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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Last Updated 15 AUGUST 2022

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, 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? 

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, you could:

  • Be fined – the police could give you a fixed penalty of £300. 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. 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 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 if you get caught without car insurance, this will have an impact on the cost of future premiums you take out.

What is the maximum fine for driving without insurance? 

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

As mentioned earlier, standard fixed fines start at £300, but if your case is more serious – for example, you were driving an uninsured car and hadn’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 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. But it will appear as a record on your driving licence.

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

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 – 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.

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

When don’t I need car 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. So, 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.

How much do uninsured drivers cost the UK? 

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

What’s more, the MIB estimates that collisions caused by uninsured and hit-and-run drivers cost the economy nearly £2 billion a year in emergency services, medical care, loss of productivity and property damage. Which is why it’s so important to crack down on those who drive without insurance.

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 the DVLA’s database.

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.

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

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

  • Collect as much information and evidence as you can, including details of the driver and vehicle, plus time and date of the accident
  • Take videos and photos to back up any evidence
  • Contact the police and your insurance provider as soon as possible.

If the other driver isn’t insured or won’t give you their insurance details, make a formal complaint to the police.

Your insurance provider will also have access to the MID to find out if the other driver is insured or not. Otherwise, for a fee, you can use the askMID lookup service yourself. You can do a quick search with your smartphone at the roadside.

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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

What are ‘special reasons’ for driving without insurance?

If your case goes to court, magistrates have the discretion not to disqualify you from driving or add penalty points to your licence if there are ‘special reasons’. You may be able to put forward this argument if you can demonstrate that you were misled into believing you were insured or there was no way of knowing you were not insured – for example, your insurance provider cancelled your policy without telling you. But there are no guarantees this defence will be successful.

Does comprehensive insurance cover me to drive any vehicle?

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.  

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.

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.

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?

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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