Driving Without Insurance in California

Driving without car insurance in California will earn you a one year vehicle registration suspension. You will be fined up to $500 for driving without car insurance in California.

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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: Jun 4, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • In California, the minimum requirements for car insurance are bodily injury, liability and property damage
  • You need insurance not only to drive a vehicle but also to park it on a public road
  • If your insurance were to lapse, and cannot provide proof of insurance within 45 days, you will receive a one-year suspension of their registration

When it comes to the mandatory requirement of car insurance, the state of California is no different than any other state in the union.

All drivers must provide some proof of insurance whether through a car insurance company, a surety bond, or proof of self-insurance. So, what happens if you have no car insurance in California? The short answer is that you get yourself into trouble.

Before discussing the individual requirements of the state of California, it’s important to know what minimum car insurance covers. All states, in one form or another, require drivers to cover accidents in three categories: bodily injury, liability, and property damage.

Extra coverage may be required in some states under some circumstances. One example is collision coverage, which is sometimes mandated for cars that have been purchased through bank financing.

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Requirements for Car Insurance in California

In California, the minimum requirements for car insurance are as follows: $15,000 for bodily injury, $30,000 for liability, and $5,000 for property damage.

Low-income drivers who qualify for California’s Automobile Assigned Risk Plan have lower limits of $10,000, $20,000, and $3,000. Unlike some states, California does not require drivers to purchase additional coverage for uninsured or underinsured drivers who may also be involved in your accident.

If you register a brand-new car in California for the first time, you will be unable to obtain registration without proper proof of insurance.

Drivers who re-register, or who bring cars in from other states to be registered, must provide proof of insurance within 30 days of the vehicle’s registration.

Furthermore, if a driver allows his insurance policy to lapse, he has only 45 days from the date of the lapse to provide proof of a new or reinstated policy.

All car insurance companies providing auto coverage for California drivers must report to the state Department of Motor Vehicles all new policies and any subsequent changes to it. If you allow your insurance to lapse in California, your insurance company will notify the state.

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Penalties for Having No Insurance in California

If you have no car insurance in California, whether you let it lapse or never purchased it, to begin with, the state provides for punitive consequences designed to encourage you to fix the problem.

Understand that in California, you need insurance not only to drive a vehicle but also to park it on any public road. In other words, you may not even park an uninsured vehicle on the street in front of your home under any circumstances.

Drivers who allow their insurance to lapse, and cannot provide proof of new insurance within 45 days, automatically receive a one-year suspension of their registration.

During the suspension period, the car cannot legally be operated or parked on any public roads in the state. To reinstate the vehicle registration, the driver must provide proof of insurance, in any of the three forms allowed by law, as well as a reinstatement fee.

The proof of insurance and fee are submitted to the state Vehicle Registration Financial Responsibility Program.

Drivers who are caught behind the wheel of an uninsured vehicle face potentially stiffer penalties, especially if the vehicle is unregistered or has had its registration suspended. The driver could face severe fines as well as the suspension of his license.

In addition, a driver involved in an accident with an uninsured vehicle will also face license suspension for a year. In both cases, proof of insurance is required in order to reinstate the license.

The Additional Cost of Not Having Car Insurance in California

Beyond the possible suspension of registration and driver’s license, there is an additional cost to not having car insurance in California. That cost is reflected when you do finally attempt to get your vehicle properly insured.

Your DMV records will be available to any insurance company you attempt to get a policy through. Those records will indicate your reluctance to procure the legally required insurance before your suspensions, which will mark you as a high-risk driver and cause higher insurance premiums.

Having car insurance in California is a legal requirement. It makes no sense, financially or otherwise, to try to escape the state laws. Purchasing car insurance is in the best interest of all drivers regardless of whether or not each one of us personally agrees with it.

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