Whether the time has come to renew your auto insurance or you’re considering ways to decrease the number of bills you have, you might have thought about whether car insurance was a “must have.”

Legally speaking, you cannot drive in any state in the U.S. without showing financial responsibility for damages or liability in case of accident. Other than New Hampshire and Virginia (which have special requirements), every state requires auto insurance as the proof of that financial responsibility.

Still curious about why this is the case or what could happen if you choose to drive uninsured? Read on and you’ll learn:

  • Do you need auto insurance to drive?
  • Why do you need auto insurance to drive?
  • What happens if you drive without auto insurance?
  • Other uninsured concerns

DO YOU NEED AUTO INSURANCE TO DRIVE?

Every state requires some sort of financial responsibility in case of an accident.

The two exceptions? New Hampshire allows vehicle owners the option to post cash bonds in the event of an accident, while Virginia allows uninsured drivers to pay an uninsured driver fee to the state.

In the remaining 48 states and the District of Columbia, auto insurance is required by law. These states also require mandatory minimums for coverage.

Check with your local DMV or insurance company to determine your state’s mandatory minimum coverage.

WHY DO YOU NEED AUTO INSURANCE TO DRIVE?

There are plenty of good reasons to have reliable auto insurance. For starters, if you want to finance when you purchase a new vehicle, you’ll need to have coverage as required by your lender to protect the asset (your new car).

Additionally, you’ll want to protect your own financial wellbeing should you be involved in an accident that causes any bodily injury or damages — to yourself and/or others involved.

WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DRIVE WITHOUT AUTO INSURANCE?

While we highly recommend adhering to your state’s laws or regulations regarding auto insurance, as there can be serious repercussions otherwise; you might be curious as to what will happen should you drive without car insurance.

In general, the danger of driving uninsured depends on a number of factors: what state you’re in, whether this is a first, second, third (or more) offense, and whether you were pulled over or in an accident. Each situation is unique depending on your driver history and circumstances.

If You Get Pulled Over

If you’re pulled over in a traffic stop and the officer discovers you’re uninsured, what happens next is up to the officer’s discretion and the laws of your state.

If this is your first offense, you might simply be responsible for paying a fine (up to $500 in some states). In other situations, your license and registration might be suspended as well.

In some states, the officer has the right to impound your vehicle; where you’d be responsible for any towing and other fees. And more likely if this is your second (or more) offense, many states even reserve the right to jail you for lack of car insurance.

What’s more: once you’ve been cited for driving uninsured, your car insurance rates will drastically increase as an at-risk driver.

If You Get in an Accident

Conversely, if it’s discovered you’re uninsured and you’ve been in an accident, the consequences will be far more severe.

You’ll undoubtedly be served fines and penalties, along with likely having your license suspended and vehicle impounded. It’s also likely you’ll be required to file an SR-22 insurance form; you’ll automatically become labeled an at-risk driver by insurance carriers. It’s also likely that you’ll receive jail time, especially if you’re a repeat offender or caused a serious accident.

  • If you’re at fault: Financially speaking, if you are at fault and any injuries or property damage occurred as a result of the accident, you could be liable and entirely responsible for any costs.

    What’s more: you could be sued by the other driver’s insurance company to ensure coverage for those costs, as well as face massive legal penalties. Personal and property damages from an auto accident could add up to a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands.
  • If you’re not at fault: Depending on your state, your compensation from an accident could be limited or null. In no-fault states, you’re completely responsible for your own bodily injury and property damage claims; and without an insurance company, you’ll be responsible for the bills yourself.

OTHER UNINSURED CONCERNS

There are a few other questions you might have related to driving uninsured.

Is driving without auto insurance a felony?

In most states, driving without car insurance is classified as a misdemeanor. As you’ve seen, your driving history and citation history — along with accident severity (if applicable) — will affect whether you are charged.

Do you need to be pulled over to face uninsured driver consequences?

Currently, over 22 states can electronically monitor whether vehicles are insured. Therefore, you don’t necessarily need to be pulled over in order to face the repercussions from above.

Do you need car insurance to drive someone else’s car?

If you’re considering driving another person’s car (with their permission), it’s more important that the vehicle has insurance, not you. In essence, insurance is attached to the car, not the person. When you borrow a car, you’re also borrowing the insurance under “permissive use.”

However, if you borrow a vehicle regularly, it’s important to consider non-owner vehicle insurance or adding yourself to the policy, as this can offer you better overall protection in the long run.


Now that you’ve seen why car insurance is so important as a safe driver — and the potential consequences for driving uninsured — it’s critical to find the right coverage and stay insured.

If you need help finding the best car insurance coverage for the best price, start by speaking to a SimplyIOA agent at 833.872.4467 or get an auto insurance quote online now.