Penalties for driving without insurance

The penalties for driving without insurance can be intense. In some states, you risk losing your vehicle or even your job, and you'll have to pay restoration fees to reinstate both your vehicle registration and driver license.

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Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP®

UPDATED: Jan 22, 2021

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Here's what you need to know...

  • The dangers of driving without auto insurance are real
  • There are some states where you would be more at risk for losing your vehicle, and subsequently your job, than in other states
  • You will have to pay restoration fees to reinstate your vehicle registration and you will have to reinstate your driver’s license

What happens if you get pulled over without insurance? The dangers of driving without auto insurance are real. You can not only lose your driver’s license or your license plates, but you can also lose your job if your occupation is tied to your ability to drive to work. You then risk even more fines and penalties for driving without a license.

Insurance will also protect you if you’re involved in an at-fault car accident. Without insurance, you’d be on the hook for medical payments for any injuries to yourself, your passengers, and possibly the people in the other vehicle.

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Can I lose my job if I drive uninsured?

The answer is that, indirectly, you can. It just depends on whether you need your vehicle to drive to work. The penalties also vary from state to state.

There are some states where you would be more at risk for losing your vehicle, and subsequently your job, than in other states.

For example, in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Alaska, and Delaware, you’re looking at both fines and the suspension of your license for anywhere from one to three months.

Delaware is the Soviet gulag for driving uninsured in that you’re looking at mandatory fines of $1500 to $2000, as well as a suspension of your license for six months. Those are the mandatory minimums.

Don’t drive uninsured in Delaware.

On the other hand, there are many states that don’t have mandatory suspensions for first offenses and you would just be hit with a fine. Tennessee, Idaho, and Texas will greet you with fines ranging from $75 to $350.

If you’re uninsured in those states and you’re a relatively safe driver, you might decide that it’s worth it to risk driving uninsured for small amounts of time, like between paychecks. We wouldn’t recommend it.

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Can I lose my license if I drive uninsured?

The definite answer is “yes.” Each state has different penalties, however. You can check your state’s car insurance requirements and penalties. The penalties are very real.

Here are the penalties in Pennsylvania if you foolishly decide to drive without car insurance coverage:

If you decide to drive without car insurance, then the state of Pennsylvania will reward you with at least a $300 fine and you could lose your driver’s license for 90 days, which could be a very tense three months. Oh, and to top it off, you could lose your car registration for 90 days as well.

Your vehicle also can’t be driven by anyone else while your registration is suspended so forget asking the significant other to drive you to work.

Additionally, you will have to pay restoration fees to reinstate your vehicle registration and you will have to reinstate your driver’s license.

To add insult to injury, you may also face vehicle impoundment.

Scared yet? It actually gets worse in Pennsylvania. Here’s a terrifying scenario, based on personal experience. Your car is broken for two months and you can’t move it. You let the car insurance lapse. You then repair the car and get a new insurance policy for it.

Are you in violation of Pennsylvania auto insurance law? Yes, you are!

A police officer can check your plates and if your insurance lapses for more than 31 days, you can also lose your car registration for three months.

You’re not even allowed to prove that you didn’t drive the car.

Well, what if I drive uninsured in another state?

You might say “Well, I’ll avoid Pennsylvania, move to Ohio, and just drive recklessly and uninsured in Ohio.” That’s not a good idea, as the penalties are even worse.

The state of Ohio can take away your driving rights for at least three months and up to 24 months. Both your vehicle registration and plates could be voided as well, although no specific time frame is given, so it seems discretionary.

A third strike means big penalties of losing both your vehicle and a five-year suspension of your registration. It’s not clear if there’s any wiggle room in those penalties or if you have to pay a good lawyer to find a loophole or two.

If you are found guilty of a financial responsibility suspension, then you will have to prove to the state of Ohio that you are maintaining proof of insurance coverage for at least three years, and possibly up to five years. This would start from the date that your driving privileges were suspended.

There is one key difference with Pennsylvania in that Ohio does allow you limited driving privileges with your first or second offense. This would mean that you might not lose your job and could at least drive to work and buy food for yourself. Thank goodness for small favors.

Bottom line: If you can afford car insurance, then you should probably purchase it.

In fact, in most of the coastline or high-population states, driving uninsured is just a terrible idea, and the penalties are severe.

There are some states where you may want to take a chance, but those states, usually low-population southern or western states, usually have lower auto insurance rates as well.

You’re just better off being covered. After all, if you’re in an accident and you’re uninsured, you get nothing for your car if it’s totaled. You’ll get a fine, and if you or somebody else gets hurt, you could be looking at astronomical medical bills or liability costs.

Avoid fines and license suspension by looking for the most affordable car insurance quotes now by typing your ZIP code into the box!

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