The penalties of driving without insurance

Can you drive without car insurance? Absolutely not. Learn about the serious penalties specific to your state that go far beyond an expensive ticket.

Just as each state has different requirements for car insurance, they also have different penalties for those who drive without car insurance. And while the penalties can differ, they’ll all take a serious hit on your finances. If you’re currently driving without insurance or are even considering it, check your state’s specific penalties and think about whether you could truly afford it.

Common penalties for driving without auto insurance

Legal penalties for driving without auto insurance vary from state to state, but if caught you can generally expect the following consequences. Be sure to check your state’s specific laws.

  • Suspended driver’s license
  • Suspended vehicle registration
  • Traffic tickets, including a no-insurance violation and whatever violation you were originally pulled over for.
  • Meeting SR22 requirements
  • Expensive fines, including the reinstatement fees for your license and registration
  • Damaged driving record
  • Increased future insurance premium rates

And if you think the legal penalties of driving uninsured look costly, you must deal with even greater financial risk if you get into an accident while uninsured. Not only will you be wholly responsible for paying your own medical and mechanical bills, but if found at-fault for the accident you’ll also be responsible for covering the other driver’s bills as well. At this point, the other driver can sue you for damages. When faced with a lawsuit, assets like your home and other property could be taken from you in order to cover the cost. While car insurance premiums may be high, you may never recover financially from the consequences of driving uninsured. Suddenly the monthly payments seem insignificant compared to the tens of thousands of dollars in subsequent legal fees.

How to avoid driving uninsured

  • Proof of insurance Car insurance is required in all 50 states, so be sure to always carry your proof of insurance with you when your drive. Proof of insurance (POI) is an type of documentation that proves you currently have insurance, although the most popular POI is a paper card given to you by your insurance company that lists your policy information and effective dates.
  • Renew your policy A lapse in coverage occurs when your current insurance policy expires and you failed to renew, but continue to drive. Avoid lapsing by keeping track of your policy start and end date. There are many ways to renew your policy and insurers will usually remind you a month or more in advance of your policy’s expiration date. A lapse in coverage will lead to higher premium rates in the future.
  • Make timely payments A lapse in coverage can also occur when you’ve failed to make premium payments and your policy is canceled. Therefore, it’s very important to always make your payments on time whether they’re due monthly, quarterly, etc., etc. because not all carriers offer a grace period for late payments. You can ensure you’ll never miss a payment by setting up automatic payment or choosing an annual payment plan. Both options unlock discounts with your insurance carrier. Remember, a lapse in coverage will lead to higher premiums.
  • Find an affordable carrier If you find yourself unable to make your auto insurance payments, it may be time to switch insurance carriers. You can switch carriers by canceling your policy or waiting for it to expire. Contact the DMV if you cancel your policy. Either way, you must make sure you have another policy set to start immediately so that you aren’t driving while in between policies and thus uninsured. Switching providers is a common thing. All car insurance companies are different which means you have the option to find one that meets your personal and financial preferences. Find one that understands your budget at the right price on a site like Insurify that allows your to customize, build, compare, and purchase a policy in minutes with the help of professional agents throughout the quote process. You’ll be confident you’re getting the most coverage for the best price.
  • Cancel your policyOnly cancel your auto insurance policy if you’re switching providers or no longer plan to drive. When you cancel your policy, you must be sure to contact the DMV to cancel your vehicle registration. For example, many states require insurance companies to notify the DMV when policyholders are no longer insured. If you aren’t intentional with your cancellation and don’t contact the DMV before your insurance company does, you could face the harsh consequences of lapsed coverage.

While these penalties only affect you if you’re caught driving without insurance, you should never take the gamble. If you can’t afford to pay for your insurance coverage, it’ll be almost impossible for you to pay for the subsequent bills and lawsuits after a violation or accident. Finding an affordable carrier is possible however.

Micaela Allen is a Boston-based writer and editor. Over the years, she has written over 100 original pieces for Insurify, focusing on trends in the insurance industry and financial advice for young and uninsured drivers. Micaela is an alumna of Northeastern University, where she majored in English.