All U.S. states require drivers to maintain active auto insurance policies. The only exceptions are New Hampshire and Virginia.
1. It’s Illegal
Driving without insurance in states that require it can result in expensive, damaging, and inconvenient consequences. Punishments vary by state, and some states impose stricter penalties than others. You might receive a high-priced ticket, or you could lose your driving privileges altogether. Should an accident occur where you are at fault, you may be jailed and denied compensation.
Well-to-do New Hampshire residents have the option to post cash bonds with the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide auto insurance for themselves. These bonds can run tens of thousands of dollars and are usually equal to the individual liability limits in that state.
However, even New Hampshire drivers who can afford to post bonds may be required to carry auto insurance in certain cases. That usually happens if the driver has a history of causing accidents, was caught driving under the influence, or left the scene of an accident. In such cases, the state may conclude that posting a surety bond, regardless of how much it’s worth, may not be enough to qualify for an exemption from vehicle insurance.
The only other exception is Virginia. Commonwealth motorists who prefer to drive without insurance have the option to pay the state an uninsured motor vehicle fee of $500 for the right to drive without coverage. The fee does not provide insurance. It simply means that you won’t get fined or lose your license if you get caught.
What about cars that aren’t driven? Is it against the law to drop insurance coverage on a car that never leaves your driveway? The answer is yes. All registered vehicles must be insured at all times, so it makes more sense to change your policy than to drop it.
Dropping it will be viewed by your insurance company as a lapse in coverage. If you try to reinstate the policy at a later date, your costs will go up. A more flexible option would be to get car storage coverage. It costs less, and it still provides basic protection for your vehicle.
Car storage insurance, which is basically comprehensive coverage, will protect your car from any damages incurred while the vehicle is parked. That includes being hit by another vehicle, theft, vandalism, lightning, hurricanes, fires or a collapsed roof. If your car is harmed in any way, you’ll only have to pay your insurance deductible, and the rest will be covered in full.
Further Reading: What happens when car insurance expires?
2. It Will Cost You
Tickets for driving without insurance vary widely by state. If you live in Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky or Maryland, you’ll pay at least $1,000 per incident. In Hawaii, Texas, Wyoming, West Virginia, Minnesota, New Jersey and North Dakota, you’ll pay up to $3,000 or more per incident. If you live in Massachusetts, don’t get caught without car insurance. If you do, you’ll be issued a $5,000 fine.
If you’re fortunate enough to be caught in Tennessee or Georgia without insurance, you will probably get off with a $25 fine. Besides Tennessee and Georgia, states with the least expensive fines include Florida, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Idaho, Maine and Nebraska. Vermont is the most lenient state. If you’re not involved in an accident, you’ll probably get off with a warning.
If your state has high fines, just one ticket could cost you more than you’d pay for a low-cost liability policy. It’s something to consider, especially if you live in Massachusetts.
3. You Can Lose Your License
Forty-four of the 49 states that require liability coverage will suspend your license if you’re caught without proof of insurance. In most cases, license suspension will be accompanied by an astronomical fine.
4. Vehicle Tracking Can Find You
To reduce the number of uninsured vehicles currently on the road, states employ a variety of monitoring techniques. Periodic roadway checkpoints have been used for decades to sniff out uninsured motorists, but states are now turning to more sophisticated measures.
Some states are ferreting out uninsured drivers with the help of an electronic monitoring system. All state-registered vehicles are checked daily to ensure that they have valid insurance coverage currently in effect.
If you show up on the database as an uninsured driver, you’ll be fined $85 with 30 days to pay up. If you don’t take action, you’ll receive an additional $85 fine and a 90-day registration suspension. This can happen even if the vehicle is parked in your garage and never leaves the premises.
5. Your Car May Be Towed
If you’re stopped by a police officer while driving without insurance, the officer will decide whether to have your car towed. If your vehicle is towed and impounded, you’ll be charged a hefty fee. Additional penalties include a visit to the local vehicle impound facility to determine whether your auto has survived the towing ordeal intact.
Bailing your car out of lockup not a pleasant experience. However, the worst of it will be steep fines and potential license suspension.
6. You Might Hit Someone
If you are involved in a collision while driving without insurance, your situation can quickly become dire. Even if it’s your first offense, insurance companies will immediately classify you as a high-risk driver.
You will probably be sued for property damage, bodily injury or both. You will have to cover the costs yourself, and that could be prohibitively expensive if the accident is serious. According to Car and Driver, “Repair costs and medical bills from a major accident can easily add up to thousands of dollars, with some cases exceeding $1 million.”
If you don’t have a lawyer to represent you, you will probably make several trips through the proverbial wringer. All of your assets could be confiscated, and the injured party might garnishee your wages.
In California, you could lose your license for up to one year. In New York, you could face a fine of up to $1,500 and a civil penalty of $750. In Texas, you’ll be charged an annual surcharge of $250 for three years in addition to damages. In Florida, you might need an SR22 certificate of financial responsibility to show that you have at least minimum coverage if you want to drive again.
The courts are most strict with uninsured drivers who cause bodily injury to others. If you cause an accident in which someone is hurt, you will be looking at fines, damages, legal fees, license suspension, getting your car towed and the possibility of going to prison.
Injuring someone while driving uninsured will blacken your driving record for many years to come. However, the guilt and remorse you will feel if you hurt someone can linger for the rest of your life.
7. Someone Might Hit You
If you are hit by a negligent insured driver who is completely at fault, driving without insurance will still work against you. Many states have a “no pay, no play” law. It limits the amount of compensation that an uninsured motorist can collect when hit by an insured driver.
The “no pay, no play” states believe that uninsured motorists have no right to compensation because they would be profiting from a system they don’t participate in. This reasoning prevails even if an uninsured sober driver is profoundly injured by an insured drunk driver.
Uninsured Louisiana drivers who are hurt by insured drivers are likely to receive no compensation whatsoever. Motorists without coverage may be required to pay a deductible of up to $10,000 just to sue an insured driver for property damage.
The only good news is that you probably won’t go to jail.
8. You Won’t Have Support
If there is a question about who is at fault in an accident, an insurance company representative would typically go to bat for you with the other insurer to see that you are fairly and adequately compensated.
Without insurance, you will have to go to bat for yourself. All of the costs will come out of your pocket. If you are injured, you’ll have to pay your own medical expenses. If the accident was serious and you were at fault, you will probably need legal counsel.
You could be facing heavy fines, confiscation of your assets and a long prison sentence. This process can drain you emotionally, physically and financially. In the end, you could lose everything.
Cheap Auto Insurance To the Rescue
You don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to insure your vehicle. A basic policy that covers the state-minimum liability requirements can save you thousands of dollars and ensure your peace of mind.
Velox Insurance is one of the most affordable auto insurance companies in the Southeast. Because we work directly with several insurers, our policy specialists can find you the cheapest auto insurance rate.