What should you do if your auto insurance expired yesterday?

Not only is driving without insurance illegal in most states, but a coverage lapse can leave you with higher rates and the inability to file an accident claim. So reinstating coverage is vital.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: Jun 10, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • It is illegal to drive without auto insurance in almost every state
  • Without insurance, you cannot file claims, making you liable for property damages or injuries incurred after an accident
  • Your rates could increase the longer you’re uninsured, so reinstate coverage as soon as possible

Didn’t renew your insurance in time? Whether intentional or accidental, you must be careful if your insurance expires. Allowing your coverage to lapse can lead to serious legal and financial repercussions. If you get caught driving without valid insurance, you could face a fine, license suspension, or prison time. Plus, all it takes is one serious accident to bankrupt you.

Don’t stress, though. If your insurance expired yesterday, you could easily renew your coverage if you act quickly. Here, we’ll discuss the risks of driving while uninsured and how to keep yourself protected while on the road.

How does insurance expire?

Your insurance could expire if you’ve missed a payment or forgot to renew your policy because you are not automatically enrolled for renewals. It could also expire if you let your coverage lapse after selling or totaling your previous car. In some cases, like with fraud, your insurer could have canceled your coverage.

Whatever the reason, you should reinstate insurance as quickly as possible.

To avoid a coverage lapse, check the expiration date on your insurance card. Some insurers require you to print an insurance card when renewing your coverage, so keep your up-to-date card in your car. 

Many insurers have apps where you can easily access important information about your coverage, such as policy number, policy limits, and expiration date. Not all states require insurers to notify you when your insurance expires, especially in instances of non-payment, so stay on top of it.

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What auto insurance coverage must drivers have? 

Owning a car without insurance is illegal in almost every state in the U.S. Each state has its own rules on the minimum amount of coverage you need to be compliant, but in general, you must have a policy if you own a car, even if you don’t drive it.

Liability insurance is the most common requirement because it helps protect other drivers on the road. If you are responsible for an accident, your liability insurance will help cover their bodily injuries and property damages.

How risky is it to drive with expired insurance?

If you get involved in an accident while uninsured, you may be personally responsible for paying all damages. To put it into perspective, an accident with no physical injuries can cost around $4,700 in property damages, but a serious motor vehicle injury could yield damages of $29,200 or more, and a death could cost over $1,000,000. Without insurance, you must pay this completely out of pocket — many people can easily go bankrupt if the accident is serious enough.

If you live in an at-fault state and you are not responsible for the accident, the at-fault driver may cover your damages. However, if the at-fault driver is also uninsured, or if you’re the victim of a hit and run, you’ll be stuck paying the damages. You should take extra precautions if you live in a state with a high percentage of uninsured motorists. For example, approximately 29.4% of Mississippi’s drivers are uninsured, while New Jersey only estimates 3.1%.

Your insurance company will not backdate insurance to cover damages during a lapsed period, so it’s vital to have coverage ahead of time.

What are the consequences of a lapse in auto coverage?

There can be immediate consequences if you drive without insurance. Each state has different penalties, but if you get caught, you could be subject to any of the  consequences listed below.

  • A fine of up to $500 for the first offense
  • A fine of up to $2,000 for multiple offenses
  • License suspension or revocation
  • Impounded vehicle
  • Up to six months imprisonment

When you start searching for affordable car insurance coverage again, you may find that your rates have gone up. Insurers label those with lapsed coverages as “high risk.” Here, you can see a few examples of how a lapse may affect your rate, depending on which company insures you.

How Letting Your Insurance Expire Could Affect Your Rates

CompanyMonthly Rate With No LapseMonthly Rate With LapseRate Increase
Liberty Mutual$116$13513.1%
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Certain companies may increase rates more than others. Progressive has a smaller increase of 2.15%, but Nationwide will increase your rates by more than 16%. Additionally, the longer you go without insurance, the more your rates could increase, though some companies may simply deny you.

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What should you do when your insurance expires?

First, check if your insurance is actually expired — you could still be covered if you have autopay or autorenewal. If you still have coverage, all you’d need to do is print a new insurance card with an updated expiration date.

If your car insurance expired yesterday, check with your insurance company to see if there is a grace period where you can reinstate your insurance without penalty. Grace periods typically last three to ten days, but insurers don’t always offer it.

If you remain uninsured for a while, you may -continue coverage with your old insurer if you pay your uninsured months. The company may also charge a fee.

You could also find auto insurance coverage through assigned risk pools. These state-run pools provide insurance to anyone who cannot normally get voluntary insurance. However, rates are higher than standard insurance rates, even for drivers with lapsed coverages. Additionally, the risk pool may be limited to the state’s minimum requirements.

Even if your rates go up, you can work to lower them over time by maintaining a clean driving record and taking advantage of discounts for things such as:

  • Enrolling in autopay
  • Going paperless
  • Holding multiple policies
  • Insuring multiple cars
  • Getting good grades
  • Keeping your mileage low

While you’re hunting for coverage, consider taking public transportation or rideshares so that you don’t get involved in an accident as an uninsured driver. Otherwise, you could pay far more than if you had waited to reinstate coverage. Once you’re enrolled, set up automatic payments so you don’t miss payments or renewal dates.

Act Quickly if Your Insurance Is Expired

Driving without valid insurance can lead to serious legal and financial penalties. You could be fined and pay much higher rates in the future or suffer more serious consequences, such as serving jail time or going bankrupt. Don’t take the risk. Reinstate your insurance as soon as possible.

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