Can you drive without insurance?
In 49 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia, you can't drive without insurance. Unless you live in New Hampshire, you're legally required to have auto insurance for any car registered in your name. And even if you don't own a car but you drive one, you're still required to have insurance or be added to the car owner's policy. In New Hampshire, you're required to demonstrate financial responsibility for any damage or injuries if you're liable in an accident. For this reason, a minimum of liability coverage still makes sense for New Hampshire drivers.
Every state also requires a minimum level of car insurance for insured drivers, and your insurer will make sure you have the minimum required. Unless you're in Florida, which doesn't require bodily injury liability coverage, you must have the following coverages (including if you have car insurance in New Hampshire):
- Bodily injury liability: Covers medical costs of people in the other vehicle when you're at fault in an accident
- Property damage liability: Covers damage to the other car or personal property (such as a fence or mailbox) when you're at fault
Before purchasing insurance, check the specific requirements for your state since medical payments coverage and personal injury protection coverage are also mandatory in some places. These cover your personal medical costs if you're in an accident. Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage may also be required in some states. And remember, the legally required coverages reflect the lowest amount of car insurance required by your state; you might consider coverage above and beyond the minimum according to your vehicle, finances, and driving habits. Estimate the right starting point for you using the car insurance calculator.
Are there consequences of driving without insurance?
If you're legally required to have insurance based on where you live or your past driving history, there can be serious consequences for driving uninsured. Penalties vary by state and can include:
- Suspension of your license
- Having your car impounded
- Requirement to file an SR-22
- Jail time
The degree of the penalty also depends on the severity of the situation and whether you're a repeat offender of driving a car without insurance.
What happens if you get pulled over without insurance?
If you get pulled over without insurance, even if you're a first-time offender, you're likely to get a ticket that carries fines. Fines for driving without insurance can reach as high as $5,000 in some states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, West Virginia, and Hawaii. Many states will also suspend an uninsured driver's license, even if you're a first-time offender. The suspension may end after a specific period, or once you've presented proof of insurance or filed an SR-22 with your state. There's also a chance your car could be towed, and you won't be able to get it back until you've paid a fine and provided proof of insurance.
Many states will suspend your license if you're caught driving uninsured.
Have you previously been caught driving uninsured? If so, there's a good chance getting caught again will lead to a larger fine. You could even risk serving jail time.
What happens if you get in an accident without insurance?
The penalties listed earlier also apply, but to a greater extent, if you're in an accident while driving without auto insurance. You're more likely to receive several penalties, including a fine, having your car impounded, and getting your license suspended until you can provide proof of insurance. That's not all, though. You'll also be liable or partially liable for property damage and injuries caused by the accident, which could cost you hundreds of thousands.
What to do if you're currently driving uninsured
Purchase car insurance
Carry your proof of insurance
Always keep proof of your insurance alongside your registration or with you on your mobile device. Even if you're insured, some states issue penalties to those driving without proof of insurance. If you don't have proof of insurance with you, many states allow a short grace period for providing proof of insurance to the local police department before they issue a ticket.
How to purchase car insurance
Looking for more information about auto insurance? Our car insurance resource center has you covered.