What happens if you have no auto insurance?

Don't have auto insurance? You could face fines up to $2,000 and jail time for driving without insurance in the U.S. But you can save now by comparing rates below.

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Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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Reviewed byDaniel Walker
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UPDATED: Apr 24, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...
  • Liability auto insurance is mandatory in most states
  • If you own a vehicle and you don’t purchase auto insurance, you’re violating the law when you license your vehicle and when you drive that vehicle on public roads
  • The penalties for driving without insurance vary by state. Some of the common penalties include: fines, suspension of license, suspension of registration, vehicle impoundment and jail time
  • If you’re involved in an accident and you don’t have insurance, a judge could order that your wages be garnished to pay for damages
  • Having an insurance lapse on your record or an infraction can affect your future insurance rates

The average consumer spends around $841 per year on their auto insurance coverage. If you’re spending several hundred dollars per year on insurance benefits that you don’t want to use, justifying the expense can be difficult.

Since most states have created mandatory auto insurance legislation, you don’t necessarily have a choice when it comes to whether or not to take on the expense.

If you’re tempted to let go of your auto insurance to save money, think again. The consequences for driving without insurance can be very major.

From the legal repercussions to the economic repercussions, getting caught without auto insurance can be financially devastating. Here are some of the potential blowbacks for driving without valid coverage.

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Is auto insurance really mandatory?


Insurance is not usually a product that’s legally required. Home insurance, renters insurance, life insurance, and disability insurance are all things you can choose to own.

Auto insurance is an exception to the rule. In a majority of states, you must have auto insurance or proof of financial responsibility to drive.

Car insurance is mandatory because it protects third-parties.

Since the state can’t monitor your finances and your ability to pay for damages that you cause, the only way to ensure consumer protection is to require car insurance on all registered cars.

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Are there any states where it’s legal to drive without insurance?

Not all states have mandatory insurance laws. In some states, you can legally drive without insurance if you can furnish acceptable proof of financial responsibility.

It might include a certificate of self-insurance, deposit, or a surety bond filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Only two states allow drivers to drive without auto insurance or other proof of financial responsibility — New Hampshire and Virginia.

If you’d like to drive without insurance in either of these states, you must pay an uninsured motorist vehicle fee.

You’re still obligated to pay for damages that you cause.

What are the legal consequences for driving without insurance?

Getting caught without insurance can be a major headache. Not only do you have to worry about fulfilling the mandatory court appearance requirement, but you also have to worry about how expensive the fines are for being an uninsured motorist and getting cited.

The penalties for driving uninsured vary by state, but here are some of the most common ones:

  • Fines between $100 and $2000 for a conviction (fees get higher for multiple offenses)
  • Court fees and other administrative costs
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for a specified period
  • Suspension of registration
  • Mandatory community service
  • Time in jail (typically up to six months)
  • Reinstate fees and an SR-22 requirement for up to three years

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Can you be assessed penalties without being pulled over by law enforcement?

If you think that being a safe driver can help you avoid penalties, think again. In most states, it doesn’t take a citation to get fined or penalized for being uninsured.

That’s because many states have invested in electronic verification systems that check the status of your insurance real-time.

Electronic verification and random verification systems are in place to check to see if cars are insured even when the driver isn’t stopped.

By requiring insurers to prove that a car has insurance, the state is better able to keep up with uninsured drivers. It helps the state collect money and helps keep the rate of uninsured drivers down.

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What happens if you don’t have insurance when it is verified?

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Every state has its own verification process in place. In states with more advanced systems, insurance coverage is being verified and reported 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These types of systems check the status of your insurance by using your VIN and by requiring licensed insurance companies to report when a policy is started or canceled.

If there’s a report that a policy has canceled, the state will request that you submit proof of insurance for the days that the lapse has been reported. If you can’t do this, then you’ll be ordered to pay a fine.

You will also be asked to present proof of new insurance. If you’re unable to do this, your registration will be suspended.

Do you pay more for auto insurance when you’ve been an uninsured motorist?

Insurance companies don’t like to do business with risky drivers. Doing business with a risky driver means that the insurance company will more than likely have to pay a claim while they are insuring the risk.

That’s why companies charge people with high-risk records more money.

If you’ve been convicted of driving without insurance, you could easily fit into the high-risk category.

The company cannot know if you’ve made a claim in the past because you’ve had a lapse in coverage. So, if you have a lapse expect to pay more for your insurance in the future.

Loss of Discounts

Not only will you be a higher risk, but you’ll also lose large discounts for failing to maintain coverage.

Most companies offer both loyalty discounts and prior insurance discounts to people who’ve been with the same carrier for years. These discounts drive rates down significantly.

If you want to price auto insurance rates, use an online comparison tool and see how much you’ll pay for full coverage or basic policy.

Be sure to be honest with your answers to get the most accurate quotes. Once you find the right policy, you won’t have to worry about the penalties or other consequences for being uninsured.

Enter your zip code in our FREE tool to start comparison shopping today!

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