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Car insurance in North Carolina

Minimum requirements and how to get cheap auto insurance in North Carolina

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Before getting auto insurance in North Carolina

Whether you’re moving to North Carolina or you’re just about to get your license, you’ll need to know the regulations of the roads around these parts — and that means knowing about the rules around car insurance. Read on to learn about North Carolina’s car insurance laws, including state minimums and what happens if you don’t maintain your coverage.

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Liberty Mutual Car Insurance
Liberty Mutual Car Insurance
Car insurance through Liberty Mutual will give coverage options for almost any situation.
  • Multi-car discount
  • Bundle discount for combining auto and home policies
  • New vehicle discount
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Esurance offers a modern online and mobile experience that helps you take your insurance on the go.
  • CoverageMyWay® helps you make smarter choices
  • Gain peace of mind with 24/7 claims service
  • Manage your policy on the go with Esurance Mobile
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Allstate Auto Insurance
Allstate Auto Insurance
With a range of coverage options at affordable prices, Allstate auto insurance can be personalized to your needs as a driver.
  • Reward System for Safe Drivers
  • Bumper-to-Bumper Basics® Tool
  • Comprehensive Tools to Design a Customized Insurance Plan
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Average car insurance costs in North Carolina

North Carolina’s drivers can expect to pay something in the range of $1,000 annually, which is significantly below the $1,300 national average in 2017. So if you’re older than 25 and have a clean driving record, you can probably expect to pay something close to $1,000 per year — about $83 monthly.

Location isn’t everything, but exactly where you live can directly influence how much you pay for your coverage. For example, people who live in the bigger towns and cities of this state — say Charlotte or Raleigh — can probably expect to pay more for their insurance than people in Bryson City. This is because higher population comes with elevated risk for traffic accidents, thefts, vandalism and other issues that can result in insurance claims.

How can I save on my car insurance?

Looking for some ways to save money on your auto insurance in North Carolina? No matter what state you’re in, you can use our general tips to lower your premiums and get a better value out of your coverage.

Car insurance requirements in North Carolina

This state requires all drivers to carry minimum liability coverage in these amounts:

  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability per person, per accident
  • $60,000 for bodily injury liability total per accident
  • $25,000 for property damage liability per accident

When you’re shopping for a car insurance policy, you might see these requirements shortened to 30/60/25.

If you’re driving in North Carolina, you’ll also need to purchase uninsured motorist coverage with a $30,000 limit. This takes care of damages or injuries if you’re in a collision with an uninsured driver. It’s estimated that 6.5% of all motorists in North Carolina in 2015 didn’t have proper insurance.

Additional coverage

Once you’ve covered the basic requirements, consider additional coverage options to better protect yourself, your passengers and your vehicle.

  • Collision. Covers collision-related damages to your car.
  • Comprehensive. Helps cover damage to your car for non-collision incidents, such as vandalism.
  • Towing and labor. If your vehicle is disabled or gets stuck in a snowy ditch, this kind of coverage can help with towing expenses.
  • Rental car. Sometimes the repair shop takes a little longer than we’d like. This can cover your rental car costs up to a set amount.

Penalties for driving without legal coverage

Since North Carolina laws require every driver to carry a minimum level of insurance coverage, you’ll face some stiff consequences if you’re caught on the road without it.

1st offense2nd offense3rd offense
Fines and penalties$50 penalty

$50 license reinstatement fee

$100 penalty

$50 license reinstatement fee

$150 penalty

$50 license reinstatement fee

Driving privilege30-day suspension of license and registration30-day suspension of license and registration30-day suspension of license and registration
Jail time1–45 day(s) of probationJail time or 1–45 day(s) of probationJail time or 1–45 day(s) of probation

What if I have insurance, but can't find my insurance ID card?

If you can’t find proof of your insurance coverage when asked by a police officer, you’ll probably still get a ticket or citation.

But here’s the good news: If you can provide proof of your coverage within 10 days, your ticket — and any fines along with it — will be erased from your record. That gives you a week and a half, which should be plenty of time to either find your insurance ID card or have your provider send you a new one.

Alternatives to car insurance in North Carolina

Believe it or not, there are ways around this state’s car insurance requirements. You’re still required to carry proof of financial responsibility, though, so it’s good to learn about these alternative options and other requirements before you cancel your policy and hit the road.

  • Surety bond. If you place a surety bond for $85,000 with a licensed surety company, you’ll get a certificate from the state commissioner’s office. This certificate serves as proof that you can cover any bills after an accident on your own.
  • Cash or security deposit. You can make a deposit of $85,000 with the State Treasury, which will also get you a certificate from the commissioner’s office.
  • Real estate bond. A real estate bond uses real estate as collateral. This means if you get into an accident and can’t pay the costs, that real estate will be seized — and probably sold — in order to cover those costs. In order for this to work, you’ll need a commitment from two other people who own at least $170,000 in combined real estate equity within the state. If you can’t pay the costs following an accident, the state will seize those peoples’ property.
  • Self insurance. This option is probably best for midsize businesses with 26 or more vehicles and strong finances. It allows you to self-insure your vehicles and drivers if you can prove, through tax and income documentation, that you’re able to pay any costs if an accident occurs.

Should I go the alternative route and skip the insurance policy?

For certain instances, it might be a great option — as a midsize business, getting conventional insurance could get extremely expensive, so you may have lower overall costs with a self-insurance certificate.

For an individual driver, however, the up-front costs ($85,000 deposit or $170,000 in real estate equity) are prohibitive to most. And even a large sum like that can be wiped out quickly in a multi-vehicle accident, especially when passenger injuries or deaths are involved. It’s also worth noting that if the costs of an accident exceed the amount you have on deposit, any overages come straight out of your pocket.

Conventional car insurance isn’t for every driver, but it often provides a much-needed safety net at a reasonable monthly or yearly cost. For most people, a monthly car insurance bill is worth the peace of mind it gives.

Temporary car insurance in North Carolina

You can buy temporary auto insurance in this state. However, you might run into issues finding temporary coverage from standard providers. So if you need this kind of coverage, you should be open to alternative options like going with a lesser-known provider or having some unconventional policy terms.

Driving laws in North Carolina

Every state has its unique laws. Here are a few rules of the road in North Carolina:

  • Following a fender bender or any minor accident, you must move your vehicle to the shoulder of the road and out of the way of traffic if possible or you could get a ticket plus a $110 fine.
  • All drivers are required to use headlights from sunset to sunrise, or whenever visibility is less than 400 feet due to rain, snow or fog.
  • All drivers and passengers must wear seat belts at all times, or face fines from $10 to $25.
  • As in almost every state, parking on a highway is prohibited in North Carolina.

Drunk driving laws

Unfortunately, this state’s driving while impaired (DWI) laws are a bit hard to pin down because each offense is judged based on a number of factors, such as your blood alcohol concentration in relation to your mental and physical fitness, prescription medications and your driving record, among other things. While most states have a fairly flat method of penalizing drunk drivers, North Carolina relies on a five-level system, which can influence how a case turns out. You could end up paying thousands of dollars in fines, spending weeks in jail and even losing your license completely for severe cases or if you’re a repeat offender.

This section is meant to be a rough guide to these laws, and it gives approximations for what you can expect if you’re convicted of a DWI in North Carolina. To learn more, we recommend getting professional legal advice, especially if you or someone you know is dealing with a DWI charge and wants more clarity regarding laws and penalties.

The DWI laws in this state penalize drivers based on the severity of their offense, with a Level V DWI being the least severe and a Level I being very severe.

  • Level V. You could be fined as much as $200, plus serve between 24 hours and 60 days in jail. If your sentence is suspended, you’re required to either serve 24 hours of community service, spend 24 hours in jail or lose your license for 30 days.
  • Level IV. Fines as much as $500 and at least 48 hours in jail. If a judge decides to suspend your sentence, you’ll serve 48 hours of community service, spend those 48 hours in jail or go 60 days without your driving privileges.
  • Level III. Fines as high as $1,000 plus a minimum jail sentence between 72 hours and 120 days. If you’re convicted, you must serve 72 hours of community service, spend 72 hours in jail or give up driving privileges for 90 days.
  • Level II. This offense comes with a minimum sentence of seven days up to one year in jail, which cannot be suspended. You’ll pay fines of at least $2,000.
  • Level I. If you’re convicted of a Level I DWI, the minimum jail sentence is 30 days — and that can be increased all the way up to two years. Fines can be as high as $4,000.

On top of these penalties, if you’re a Level I or Level II DWI offender you’re required to participate in a substance abuse rehabilitation program. After all penalties are served, you’ll get your license and driving privileges back only if you complete a recommended rehab program.

North Carolina’s implied consent law

In the context of traffic regulations, an implied consent law means that if you’re driving on public roads, you’re also giving your consent to be tested for alcohol or drugs if a police officer suspects you’re driving under the influence. So if you refuse a breathalyzer or portable breath test (PBT) when you’re pulled over by an officer, you’re likely to lose your license for at least a year.

SR-22 insurance in North Carolina

Unlike some other states, you are not required to file an SR-22 form if you’re a DWI offender in North Carolina. Still, you’ll likely face higher insurance premiums since drivers convicted of drunk driving are seen as a greater risk.

What happens after a car accident in North Carolina?

Even the most minor of traffic accidents can leave us feeling shaken up — but what you do immediately afterward is very important.

  • Get to safety. Make sure anyone involved in the accident is away from traffic and move any vehicles involved to the side of the road. If you need medical assistance, don’t hesitate to call 911 and ask for help.
  • Contact local police. You don’t have to call the police for everything — for example, knocking a mailbox over doesn’t usually require the county sheriff. But if you think the damages after the accident are more than $1,000 or if anyone was injured or killed in the crash, you’ll certainly need to have the police on the scene.
  • Document the accident. Take as many photos as you can around the scene of the accident. This can help with your insurance claim and could help protect you in court.
  • Contact your insurance provider. Before you leave the scene of an accident, call your insurer and let them know what’s happened. They may need additional information that you won’t be able to give them after leaving the accident, so get an agent on the phone while you’re still there. They may also be able to guide you through your next steps and get a claim processed quickly.
  • Exchange information. If another motorist is involved in the accident, exchange insurance info. This will be helpful when claims are being filed and paid out.

Who’s at fault after an accident in North Carolina?

North Carolina has an interesting way of assigning fault in car accidents — the victim has to be 100% free of fault in order to receive compensation. That being said, North Carolina is considered an at fault or tort state. The driver who is judged to be at fault for an accident is required to pay for damages.

When should I contact the authorities after an accident?

North Carolina law states that if property damages in a car accident exceed $1,000, you must get the police involved. The same rule goes if anyone is injured or killed.

If you fail to report a serious accident to the police, you could have your license revoked or suspended. And if you flee the accident scene for any reason, you could even receive a felony charge.

Bottom line

With annual insurance costs typically falling below the national average and laws that make it very difficult and risky to drive without liability coverage, North Carolina is a place where you’ll most likely want to have a conventional car insurance policy.

To learn more about this topic, from rules and regulations to discounts on premiums, visit our comprehensive guide to car insurance.

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