The law requires all drivers to have minimum car insurance, and it is illegal to drive without insurance in most states. If you don’t pay your car insurance, you’ll lapse in coverage. A lapse in coverage can result in fines and penalties.
So, when you ask how long you can be without car insurance, the answer is ‘never’ if you’re driving. You’ll need car insurance every time you get behind the wheel or risk penalties and fines, or even your license being withdrawn.
In Arizona, for instance, if you’re caught driving without at least a minimum car insurance, the state may suspend your driving license for up to one year, with a fine of up to $1000. The state may also require you to file an SR-22 certificate to prove your financial responsibility.
What Is Minimum Car Insurance?
Minimum car insurance coverage is the least amount of insurance cover meant to protect you, your passengers, property, and other road users when you’re involved in an at-fault accident. In many cases, the minimum coverage is also called liability car insurance.
For example, in Arizona, drivers are required to have car insurance coverage that exceeds or meets the following minimum (liability) coverages:
- Bodily injury liability coverage – minimum of $25,000 pp / $50,000 per accident
- Property damage liability coverage – minimum of $15,000
- Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage – minimum of $25,000 pp / $50,000 per accident
Other types of minimum car insurance coverages include Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage and Underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage.
Note: A driver can have one or a combination of these liability insurance coverages to meet the minimum requirement. Legally, you cannot drive with registration and without the minimum car insurance coverage.
Are There Exceptions for Driving Without Insurance?
There are a few exceptions for driving without car insurance. You can drive without insurance in any of the following circumstances:
- Military personnel or employee
- Drivers with learner’s permits. In this case, you must be driving in the car with a person over 21 years old and is insured
- Drivers with motorcycle insurance
- Newly licensed drivers. In this case, you must acquire insurance as soon as possible
These exceptions also depend on the state because different states have different insurance regulations and exceptions.
How Long Can You Stay Without Car Insurance?
You cannot stay without car insurance. It is illegal in most states in the US, including Arizona.
If you don’t pay your insurance in time, your policy will lapse. When your policy lapses, it means you’re not covered. This will also mean you cannot drive your car because it will be illegal to drive the car without insurance.
When you miss a premium payment, your car insurance may probably be canceled right away. However, depending on your state and insurance provider, you may get a grace period of between 30 and 60 days to find new coverage.
So, if you lapse in your car insurance coverage, you will be uninsured for the period of 30 to 60 days. During this time, you should find a new insurance provider to avoid being without cover.
Note: After registering your car, you must provide insurance proof at the DMV of your (1) car insurance; or (2) the self-insured bond. So, alternatively, you may buy self-insurance as proof of insurance if you do not want to purchase car insurance. This will require you to purchase a self-insurance bond.
What Happens If You Drive Without Insurance?
Usually, proof of insurance or proof of financial responsibility is mandatory to drive a car legally. Often, what happens if you drive without insurance depends on several factors, including the level of offense (first of repeat) or your state. It also depends on whether you were pulled over or if it was discovered after an accident.
If you’re found to be driving without car insurance, you may face the following:
- Having your vehicle impounded
- License suspension or suspension of driving privileges
- Fees and tickets for failing to provide proof of insurance or financial responsibility
- License reinstatement fees
- Potential jail time
- SR-22 requirements
Note that a first offense for driving without car insurance, or proof of insurance, has the potential for significant fines. However, if you’re involved in repeated violations of driving without car insurance, you may encounter dramatic escalation of the punishment’s severity. Besides the legal penalties, if you’re involved in a car accident when you do not have car insurance, you’ll be liable to be sued for property damage and any medical bills, which can be expensive.
In addition to getting a ticket, you will face a possible license suspension if you are caught driving without car insurance. The duration of license suspension varies with states, and in most cases, it will only end once you file an SR-22 form or show proof of insurance.
In Arizona, suspension of your license is up to three months for a first offense if you’re caught driving without car insurance. The duration of the license suspension may rise if it is a second offense.
Without a driving license, you will not drive your car because it will be against the law.
Why Is It Illegal To Drive Without Insurance?
It is illegal to drive without insurance because of the related costs of a collision or car accident. A collision or a car accident can ‘run you financially’ if you don’t have car insurance. You will pay to repair or replace the car and the cost of property and medical bills if you were the at-fault driver. You also risk getting sued.
However, when you have insurance, and you get into an accident as the at-fault driver, then your insurer will pay the claims filed for property damage or injury caused.
What If I am Driving Someone Else’s Car?
In general, when you have permission to drive someone else’s car, the owner’s insurance policy should cover property damage and injuries. However, that also depends on the policy’s specific terms.
On the other hand, if you’re driving someone else’s car and the vehicle is not insured, both you as the driver and the owner of the car will face penalties. The car is still uninsured and has no legal authority to operate on the road.
Eliminating Or Reducing Fines
In Arizona, if you’ve been fined for driving without insurance, sometimes you may be in luck if your state can waive or reduce your penalty. But this is not guaranteed.
You’ll need to present:
A current true proof that you haven’t been found with this offense within the last three years. Also, you’ll need to provide proof that you’ve purchased car insurance for a duration of at least six months and that it meets minimum liability requirements.
Besides, the court can waive your penalty if you were fined for driving without insurance. However, if your registration or license was already suspended, you’ll pay reinstatement fees for the waiver to be effected.
Instead of driving without car insurance, you can consider long-term storage if you don’t need to drive the car to reduce your current coverage costs. You don’t need to risk your license of registration being suspended by driving an uninsured car. Long term storage will ensure that your car will stay protected while it sits in a garage. If you must drive the car, ensure you have at least the state’s required minimum car insurance.