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Penalties for driving without insurance in Texas

Image of a car with the perspective viewing down on it with a Texas state limit sign.

All the old Western movies make Texas out to be a lawless countryside where chaos and cowboys reign supreme. Well, things are a little more civilized these days after Texas traded free-running horses for automobiles that operate within the legal bounds of the road. One of those laws is that driving a motor vehicle without insurance in Texas is illegal. To elaborate further, Bankrate’s team of insurance experts are here to explain the conditions of the law and the penalties associated with driving without insurance in the Lone Star State.

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Texas car insurance laws

Texas car insurance laws state that every driver must carry a minimum amount of car insurance to operate a vehicle legally. The minimum limits follow a 30/60/25 rule, which is described below:

  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $60,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $25,000 property damage liability per accident

However, all car insurance providers are also legally obligated to offer uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection (PIP) at the point of purchase. The purchaser can decline, but this decision must be binded in writing.

And for those with deep pockets who prefer to opt out of car insurance, Texas law does allow drivers to opt out of carrying state minimum car insurance by depositing $55,000 with the comptroller or county judge. In the event you are at fault in an accident, these funds will be deployed to pay towards the other party’s damages.

Penalties for driving without insurance in Texas

How much a ticket will cost for no insurance in Texas depends on whether or not you have a history of this traffic offense. See the chart below for details:

Penalty type First offense Subsequent offenses
Fines Up to $350 Up to $1,000
Driver’s license surcharge $250 a year for three years Additional $250 a year for three years

But a ticket for no insurance in Texas is only the beginning of your potential problems. In addition to fines and surcharges, repeat offenders can expect:

  • Vehicle impoundment and associated fees
  • Vehicle registration suspension
  • License suspension and reinstatement fee
  • SR-22 requirement
  • Up to six months in jail if uninsured in an accident

In addition, there are many hidden costs in each one of these penalties. For example, if your vehicle is impounded, you’ll accumulate daily holding fees. You’ll also be without a personal mode of transportation, which can easily impact your ability to work and earn an income.

Another example relates to your insurance costs after a Texas no insurance ticket. The average cost of car insurance in Texas is $2,019 per year for a full coverage policy and $565 per year for a minimum coverage policy. However, after a lapse in coverage, Texas drivers can expect to pay $2,188 per year for full coverage, all other things being equal. And if you’ve received penalties on your driving record for driving without insurance, you may be considered a high-risk driver and pay even more.

So, after running the numbers, many insurance experts believe the penalties for driving without insurance outweigh the downside of a monthly premium payment. To encourage compliance with its car insurance laws, Texas uses an electronic database system called TexasSure. This system connects your insurance information to the DMV, and if your policy lapses, your car insurance company will automatically notify the DMV. Once the lapse is reported, the DMV will send you a letter requiring you to provide proof of insurance within 10 days — consider it a friendly reminder! However, fines and other penalties are on the table if you decide to ignore the reminder.

Getting into an accident without insurance in Texas

In Texas, the financial consequences of getting into an accident without insurance can follow you around for a lifetime. If you’re at fault and uninsured in an accident, the impacted parties can pursue you in a court of law. In that case, the courts could liquidate your home, retirement fund or other assets to cover the other party’s medical expenses, property damage, and court costs.

While having a minimum car insurance policy does make it legal for you to drive in Texas, it only protects you up to the 30/60/25 coverage limits mentioned earlier. If your liability in an accident exceeds these limits (which it easily could), the rest of the money must come out of pocket. For this reason, Texas drivers may want to strongly consider a full coverage car insurance policy with higher limits.

Another consequence of getting into an accident without insurance is being required to carry an SR-22 on your policy. It’s basically a document connecting your insurance provider with the DMV to certify that you are carrying at least the minimum amount of liability coverage required. In Texas, the SR-22 is required for two years after receiving a ticket for driving without insurance (does not necessarily have to involve an accident). Any lapse in coverage usually results in a suspended license and a $100 license reinstatement fee.

Frequently asked questions

    • The best car insurance companies in Texas will vary based on your personal circumstances. For example, if you live on the Gulf Coast, you may want to consider investing in a full-coverage policy that accounts for inclement weather such as tropical storms and hurricanes. It’s typically a good practice to write down what you are looking for in an auto policy before you start shopping, then request quotes from several insurance companies to see which is the best for you.
    • Insurance providers use a proprietary algorithm to generate a personalized quote for you and your circumstances. Some factors that can impact the cost of your insurance in Texas are credit history, location, driving record, age and vehicle type. Some of these are fixed (like age), but many of these are variable and can be tailored in a way that could qualify you for cheaper car insurance (e.g. downgrade vehicles, improve credit). But no matter your situation, shopping around with multiple companies is probably the most effective strategy for identifying the cheapest car insurance company in Texas for your situation.
    • The average cost of car insurance in Texas is $2,019 per year for a full coverage policy and $565 per year for a minimum coverage policy, which is about on par with the national average. Most insurance professionals recommend you request free car insurance quotes when you renew your coverage — you never know what new car insurance discounts you might qualify for. Insurance providers typically reward you for safe driving, bundling and more. And, if your personal circumstances have changed, such as getting married or being convicted of a moving violation, there may be another insurance company that can offer you a better rate.

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