If you’re a motorist, car insurance is just one of those facts of life — there’s not much getting around it. Not only is having auto insurance a requirement almost everywhere in the US, but it’s also crucial to your financial and personal safety — an accident requiring medical attention could put you in a devastating financial position.
Despite the legal requirements and good sense of having auto insurance, the numbers of uninsured drivers are sobering. After dropping for several years after 2010,the number of uninsured motorists on the road is again rising, coming to an average of 12.6% in 2019. The numbers in some states are even worse — in Mississippi, the number is closer to 29%, and in Florida, it’s over 20%.
Whatever one’s reasons might be for driving without insurance — financial troubles, carelessness, or even ignorance of the law — the risks are significant to both the uninsured driver and others who may be on the road with them.
Is Auto Insurance Mandatory Everywhere?
Interestingly enough, there are a few states where car insurance is not technically mandatory. New Hampshire doesn’t require auto insurance, although uninsured drivers who get in an accident are still responsible for the damage they cause. Some parts of Alaska also don’t require car insurance, or even car registration. But the risk of devastating repair or medical bills remains in all cases.
The Risks of Driving Without Insurance
So what’s the worst that could happen to you if you’re caught driving without insurance — or even worse, have an accident while uninsured? The possible consequences include:
Fines. You can expect to receive a fine for getting caught without auto insurance. Some states are more severe than others when it comes to these penalties — as little as $25 to $100 in many states (like Georgia), while others (like Delaware) start at $1,500. Multiple citations will see those numbers rise significantly.
Suspension of license and registration. Getting cited for driving without insurance will likely cause you a great deal more struggle when it comes to getting behind the wheel. Your license and registration are typically suspended after such a citation, and the arresting officers may impound your vehicle. Getting your car and license back is likely to require expensive fees and a significant bureaucratic headache.
Jail time. When it comes to being uninsured, multiple offenders will often see jail time. First offenders often get away without jail time, but in states like Michigan, getting caught without insurance could land you a year behind bars.
Paying for repairs and medical expenses. If you get in an accident and don’t have insurance, you will have your own repair and medical bills to worry about and those of the other parties. This could lead to debilitating and lifelong debt.
Higher car insurance rates. Drivers who find insurance difficult to afford could be in for a shock if they get caught driving without it — your insurance premiums will skyrocket afterward, up to double or even triple the normal rate. You might even have trouble getting insured at all.
Tips for Making Car Insurance More Affordable
As previously pointed out, one of the major reasons drivers often go without car insurance comes down to cost. Younger drivers represent a disproportionately large percentage of uninsured drivers, in no small part because younger drivers are statistically more likely to be broke.
Purchase the bare minimum. If your car is older and has a low market value, having comprehension and collision coverage may not provide a return on your investment. Many drivers opt to go with liability-only insurance to avoid lawsuits and massive medical bills. However, you may not even need that much if the car is worth less than your insured amount. Some states allow drivers to forego insurance if they have “proof of financial responsibility.”
Compare car insurance quotes. If your insurance rates are higher because of traffic or insurance citations, you should know that not every insurance company offers the same rate. As The Zebra’s Ross Martin points out, average yearly premiums can vary significantly by carrier. Getting free auto insurance quotes from an online comparison site is a great way to find cheap car insurance.
Discounts. If your household has more than one car, you might qualify for a multi-car discount. If you’re a homeowner, you could also bundle your car and home insurance together for another discount.
Pay upfront. If you have trouble making ends meet from month to month and have the means, consider paying for the entire year upfront. Many insurers offer paid-in-full discounts, and having a year to prepare could make those premiums easier to meet.