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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
Julie Daniels
motor insurance comparison expert
Last Updated
4 JUNE 2024
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.
  • 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 to eight 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. 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.

If you’re the registered keeper of an uninsured vehicle that’s not been declared as off the road and it’s used or parked on the road you could:

  • Be fined £100
  • Have your vehicle wheel-clamped, impounded or destroyed
  • Be taken to court where you could get a maximum fine of £1,000.

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

If you’re in Northern Ireland, different rules apply. Find out more at nidirect.

What is the maximum fine for driving without insurance? 

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

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.

Did you know?

The Motor Insurers’ Bureau (MIB) estimates that injuries caused by uninsured and hit-and-run drivers cost the UK economy nearly £2.4 billion a year in emergency services, medical care, loss of productivity and human costs.

Uninsured driving also has a direct economic impact on honest motorists. To help compensate victims, an average of £53 is added to every single annual car insurance premium.

Is driving without insurance a criminal offence?

Driving without insurance isn't punishable by imprisonment and it won't go on your criminal record. But it will appear as an IN10 endorsement on your driving licence for four years. You’ll need to disclose it to insurance providers for a further year.

You could also 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 contact you three to four weeks before it’s due to expire. They’ll almost always automatically renew your policy for you anyway, unless you tell them not to.

If you think you’re going to forget to renew your insurance, set a reminder well in advance. This 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 for you to renew.

When can you drive a car without insurance?

You can't. There are 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. 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 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’ll no longer need to insure it. 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 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 the 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 isn’t 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're insured, you’ll need to contact your insurance provider. It’s 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're not insured, you must officially declare your vehicle as off the road with the DVLA or buy 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. 

You don’t have to be stopped by the police to be identified as uninsured. Under a scheme called Continuous Insurance Enforcement, The Motor Insurers Bureau and DVLA work together to identify uninsured vehicles by systematically comparing vehicle records against those held on the Motor Insurance Database (MID).

Did you know?

According to the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, someone in the UK is hit by an uninsured or hit-and-run driver every 20 minutes.

The MIB also reports that over 120,000 uninsured drivers had their vehicles seized in 2023. A third of these vehicles were crushed.

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. Make sure you have the vehicle registration number and take photos of the car and damage. 
  • If the other driver isn’t insured, or refuses to give you their insurance details, make a formal complaint to the police.
  • 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.

Looking for a car insurance quote?

Compare car insurance quotes with us today and see if you could start saving.

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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. It's quick and easy to get temporary insurance to drive another vehicle.

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.

Julie Daniels - motor insurance comparison expert

Julie is passionate about delivering a great customer experience and rewarding people for saving on their insurance through our loyalty and rewards programme. She’s spoken to the media, including outlets like Sky News and Capital FM, about car and home insurance, as well as our rewards scheme.

Learn more about Julie

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