What is the Penalty for Driving Without Insurance?

Lily Ruha

The penalty for driving without insurance includes driver’s license suspension, fines, potential vehicle towing, and in extreme cases, jail time. In some cases, a judge may require the uninsured driver to provide proof of car insurance for several years after the initial offense. Not doing so can result in continued suspension of driving privileges. The penalty for driving without insurance is strict in many localities to encourage all drivers to obtain car insurance. Without liability insurance, the financial burden falls on responsible drivers who must rely on their own insurance to cover all accident-related costs.

Driving without insurance comes with risks.
Driving without insurance comes with risks.

Suspension of driving privileges is a common penalty for driving without insurance. Lack of insurance may be discovered by a police officer when a driver is stopped for a moving violation. The driver then receives a traffic ticket and, in some cases, a request to appear in court before a judge on a specific date. Failure to appear in court can result in an automatic conviction. Upon appearance in court, the judge issues a decision about the length of the suspension, generally based on local or state regulations.

Jail time is one possible consequence of driving without insurance.
Jail time is one possible consequence of driving without insurance.

A penalty for driving without insurance typically includes a significant fine. The fine is payable by a specific date and may be contested in certain localities, particularly if the uninsured has a good driving record. Heavy fines are generally intended to impress upon drivers the importance of obtaining insurance. If the driver does have liability insurance and simply needs to appear in court to provide proof, the fine may be lowered or waived altogether.

When a driver’s uninsured status is discovered as a result of an accident, the penalty for driving without insurance may include vehicle towing and associated fees. Even in the case of a functional vehicle, a police officer may order vehicle towing immediately after an accident to protect other drivers from potential harm caused by an uninsured driver. Vehicle retrieval following towing generally results in additional fees for uninsured drivers.

The strictest and rarest penalty for driving without insurance is jail time. This is generally only applicable to drivers who have been repeatedly convicted of driving without liability insurance. The amount of jail time varies by both an individual’s driving history and by region. In such a case, the uninsured driver would appear in court with an attorney. Jail time is intended to protect society from the unfair financial burden of covering car accident costs caused by uninsured drivers.

Suspension of driving privileges is a common penalty for driving without insurance.
Suspension of driving privileges is a common penalty for driving without insurance.

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Discussion Comments


@Pippinwhite -- Amen! My friend had a wreck with an uninsured driver and her car was totaled. Fortunately, she had coverage, but she called me to come pick her up. The at-fault driver was whining to the police that he couldn't afford even the minimum liability coverage. He had also tried to get her not to involve the police because it was in a parking lot, not on a public street. He said he would pay for all the damage. Yeah, right.

That guy didn't have any more business driving than my cat does! Actually, my cat would probably be better at it.

If I see a real beater on the road, I do my best to give it a wide berth -- just in case.


People who drive without insurance should have their vehicles seized until such time as they can provide proof of insurance for at least six months in the future. And they should be required to keep providing proof for at least five years, or have the car seized again.

People can have bad luck and not be able to afford insurance, I realize, but it seems the ones who don't have insurance are the ones who are uninsurable, or who have had so many DUIs or accidents, their insurance is sky-high, so they can't afford it.

This creates a hazard for every other driver on the road. A law should be enacted that requires any person or company that sells a car to get proof of insurance before handing over the title. Period. When I bought my car, my finance company required proof of insurance on my then-current vehicle before they would even look at my loan.

There's no telling how much damage uninsured drivers cause every year in the U.S. It's not fair that I have to add uninsured motorist coverage to my policy because of someone else's irresponsibility.

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