Here’s what you can expect if you’re caught driving without insurance or get into an accident without insurance in California.

Driving without auto insurance or other proof of financial responsibility is actually a big deal, but the penalties for doing so vary by state. In some states, it’s actually a felony to drive without auto insurance. In others, you get off rather easy with little more than a fine and a harsh warning for your first offense – unless you’re in an accident, in which case, you could find yourself in a real jam. What is California’s law on auto insurance? Well, here’s what you need to know.

California Auto Insurance Law

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California
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California’s auto insurance laws are citing in CVC section 16029. In short, it is illegal to drive without proof of financial responsibility or auto insurance. There are four different ways to meet the requirements of auto insurance laws in California:

  • Auto insurance purchased through a state-registered insurance company
  • A DMV issued self-insurance certificate
  • Receipt for $35,000 deposit to the DMV
  • $35,000 surety bond from a California-licensed business

You must keep one of these proofs in your vehicle all of the time. If you’re carrying the common proof of auto insurance, it must include your name, address, name of the insurance company, company address, policy number, and effective dates of insurance coverage. If you are pulled over by law enforcement or in an accident, you will be asked to present one of these proofs of financial responsibility.

Minimum Insurance Requirements in California

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The minimum insurance coverage – the cheapest, and also sometimes referred to as PLPD – is set in stone and it is impossible to buy coverage that falls below the following theshold.

  • $15,000 for injury or death of a single person
  • $30,000 for injury or death of two or more persons
  • $5,000 for property damage

Vehicles That Don’t Require Insurance in California

There are only a handful of vehicles that don’t require auto insurance in California, but there’s a good chance, the list doesn’t apply to you. The vehicles that don’t require insurance include:

  • Trailers
  • Off-highway vehicles
  • Government vehicles (federal,state,county, and city)
  • Special equipment vehicles
  • Vehicles with non-operation status

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance

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California is, surprisingly, not has harsh on uninsured motorists as some other states, but that is only true if you’re caught driving without it. If you’re involved in an accident without insurance, you’ll find yourself in some serious financial and legal trouble.

Penalties for First Offense

If you’re cited for driving without insurance for the very first time, the State of California will order you to pay a $100 fine. However, they will access additional fees and penalties that push the total due into the $450-$500 range.

Penalties for Second Offense

If you’re caught driving without insurance for the second time within a three-year stretch, the fine is anywhere between $200 and $500. However, the extra fees and penalties assessed can push the total fine to anywhere between $900 and $2,500. As you can see, it’s generally cheaper to pay $1800 per year for insurance than it is to get caught without it.

Subsequent Offenses

If you’re found to be driving without insurance after being hit for it twice in the last three years, the state of California can assess even harsher fees, revoke your vehicle registration, suspend your license for up to four years, and even impound your vehicle.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance In an Accident

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If you’ve been involved in an accident while driving without insurance, your problems go far beyond the damage caused to your vehicle. In this situation, you can face civil penalties that include but are not limited to paying for any property damage caused during the accident, paying the medical bills of anyone that was injured in the accident (including yourself and your passengers as well as others involed,) and, once again, there will be hefty fines, license suspension, and possible vehicle forfeiture. Needless to say, a serious accident can lead to some outrageously high medical bills as can the cost of repairing or –more than likely – replacing the other vehicles involved as well as your own.

What is an SR-22 Form And Why Do I Need One

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If your California vehicle registration has been suspended due to lack of insurance or failure to provide proof, the DMV is likely requested an SR-22 form to verify that you now have insurance. This is a must-have form if you’re trying to reinstate your registration or license after it being suspended for lack of financial responsibility. It is also a form that’s commonly requested if you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence as well.

Robert Moore
Editor-in-Chief and Automotive Expert -
Robert has been an auto enthusiast his entire life. He started working cars at a young age, learning the basics from his father in the home garage on the weekends. As time went on, Robert became more and more interested in cars and convinced his father to teach him how to drive when he was just 13 years old. Robert continued working on cars in his free time and learned as much as he could about engines, transmissions, and car electrical systems, something that only fed his curiosity more and eventually led him to earn a bachelors degree in automotive technology with a primary focus on engine performance and transmission rebuilding.  Read More
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