No, it is not illegal to not have car insurance in California as long as you do not drive at all or do not own a registered vehicle. Driving without insurance in California is against the law, though, and the potential penalties include fines up to $500 and driver's license suspension.
When You Do Not Legally Need Car Insurance in California
You do not have a driver’s license or never drive. If you don’t have a license, there is no need to have car insurance since you legally cannot be behind the wheel of a car anyway. Additionally, if you have a license but never drive, you have no need for car insurance.
You do not own a registered vehicle. California requires that all drivers show proof of insurance when registering their vehicle. If you own an unregistered car that you are just trying to re-sell or that is a project you are working on fixing, you do not need car insurance.
You occasionally drive borrowed cars. When you drive another person’s car with their permission, you are covered by their car insurance policy under permissive use, so you do not need to have your own car insurance. You can also get a non-owner policy, instead, to have additional coverage when driving borrowed cars.
You drive rental cars. Rental cars can be covered by an insurance policy provided by the rental car company, so you do not need your own personal car insurance to rent a car.
If you’re in an accident without insurance and you are at fault, you will need to pay out of pocket for any damage or injuries you cause. You will also face your state’s penalties for driving without insurance, which could include fines, a suspended license, and even jail time. If you are uninsured and the other driver is at fault, however, their insurance will cover your bills up to their policy limits.… read full answer
Almost every state requires car insurance, with the exceptions of New Hampshire, Virginia, and remote parts of Alaska. In every other state, driving without insurance will result in steep penalties. Additionally, police officers can legally have your vehicle towed if you don’t have insurance. And even if insurance is not required in your state, you will still be financially responsible for any damage you cause.
Causing an accident without the financial safety net of a car insurance policy also leaves you vulnerable to lawsuits. In no-fault states, each driver’s insurance pays their basic medical bills, but drivers can sue for serious or particularly expensive injuries. However, fault laws do not affect property damage, so you will still be responsible for any damage you cause to other cars, buildings or mailboxes, for example. And in tort states, which use fault as a factor in determining who pays, you can be sued for expenses due to injuries or property damage. Even if you don’t have enough money to pay for the destruction you cause, courts can seize your assets or garnish your wages.
If you caused an accident without insurance and want to continue driving, you should purchase a car insurance policy immediately. Be aware, however, that drivers with a lapse in coverage will pay more for insurance since they are considered high-risk. A history of at-fault accidents will also increase your premium. With that in mind, WalletHub has ranked the cheapest car insurance companies for drivers with accidents, for your convenience.
Cheapest Car Insurance for Drivers with One At-Fault Accident
You cannot be without car insurance for any period of time if you have a car that is parked or driven on public property. Car insurance is mandatory in every state except New Hampshire and Virginia, and even driving off a dealership’s lot without insurance is illegal.
If you have an existing insurance policy, your car insurance company may have a grace period of 0 to 30 days after the payment due date, giving you a chance to pay your premium and avoid a lapse in coverage. Exhausting this … read full answergrace period and allowing your insurance coverage to lapse will lead to higher premiums in the future. During the grace period, however, your car is still covered.
On the other hand, if you won’t be driving your car for a while, it doesn’t need insurance if it’s parked on private property. But most states require you to turn in or destroy your license plates before dropping your insurance coverage in order to avoid penalties for driving without insurance. Furthermore, comprehensive coverage or a storage insurance policy is still recommended for a car in a private garage. Otherwise, the owner is financially responsible for anything that happens to the car, like fire or flood damage.
In addition, most leased or financed cars need to be insured even if they’re not being used. Lenders often require full coverage so that the car doesn’t lose its value as collateral if it is damaged. And if the car leaves the garage to drive even a quarter of a mile, it needs to be insured.
It’s also important to note that regardless of the reason, being uninsured means your insurance premiums will be more expensive the next time you need to buy an insurance policy.
Although cars are never allowed on the road without insurance, there are a few situations in which you can be without car insurance. For example, young drivers with a learner’s permit usually do not need their own insurance policies. Most companies will cover teens with learner’s permits if they drive under the supervision of an insured adult. Similarly, if you are driving a borrowed car that is insured by someone else, their policy will usually cover you, but it’s best to make sure before taking the risk.
Some insurers also allow armed forces members to suspend car insurance while deployed. For deployed soldiers, and any other individual whose car is sitting idle, it’s best to fill out a form with the DMV to avoid possible sanctions for a lapse in coverage. Being clear with your state’s DMV will keep you from unpleasant surprises in the future, since the DMV might otherwise assume you were uninsured and penalize you accordingly.
How to Make Sure You Have Enough Insurance
If you are buying a car and have an existing policy, check your insurer’s specific terms to ensure that you will be covered from the moment you turn on the engine. Pay attention to the details, though: Your new car will only be covered up to the limits of your current insurance policy. This means that if the new car needs full coverage and you only have liability insurance, you’ll need to change your policy or get a new one.
If you plan on buying a new car and don’t already have insurance, purchase a policy before you drive the car for the first time. Finally, if you own an uninsured car, compare insurance quotes and buy a policy immediately to help protect your wallet from the dangers of driving without insurance.
No, you can’t get away with driving uninsured for a long period of time. Driving without insurance is illegal and always a bad idea because of the consequences you could face if you get caught, including hefty fines, a license suspension and even jail time. It’s sometimes possible to drive uninsured briefly, but your state DMV will eventually find out.… read full answer
When an existing car insurance policy lapses or gets canceled, the insurer notifies the DMV, which will then ask you to provide proof of insurance within a certain period of time. If you don’t comply, then you could be fined or have your registration suspended until you do.
New Hampshire and Virginia are the two exceptions to this rule. Both states allow drivers to go without car insurance coverage unless they recently caused an accident or committed a serious moving violation. Virginia requires drivers to pay a $500 fee in order to legally drive uninsured, though.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines. This question was posted by WalletHub. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.
Ad Disclosure: Certain offers that appear on this site originate from paying advertisers, and this will be noted on an offer’s details page using the designation "Sponsored", where applicable. Advertising may impact how and where products appear on this site (including, for example, the order in which they appear). At WalletHub we try to present a wide array of offers, but our offers do not represent all financial services companies or products.