Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in New York

Dashboard view from a taxi crossing the Queensboro Bridge amongst other insured drivers in Queens, NY

Lynn Saville / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Driving without insurance in any state is not recommended, including in the state of New York. We all know that owning and maintaining a car or truck is expensive. Between paying for gas, changing the oil, checking the tires and brakes, there always seems to be something that needs replacing, fixing or filling up. Let’s face it: without making sure that these things are in working order, your vehicle just won’t run as smoothly as it can—if it can even get started and make it onto the road.

But what about car insurance? You know that you should have it. You know that driving without it is risky. But you also know that, without auto insurance, your engine will still turn over, slip into gear and take you to work or the supermarket, or anywhere else you need to go. So when money is tight, and you need to cut back, you might feel the urge to let that auto insurance policy lapse for a little while. Our advice to you is to garner all of your strength and fight that urge—and here’s why.

Letting Your Auto Insurance Lapse is a Terrible Idea

Allowing your insurance lapse sounds pretty passive, does not it? I mean, your vehicle is merely sitting in the garage. You’re not driving it anywhere, so what’s the harm? Here’s the harm: According to the New York Vehicle and Traffic Code, you are required to turn in your registration and surrender your license plates before your insurance policy is canceled.

The moment your policy lapses, the insurer will electronically notify the Department of Motor Vehicles and your vehicle registration will be immediately suspended. This will happen even if your car or truck is parked off of a public road or put into storage. If you fail to turn in your plates and get new insurance within 90 days, you will have to pay a registration reinstatement fee based on the number of days your registration was suspended. Currently, the daily fee in New York State is $8 for the first thirty days, $10 for the next thirty, and $12 for the final thirty. If your registration remains suspended after ninety days, your driver’s license will also be suspended and reinstate your driver’s license is going to cost you an additional $50.

Considering the applicable reinstatement fees and penalties, the bottom line is that you likely will not save any money by letting your auto insurance lapse. In the state of New York, the insurance companies and the government coordinate with one another every day. If your insurance lapses, you can not just hope that no one notices—because the authorities will be notified.

A simple lapse in your insurance, however, would be the least of your problems. What if you decide to take your uninsured vehicle for a spin?

Driving Your Vehicle Without Insurance is an Even Worse Idea

Now the penalties get bigger more quickly. Under Section 319 of the New York Vehicle and Traffic Code, if you are caught driving your vehicle without proper insurance, you will be cited, and your license will be revoked for at least one year. The cost of your citation will be a fine of between $150 and $1,500, or 15 days in jail. Also, at the end of your license revocation period, you will be required to pay a civil penalty to the DMV for $750.

If this sounds reasonable, remember that you will also need to factor into these costs the amount of money you’ll spend in that year on public transit, time you will spend explaining why you can’t help out at carpool, and time you’ll waste explaining to friends why you can’t make it on that out of state weekend trip. Suddenly, keeping your insurance up-to-date does not seem so expensive. But here’s the clincher. Some states are moving towards impounding vehicles without insurance.

Getting Into an Accident Without Insurance

So far, all of the costs and penalties we have discussed concern about what you will owe to the state for having no insurance. And although those costs can be steep, they pale in comparison to what you might end up paying if you cause an accident. If you get into a crash and it is your fault, you are responsible for the costs of any property damage and personal injuries that result. Those expenses could be devastating. How devastating? They could end up wiping out the assets of even the wealthiest drivers.

In conclusion, we all want to save money. Sometimes we have no choice. However, we almost always have a choice on where to cut back. Just remember, if you are tempted to economize by losing your auto insurance, like I said, fight that urge. The potential damage could be massive. And the reality is, at the very least, you probably won’t save any money.