Alligators aren't the only things you need to watch out for when traveling the roads of Florida. The state has the dubious distinction of having the second-highest rate of uninsured motorists in the country - nearly one in four drivers lacks car insurance. Read on to learn more about insurance laws and the rules of the road in the Sunshine State.
Insurance Requirements for Florida Vehicles
Florida is one of a dozen states that requires No-Fault personal injury protection (PIP) auto insurance. This means that after an accident your insurance company pays your medical, wage loss and death benefits (up to your plan's limit), no matter who is at fault. You cannot sue the other party for medical expenses unless you suffer certain "permanent" injuries, and you can't sue for pain and suffering or other non-economic losses.
In addition to PIP, you will need property liability protection (which covers damage to someone's else's property). And if you cause an accident, you will need to show proof of liability insurance for bodily injury.
Who Needs Vehicle Insurance in Florida?
All vehicles with a valid Florida license plate and registration must be covered by Florida insurance. Even "snowbirds" need Florida vehicle insurance if they are in the state for more than 90 days per year.
Proof of Insurance
You must carry your paper or electronic Florida insurance ID card in your car at all times and show it to police when requested or after an accident. If not, you may receive a ticket for not having proof of insurance.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV, Florida's DMV) requires insurance companies to electronically report all new or cancelled PIP policies. If your insurance company notifies the department that your policy has been cancelled and a new policy hasn't been activated, the department will send you a notice requiring you to provide the new insurance information.
If you are unable to prove you have replaced the insurance without a lapse in coverage, you will have to pay a reinstatement fee ($150 for the first offense). If you can't provide proof of insurance, your driver's license and license plate(s) will be suspended for up to three years
Minimum Insurance Requirements in Florida
Everyone who drives a vehicle in Florida must have at least these minimal levels of coverage:
- $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP). This covers you in an accident regardless of who is at fault. It also covers you when you are injured in a car accident while traveling in other vehicles, walking or biking.
- $10,000 Property Damage Liability (PDL). This covers damage to another person's vehicle if you are at fault in the accident.
In addition, if you are at fault in a car accident that injures others, under the Florida Financial Responsibility Law you must have liability insurance at the time of the accident. This includes minimum bodily injury liability of $10,000 per person/$20,000 per crash. In other words, you aren't required by law to have bodily injury liability coverage - unless you get in an accident! But since accidents can't be predicted, it's best to think of liability insurance as a must-have.
Alternatives to insurance in Florida
Florida residents have a few alternatives to buying insurance, but they are more difficult and require substantial resources up front. You can fulfill your financial responsibility obligation by:
- Posting a surety bond
- Depositing cash or securities with DHSMV
- Providing DHSMV with evidence that you have sufficient capital and self-insuring your vehicle.
What Happens If You Drive Without Car Insurance in Florida?
Driving without insurance (or a documented alternative) is illegal, and if you are convicted you will be fined and may have your license suspended. To get it reinstated can cost up to $500.
If you get in a car accident and don't have the required insurance, your license will be suspended for up to three years. To get your license back you will have to file an SR-22 form (which certifies that you have the necessary insurance) valid for three years from the suspension date. The state can also make you pay for any damages you may have caused in the accident before it reinstates your license.
How Much Vehicle Insurance Do You Need?
Although you only have to purchase $10,000 in PIP, $10,000 in property damage liability and - in reality — $10K/20K liability insurance per injury and crash, experts at the Insurance Information Institute warn that such low levels of coverage are risky because you may wind up having to pay a lot of money out of pocket if you are sued. Experts recommend getting liability insurance in the range of $100,000 per injury and $300,000 per accident or more.
Florida Lack Vehicle Insurance? 23.8% National Average: 12.6 %
If you have a good car, you may want to look into collision and comprehensive insurance. Collision covers car accidents and collisions with objects like trees or phone poles; comprehensive insurance pays for non-traffic damage like that caused by fire, theft, and natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, which Florida is no stranger to.
Given the high rate of uninsured drivers in Florida, you may also want to consider purchasing uninsured motorist protection.
For more on how much insurance you need, please see the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.
Teen Drivers in Florida
Florida does not get high marks for safety laws protecting teen drivers. Talking on a cell phone while driving is allowed, and teens aren't limited in how many teen passengers they can carry. These lax laws are troubling, says Cathy Chase, vice president for governmental affairs at Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety. "Teen drivers are more likely than other drivers to be in fatal crashes because they lack experience and take greater risks," she says. "Making sure they aren't driving at the most dangerous times, or with a lot of other occupants, paves the way for a driver to learn best practices."
If you have a teen, you already know that he or she is expensive to insure. Your teen can keep premiums down by maintaining a clean driving record - no accidents and no moving violations. You can also check to see if your insurance company offers discounts for good students or teens who have taken a safety course.
Florida Car Insurance: The Difference a Teen Makes
Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:$2,207 increase This is an increase of 132%.
Average annual premium increase if your teen gets a speeding ticket while driving 11-15 mph over the speed limit:
Discounts for Teens in Florida
Impact on annual premium with Good Student and Defensive Driving discounts:$338 saved
Compare Auto Quotes from Florida Insurers
Always comparison shop, because premiums vary more than most people think. Consider, for example, these annual average premiums for a married couple with a 16-year-old teen driver in Florida:
Car Choices for Teens: Impact on Florida Premiums
Insurers have long considered sports cars and SUVs a more risky choice for teens than sedans and other "family cars," and premium rates reflect it.
Average premium for two 2014
Average premium for two 2008
Town and Country Limiteds
Annual benefit of minivans:
College Students in Florida
Florida residents who attend college out of state still must maintain PIP and property damage insurance on their vehicle if the vehicle has been in the state for more than 90 days during the previous year.
If you are insuring your child's car away at school, you may want to warn her not to lend the car to friends. You could be liable if there is an accident.
College vs. High School Drivers in Florida
Median annual premium change with a college student vs. high school driver$1,044 decrease This is a decrease of 26%.
Annual Rates With a College Student in Florida
Each year, scour your policy before it renews to see whether you could get a better deal. Consider the average premiums for a married couple and a 19-year-old college student in Florida.
Florida College Drivers: Distance Discount
You may see a slight decrease in your family's premium if your student lives 150+ miles away from home.
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
- $3,381 at home
- $2,684 at school
- $697 in savings
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
- $2,950 at home
- $2,511 at school
- $439 in savings
How Car Choice Affects Premiums in Florida
A college student who drives a minivan will cost less to insure than if he or she drives a sports car, since insurers associate sports cars with speeding.
2014 Mustang GTs (2)$3,422
2008 Town and Country Limited minivans (2)$2,478
Annual benefit of minivans
Military Drivers in Florida
Florida is home to more than 73,000 active members of the military and more than 1.5 million veterans. If you are deployed outside the state and won't be driving your car, contact your insurance company and discuss your options. Florida law requires you to maintain insurance on your vehicle as long as it is registered, even if you won't be driving it. But your insurer may offer to discount your premiums. USAA, for example, offers deep discounts to members who store their vehicle on a military installation.
Or you may be able to temporarily cancel your registration and insurance and reinstate it when you return with no penalty as long as you can prove you were deployed and did not drive any civilian vehicles during that period.
If you are an honorably discharged disabled veteran with a valid disabled veteran ID card, you are exempt from Florida vehicle licensing and registration fees.
Florida Service Members:
The Vehicle You Drive May Cost You
Rollover crashes are more common among SUVs and pickups, insurers report, but an older model SUV still has less impact on your premium than a recent model sports car. Why? Insurance research has linked sports cars with speeding.
Comparison of Premium Ranges by Driver Age and Vehicle for a Military Driver
Age Savings for Florida
Median auto insurance
for service members:
Compare Average Rates Available to Florida Military Personnel
Premiums vary greatly, it pays to do some comparison shopping. Check out the average annual rates you can get in Florida.
Seniors in Florida
Florida is full of retirees enjoying the sun, and the state's Grand Driver programs seeks to ensure that they are able to continue driving as long as they are safe.
All people over age 55 who successfully complete a state-approved senior driver safety course must be given a discount on their auto insurance for three years. These discounts can get you up to 15 percent off your premium. If you cause an accident or get a moving violation, however, your discount can be revoked.
Drivers over age 65 are usually considered a higher risk and are charged a higher premium. If you are 80 or older, you will need to renew your license and have a vision test every six years (instead of eight for the rest of the population).
Undocumented Workers in Florida
According to the Pew Research Center, Florida had close to one million undocumented immigrant residents in 2012, but they are not eligible to get a driver's license. In 2013, the legislature passed a bill that would have allowed driver's licenses for immigrants who are authorized to be in the country under the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), but the governor vetoed it. Immigrants with federal work authorization, however, are eligible for temporary drivers' licenses.
Ridesharing Insurance: Are You Covered?
If you drive for Uber, Lyft or another transportation network company in Florida, you are not covered by your private insurance while on the job. Some TNCs provide liability and/or uninsured motorist insurance (although often not collision insurance for your car), but check with your insurance agent to make sure you are fully covered.
In January 2016 the Florida House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would require bodily injury insurance coverage for TNC drivers and passengers. A similar bill is under consideration in the Senate.
Car Accidents: How to File a Claim in Florida
If you are in an accident, you must stop and call the police, the Florida Highway Patrol, or the county Sheriff's office. (Insurance agents also recommend calling your agent as soon as possible during or after the accident.)
The officer will file a report if there is a death, injury, property damage requiring a tow, or a DUI. If an officer files a report, you do not need to, unless property damage appears to be over $500. In that case you must file a written report to the DHSMV within 10 days of the accident.
Driver Safety: How Does Florida Rank?
According to MoneyGeek's ranking tool, Florida comes in 10th in the top 10 most dangerous states for drivers.
Florida Driver Safety Ranking
The driver safety table shows the different safety factors that contribute to your state's overall safety rank (in the green box). The overall safety ranking and the National Ranking column scores in each category (including crash fatality rates) are from safest to most dangerous, with 1st being the safest and 51st the least safe.
How did we create the safety rankings?
We created a traffic safety ranking of all US states plus the District of Columbia by combining data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. We looked at fatality rates by distance traveled as well as by population and gave more weight to behaviors that were riskier and preventable (i.e., drunk driving, not using a seat belt), as well as to accidents that involved more than one party (i.e., multi-vehicle).
|Driver Safety Profile||Number of Fatalities||Fatality Rate
The fatality rate is the rate per one billion vehicle miles traveled, except for pedestrian and bicyclist fatality measures, which are per measured per a population of 100,000.
Rankings are in order of safest to least safe. A state with the lowest fatality rate would be the safest, and thus ranked #1.
|Drunk Driving-Related Fatalities||674||3.50||29th|
|Passenger Vehicle Unrestrained Fatalities||553||2.87||20th|
|Unhelmeted Motorcycle Fatalities||237||1.23||43rd|
|Multiple Vehicle Fatalities||1,045||5.42||36th|
|Total Vehicle Fatalities||2,407||12.49||36th|
Sources: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
Florida: Protecting You from Injury on the Road
Florida received a poor overall safety rating from Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety in its 2016 Safe Roads report. The state repealed the universal motorcycle helmet requirement in 2000, and now only riders under age 21 need to wear helmets. You can't text while driving, but you are allowed to use a hand-held device to talk on the phone. Perhaps it isn't surprising that distracted driving crashes in Florida increased 25 percent between 2012 and 2015.
Florida - Driving Safety Laws
|Mandatory seatbelts||Partial||For all passengers in front seats and for all those under age 18 in the backseat. Seatbelt violation is $30.|
|Child passenger safety||Child seat for all kids age 5 and younger.|
|Driving under the influence (DUI)||1st DUI conviction - Fine, licensed revoked for minimum 180 days, harsher penalties if child is in the car or blood alcohol level is over .15. Refusal to take test results in automatic 1-year suspension of license.|
|Ignition interlock after DUI||Mandatory for convictions with BAC > .15|
|Talking on cell or texting while driving||(texting only)||Texting while driving is banned for all drivers. Talking on cell phones while driving is allowed.|
|Protections for young drivers||Under age 17, no driving 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. without adult, except to work. Age 17 no driving 1-5 a.m. without adult over 21, except for work.|
|Motorcycle helmet law||Partial||Helmet required for drivers under age 21, or those with less than $10,000 in medical coverage for motorcycle-related injuries.|
|Bicycle helmet law||Partial||Required for those under age 16.|
Source: Governors Highway Safety Association, 2016
Car Insurance Resources for Florida Residents
Florida's department of motor vehicles will provide you will the information you need regarding license, registration and insurance requirements.
FDOT provides information on the rules of the road and safety tips.
FLOIR is in charge of regulation, compliance and enforcement of insurance statutes. You can find information about the insurance market here.
The Division of Consumer Services can help you file an insurance complaint online, via phone or by mail.
If you are over age 55, you can find a state-approved mature driver safety course here.