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Do You Have to Have Car Insurance?

Whether you’re a long-time driver or just starting, having car insurance is an important part of owning a vehicle. While it’s essential for most drivers, many wonder “Do you have to have car insurance”? Explore if coverage is required with the top-rated Richmond car accident lawyers and discover what your options are.

Car insurance may be a requirement in your state. However, even if you don’t legally need it, having comprehensive coverage—which covers your vehicle as well as another person’s—can be a smart decision. Let’s explore if auto coverage is necessary for you, when it’s not needed, and what the consequences are for driving without it.

Are There Any Instances When Auto Insurance Is Not Required?

In some cases, you may not be required to have auto insurance, even if your state requires it. Insurance costs can be high, so knowing when it is okay not to be insured can save you a lot of money.

Here are some circumstances in which you may not need insurance:

  1. You own a car, but it’s not being driven. If you don’t plan to drive your car, then you won’t need any coverage for it.
  2. You don’t own a car. If you don’t own a vehicle, then you won’t need insurance coverage.
  3. You have a valid driver’s license but don’t plan to drive. A valid driver’s license means that you can legally operate a vehicle, but if you don’t intend to drive one, then you won’t need any coverage.

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Do All States Require Drivers to Carry an Insurance Policy?

With the exception of New Hampshire and Virginia, all other states legally require drivers to carry some type of auto insurance. Most require at least minimum liability insurance coverage, which helps cover the costs of repairs and medical bills if you cause an accident or incident.

Some states also require drivers to carry uninsured motorist coverage in case they are involved in an accident with someone who does not have insurance. Though it may seem like an inconvenience, having car insurance is an essential addition to your transportation.

According to the National Safety Council, the average car wreck could cost anywhere from $5,700 to millions, depending on the severity of the wreck. Protect yourself and others by having collision coverage.

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Which Insurance Coverage Levels Am I Required to Have?

The minimum amount of insurance coverage your state requires will vary, but typically it includes liability insurance. This type of coverage helps pay for property damage and medical bills if you are found at fault in an accident.

Liability insurance is usually broken into two parts: bodily injury liability and property damage liability. Bodily injury insurance covers the cost of medical bills incurred by someone else in an accident that was your fault. In contrast, property damage covers any damage to another person’s property that you cause.

Some states may also require uninsured motorist coverage, which helps pay for medical bills and property damages if you are in an accident with someone who does not have insurance.

The best way to understand your state’s minimum requirements is to speak with an experienced auto accident attorney from your area. 

Additional Coverage Types

In addition to the minimum liability insurance coverage required in most states, there are other types of coverage you may benefit from. 

Basic Insurance Coverage

A step up from minimum coverage, this provides:

  • Moderate liability limits
  • Uninsured motorist coverage
  • Comprehensive and collision coverage
  • Some additional standard coverage

Standard Insurance Coverage

This is the level most people carry. It includes higher liability limits, comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, rental reimbursement, roadside assistance, and other common coverages. Premiums are moderately priced for solid protection.

Premium Insurance Coverage

This provides the highest level of coverage with the highest liability limits, umbrella policies, and add-ons like accident forgiveness. It provides peace of mind, but at a higher premium cost.

In addition, there are usage-based coverage levels tied to how much you drive.

GAP coverage is also an add-on that some people get to protect themselves from having to pay the remaining balance of their loan in the event of a wreck.

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Is Proof of Insurance Needed to Buy a Car?

Yes, proof of insurance is typically required when purchasing a car from a dealership or a private party. Here are some key things to know about insurance requirements when buying a car:

Liability Coverage

All states require drivers to carry a minimum level of liability insurance, which covers damage or injury you may cause to others. The dealership will ask for proof of this.

Coverage in Your Name

The insurance card or policy declaration page must show your name as the policyholder, not a parent’s or someone else’s. It must be valid insurance that transfers to the new car.


You need to have the insurance lined up before finalizing the sale, as coverage is required to drive the new car off the lot. Dealers will not complete the purchase without proof of insurance for the new vehicle.


In some cases, the dealer’s temporary insurance may allow you to drive for a brief period of time until you obtain coverage, while other states have grace periods for new purchases.

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What Legal Penalties Are There for Driving Without Insurance?

Driving without insurance can carry significant legal penalties that vary by state. Here are some of the most common consequences:

  • Fines: Lack of insurance will result in fines, typically $500–$1000 for a first offense. Subsequent violations can raise fines to $2000 or more.
  • License suspension: Most states will suspend your driver’s license if you are caught driving uninsured. Suspension lengths range from one to six months on average.
  • Vehicle impound: Police can impound your car if you are found driving without valid insurance. You will need to pay fees and show proof of coverage to retrieve the vehicle.
  • Jail time: Driving uninsured repeatedly over time can potentially lead to misdemeanor charges and jail time in some states. This is more likely if you are caught driving on a suspended license.
  • Higher insurance rates: Once you obtain insurance after a violation, expect much higher rates and even cancellation in some cases. Some insurers may label you high-risk.
  • Civil penalties: In the event of an accident while uninsured, you can face civil lawsuits, court judgments, and wage garnishment without insurance protection.

The penalties add up fast. Maintaining continuous auto insurance, even at minimum coverage, may safeguard you from severe legal and financial troubles. Check with your state DMV for specific uninsured driver rules and penalties.

Get Help Determining If Auto Insurance Is Necessary for You

Do you have to have car insurance? In most cases, yes. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide if car insurance is necessary for your situation. If you’re not sure what type of coverage you need or have questions about the laws in your state, contact the Pendleton Law Team for a free consultation.

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