Driving without insurance: what are the penalties?

Some risks just aren’t worth taking - and one of them is driving without insurance. Car insurance is a legal requirement and there are serious penalties for driving without it.

Here’s a look at what could happen if you get behind the wheel without insurance. 

Some risks just aren’t worth taking - and one of them is driving without insurance. Car insurance is a legal requirement and there are serious penalties for driving without it.

Here’s a look at what could happen if you get behind the wheel without insurance. 

Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
minute read
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Posted 6 NOVEMBER 2019 Last Updated 15 NOVEMBER 2021

What happens when you’re stopped by the police for driving without insurance?

Police have access to cameras that can detect whether you’re insured or not by recognising your licence plate. If they pull you over on suspicion of driving without insurance, you’ll be asked to provide proof within seven days. 

If you can’t prove that you were insured at the time you were pulled over, then you’ll face a fine, points on your licence or even a driving ban. It’s just one of those things in life that’s never worth it. Not only do you face serious penalties, it’s also against the law and dangerous to you and other drivers.

What are the penalties for driving without insurance? 

Some risks just aren’t worth taking - and one of them is driving without insurance. Car insurance is a legal requirement and there are serious penalties for driving without it.  

Here’s a look at what could happen if you get behind the wheel without insurance. 

What is the maximum fine for driving without insurance? 

There is no maximum fine for driving without insurance, because the fine can be unlimited.

Standard fixed fines start at £300, but if your case is more serious - for example, you’ve driven an uninsured car and haven’t passed your driving test - then there’s no limit to the fine you could face. So not only could you face points, there’s also a big financial hit too.

Will I get a criminal record for driving without insurance?

Driving without insurance won’t appear on your criminal record and you won’t be at risk of going to prison for it. However, it will appear as a record on your driving licence.

If the case goes to court, you could be disqualified from driving. 

What happens if I accidentally let my policy expire?

It’s your responsibility to make sure that your car is insured. Simply forgetting or being too busy won’t be a good enough excuse, unfortunately. 

If you have an existing policy, your provider should always let you know when it’s about to expire, and they almost always automatically renew your policy for you anyway, unless you tell them not to.

So there’s really no excuse. If you think you’re going to forget, set a reminder well in advance. This also gives you enough time to check if there’s a better deal you can switch to.

When you sign up with AutoSergei™, we’ll automatically check for better deals before it’s time to renew.

Are there any other circumstances when I don’t need insurance?

There are some instances when you don’t need car insurance, but these only apply if you’re no longer driving the car: 

  • You’ve declared your car SORNSORN stands for Statutory Off Road Notification, and it basically tells the DVLA that you won’t be driving your car any more. It declares that the car is now off the road. Once you’ve done this, you can’t drive, or even park, your car on a public road. 
  • The car is between registered keepers – if the car is between owners, you won’t be responsible for insuring it. Once you’re responsible for the vehicle as the registered keeper, you’ll need to make sure that the car is properly insured. 
  • The car’s been written off, scrapped or stolen – if any of these applies to your car, you won’t need to insure it anymore. You need to inform the DVLA and your insurance provider.

Who needs car insurance? 

Anybody who drives or keeps a car must have car insurance. The bare minimum to be legal is third party car insurance. If you’re involved in an accident, it could cover the other party’s damage and injuries.
If you don’t use your car and you want to avoid having to insure and tax it, you must declare it off road and apply for a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN).  

Once you’ve declared your car SORN, you mustn’t drive, or even park the car on a public road. It must be kept on a private driveway, in a garage or on private land. 

What’s the point of car insurance?

Car insurance is there to protect you and other people from financial and medical costs in the event of an accident. 

These costs can be extensive, but it’s a crucial safety net in case something goes wrong.  

When insurance providers have to pay out for accidents caused by uninsured drivers, this can add to their costs and these are usually passed to drivers, pushing up car insurance prices for everyone.

How much do uninsured drivers cost the UK? 

It’s estimated that uninsured driving costs the insurance industry around £400 million each year. This is ultimately funded by honest motorists’ insurance premiums. So if you have insurance, your prices could rise to compensate those without it.

How can police tell if a vehicle is uninsured? 

The Motor Insurance Database (MID) records the details of all insured cars in the UK and shares the information with all UK police forces. Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras can tell if a vehicle is insured in a matter of seconds.

If your vehicle is shown as taxed on DVLA records but doesn’t appear on the database, you’ll receive an Insurance Advisory Letter (IAL) indicating that your vehicle is not recorded as insured. 

If you receive an IAL, you must make sure you have valid insurance and that your insurance provider has added you to the MID.

If you’ve taken out a SORN and you receive an IAL, contact the DVLA to confirm that your SORN is being processed. It could be that your details have yet to be updated on their database.

Police officers also have access to the MIB Police Helpline, which can determine the validity of a vehicle and the driver’s insurance. If a vehicle is stopped, helpline operatives have direct contact with insurance companies, who can clarify if a driver and vehicle are insured or not. 

So there’s really no place to hide, if you’re driving without insurance the police will find you.

Insurance is expensive isn’t it? 

There are several factors that contribute to high car insurance premiums, including the impact of uninsured drivers.  

However, your car insurance doesn’t need to be so expensive. Although there are some things you can’t change, like your age, address and claims history, there are ways to reduce the cost of your car insurance, including:  

  • your choice of car  – usually, the more powerful, modified and desirable your car is, the higher your insurance will be. 
  • how many miles you drive. The lower your annual mileage, the lower your premiums will be.
  • paying premiums up-front could save you additional interest charges on monthly instalments.
  • increasing your voluntary excess can also lower the cost of your premium. Just make sure you can afford to pay both the voluntary excess and compulsory excess if you need to make a claim.  
  • where you keep your car can make a difference. If it’s somewhere safe – ideally a locked garage – your prices may go down.

For more ways to reduce costs, check out our top tips for cheap car insurance.

Does comprehensive insurance cover me to drive any vehicle? 

Not necessarily. Some fully comprehensive policies might cover you for driving other cars, but they’ll also require that the other vehicle is insured in its own right.   
Always check before driving someone else’s car, to make sure the proper insurance is in place. If not, you and the car owner could receive penalty points and a fine. 

Are there any excuses for driving without insurance? 

No. There are no exceptions for driving without insurance. You must always have insurance to drive your vehicle. 

The only potential scenarios that could see you exempt are:

  • you’re only driving on private land (land with no public access) 
  • or your insurance provider cancelled your policy without letting you know. You’d need to prove this was the case though. 

Can I drive on private land with no insurance? 

You can legally drive on private land without insurance, but it must be an area with no public access. If there’s any public access, your vehicle needs insurance. Under Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) regulations, your car must be SORN if it’s not insured. 
Places that may have public access can include campsites, caravan parks, private estates and some ‘private’ car parks. 

If my car is parked on the road but I don’t drive it, do I need insurance?  

Yes, you do. Even if you don’t drive it, a car parked on a public road is still at risk of being hit by another vehicle. Any vehicle parked on public land must be legally insured. 
If you don’t drive your car anymore and you don’t want to tax or insure it because of that reason, you’ll need to declare it as SORN. But you must keep it parked on a private driveway or private land. You can’t park it in the street. 

What should I do if I’m hit by an uninsured driver? 

If you’re involved in an incident with an uninsured driver

  • collect as much information and evidence as you can, including driver and vehicle details
  • use videos and photographs to back up any evidence
  • if the other driver doesn’t give you their insurance details, make a formal complaint to the police
  • Contact the police and your insurance provider as soon as possible 

Your insurance provider will also have access to the MID to find out if the other driver is insured or not. Otherwise, you can use the askMID lookup service yourself. 

You can do a quick search with your smartphone at the roadside. 

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