Before getting auto insurance in Texas
If you’ve never driven outside your home state, you might think that car insurance is the same wherever you go. But like most things in life, it’s not quite that simple: Each state has its own set of car insurance regulations and minimum requirements.
If you plan to spend more than a few weeks driving along the vast expanses of Texas, or if you’re outright moving to Texas, you’ll need to know the ins and outs of insuring your vehicle there.
How to get cheap car insurance in Texas
No matter what state you live in, there are car insurance deals to be had. By taking the time to shop around, compare quotes and try out our tips, you should land a solid rate on your coverage.
Average car insurance costs in Texas
The average driver in Texas pays something in the neighborhood of $1,500 annually. This is slightly above the state average of $1,250 and quite a bit more than the cheapest state in the country — that’s Maine, with average annual costs hovering around $900. But when you compare Texas to Michigan, where annual car insurance costs routinely top $2,200, you might start to feel like Texas’s rates aren’t such a bad deal.
Where is car insurance most expensive? In big cities like Houston, San Antonio, Dallas and Austin you’re likely to pay more for your car insurance premiums. Big cities tend to expose you to a higher risk for car accidents, vandalism and theft, so you’ll pay more for insurers to cover you. You’re likely to find lower insurance rates in small towns and rural areas of the state.
How can I save money on car insurance?
Looking for ways to save money on your auto insurance in Texas? No matter what state you’re in, see our general tips to lowering your premiums and getting value out of your coverage.
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State minimum requirements in Texas
Always the maverick, you need only liability insurance to legally drive on the wide-open roads in Texas. But your liability insurance must meet state requirements:
- $30,000 for each injured person
- $60,000 for injuries per incident
- $25,000 for property damage
What additional coverage can I get?
While liability coverage is all that’s required to meet the state minimums, additional coverage could better protect you and your vehicle from the unexpected.
- Comprehensive. Covers damage to your car caused by something other than a collision, like weather or vandalism. It’s important protection in areas with high crime rates or where extreme weather, like hurricanes, are a common concern.
- Collision. Helps pay for repairs if your car is damaged in an accident.
- Medical and funeral services. Helps cover medical bills or funeral costs that result from a car accident.
- Uninsured and underinsured motorists. Protects you if you get into an accident with someone who doesn’t have insurance.
- Rental car. Assists in reimbursing you for a rental car if your car is damaged in an accident.
- Towing and labor. Provides reimbursement for towing or labor costs you may have incurred as a result of an accident.
Uninsured drivers in Texas
About 14% of all motorists in Texas are driving without minimum car insurance, according to estimates from the Insurance Information Institute. This is slightly higher than the national average, which tends to be around 12.5%. Because more than 1 in 10 drivers in this state are driving around without proper coverage, there’s a risk you’ll be involved in a crash with one of them, saddling you with extra costs.
To better protect yourself, your passengers and your vehicle, consider adding uninsured motorist insurance to your policy. This coverage takes care of you in a hit-and-run scenario or whenever other drivers in an accident don’t have insurance.
What can I do if I don’t want to buy car insurance in Texas?
The state of Texas allows you to place a surety bond or cash deposit of $55,000 with the state if you’d rather not deal with traditional coverage. When you take this route, you receive a certificate of financial responsibility to show any police officer who asks about your proof of insurance.
While avoiding car insurance altogether sounds easy, consider that large chunk of change you’re leaving to sit with the state of Texas all at once. It’s money you could otherwise use for investing or to put toward renovating your kitchen.
If money isn’t an immediate concern, consider too that after a severe accident, your $55,000 deposit can disappear quickly between payments for vehicle repairs and payments for hospital treatments or funeral expenses. And once that deposit is wiped out, any remaining expenses come out of your pocket.
For these reasons, most Texans opt for traditional car insurance coverage.
Can I buy temporary car insurance in Texas?
Yes. Allstate, Geico and Progressive all offer temporary insurance. However, many other providers don’t offer temporary coverage in every state. And even if you do find a short-term policy, it’s likely to cost more than conventional coverage.
What happens if I’m driving in Texas and I don’t have insurance?
Driving without car insurance in Texas is breaking the law. Getting caught on the road without proper car insurance coverage lands you steep fines, from $175 and $350 for first-time offenders. When you’re first caught, you’re fined a fee from $175 to $350. You’ll also have to pay a driver’s license surcharge of $250 each year for the next three years.
For repeat offenders, things don’t get any easier: The second time around, your initial fine jumps anywhere from $350 to $1,000, and you’ll pay that $250 annual surcharge three more times. Beyond that, fines increase and you risk getting your license or registration revoked.
What laws do I need to follow when I’m driving in Texas?
While most US states share a common set of traffic laws, Texas enforces a few regulations of its own:
- All vehicles are required to have at least two white headlights. Colored lights are allowed, as long as they don’t cause visibility issues for oncoming vehicles.
- Headlights must be turned on within 30 minutes of sunset and must remain on until sunrise.
- All drivers and passengers are required to wear seat belts whenever the vehicle is in motion.
- Drivers younger than 18 and drivers who have been licensed for less than six months are prohibited from using a cell phone while driving.
- Window tinting is allowed, but it must allow at least 25% of ambient light to pass through. When it comes to windshields, tinting cannot come down further than five inches from the top of the windshield. Taxis, limousines and buses are exempt from some of these rules.
Blood alcohol content and DUI laws in Texas
As in all states, drunk driving is against the law in the great state of Texas. A strict upper limit of 0.08% BAC is enforced for all typical drivers, with commercial drivers limited to 0.04%.
A zero-tolerance policy applies to all drivers under the age of 21: Any alcohol at all in their system can earn them a more severe classification of DUI offense, which entails a larger fine and an immediate license suspension of at least 60 days.
|First offense||Second offense||Third offense|
|Jail||3 days to 6 months||1–12 months||210 years|
|Fines and penalties||Up to $2,000 (or up to $4,000 with BAC of 0.15%+)||Up to $4,000||Up to $10,000|
|License suspension||90 days to 12 months||180 days to 2 years||180 days to 2 years|
|Ignition interlock device required||Only when obtaining a conditional or restricted license||1 year||1 year|
Implied consent laws in Texas
Texas is like most states in how it handles implied consent. Implied consent laws mean that if you’re driving on public roads, you must allow yourself to be tested for drugs or alcohol if a police officer requests it. If you refuse, you can be fined or have your license suspended, regardless of whether you were even drinking in the first place.
For these reasons, most lawyers advise drivers to submit to portable breath tests (PBTs) or roadside breathalyzers. Note, however, roadside sobriety tests are generally not admissible in court. After a driver tests above the legal BAC limit with a PBT, a more controlled breathalyzer or blood test is typically conducted at the police station or a nearby medical center before that driver is charged with a DUI.
Can I get SR-22 insurance in Texas?
Yes. You might need to file for an SR-22 in Texas if you’ve had a DUI conviction, are caught driving without insurance or accumulate too many violation points on your driving record. SR-22 tells the state you have the minimum coverage required to get back behind the wheel.
What happens after an accident in Texas?
Even a fender bender can leave you shaken up. But by following a few simple tips, you can avoid common mistakes and make the process of filing an insurance claim that much easier.
- Safety first. Check that everyone involved is safe and that all vehicles are out of the path of traffic, if possible. If you need assistance with an injured person or with moving a disabled vehicle, call emergency services right away.
- Notify your insurance company. Once you know everyone is safe and help is on the way, call your insurance provider to let them know what’s happened. Giving an agent as much information as possible helps speed up the claims process and eliminate headaches later.
- Document the accident. Protect your claim by taking down the name of police officers at the scene, as well as the names of anyone involved who you can speak to. If the accident leads to a court case of any kind, you may need one of these people to testify on your behalf.
- Exchange information. Get everyone’s full name as well as any other necessary information, such as insurance info and who was driving which vehicle.
- Avoid placing blame. When speaking with other drivers, legal advice will typically advise you to avoid saying the accident was your fault — even when it may have been. If you do admit to anything, you run the risk of your car insurance company refusing to pay your claim.
Who’s at fault after an accident?
Texas is a fault, or “tort,” state. If you’re in an accident and the other driver is at fault, their insurance covers your damages or injuries where applicable, and you’re able to sue for additional expenses that aren’t covered by insurance. You can also sue in Texas for additional amounts related to “pain and suffering.” This isn’t allowed in all states or is sometimes limited to excess medical costs only.
When should I report an accident in Texas?
You need to report a car accident with the state if it results in either:
- Property damages that exceed $1,000 in value.
- Injury or death of drivers, passengers or passersby.
Submit a Driver’s Crash Report form within 10 days of the crash to the Texas Department of Transportation. If you fail to report it, you expose your claim to rejection by your provider. You could also get in trouble with the state, with penalties that include fines, a driver’s license suspension and even jail time.
When should I contact a lawyer?
You may want to contact a lawyer after an accident if:
- You’re charged with a crime, such as a DUI, reckless driving or negligence.
- You plan to file a civil suit against another driver.
- Another driver plans to file a civil suit against you.
- You’re considered at fault for the crash.
- You have additional costs or bills after the crash that aren’t covered by insurance and you weren’t at fault.
Even if you think you know the law or what you’re entitled to following a crash, a lawyer can help guide you through whatever lies ahead, especially if it involves a courtroom.
Car insurance is designed to protect you, your passengers and your vehicle against bumps in the road. Unlike other states, Texas requires only minimum liability coverage to legally drive its expansive roads. But with so much scenery to take in from the state’s nearly 700,000 miles of highway, you might want the broader protection of comprehensive and other optional coverage to protect against the unexpected. (The state’s not part of Tornado Alley for nothin’.)
To learn more about how you can stop paying too much for coverage, read our comprehensive guide to car insurance.
Frequently asked questions about car insurance in Texas
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