Is it illegal to not have auto insurance?

is it against the law to not have auto insurance? In 48 out of 50 states, it is illegal to not have auto insurance if you’re a car owner. In Virginia and New Hampshire, the two states that don’t mandate car insurance, vehicle owning drivers are still legally required to carry proof of financial responsibility. The penalties for car owners who drive without auto insurance or proof of financial responsibility generally include fines, jail time, and more.

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Feb 8, 2021

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Overview

  • In 48 out of 50 states, it is illegal to not have car insurance if you’re a car owner.
  • In Virginia and New Hampshire, the two states that don’t mandate car insurance, vehicle owning drivers are still legally required to carry proof of financial responsibility.
  • If you drive, but don’t own a car, there is no law requiring you to obtain auto insurance.
  • The penalties for car owners who drive without auto insurance or proof of financial responsibility generally include fines, suspension of driving privileges, SR-22 filings, a criminal misdemeanor conviction, and even jail time for multiple violations.

Iis it illegal to not have auto insurance? It can be confusing. To be clear, all U.S. states have financial responsibility laws for car owners. But do all financial responsibility laws actually require car insurance?

Well, 48 states mandate general liability car insurance as the method for satisfying those financial responsibility laws.

The two states that don’t require auto insurance — namely New Hampshire and Virginia — still require drivers to prove sufficient assets and accept liability for accidents to satisfy their financial responsibility laws.

Regardless of where you live and drive, motorists caught without car insurance or proof of financial responsibility will get ticketed and fined. Multiple offenses can even lead to driving suspensions and even jail.

While it is not always illegal to not have car insurance, no matter where you live, car owners cannot legally drive without some form of proof of financial responsibility for car accident damages.

To avoid the legal and economic consequences of violating financial responsibility laws, find the auto coverage you need at rates you can afford.

Make sure you’re legally covered. Enter your ZIP code into our free tool to get started comparing auto insurance quotes. Which auto insurance company is for you? Find out now.

Not yet ready to buy auto insurance ? Read on to learn more.

Is it Illegal to drive without auto insurance?

Is it illegal to drive without car insurance? The answer depends on where you live and whether or not you’re a motorist who owns a car. Auto insurance and financial responsibility laws differ by state.

Most apply to car owners, but some also apply to car drivers, so it’s important to check your state law for specific requirements.

Car-Owning Drivers

If you’re a car owner, the answer is “yes” it’s illegal to drive without car insurance in all but two U.S. states. The Insurance Information Institute (III) advises that all states have financial responsibility laws for vehicle owners.

State auto insurance requirements and financial responsibility laws are implemented and enforced because there is a compelling interest to protect the public against uninsured drivers.

According to the III, a study conducted by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found that roughly one in every eight motorists is uninsured.

Vehicle accidents can range from minor fender benders to catastrophic crashes with hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages, or even millions of dollars if the accident results in the loss of life.

Financial responsibility laws are designed to protect both at-fault drivers and car crash victims from the financial ruin that can result from vehicular accidents.

Although not every state makes auto insurance mandatory, having minimum liability insurance for your car is the easiest way to meet financial responsibility laws and will protect you the most from financial liability.

Non-Car-Owning Drivers

Many people drive but don’t own a car. Some motorists drive rental cars or borrow a car from friends or family.

Given those kinds of circumstances, is it illegal to drive without auto insurance if you don’t own a car? Can you drive without insurance if the car is insured?

If you drive, but don’t own a car, there is no law requiring you to obtain auto insurance. Nevertheless, it is always the best precautionary measure to have auto insurance even if you don’t own a car.

Car insurance for non-car-owning drivers is really the only way to avoid personal liability for car accidents.

If your parent or spouse owns the car you drive, then rather than purchase non-owner car insurance, you most likely can be added onto their insurance and listed as an authorized driver. But if you’re not related to the policyholder, investing in insurance for non-owners is a wise idea.

Also, if you’re between cars and/or planning to buy a car in the near future, it’s a good idea to look into paying for non-owner car insurance in the interim time period. After you get your new vehicle, you can notify your insurance provider that you’re ready to convert to a policy for car owners.

Non-owner car insurance policies typically are much less expensive than an owner policy because non-car owners typically drive less than car owners.

Car insurance rates depend on a variety of risk factors, like age, driving history, and type of car, but it’s safe to expect that non-owner car insurance will be at least 10 percent, and sometimes up to 50 percent, less than standard car insurance.

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Which states do not require auto insurance?

The list of states that don’t require car insurance is short. There are just two states that don’t require car insurance: New Hampshire and Virginia.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire motor vehicle laws don’t require auto insurance in all cases, but they strongly encourage it. The alternative to car insurance in New Hampshire is a protracted and complicated process.

New Hampshire’s financial responsibility laws work like this: If a driver doesn’t have car insurance and gets into an accident, their license, registration plates, and registration certificate will be suspended until the driver or owner or both (1) furnish sufficient security to satisfy any judgments for damages resulting from such accident and (2) give and thereafter maintain proof of financial responsibility in the future.

Keep in mind that some drivers will be required to obtain insurance based on their driving record. In such cases, New Hampshire’s Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will require drivers not only to have insurance but to maintain an SR-22 filing with the state for several years.

Drivers who can’t or don’t cover damages can expect to have their licenses and registrations suspended. Also, if the damages exceed those statutory limits, they can be sued and are exposed to personal liability for the remaining damages.

Virginia

According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), to purchase vehicle license plates or decals, residents must certify that the vehicle is covered by the minimum insurance requirements or pay an “Uninsured Motor Vehicle” (UMV) fee.

The $500 UMV fee is paid directly to the DMV and it expires each year with your registration and must be paid at renewal. Virginia’s UMV fee only allows Virginians to drive an uninsured vehicle at their own risk.

The UMV fee does not provide accident coverage of any kind and the driver who caused the accident is still liable.

Virginia imposes severe penalties for not complying with its financial responsibility requirements, including deactivating your license plates.

To be reinstated, they must pay a $600 noncompliance fee, file a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) with DMV for three years, and pay a reinstatement fee.

It should be noted that Virginia’s automobile insurance requirements also apply to antique motor vehicles and collectible cars.

Sufficient Insurance: State Laws
StateStatute
AlabamaLiability insurance required
(AL Code section 32-7A-4)
AlaskaMotor vehicle liability insurance required; exemptions
(AK Statutes section 28.22.011)
ArizonaVehicle Insurance and Financial Responsibility
(ARS Title 28; scroll to Chapter 9)
ArkansasProof to be furnished for each vehicle
(AR Code section 27-19-711)
CaliforniaFinancial Responsibility Laws
(California Vehicle Code, Division 7)
ColoradoMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law
(CRS Title 42, Article 7)
ConnecticutProof of financial responsibility
(GSC section 14-112)
DelawareMotor vehicle liability policy
(DE Code Title 21, section 2902)
District of ColumbiaFinancial responsibility; proof required for each registered vehicle
(DC Code section 50-1301.52)
FloridaFinancial Responsibility
(FS Chapter 324)
GeorgiaMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(Georgia Code Title 40, Ch. 9)
HawaiiMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(HRS Chapter 287)
IdahoRequired motor vehicle insurance
(ID Statutes section 49-1229)
IllinoisMandatory Insurance
(625 ILCS 5/7-601 to 5/7-610)
IndianaFinancial Responsibility
(Indiana Code Title 9, Article 25)
IowaProof of security against liability
(IA Code section 321.20B)
KansasLiability insurance requirements
(KS Statutes section 66-1314)
KentuckyFinancial Responsibility Law
(KRS Chapter 187)
LouisianaSecurity required
(LRS section 32:861)
MaineFinancial responsibility and insurance
(MRS Title 29-A, Ch. 13)
MarylandRequired Security
(MD Transportation Code Title 17)
MassachusettsOperating motor vehicle without liability policy, bond or security deposit
(90 MGL section 34J)
MichiganProducing evidence of motor vehicle insurance
(MI Vehicle Code section 257.328)
MinnesotaCriminal penalty for failure to produce proof of insurance
(MN Statutes section 169.791)
MississippiMotor vehicle safety--Responsibility
(MS Code Title 63, Ch. 15)
MissouriMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Law
(MRS Chapter 303)
MontanaMotor Vehicle Insurance Responsibility and Verification
(MCA Title 61, Ch. 6, Part 1)
NebraskaProof of financial responsibility required
(R.R.S. Nebr. section 60-387)
NevadaInsurance required
(NRS section 485.185)
New HampshireAmount of proof of financial responsibility
(NH Statutes section 264:20)
Methods of giving proof of financial responsibility
(NH Statutes section 264:21)
New JerseyMaintenance of motor vehicle liability insurance coverage
(NJ Statutes section 39:6B-1)
New MexicoVehicle must be insured or owner must have evidence of financial responsibility; penalties
(NMS section 66-5-205)
New YorkFinancial security; registration
(NY Vehicle & Traffic Code section 312)
North CarolinaMotor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act
(NCGS Ch. 20, Article 9A)
North DakotaProof of Financial Responsibility for the Future
[PDF] (ND Code Chapter 39-16.1)
Driving without liability insurance prohibited
[PDF] (ND Code Chapter 39-08; scroll to section 39-08-20)
OhioFinancial Responsibility
(ORC Chapter 4509)
OklahomaProof of financial responsibility
(OK Statutes section 47-7-201)
OregonFinancial Responsibility Law
(OR Vehicle Code Chapter 806)
PennsylvaniaFinancial Responsibility: Proof of Financial Responsibility
(PA Vehicle Code Chapter 17; scroll to Subchapter H)
Rhode IslandProof of Financial Responsibility for the Future
(RI Code Chapter 31-32)
South CarolinaMotor Vehicle Financial Responsibility Act
(SC Code Title 56, Ch. 9)
South DakotaMaintenance of financial responsibility--Violation as misdemeanor
(SD Codified Laws section 32-35-113)
TennesseeFinancial Responsibility
(TN Code Title 55, Ch. 12)
TexasMotor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act
(TX Transportation Code Chapter 601)
UtahOperating motor vehicle without owner's or operator's security -- Penalty
(UT Code section 41-12a-302)
VermontMaintenance of financial responsibility
(23 VSA section 800)
VirginiaProof of insurance required
(VA Code section 46.2-706)
WashingtonLiability insurance or other financial responsibility required
(RCW section 46.30.020)
West VirginiaRequired security; exceptions
(WV Code section 17D-2A-3)
WisconsinVehicles--Financial Responsibility
(WI Code Chapter 344)
WyomingProof of financial responsibility
(WY Statutes Title 31, Ch. 9, Article 4)
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Now we will cover the options drivers in some states have of opting out of auto insurance.

Can drivers post a bond to opt out of having auto insurance?

Some states will accept proof of a surety bond as proof of meeting the state’s minimum financial responsibility requirements. A surety bond is a guarantee that you can assume responsibility.

States that offer this option usually require purchasing a bond for a set amount of money that will be used in case of an accident. The bond is linked to the driver, not a vehicle, so a bond buyer will be covered in any vehicle they drive.

In the event of an accident, the surety bond is used to cover damages up to the limit of the bond. The driver is required to replenish the bond in the amount that was paid out, plus interest.

If your state allows you to opt out of auto insurance, you’ll need to carry proof of financial responsibility just like other drivers carry their insurance card. If you’re pulled over for a traffic violation or are involved in an accident, you’ll need to show law enforcement your bond.

What happens if you don’t have insurance in your car?

There are serious consequences if you get caught driving without insurance. If you can’t show proof of car insurance (or financial responsibility), then at a minimum you can expect a ticket and a fine, and a requirement that you comply with your state’s financial responsibility laws within a specified period of time.

If you fail to comply, or if you’ve been caught driving without insurance before, then it is very likely that your driver’s license and registration will be suspended. Getting them reinstated will require you to pay additional reinstatement fees and obtain proof of insurance or financial responsibility.

Depending on the circumstances, you could be ordered to file an SR-22 form for a specified period of time. An SR-22 is a document from an insurance provider that is filed directly with the state DMV certifying that you have the required insurance coverage.

If you’re required to make an SR-22 filing, you will be considered a high-risk driver. SR-22 filings can be required for three or more years.

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Can you go to jail if you don’t have insurance on your car?

If you’re caught driving with no insurance, there could be criminal consequences. Several states consider driving without auto insurance a criminal misdemeanor. If found guilty, you’ll have a criminal conviction on your driving record.

While probation is a common sentence for a conviction of driving with no car insurance, depending on the state and the circumstances, a sentence with jail time could be imposed.

Get Help

Now you know it is illegal to not have auto insurance in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia. If you go without car insurance in New Hampshire and Virginia, you’ll be personally liable for car accidents that were your fault.

The bottom line is that no matter where you live, you have to comply with your state’s financial responsibility laws, and the penalties for non-compliance are serious. The easiest and most efficient way to comply is by getting a general liability car insurance policy.

Having basic car insurance will give you peace of mind that you can provide proof of compliance if you need to and will have financial protection for accidents when you need it.

To get affordable auto insurance rates, put your ZIP code into our insurance search tool to talk with an insurance agent who can help with your car insurance needs and make sure you’re in compliance with your state’s insurance laws.

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