on the state, driving without insurance can lead to fines, license and registration suspension, an impounded vehicle or even jail time.
If you are caught driving without insurance, you may need to file an SR-22 or FR-44 form. This usually also results in having to pay higher auto insurance rates.
Do You Need Auto Insurance to Drive?
Carrying auto insurance is a legal requirement in 48 states and the District of Columbia. How much you need, however, can vary, as each state has different levels of state minimum coverage. For instance, California’s minimum liability insurance coverage limits are at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 in bodily injury per accident and $5,000 in property damage — or, in short, 15/30/5. On the other hand, the District of Columbia’s minimum liability insurance limits are set at 25/50/10. And you must also purchase uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, with liability limits of at least 25/50/5.
The only two states that currently do not officially require insurance to drive and/or register your vehicle are New Hampshire and Virginia. However, other requirements apply. In New Hampshire, for instance, drivers must demonstrate their financial ability to pay for an accident by meeting minimum liability limits.
What Are the Consequences of Driving Without Auto Insurance?
The penalties for driving without insurance vary from state to state, but there are a few common consequences. For instance, you could face:
- The suspension of your license and registration
- Vehicle impoundment
- SR-22/FR-44 filing
- Jail time
The severity of the penalties will also depend on whether it’s your first time getting caught without insurance or a recurring event.
In Virginia, auto insurance is not currently required to drive your vehicle. But to register your vehicle, you must either show proof of car insurance that meets minimum liability limits or pay an uninsured motor vehicle fee of $500.
This may be changing soon. There is currently legislation pending that, if passed, would require all drivers to show proof of insurance when registering their vehicle starting in 2024. — Mark Friedlander, Director, Corporate Communications, Insurance Information Institute.
The SR-22 is a form required in most states when certain driving violations are committed, such as driving without insurance, driving without a license or being convicted of driving while intoxicated. While it doesn't raise insurance rates, the violations that trigger the need for an SR-22 often result in higher insurance premiums.
An FR-44 form is a certificate of financial responsibility required in Virginia and Florida for drivers convicted of serious traffic violations, such as DUI or DWI. The certificate serves as proof that the driver has sufficient insurance coverage. FR-44 forms are legally required for certain drivers in these states, such as those who already have a DUI or DWI violation.
What Happens if You Get Pulled Over Without Car Insurance?
The consequences of getting caught driving without insurance vary. If it’s your first time, you may only be required to pay a fine and have your license suspended. However, if you’ve been consistently driving without insurance, the worst-case scenario is an impounded vehicle, jail time and the cost of towing services (and more). In most cases, proof of insurance is required to recoup your losses.
Even if you do have auto insurance coverage but don’t have proof of it with you, you will still be viewed as a high-risk driver and face higher insurance premiums when you renew your policy. Thus, it’s important to always carry proof of insurance in your car — or even keep a digital copy on your phone.
What Happens if You Get Into an Accident Without Auto Insurance?
The consequences of getting into an accident without car insurance can be worse than just being pulled over for driving without insurance. Penalties like large fines, license suspension, impounded vehicle and an SR-22 or FR-44 are just some of the consequences. You may even face jail time, depending on the state.
Apart from facing legal consequences, you’ll also have to face financial ones. Since you don’t have insurance, you’ll need to pay for the damages and medical bills of the other party out of pocket. These can add up, especially if the accident is severe.
If you are unable to pay for the damages or injuries, you’ll be faced with bankruptcy or financial distress. The other party may also sue you for damages, which can lead to more expenses in the form of legal fees, etc. Overall, not having insurance after an accident can cost a lot more than the cost of a cheap full coverage insurance policy.
How Much Insurance Do You Need to Legally Drive?
Every state has its own requirements and minimums for auto insurance, but most states require bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverages. Some states may also require personal injury protection coverage and/or uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.
Note that the ranges below reflect the minimum requirements, which can still vary. It’s best to ask your state’s motor vehicle department about minimum requirements since they differ from state to state.
Bodily Injury Liability
Bodily injury liability insurance covers medical expenses, pain and lost wages for others if you cause an accident with injuries. It does not cover injuries to you or your passengers. State minimum requirements for bodily injury liability limits can range from $10,000 to $25,000 per person and from $30,000 to $60,000 per accident.
Property Damage Liability
Property damage liability covers damage to the other person's property, including their car and items inside and buildings hit in an accident. Minimum liability limits for property damage can vary, ranging from $10,000 to $25,000, depending on the state.
Uninsured or Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM)
UM/UIM covers you if hit by an uninsured or underinsured driver. It pays for medical bills, lost wages and car damage. Minimum liability limits for UM/UIM can range between $20,000 and $50,000 per person and between $40,000 and $100,000 per accident.
Sticking with the state’s minimum insurance requirement is good on a budget. But if you want to guarantee financial protection for yourself as well, there are a number of cheap full coverage insurance providers available.
How to Get Car Insurance if You Are Uninsured
To purchase car insurance, you need to decide on how much auto insurance coverage you need and what company to purchase from. However, there are a few more steps involved to ensure you get the best policy for your needs.
Gather your personal information.
Auto insurers will require your personal information, and preparing this in advance can help speed up the process. Some details they ask for include:
- Your car’s details: VIN, registration, mileage, make and model and more.
- Your driving and insurance history: Information on accidents, DUIs, suspensions, SR-22 or FR-44 filings, etc.
- Your personal details: Name, birthdate, location, Social Security number and more.
Determine what kind of insurance you need.
If you’re talking to an agent, you can ask them about the different kinds of coverage the company offers. Some common coverages you may want to ask about include:
- Full Coverage
- Personal Injury Protection (PIP)
- Bodily Injury
- Accident Forgiveness
- Rental Car Reimbursement
- Road Service
Some insurers also have exclusive coverage that may be suitable for your lifestyle, such as rideshare driver coverage.
Determine how much coverage you need.
Your policy should meet the state’s minimum, so it’s important to figure out how much your state needs. However, you may also increase your coverage to guarantee protection. Some insurers offer plans with different coverage limits, such as:
- $50,000 in bodily injury per person, $100,000 in bodily injury per accident and $50,000 in property damage (50/100/50)
- $50,000 in bodily injury per person, $100,000 in bodily injury per accident and $100,000 in property damage (50/100/100)
- $100,000 in bodily injury per person, $300,000 in bodily injury per accident and $100,000 in property damage (100/300/100)
Shop around for car insurance quotes.
To ensure that your vehicle and your loved ones are properly protected, you want to find the best full coverage insurance. Thus, gathering and comparing quotes between providers is essential to see what offers are available to you. After all, the calculation of rates varies among companies.
Buy your auto insurance.
Once you’ve gathered your personal details, determined how much coverage you need and compared quotes from different providers, you can narrow down your choices. When you’ve decided on an insurer, apply for a policy with them online or contact your insurance agent or the company directly.
Use our free quotation tool to compare auto insurance quotes. You can also use our auto insurance calculator to roughly estimate how much your auto insurance will cost based on your desired coverage and personal details.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Driving without car insurance can pose many risks — not just for your driving record but also for your finances. Get a better understanding of what could happen if you drive without car insurance through our answers to some frequently asked questions.
About Mark Fitzpatrick
- Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. "Insurance Requirements." Accessed March 23, 2023.
- WSLS 10 News. "Virginia drivers could soon be required to have car insurance." Accessed March 23, 2023.