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June 24, 2019

What happens if you don’t have car insurance?

If you’re driving a car without insurance or considering driving uninsured to save money, please keep reading. 

The consequences of driving without insurance outweigh any financial savings. When you have a lapse in coverage—meaning, you don’t have insurance for a period of time—you’ll be penalized by paying more for insurance later, no matter your insurance provider. 

It’s better to keep your coverage—even the state minimum—than to not have coverage at all.

Is it illegal to drive without insurance?

In most states, it’s illegal to drive without car insurance—and if you’re pulled over, you're legally required to show proof of insurance.

Some states allow surety bonds or cash deposits to the DMV/BMV as proof of financial responsibility, rather than buying typical car insurance. However, these bonds and deposits are costly—typically more than $10,000. In Ohio, drivers need $30,000 to fulfill this type of financial responsibility.¹ In Arizona, it’s $40,000.²

The only state that doesn’t require any type of car insurance is New Hampshire—as long as you don’t cause an accident. If you cause an accident, you’re legally required to carry insurance for a minimum of three years.³

What happens if you get pulled over without insurance?

In most states, you can get a fine for driving without insurance. If you cause or are involved in an accident, or you are pulled over by the police, you’re required to show proof of insurance or financial responsibility. 

The minimum ticket for no insurance in Georgia is $25. If you’re in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, or West Virginia, the maximum fine for driving without insurance is a whopping $5,000. If you’re found driving without insurance in California, you could pay anywhere from $100 to $250 (plus penalty assessments) for your first offense.

Other possible penalties for driving without insurance:

  • Getting your license suspended

  • Having your vehicle impounded

  • An SR-22 for a minimum of three years

In Michigan, you could also face up to one year in prison for driving without insurance.

What coverages are required?

If you’re in a state that requires proof of insurance, you need Liability coverage as part of your insurance policy. Liability coverage is used when you cause or are at fault in an accident. If other people are injured or their property is damaged in the accident, Liability covers the damages and their medical bills. 

You’ll be given a few different options for how much liability coverage you can choose. These are called limits. When you choose one, you're choosing the maximum amount of Liability your insurer will pay in an accident. 

Higher limits mean your insurer pays out more, so you have a higher insurance premium (how much you pay to have insurance). Lower limits mean your insurer pays out a lower amount after a covered accident, but you'll have a lower insurance rate. 

But remember: If you cause an accident and the costs go beyond your Liability limits, you’re responsible for paying the rest. For example, if your limit is $50,000 and the cost of an accident is $75,000, you’ll be responsible for paying the extra $25,000. The higher limit you choose, the less likely you'll have to pay anything out of pocket.

The Root app makes it easy to get the minimum requirements for your state. Our app walks you through what coverage you’re required to have, and let’s you see how different coverages will impact your rate. 

Check out all of our coverage options to better understand what they cover and when you might want to add them—for instance, to cover damages to your car or your own medical expenses. 

Root bases your rate primarily on how you drive, not who you are, so you could save hundreds on your car insurance annually. 


  1. Ohio's Minimum Coverage Requirements for Auto Insurance

  2. ADOT Driver Services

  3. New Hampshire Department of Safety Division of Motor Vehicles

  4. State of Georgia Department of Revenue

  5. The Zebra: What are the Consequences of Driving Without Insurance?

  6. ValuePenguin: What Happens if You are Caught Driving Without Car Insurance?

  7. Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services

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