Can You Legally Drive with an Expired License? (2023)

While it’s sometimes possible to unknowingly miss your driver’s license expiration dates, you can’t legally drive with an expired license.

Katie Powers
Written byKatie Powers
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Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor
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  • 3+ years experience in insurance and personal finance editing

Katie uses her knowledge and expertise as a licensed property and casualty agent in Massachusetts to help readers understand the complexities of insurance shopping.

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John Leach
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Updated September 18, 2023 | Reading time: 5 minutes

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Most states don’t have a grace period between the time of license expiration and license renewal that allows drivers to legally operate their vehicle with an expired license. Specific penalties vary based on the state you live in, but consequences for driving with an expired license include tickets, fines, jail time, and denied claims from your car insurance company.

The best method of avoiding complications related to an expired driver’s license is proactive license renewal. If mistakes happen, the penalties associated with driving with an expired license will likely increase the cost of your insurance. Before you buy or renew a car insurance policy, compare quotes from multiple companies to find the best option for you.

Quick Facts
  • You can’t legally drive with an expired license. However, there are benefits to keeping your car insurance if you plan to renew your license. Showing proof of prior coverage can help you get the best deal on future premiums.

  • Depending on your state, you can renew your license online, by mail, or in person.

  • Penalties for driving with an expired license include tickets, fines, and jail time.

Can you drive with an expired license?

No. You can’t drive with an expired license. Only a few states have limited grace periods in place for license renewal. Driving with an expired license is illegal because states rely on obtaining updated driver information and ensuring your continued ability to drive safely.

Though a few states provide drivers a grace period to complete driver’s license renewals after expiration, the period generally lasts for less than 30 days. The smartest option is to renew your license prior to expiration.

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Consequences of driving with an expired license

The penalties drivers face for driving without a renewed and valid driver’s license range in severity depending on state law. Serious consequences following interactions with law enforcement include hefty fines, tickets, potential jail time, and a lack of coverage from your insurer for anything occurring after your driver’s license expires.

What happens if you renew your driver’s license after the expiration date?

If you renew your license after the expiration date but don’t drive with an expired license, you’ll likely face a more tedious renewal process, depending on what state you live in.

In Missouri,[1] for example, drivers with a license expired for more than six months have to repass the state’s vision screening, road sign recognition, skills test, and written test but don’t have to pay a late-renewal fee.

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Why do driver’s licenses expire?

Driver’s licenses regularly expire for a few different reasons. Many states need to confirm that drivers can see well enough to drive by conducting an eye test at the time of renewal. Mandated renewal also helps each state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) update driver photos and addresses. License expiration dates also prevent the fraudulent use of a lost or stolen license.

How often do you need to renew your license?

Specific guidelines vary by state, but drivers in the United States must renew their driver’s licenses anywhere from every two to every 12 years.[2] The most common renewal cycles, however, last between four and eight years.

The deadline for license renewal often occurs on the driver’s date of birth, making the expiration date easier to remember.

Does your insurance coverage still apply if your license expires?

No. Your insurance company can refuse coverage if you get into an accident with an expired license. However, rare exceptions exist.

Some insurers may cover an accident if your state has a set grace period — a number of days in which you can legally drive after your license expires. In most cases, driving with an expired license violates the terms of your insurance policy.

If you have comprehensive coverage for a classic car in storage, this policy can still offer financial protection from non-collision events if you don’t have a driver’s license.

Insurers typically won’t pay claims if you have a moving violation — like an at-fault accident, speeding ticket, or DUI — while driving with an expired license. Your insurance company may cancel your coverage if you violate your specific policy by driving without a license.

Although you can’t legally drive with an expired license, it’s still a good idea to maintain your insurance coverage while you’re getting your license renewed. A gap in coverage can make it more difficult to get car insurance at affordable rates in the future. In the long run, it’ll be cheaper to maintain your coverage than to let it lapse, or cancel it, and try to get a new policy later.

For some perspective on insurance costs, here are the total average car insurance rates in each state.

Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.
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State penalties for driving without a license

State penalties for driving without a license vary.[3] People caught driving with an expired license may end up facing the same penalties as people driving without any license.

Below, you can find your state’s penalties for a driver’s first offense of driving without a license. Keep in mind the listed penalties may not apply concurrently and don’t include penalties beyond the first offense.

StatePenalty for Driving Without a License
Alabama
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine between $10 and $100 and an additional $50 traffic fine
  • Up to 180 days in prison
  • Immediate vehicle impoundment
  • License suspension increased by six months
Alaska
  • Misdemeanor
  • Existing license suspension increased by at least 90 days
  • Possible forfeiture of vehicle
  • Completion of community service hours
Arizona
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Possible vehicle impoundment
Arkansas
  • Misdemeanor
  • Between two days and six months in prison
  • Possible fine of up to $500
California
  • Between five days and six months in prison
  • Fine between $300 and $1,000
Colorado
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Fine of up to $500
  • Existing license suspension increased by one year
Connecticut
  • Up to three months in prison
  • Fine between $150 and $200
Delaware
  • Between 30 days and six months in prison
  • Fine between $500 and $1,000
  • Vehicle impoundment up to 90 days possible
Florida
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 60 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $500
Georgia
  • Misdemeanor
  • Between two days and one year in prison
  • Additional fine up to $500 possible for first offense
Hawaii
  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
Idaho
  • Misdemeanor
  • Between two days and six months in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Existing license suspension increased by 180 days
Illinois
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in prison
  • Fine of up to $2,500
Indiana
  • Felony
  • Between six months and two and a half years in prison
  • Fine of up to $10,000
Iowa
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine between $250 and $1,500
  • Existing license suspension increased for up to a year
Kansas
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to five days in prison
  • Fine of at least $100
Kentucky
  • Misdemeanor
  • At least 90 days in prison
  • Existing license suspension increased by six months
Louisiana
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Fine of up to $500
Maine
  • Class E crime
  • $250 fine
Maryland
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Existing license suspension possibly increased by up to one year
Massachusetts
  • Up to 10 days in prison
  • Fine between $500 and $1,000
Michigan
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 93 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $500
Minnesota
  • Up to 90 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
Mississippi
  • Between two days and six months in prison
  • Fine between $200 and $500
  • Existing license suspension increased by six months
Missouri
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in prison (though no set term of imprisonment)

Montana


 

  • Fine of up to $500
Nebraska
  • Misdemeanor
  • License revocation for one year
  • Unable to operate any motor vehicle for a year
Nevada
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Existing license suspension, revocation, or restriction extended
New Hampshire
  • Misdemeanor
  • At least one week in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Existing license suspension increased by up to six months
New Jersey
  • $500 fine
New Mexico
  • Misdemeanor
  • Between four and 364 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • Possible vehicle immobilization
New York
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • Fine between $200 and $500
North Carolina
  • Misdemeanor
  • Between one and 10 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $200
  • Existing license suspension increased by one year
North Dakota
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • $1,500 fine
Ohio
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $1,000
  • 500 hours of community service
Oklahoma
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • Fine between $50 and $300
Oregon
  • Class A traffic infraction
  • Fine between $220 and $2,000
  • Possible vehicle impoundment
Pennsylvania
  • Summary offense
  • $200 fine
  • Existing license suspension increased by one year
  • Existing license revocation increased by two years
Rhode Island
  • Violation
  • Fine between $250 and $500
South Carolina
  • Up to 30 days in prison
  • $300 fine
South Dakota
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 30 days in jail
  • Fine of up to $500
Tennessee
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to six months in prison
  • Fine of up to $500
  • Existing license suspension increased
Texas
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $500
Utah
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to six months in prison
  • $1,000 fine
Vermont
  • Up to two years in prison
  • Fine of up to $5,000
Virginia
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to one year in prison
  • Fine of up to $2,500
  • Possible vehicle impoundment of up to 90 days
Washington
  • Misdemeanor
  • Up to 364 days in prison
  • Fine of up to $5,000
Washington, D.C.
  • Up to one year in prison
  • Fine of up to $2,500
West Virginia
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine between $100 and $500
Wisconsin
  • $100 fine if license has been expired for less than three months
  • Fine between $50 and $200 for driver with suspended license
  • Fine of up to $2,500 for driver with revoked license
  • Possible vehicle impoundment for driver with revoked license
Wyoming
  • Misdemeanor
  • Fine of up to $750

Ways to renew your driver’s license

By renewing your license prior to expiration, you avoid penalties and fees for late renewal and driving with an expired license. Renewal requirements vary by state, so check your state’s DMV website to find specifics. Necessary paperwork for in-person renewal may include your current license, Social Security number, a bill with your current address, and more.

All states allow drivers to renew their licenses in person, and some even require it for all drivers. Drivers are able to renew their driver’s licenses online in many states, with some exceptions and in-person requirements for obtaining a REAL ID or implementing a full name change on the new driver’s license. Depending on your eligibility, you may also be able to renew by mail.

Expired license FAQs

  • Can you legally drive with an expired license?

    No. You can’t legally drive with an expired license, although a few states offer a short grace period between license expiration and license renewal. Some states may send out a renewal notice for impending license expiration, but you should make a habit of renewing your license well in advance of the expiration deadline.

  • How can you renew your driver’s license?

    Drivers in the United States can renew their licenses online, in person, and by mail, depending on the specific requirements in their state. Some states require all drivers to renew their licenses in person, while others offer online renewal in most cases. Additionally, most states allow for renewal by mail for eligible drivers with medical or military excuses.

  • What happens if you’re caught driving with an expired license?

    You’ll face penalties determined by laws in your state if you’re caught driving with an expired license. Potential consequences include fees, tickets, and jail time. Most insurance companies won’t provide you coverage if you have an expired license. Some states relaxed requirements slightly throughout the pandemic, so pay attention to changing state guidelines.

  • How can you compare car insurance quotes from the best companies?

    Comparison shopping for car insurance quotes from insurance companies in your state is the best way to consider your options and save. Finding affordable coverage that meets your specific needs is crucial. An auto insurer that works well for someone living in a rural area, for example, may not be the best choice for someone in an urban environment.

  • Do you still have to have car insurance if your license is expired?

    You should carry car insurance even if your license expires. Some states require continuous liability insurance on any registered vehicle, whether or not you drive the car. For example, in Pennsylvania, the penalty for a coverage lapse is a three-month vehicle registration suspension. You may also pay a higher premium in the future if you have a lapse in coverage.

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Katie Powers
Katie PowersAuto and Life Insurance Editor

Katie Powers is an insurance writer at Insurify with a producer’s license for property and casualty insurance in Massachusetts and expertise in personal finance and auto insurance topics. She strives to help consumers make better financial decisions. Prior to joining Insurify, she completed her undergraduate and graduate degrees at Emerson College. Her work has been published in St. Louis Magazine, the Boston Globe, and elsewhere. Connect with Katie on LinkedIn.

John Leach
Edited byJohn LeachInsurance Copy Editor
Photo of an Insurify author
John LeachInsurance Copy Editor
  • Licensed property and casualty insurance agent

  • 8+ years editing experience

John leads Insurify’s copy desk, helping ensure the accuracy and readability of Insurify’s content. He’s a licensed agent specializing in home and car insurance topics.

Featured in

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Compare Car Insurance Quotes Instantly

Secure. Free. Easy-to-use.
Based on 3,806+ reviews
4.8/5
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