What happens if I get caught driving without insurance?
Last updated: January 1
Driving without insurance is against the law in most states. Depending on your state's laws, you may face the following consequences, according to the Consumer Federation of America:
- Have to pay fines
- Have your driver's license and vehicle registration suspended (driving privileges revoked)
- Have to pay license or registration reinstatement fees
- Spend time in jail
- Have your vehicle towed or impounded
- Perform community service
- Pay higher rates to get auto insurance that meets your state's requirements (and file an SR-22 with your state)
If you cause a car accident and do not have auto insurance, you may be responsible for paying the associated medical costs and repair bills — yours and the other driver's — out of your own pocket. For this reason, each state has financial responsibility laws that require drivers to prove they could help cover the costs of a car accident.
Financial responsibility laws
Most states require drivers to have certain types and amounts of car insurance to comply with financial responsibility laws. State laws mandate which coverages drivers must carry on their policies, and the laws specify minimum coverage limits on each type of required coverage. Showing proof of insurance during traffic stops or when you're renewing your vehicle registration is a way for states to help enforce compliance with financial responsibility laws.
Required car insurance coverages
Drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia are required to have bodily injury liability coverage and property damage liability coverage. Other types of coverage that may be required, depending on your state's laws, are:
- Uninsured motorist coverage and/or underinsured motorist coverage
- Personal injury protection
- Medical payments coverage
- Property protection coverage
States with financial responsibility laws that don't require car insurance coverage.
If you live in New Hampshire or Virginia, you're not required by law to have car insurance. However, you may have to comply with financial responsibility laws in other ways.
In Virginia, for example, drivers without car insurance must pay a $500 uninsured motor vehicle fee at the time of registration each year. Uninsured drivers in Virginia are personally responsible for paying medical bills or property repairs after a car accident.
In New Hampshire, uninsured drivers who are found at fault for a car accident are required to get insurance coverage for at least three years after the accident.
What documents should I keep in my car?
According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, you should keep the following documents with you in the car at all times:
- Car registration papers
- Proof of vehicle insurance or electronic proof of insurance
- Driver's license
Do I need more than my state's minimum insurance requirements?
States set minimum car insurance coverage limits to help protect drivers financially in case of costly car accidents. It's a good idea to think of your state's requirements as a starting point. You may want to consider raising your coverage limits for increased protection. You also may be able to add optional coverages to your policy, depending on your situation.