What happens if you have no insurance on your car? If you’re caught driving without proof of insurance, you could face stiff penalties, varying by state. Potential consequences of driving without insurance include a costly ticket, license suspension, a lack of financial protection in the event of an accident, and even denial of coverage if you’re involved in a wreck and deemed not-at-fault. Let’s break down what happens if you are pulled over with no insurance.
Driving without insurance is illegal in most states. You could face penalties such as fines, loss of your driver’s license and car registration, and even jail time, depending on the state.
Almost every state requires drivers to prove they can take financial responsibility if they cause a crash. That often means buying car insurance, although some states allow a bond or cash deposit. Alaska and New Hampshire are special cases. Alaska doesn’t require insurance in places where registering your car is optional; people in other parts of the state do need coverage. New Hampshire doesn’t mandate auto insurance for residents with clean driving records and only requires proof of financial responsibility after a crash. You should keep proof of insurance, such as the policy ID card, in your vehicle. Some states allow you to show proof of insurance on your smartphone. If you cause an accident but have no proof of insurance, it’s less serious than being uninsured. You may get a citation but could potentially get it dismissed by showing proof of insurance in court.
Often, California is seen as a leader when it comes to new and severe penalties for any number of criminal or civil violations. Not so in the area of uninsured drivers, however. Compared to the nation as a whole, California’s penalties are rather tame. But that does not mean that you won’t feel the sting. In addition to a traditional insurance policy, California drivers have the option of obtaining a self-insurance certificate from the DMV, which usually requires providing evidence of a $35,000 cash deposit. Drivers (residents and those from out of state merely driving through California) that are caught operating a vehicle without valid insurance or a self-insurance certificate will be fined anywhere from $100 to $200 for a first offense and between $200 and $500 for a second offense. While $100 may not sound like much, with additional penalties and fees, that $100 penalty may end up costing you closer to $450. Additionally, your vehicle may be impounded and towed away, in which case you will not be able to get it back until you obtain insurance and pay all towing and storage fees. And as we all know, those vehicle storage fees can be substantial.