Can my car be impounded for no insurance?

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Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 3, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Being uninsured is more than just a risk to other drivers; it is also a risk to the person is behind the wheel of the uninsured car
  • When a vehicle owner decides to stop paying for premiums and start driving uninsured, he faces several penalties if caught
  • If pulled over by law enforcement, there is a good chance that the vehicle code in the state will order that uninsured vehicles be towed and impounded for a minimal amount of time
  • Owners can also face monetary fines when they are stopped by an officer

Uninsured drivers have become a major problem all throughout the nation. This is the primary reason why more than 20 states have mandated that all drivers must carry protection against uninsured motorists.

The uninsured motorist protection will provide drivers who are struck by people with no insurance with payment for their medical bills and possibility for their car repairs.

Read this guide to the fines and consequences for driving without insurance so that you know what you are risking.

Start comparing car insurance rates now by using our FREE tool above!

The Penalties for Driving Without Insurance when Stopped by an Officer

A police officer standing by traffic

When you are pulled over by law enforcement in any state, you have an obligation to cooperate with the officer. Law enforcement officers will almost always make the routine request for documents: “License, insurance, and registration please.”

It is your duty to have all of the proper documents in your vehicle and to retrieve them after you are asked.

If you do not have your proof of insurance, the officer can take one or several actions even when your insurance is active.

Here are some of the possibilities that could happen when you have no insurance and are stopped while operating your vehicle:

You Will Be Cited and Ordered to Go to Court

You are generally pulled over for a moving infraction before an officer will learn that you are violating other laws. If the moving infraction was minor, the officer might decide to issue you a ticket for the violation and for failure to provide proof of insurance.

Since you have been cited as being uninsured, you will be required to appear in court and cannot simply mail in the money for the fine.

When you appear in court, the judge will ask if you had insurance at the time of the citation. You will also be asked for a letter from your agent to show that you do not have a forged document or expired card.

For those who cannot provide the proof and who do not have a valid affirmative defense, a fine will be given. Since many states are making driving uninsured a criminal misdemeanor, it can affect your record.

If you show that you are proactive and you get liability insurance quickly, you may find that the judge will reduce or dismiss the charges entirely.

Even if you buy insurance immediately after you are cited, you must appear in court on the date ordered to prevent a bench warrant from being issued. If convicted more than once, it is possible that the judge will order you to pay the highest fine.

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Your Vehicle Could Be Impounded

Being cited is bad, but being cited and then having your vehicle impounded is even worse.

Many states are buckling down on uninsured motorists.

In states where the consequences for driving without coverage are hefty, it is possible that one infraction for driving without insurance can lead to the following penalties:

  • Fines
  • Towing fees
  • Storage fees
  • Police ordered impound fees

When your vehicle is impounded for driving without insurance, you must deal with a towing yard to get your vehicle released in addition to appearing in court.

Dealing with an impound yard is never fun. You need documents in the car, proof that you have insurance, and there seems to always be a hiccup even when you have the hundreds of dollars that is required.

Some states may even require the car to be impounded for no less than 30 days before you can pick it up. This translates into a bill that is over $1000.

You Could Be Arrested

policeman arresting DUI suspect

Driving without insurance is a misdemeanor in most states, and in some states, getting charged with a misdemeanor is still grounds to get arrested.

While being forced to find a way home after your car is seized might seem like the worst thing possible, getting arrested is the worst case scenario.

When arrested, you will be booked for driving without insurance and given bail. Some people who are booked must wait to see a judge before they can be released.

Not only do you face a fine, you face up to six months in jail if you are convicted. This is not common on a first offense, but if you caused an accident or you were driving under the influence, it can happen.

It is important that you know the laws in your state so that you know what consequences you are facing.

The Penalties for Driving Without Insurance and Not Being Pulled Over

In most states, you now can get caught driving uninsured even without being pulled over. These states have a program called electronic verification with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

These electronic verification programs require that insurers report any cancellations or expiration with the department immediately.

By doing this, any car that is registered in the state that does not have insurance will be identified.

The owner will receive a letter in the mail requesting proof of coverage. If you do not respond, your registration is suspended, and you cannot legally drive your vehicle.

If you do choose to drive, the chances you will be pulled over for inactive plates are very high. You will then have to pay for reinstatement, fines, and other fees as well.

It is not worth it to drive without insurance. Not only can you lose your vehicle to a police agency, you can also lose your license.

If you want to find affordable coverage, start comparing auto insurance rates now by using our FREE tool below!

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