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What are the Consequences of Driving Without Insurance in California? (2019)

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There are approximately 27 million drivers in California, of whom approximately 15.2% are uninsured (according to the latest data by the Insurance Information Institute). The state of California requires all motorists to carry proof of liability insurance with at least 15/30/5 in coverage — that means $15,000 per person, $30,000 per accident and $5,000 in property damage coverage.
If you do not meet these minimum requirements, and are caught driving without it, you will incur a penalty (California Vehicle Code Section 16029). The severity of this penalty will vary, depending on the situation. However, you may face as much as a $1,000 fine, vehicle impoundment and even have your license and driving privileges revoked for some period of time (up to four years).
This guide breaks down the penalties of driving without insurance in California and frequently asked questions.

What are the Consequences of Driving Without Insurance in California?

“License and registration, please.” Most drivers know that, when pulled over, a police officer may in fact ask for those two items. However, in California, an officer also has the power to ask the driver for proof of car insurance. If the driver fails to present valid proof of insurance, he or she will face a fine of up to $720+. The biggest factor behind how big of a ticket you get for driving without insurance in California depends on whether this is your first or second offense.
OffenseFinesAdditional Penalties
1st$100-$200 plus penalty assessmentsVehicle may be impounded.
2nd$200-$500 plus penalty assessmentsVehicle may be impounded.
1st + Collision$100-$200 plus penalty assessmentsMandatory one-year suspension of license. Driver must maintain SR-22 and proof of financial responsibility for 3 years after license being reinstated. Vehicle may be impounded.
2nd + Collision$200-$500 plus penalty assessmentsLicense may be suspended for up to 4 years. Driver must maintain SR-22 and proof of financial responsibility for 3 years after license being reinstated. Vehicle may be impounded.
So, what constitutes valid proof of insurance? Your auto insurance carrier should have sent you an insurance card that you should carry with you every time you drive. If you have not received your card or forgot it at home, these excuses will not matter at the time of your traffic stop. You are required to carry the proof of insurance. The proof of insurance should contain:
  • The insured party’s name and address
  • Vehicle year and make
  • Policy renewal dates
  • The insurance company name
  • The insurance policy number
What happens if you rent a car? You can turn down the rental insurance company’s insurance, because your personal car insurance will extend coverage to you, the driver. However, if you do not own a car and don’t have insurance, you should purchase the rental company’s insurance.
Apart from insurance, you may also present proof of:
  • A DMV issued self-insurance certificate
  • Proof of a cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV
  • A surety bond for $35,000 from a licensed business in California

Frequently Asked Questions About Driving Without Insurance in California

We collected a series of questions we frequently get from our California readers about this topic. If you don’t see your question answered, please leave a comment and our experts will do their best to answer your question.
Can driving without insurance affect my future insurance cost? Yes. If you are driving without insurance, when you go to sign up for insurance next, your insurer will charge you more. Driving without insurance is viewed as a risky move, and therefore insurers will view you as a more risky driver.
Is driving without insurance illegal in California? Yes. Driving in California is illegal. While you are unlikely to face jail time, you can get fined over $700.
Can you go to jail for not having car insurance in California? Depending on the severity of your offense, and whether a police officer finds any other issues at your stop, you could be detained. However, in most cases, driving without insurance will not result in jail time. Fines are more common.
How much is a no insurance ticket in California? Driving without insurance in California will result in a ticket between $200 and $700.
What happens if I get into an accident in California and I’m not at fault? Even if you are not at fault for an accident, you are required to have insurance. If you do not have any, you will incur the same penalties.
What if I get into an accident in California without insurance? Any accidents that result in damage of over $750, bodily injury, or even death, regardless of which driver was at fault, must be reported to the California Department of Motor Vehicles. If you do not have any insurance at the time of the accident, your license will be suspended for at least one year. The offense will also be entered into your driving record. You will also be required to obtain an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility certificate and carry an additional high-cost SR-22 insurance policy on top of your regular one.
What if I just forgot my insurance card? If you are insured, and simply forgot your proof at the time of the accident or police stop, you will still receive a ticket. However, you can appeal the ticket and receive a reduced fine. If you can afford it, we recommend getting an experienced traffic ticket attorney. Such a professional can get your charges dismissed and prevent future headaches.
How many uninsured drivers are there on the road? Here are the stats according to the Insurance Information Institute:

StateUninsured (%)
New Hampshire9.9
New Jersey14.9
New Mexico20.8
New York6.1
North Carolina6.5
North Dakota6.8
Rhode Island15.2
South Carolina9.4
South Dakota7.7
West Virginia10.1