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Driving without car insurance
Without coverage, you could be left paying hundreds of dollars in fines.
What's in this guide?
- Penalties for driving without insurance
- How much are the fines for driving without insurance?
- Can I drive someone else's car without buying insurance?
- Other consequences for no car insurance
- What's the minimum insurance I need for driving my car?
- Compare liability-only car insurance
- What if I can't afford car insurance?
- Bottom line
- Common questions about driving without car insurance
Penalties for driving without insurance
Every state sets different legal penalties if you drive but don’t buy car insurance, and these can vary wildly. Some states nail down sky-high fines and license suspensions from the first violation, while others start out with small fines.
For example, California imposes a $100 to $200 fine on the first no-insurance violation and up to $500 for the second offense. However, Texas adds a $250 surcharge to driver’s license renewals for the next three years, starting with the first offense.
- Ticket fines and penalty fees. You’ll pay steep ticket fines if you’re found driving without car insurance, even on the first offense.
- Suspended license. Many states charge you with license suspensions on the second or third offense, but several tag you with this penalty from the beginning. If so, you’ll go a set time without your license, then pay reinstatement fees and prove your insurance status.
- Impounded vehicle. On repeat offenses, the police may tow your vehicle until you pay fines or meet other requirements.
- Jail-time. You might not go to jail the first time around, but many states make jail-time part of the consequences for repeat offenses. Some give cops the option to use jail-time or fines as a penalty at their discretion.
- Filing an SR-22. You’ll likely need an SR-22 form as proof of insurance after any offense. Your car insurance company may submit the form, or you can call your DMV for instructions on filing it yourself. Having an SR-22 can raise your car insurance rates.
How much are the fines for driving without insurance?
For a first offense, most states fine between $100 and $500 either for no insurance or for reinstating your license if it gets suspended. However, the steepest state penalties cost over $1,000 on the first offense.
Repeat offenses range from $1,000 to $3,000, and that may not include fines for license reinstatement, renewed registration or lost income if you go to jail.
Did you know? You’ll pay fees on top of base fines for no insurance.
Along with these base fines, most states tack on penalty assessments that can add hundreds of dollars to your overall fine. Penalty assessments are fees that local or state governments assign to pay for court costs like upkeep and administration.
Can I drive someone else’s car without buying insurance?
Technically, yes in most cases. If you borrow someone’s car, their insurance should pay for any damage to their car and liability for you and others on the road.
However, if you borrow the car regularly or take extended trips, that person’s car insurance may not cover any damage. You’ll be liable for damage and injuries that happen in this scenario, and going without your own insurance would be considered driving uninsured.
What car insurance can I buy for driving someone else’s car?
A simple nonowner car insurance policy could work well if you need to borrow a car regularly. This policy pays for bodily injury or property damage liability if you get in an accident while driving someone else’s car.
Other consequences for no car insurance
Paying fines and getting legal penalties aren’t the only consequences you’ll face for driving with no car insurance. You could also deal with:
- Paying for damage out of pocket. If you experience a car accident while driving without insurance, you’ll have to pay for your car’s repairs on your own.
- Dealing with liability. You’re still held responsible for any damage or injuries you cause to other people. Without insurance, the other driver may sue you to get payment from other financial assets like your savings or valuables.
- Higher insurance premiums. The time you spend without a policy is called a lapse in car insurance terms. Insurance companies see lapses and needing SR-22 coverage as extra risk factors when insuring you and your car, leading to expensive rates or denied applications.
- Getting around without your license or car. If you get a suspended license or your car impounded, you’ll need to hitch a ride with friends or pay for rideshares and rentals until you get these back. Rental cars can set you back $50 a day or more, making getting around expensive and a hassle.
What’s the minimum insurance I need for driving my car?
Most states require you to buy a minimum of bodily injury and property damage liability. Each state also lists a specific coverage limit that you need, such as $25,000 in coverage for property damage.
You’ll find several states requiring additional coverage like:
- Personal injury protection to pay for your medical bills, lost income and other expenses after an accident
- Uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage in case another driver can’t pay for damage that they cause
Compare liability-only car insurance
What if I can’t afford car insurance?
If you’re having trouble paying your car insurance premiums, you have several options. You could try to:
1. Talk with an insurance agent
Reach out to your current company’s agent or an independent broker to help you get the best price on your policy. They may suggest dropping coverage, raising your deductibles or switching to a cheaper insurance company.
2. Look at pay-per-mile car insurance
If you don’t drive much and have a clean driving record, you may find lower rates with pay-per-mile insurance companies like Metromile or Root. You’ll pay only for the miles you drive and get rewarded for safe driving.
3. Drop all but the essential coverage
You can drop all optional coverage on your policy and keep only what’s required by your state. Because this leaves you without well-rounded protection for accidents, use this option if you don’t have other options available.
4. Switch to a cheaper car to insure
Some car models cost less to insure than others. Consider selling your car and buying a cheaper one that doesn’t cost as much to insure.
5. Use alternative transportation
If you try the above steps and still can’t afford your premiums, you might need to consider other forms of transportation. You can buy multi-ride bus passes in many major cities, and car-sharing and ridesharing companies like Uber and Zipcar offer rides without having to sign an extended contract.
The ultimate free option is to carpool with friends and family who may be happy to help you.
Driving with no insurance comes with steep fines, and you could be responsible for liability damage if you get in a car accident. Rather than going without coverage, try shopping around for low-cost car insurance or consider alternatives like pay-per-mile or liability-only policies to help you stay insured.
Common questions about driving without car insurance
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