​​​​Ranked: 5 States With the Strictest Car Insurance Laws

It’s illegal to drive in most U.S. states without some form of car insurance. Even so, the number of uninsured drivers on America’s roads is increasing. According to the Insurance Research Council, around 1 in 7 drivers did not have insurance in 2022.

Why people drive without insurance

Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons people take the risk of hitting the roads without insurance is financial. Money is tight and auto insurance premiums have risen steeply in recent years. The average annual car insurance premium was around $3,000 last year, per research from The Ascent.

There can be pretty hefty financial and legal consequences to driving uninsured, particularly if you’re in an accident. You might face fines, the cost of any damages, license suspension, and even jail time. In short, the risk massively outweighs any short-term savings.

These five states have the strictest car insurance laws

The penalties for driving uninsured vary wildly depending on what part of the country you are in. In terms of which states are strictest, there are a lot of variables. Some states are relatively lenient on the first offense, and crack down heavily on multiple infractions. Others might impose heavy fines, but won’t jail people for driving without insurance.

Here’s our somewhat subjective list of the states with the strictest penalties for driving without insurance.

1. Delaware

If you’re caught without insurance in Delaware, you could face a $1,500 fine for the first offense and a six-month suspension of your driver’s license. If you’re stopped again and don’t have insurance within a three-year window, the fine goes up to $3,000.

Read more: check out our picks for the best car insurance companies

READ MORE: Best cheap Delaware car insurance

2. Mississippi

There are a few ways you can cover yourself to drive in Mississippi, but the most common is to carry minimum liability insurance. If you get stopped without coverage you could be in for a $1,000 fine and have your license suspended for one year or until you can show proof of insurance.

READ MORE: Best cheap Mississippi car insurance

3. Hawaii

If you get stopped for a traffic violation in Hawaii and you don’t have insurance, you could get fined $500 the first time and $1,500 to $5,000 on subsequent occasions. The court may let you do community service instead of paying the fine. Your license may be suspended for three months on a first offense and a year if it happens again.

READ MORE: Best cheap Hawaii car insurance

4. Kentucky

The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says it’s cracking down on uninsured drivers right now. If you don’t carry minimum liability coverage in Kentucky, you could lose your vehicle registration. You could also face a fine of $500 to $1,000 and/or up to 90 days in jail.

READ MORE: Best cheap Kentucky car insurance

5. Connecticut

A first uninsured driving offense in Connecticut means a fine of $100 to $1,000 plus a one-month suspension of your license. Subsequent convictions could lead to a six-month license suspension. It gets a lot more serious if you own a vehicle with a commercial registration. You could face a fine of up to $5,000 and/or up to five years in jail.

READ MORE: Best cheap Connecticut car insurance

What to do if you can’t afford your auto insurance

In addition to the legal penalties, if you are found to be at fault in an accident, you could be on the hook for thousands of dollars in damages if you don’t have adequate insurance. If you’re considering skipping your auto insurance, here are some steps to take instead:

  • Shop around for the best deal: Rate shopping is one of the best ways to score the best deal on your premiums. Don’t assume that your current insurer is giving you the lowest price, even if you checked prices when you first signed up.
  • Increase your deductible: Your deductible is the amount you need to pay before your insurance kicks in. Progressive estimates that raising your deductible from $100 to $250 could knock almost 30% off some premiums. The caveat is that you’ll need to pay more upfront if you make a claim.
  • Bundle your policies: Buying more than one insurance policy from the same insurer, can save you money. For example, State Farm estimates an average annual saving of $684 for households that buy its auto and renters insurance bundle.
  • Go without a car for a while: For many people, a car is essential to get to work and get the kids to school. But if you can’t pay your insurance, see if you can carpool or use public transport or ride-hailing temporarily. If you cancel your insurance and won’t be driving, you may need to take the license plates to your state motor vehicles department.
  • Look for assistance: Some states (such as California) have low-income insurance assistance programs. Get in touch with your state motor vehicle department to find out if you can get help. If insurance assistance isn’t an option, go to benefits.gov to see if you can get help with other bills and free up some cash for your premiums.

Key takeaway

Driving without car insurance can have serious consequences, whatever part of the country you live in. If you are having trouble paying your auto insurance bill, look for ways to reduce your bill or see if you can make cuts elsewhere. Even if you don’t have to pay damages after an accident, you risk a fine, license suspension, or even jail time if you drive without coverage.

Our best car insurance companies for 2024

Ready to shop for car insurance? Whether you’re focused on price, claims handling, or customer service, we’ve researched insurers nationwide to provide our best-in-class picks for car insurance coverage. Read our free expert review today to get started.

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