Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer

UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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In a nutshell...

  • A certain level of basic auto liability insurance is required for you to legally drive in almost every state in the US, except for New Hampshire
  • If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer or involved in an auto accident, your failure to show proof of insurance can result in serious criminal and administrative penalties
  • In some states, there is a requirement that every auto insurance company must report auto insurance coverage information on registered drivers, including when a policy term begins and when it expires or is canceled early
  • In addition to the auto insurance that you are required to carry by law, you may need to have additional coverage because you could be left paying out of pocket for damages you cause in an auto accident
  • Without at least some basic level of auto insurance coverage, you will not be able to buy a car, rent a car or finance a car. Auto insurance may be required for other activities, such as registering a vehicle

There are plenty of good reasons why every driver should carry at least a minimum level of auto insurance, especially because this is a legal requirement in almost every single state in the U.S. in order to drive.

In addition, the failure to maintain the amount of legally required auto insurance coverage comes with very serious criminal penalties and administrative fines in most states.

If you are caught driving a car without the required auto insurance, you are in for some serious trouble.

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The Legal Requirement to Carry Auto Insurance Coverage If You Drive


If you are going to drive, you at least a basic auto liability insurance policy. This is a legal requirement in every state in the U.S. except for New Hampshire.

There is a department of insurance and department of motor vehicles in every state that is responsible for verifying auto insurance information on each driving as well as regulating and licensing the auto insurance companies operating in that particular state.

The requirements for carrying the minimum level of auto insurance are different for every state.

The first thing that you should do when you request a quote for an auto insurance policy is to check to make sure that you are meeting the requirements for auto insurance coverage in your state.

In addition, you will also want to check that the auto insurance company you are considering signing up with is licensed to do business in your state.

For your basic auto liability policy, there are two basic types of coverages that you will need to maintain under your state law:

This means that if you are involved in an auto accident and you are at fault, you need to have auto insurance coverage that will pay for the damages to the other driver’s vehicle as well as cover any physical injuries that they suffer.

The rest of the other types of auto insurance coverage are mandatory but may be in your best interest.

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Penalties for Driving Without the Required Auto Insurance Coverage

There are two main ways that you could get in trouble for being caught driving without at least the minimum required amount of auto insurance coverage:

  • Getting pulled over by a police officer
  • Being involved in an auto accident

In many states, drivers are required under the law to carry a proof of auto insurance card with them whenever they drive. Failure to produce this proof when asked could result in serious and expensive penalties and fines.

The criminal and administrative penalties for being cited for driving without the required auto insurance increase with each repeat offense:

  • you could have your driver’s license suspended or revoked
  • in some states, you could actually be arrested
  • you could have your vehicle impounded, which could be very expensive to recover

The fact that you have been cited for driving without the required amount of auto insurance coverage can also make it much more difficult and expensive for you to get auto insurance in the future.

This is because auto insurance companies check your driving record, which will include any license suspensions and fines that you have received.

Many auto insurance companies will charge you a higher rate for your auto insurance premium if you have a history of not driving with the required coverage.

Even if you are not officially caught without the required auto insurance, an auto insurance company can verify whether you are currently covered by auto insurance or not.

It is never good to have a lapse in your coverage, no matter how short the gap in coverage is.

If you are having any trouble getting the required amount of auto insurance in your state, you can contact your state department of insurance or department of motor vehicles to learn more about your options for auto insurance coverage.

You should not delay in acquiring the required coverage because the fines under state law can increase according to the amount of time that you are caught driving without the required auto insurance coverage.

Considering Supplemental Coverage in Addition to the Required Auto Insurance Coverage

While it is a good start to get the minimum level of basic auto liability insurance, you may also need additional coverage to supplement the policy.

The main reason for this is that the state-required amount of auto insurance cover is typically well below the average amount of damage caused in an auto accident.

If you are responsible for the damage in an auto accident, then you will be left paying out of your own for the remainder of the damage if you do not have adequate auto insurance coverage.

One of the most popular types of auto insurance coverage that you should consider getting is collision insurance. With this type of auto insurance coverage, you are protected for any damage to your vehicle as a result of a collision with any other object.

If your car is damaged by you driving into a wall, this would be covered under your collision auto insurance coverage.

Another type of popular auto insurance coverage that is also optional comprehensive coverage. With comprehensive auto insurance coverage, your assets are protected from any damage that your car sustains that is not caused by a collision with another object.

For example, if your car is damaged by severe weather, then you could make a claim under your comprehensive auto insurance and have the damage covered.

While the name of this particular type of auto insurance coverage may seem very broad, this does not necessarily mean that you are fully covered for any and all damage.

You need to check the exact terms of your auto insurance policy to know precisely what types of car claims would be covered or not.

Remember that if you have comprehensive or collision auto insurance coverage, then you will likely have to pay a deductible in the event that you have to file a claim under your auto insurance policy.

If you are looking for ways to reduce your premium payments when you are shopping around for different auto insurance options, consider that having a higher deductible can save you some money on your auto insurance premium.

Each auto insurance company has a different way of offering options for the amount of your auto insurance deductible. Figure out the highest amount that you would be able to pay out of pocket to keep your auto insurance premium as low as possible.

One thing you should keep in mind is that not every driver will be a law-abiding and responsible citizen with keeping up with the legally required amount of auto insurance coverage.

To protect yourself in the event that you are in an accident with a driver who does not have the required auto insurance coverage, you should consider getting uninsured and underinsured motorist auto insurance coverage.

This way, you can recover from your own auto insurance company if you are in an auto accident that is caused by an uninsured or underinsured driver.

The Requirement to Carry Auto Insurance in a Nutshell


In conclusion, if you plan to drive a car, then you should make sure that you have at least the required amount of auto insurance coverage for your state. If you fail to do so, you could be faced with criminal penalties and/or administrative fines and other consequences.

Even if you have the minimum amount of auto insurance coverage, you should consider whether you should supplement your basic auto liability coverage with additional coverage in the event that you are involved in an auto accident.

Make sure you have adequate coverage for your needs. Enter your zip code below to get started in your search for the right car insurance.