Driving uninsured?
June 25, 2008 2:18 PM   Subscribe

What happens if I get caught driving without car insurance?

I'm going to be in possession of a car for a very short amount of time. Insuring it would be impractical. I don't *have* to drive it, but it would help a lot to make a few trips to a grocery store a few miles away. Obviously if I get in an accident I could be in some deep trouble, and it's a risk I'd have to take very seriously (though I have a perfect record).

What I'm wondering about is if, say, I get pulled over because of a broken brakelight or for speeding or something. What would be the penalty for driving sans insurance?
posted by Autarky to Travel & Transportation (26 answers total)
The answer to this is going to vary considerably depending on where you live.
posted by doomtop at 2:22 PM on June 25, 2008

Like doomtop says, it depends. A lot.

I belive in NY you get a ticket with a fairly stiff fine. In some states I belive they can seize your car.
posted by meta_eli at 2:24 PM on June 25, 2008

Once, when I was younger and more impoverished, I let my insurance lapse while saving up money to pay it off, and I got pulled over for not stopping for a pedestrian at a crosswalk (a ticketable offense in Boston).

The cop confiscated my car and threatened to arrest me. I had to buy insurance and pay the ticket at the RMV before being able to reclaim my car from the city tow lot (and of course pay for the tow and storage fee).

Then I had to show up in court a few weeks later and beg the judge to reduce my penalty to community service.

It sucks. Don't do it.
posted by bl1nk at 2:25 PM on June 25, 2008

You haven't mentioned what state you're in...

A friend of mine has experience in the matter, in Oregon. You get pulled over, and the officer decides if you jsut get a ticket, or if you get a ticket *and* the car towed. If the officer is feeling generous and the owner can be called and can pick the car up and prove they hae insurance over the phone, the car *might* not get towed.

If the car does get towed, the owner has to show up with proof of insurance to get it out of the impound lot.

Whether you should do it? I guess that depends on how lucky you feel. Not advisable though.
posted by terpia at 2:26 PM on June 25, 2008

As everyone noted it's a bad idea. Also, depending on the make and condition of the car (and where you are) very affordable insurance may available. Insurance in CA on my 13yo trashed jeep is <$50/month.
posted by gnutron at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2008

If you happen to live in Vermont, here is the relevant statute:

Title 23: Motor Vehicles
Chapter 11: Financial Responsibility And Insurance

§ 800. Maintenance of financial responsibility

(a) No owner or operator of a motor vehicle required to be licensed shall operate or permit the operation of the vehicle upon the highways of the state without having in effect an automobile liability policy or bond in the amounts of at least $25,000.00 for one person and $50,000.00 for two or more persons killed or injured and $10,000.00 for damages to property in any one accident. In lieu thereof, evidence of self-insurance in the amount of $115,000.00 must be filed with the commissioner of motor vehicles. Such financial responsibility shall be maintained and evidenced in a form prescribed by the commissioner. The commissioner may require that evidence of financial responsibility be produced before motor vehicle inspections are performed pursuant to the requirements of section 1222 of this title.

(b) A person who violates this section shall be assessed a civil penalty of not more than $100.00, and such violation shall be a traffic violation within the meaning of chapter 24 of this title. (Added 1985, No. 77, § 1, eff. Jan. 1, 1986; amended 1987, No. 163 (Adj. Sess.), eff. April 29, 1988; 1989, No. 84, § 5; 1997, No. 117, § 33, eff. Jan. 1, 1999.)
posted by doomtop at 2:29 PM on June 25, 2008

Probably the biggest risk you take, assuming you live in the States, is the towing of your car. This is somewhat up to the officer's discretion, but I believe the problem is that after getting pulled over for this, he can't let you drive away because it would be illegal for you to drive your car away without insurance, therefore the towing comes into play.

I am not aware of any state that does not require at least some level of insurance, but IANAL.
posted by doomtop at 2:31 PM on June 25, 2008

In the UK you can get daily/weekly/monthly car insurance as well as yearly. It cost me about £12 for one day or £75 for a month IIRC.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:35 PM on June 25, 2008

I'm in New York. I got a ticket for uninsured vehicle (among other things), and the car was impounded. This was about 20 years ago, and things might have changed (and other factors in my case might have effected things). And, as I recall, the fine was non-trivial ($100's, I believe). And there was also the towing and impound fees. Oh, and there were lawyers fees, because I fought it.

Bottom line, don't do this. If you get stopped by the police, for anything, they will most likely ask for license, registration and proof of insurance (they always have when I've been stopped). And, like you said, if you get into an accident you could be in deep trouble - as in sued for HUGE amounts, depending on the situation.

Is even basic insurance out of the question?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:37 PM on June 25, 2008

Oh, and the penalty if you're in the UK: from what I saw on one of those HIGHWAY COPS tv shows, if you're pulled over and have no insurance, they call a tow truck to take your car there and then, plus I assume there's a fine and/or some points on your licence. Police cars also often have those automatic number plate scanners that are connected to the car tax & insurance database and alert the officers if they pass a car without insurance, so you don't even have to be pulled over for something else.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:38 PM on June 25, 2008

The biggest risk is having an accident and being sued with no insurance... the fine/empoundment of the car/ticket is trivial compared to the thousands or hundreds of thousands that you could lose if sued after an accident.

And, imagine living with the fact that you've hurt/killed someone and had no insurance to compensate them, pay for medical care, etc..

it's just plain wrong, don't do it.
posted by HuronBob at 2:39 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

Let me add, that if you are not the registered owner of the car, were you to have an accident the owner would also be sued. Do you want to do that to a friend/relative...?
posted by HuronBob at 2:41 PM on June 25, 2008

If you get into an accident and cause a huge amount of damage to someone or their property, you will bear significant financial costs yourself, and without the benefit of an insurance company representing you in a settlement or lawsuit.
posted by zippy at 2:43 PM on June 25, 2008

HuronBob is correct. The biggest risk is definitely having an accident and being sued with no insurance. When I said biggest risk, I meant in terms of fines/penalities from being stopped by the police.
posted by doomtop at 2:44 PM on June 25, 2008

I think I have been pretty well convinced not to. Thnx all.
posted by Autarky at 2:50 PM on June 25, 2008

If you're going to be driving that car, you really must have insurance. If you're concerned about the cost of insurance versus the time you'll have the car, maybe there's another way to make those few short trips to the grocery store instead.
posted by katillathehun at 2:53 PM on June 25, 2008

When I had this problem in Arkansas, the fine plus court costs was about $300. The officer was kind enough not to tow the car, and to depart the area before I did, thus allowing me to drive the car back to its owner.

It was someone else's car, and it was insured, I just didn't have proof with me. I was also driving without a license. That was $150, and I did have to pay that. I had never been licensed at the time. It was also the first time I had been stopped for anything, and I had been driving pretty regularly for almost a year.
posted by wierdo at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2008

I drove with no insurance for about 3 years when I was in school. I was terrified of getting caught, or worse, getting into an accident, so I drove very, very carefully and became a skilled defensive driver.

I finally got caught, when I was pulled over unexpectedly for speeding. I was fined $250, and had my license suspended. To get my license reinstated, I was required to send a local court proof of insurance every month for 3 months. I was very lucky -- because I had my dogs with me, I was allowed to turn around and drive home, instead of what the cop told me would have been a mandatory impounding of my beater car.

I've driven with insurance ever since, and now I look back at it as a very irresponsible and selfish choice made necessary by poverty.

In more recent years, I did once borrow an out-of-town friend's car for a month, and I got it insured. I probably wouldn't take the chance again. Unless you have a terrible driving history, a month's worth of basic liability shouldn't run you more than $50 to $80 in most states.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 2:54 PM on June 25, 2008

When I was in Kentucky I got a speeding ticket and had to appear in court. There were quite a few people there that had been ticketed for not having insurance. In every single instance the Judge asked them to show documentation that they had gotten insurance afterwards and in every single instance he dropped the charges. I believe they still probably had to pay court fees (which are pretty outrageous in Kentucky I might add) but nothing for the ticket. YMMV of course.
posted by genial at 4:49 PM on June 25, 2008

Missouri is pretty lax about this. If you have no insurance, you get a ticket. In traffic court, if you can show that you've gotten insurance between the time of the ticket and the court date, they'll just throw it out and charge you court costs.

Also, your state may require that you only carry basic liability on the car, which is pretty cheap. You may want to talk to some of the major carriers about a car that is only being driven part time and see if they can give you a reduced rate for a 'pleasure vehicle'. Part of insurance is estimating how many miles you drive in a day, and if the car is not driven daily, you may qualify for that. USAA is great for that; I had them for years.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:29 PM on June 25, 2008

What HuronBob said.

Don't do it. It's morally wrong to drive without insurance - think of the consequences beyond any potential fine.
posted by arcticseal at 7:28 PM on June 25, 2008

Let's be frank: If you are caucasian and the car is a late model, the chances of you getting pulled over for no reason are slim to zero. But there's a holiday weekend coming so be careful those four or five days. (I guess you're in the U.S.). Don't drive at night. Wear your seat belt.

It seems like you are responsible and what to do and what not to do. I think you will have no problems.
posted by Zambrano at 7:46 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know the OP stated that s/he was convinced not to do it, but in the interest of posterity and for anyone who happens to read this thread in the future, I will say "don't do it" x 30000000.

Years ago, I let my insurance lapse because I lost my job and was in a financial bind and couldn't pay the premium. I stuck to taking the bus and walking everywhere for a while and then one day I had to haul something heavy and cumbersome and so decided I would take the car "just this once" and drive very carefully.

That one time, I got in an accident and I was deemed at fault. I lost my license for 120 days, got a huge ticket and my car (which I owed on) was totaled beyond repair. In addition, the other party claimed an injury. I hurt my neck and back and my face on the airbag but also had no health insurance.

All in all, I was on the hook for nearly $30,000. Most of it went to collections since I obviously couldn't pay it at the time. I just now finished paying this stuff off and my credit still sucks because of it. It had a significant impact on my life for a long time.

I am the horrible warning against driving uninsured. I will never, ever do it again.
posted by howrobotsaremade at 9:45 PM on June 25, 2008 [1 favorite]

I know you're not going to do it as well, but to chime in with one more anecdote of how saving a few bucks now can go horribly wrong later, here's one:

An acquaintance in Washington state had a brother who bought a brand new truck at a dealership and got tags put on it, but no insurance to go with it to save a few bucks. I'm from Canada where insurance is mandatory so I don't see how that was possible, but apparently back when this took place it was possible in WA. Long story short, the brother has the truck for about a week and then manages to total it in a single vehicle accident, doing stupid shit, showing off for his friends. The brother then got the pleasure of making payments for 5 or 6 years on a truck he had scrapped since it was undriveable, and fixing it was out of the question due to the amount of damage.

Insurance is mandatory for a reason, in part to protect us from ourselves. Go without it and you may be feeling the force of that decision in your wallet for years and years to come.
posted by barc0001 at 12:39 AM on June 26, 2008

Store the car. Take a taxi to run the errands.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 AM on June 26, 2008

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