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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.

Written by
Rebecca Goodman
Insurance expert
Last Updated
19 MAY 2023
6 min read
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What is the penalty for driving without insurance?

It’s against the law to drive on public roads without at least third-party car insurance. Even if the car itself is insured, you could still be penalised if you’re not insured to drive that particular vehicle. 
If you’re caught driving without insurance in England, Scotland or Wales, you could:

  • Be fined – the police could give you a fixed penalty of £300. If the case goes to court, you could be given an unlimited fine. If your car isn’t being driven but parked on the road, you could be fined up to £1,000 if it’s not insured.
  • Have your car seized – the police have the power to seize an uninsured vehicle. The car could be destroyed if you don’t buy or provide proof of adequate insurance within seven working days of receiving the notice letter to reclaim your vehicle.
  • Get points on your licence – driving without car insurance can land you with six penalty points on your licence. These points stay on your driving record for four years.
  • Receive a driving ban – if the case goes to court, you could be disqualified from driving. The court will decide how long the ban lasts but repeat offenders who are disqualified from driving for more than 56 days will need to apply for a new licence and may need to retake their test.

It’s also worth noting that getting caught without car insurance will impact the cost of future premiums you take out.

If you are in Northern Ireland, different rules apply see nidirect

What is the maximum fine for driving without insurance? 

There’s no maximum fine for driving without insurance — the fine can be unlimited.

As mentioned earlier, standard fixed fines start at £300. If your case is more serious – for example, you were driving an uninsured car and without a licence – then there’s no upper limit to the fine. So not only could you face points, but there’s a big financial hit too.

Will I get a criminal record for driving uninsured?

Driving without insurance isn't punishable by imprisonment, so it's not classified as a "recordable offence". But it will appear as a record on your driving licence for four years.

You could be banned from driving if the case goes to court.

What happens if I accidentally let my policy expire?

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

If you have an existing policy, your provider should always let you know about three to four weeks before it’s due to expire. 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.

With Automated Quotes, we’ll automatically check for better deals before it’s time to renew.

When can you drive a car without insurance?

There’s a few 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 as you’re declaring it 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. But once you become the registered keeper, you’ll need to make sure the car is properly insured.
  • The car’s been written off, scrapped or stolen – if any of these apply to your car, you won’t need to insure it any longer. You’ll need to let the DVLA and your insurance provider know, though.

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 of valid cover within seven days.

If you can’t prove that you were insured at the time you were pulled over, you’ll face a fine, points on your licence or even a driving ban.

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. You'll need to take action otherwise you'll receive a penalty from the DVLA.

If you receive an IAL:

  • If you think you are insured then you'll need to contact your insurance company. It is only your insurance provider who can update or correct your records on 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 the DVLA’s database.
  • If you are not insured, you must officially declare your vehicle as off the road with the DVLA or purchase valid insurance.

Police officers also have access to the MIB Police Helpline, which can be used to check 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.

Did you know?

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau estimates that uninsured drivers add nearly £500 million to the cost of premiums for honest road users each year. The non-profit organisation, which compensates victims of uninsured drivers, also reports that someone in the UK is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver every 20 minutes.

While most uninsured drivers are complicit in the act, there are motorists who may be driving without realising their insurance is invalid. For this reason, the MIB, in partnership with the police, launched Op Drive Insured in November 2022.

The campaign encourages drivers to check they have valid insurance by using the free askMID database tool.

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

If you’re involved in a car accident:

  • It’s vital that you collect as much info and evidence as you can. 
  • If the other driver isn’t insured, or refuses to give you their insurance details, make a formal complaint to the police.
  • You should also contact your insurance provider as soon as possible. They’ll have access to MID to find out if the other driver is insured or not.
  • If you have a comprehensive policy and it includes an uninsured driver promise, your no-claims discount and excess should be protected.

Compare car insurance quotes

The consequences of driving without insurance simply aren’t worth the risk. And choosing a car insurance policy has never been easier or quicker.

If you search with us, we’ll give you a choice of trusted insurance providers based on your needs.

Frequently asked questions

Are there any excuses for driving without insurance?

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).
  • Your insurance provider cancelled your policy without letting you know. You’d need to prove this was the case though.

If your case goes to court, magistrates have the discretion not to disqualify you from driving or add penalty points to your licence. But there are no guarantees your defence will be successful.

Does comprehensive insurance cover me to drive any vehicle?

Some comprehensive polices might cover you for driving other cars, but they’ll also require that the other vehicle is insured in its own right.  

Before driving someone else’s car, always check to make sure the proper insurance is in place. If not, you and the car owner could receive penalty points and a fine.

Can I drive on private land in an uninsured car?

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.

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?

Any vehicle parked on public land must be legally insured. Even if you don’t drive it, a car parked on a public road is still at risk of being hit by another vehicle.

If you no longer drive your car and you don’t want to tax or insure it, 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.

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Rebecca Goodman - Insurance expert

Rebecca Goodman is a freelance financial journalist who specialises in insurance, personal finance and consumer affairs. Rebecca regularly writes for national newspapers including The Independent and The Mail on Sunday on a wide-range of financial topics. She covers everything from money-saving tips and holiday advice to investigations into how energy efficient appliances can cut the cost of household bills and the impact donating money can have on those in need. Along with features in national papers, Rebecca also writes news stories for websites including Yourmoney.com and The Money Edit.

Learn more about Rebecca

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