Driving a car without insurance is illegal in the UK and getting caught can land you in hot water. What are the penalties? Do you get a criminal record? Read on to find out about the consequences of driving without insurance.
What happens if you drive without insurance?
By law you are required to have a minimum of third-party car insurance. According to the Road Traffic Act of 1988, even cars that aren’t being driven, but are parked on public land such as roads, need to be insured. Driving with no insurance can result in severe penalties. Regardless of this, the number of uninsured drivers on the road is staggering.
According to the Motor Insurance Bureau (MIB), up to 50% of the uninsured driving cases it investigates are the result of human error, such as an invalid insurance policy or driving someone else’s car.
What mistakes lead to uninsured driving?
Although some drivers – especially young drivers, according to the MIB – might be tempted to avoid paying insurance on their vehicles, there are many people who unknowingly drive without insurance. Here are some of the most common reasons for this:
- Expired policy. Some policies don’t renew automatically, and this often leads to drivers being unaware that they’re driving without insurance. You can check if your car is insured and registered with the Motor Insurance Database (MID) by using askMID.
- Cancelled policy. If some insurance premium payments are missed, your insurance provider can cancel your policy. Failing to provide the required documents can also lead to a policy being cancelled.
- Driving someone else’s car. It’s a common assumption that, if you have comprehensive insurance, you’re automatically allowed to drive someone else’s car. However, this is almost always not included. Instead, you need to have a Driving Other Vehicles (DOV) cover or you need to be listed on the car’s insurance policy as a driver.
- Wrong class-of-use. When taking out an insurance policy, you and your insurer agree on the vehicle’s intended purpose. If the vehicle is used for a purpose other than what you’ve agreed, it’s considered uninsured driving.
It’s essential to make sure you have the correct cover when you drive a car, even if you’re just test driving a car or borrowing one for a day. There are temporary insurance policies that can cover you for as little as an hour.
What happens if the vehicle’s insurance accidentally expires?
Unfortunately, forgetting to renew your car insurance isn’t an excuse and it won’t exempt you from the penalties of driving without insurance. As the driver and owner of a vehicle, it’s your responsibility to ensure that you are always properly insured.
Many policies renew automatically, and if not, your insurer will usually let you know before an existing insurance policy is about to expire. Make sure you double-check this though, so that you’re not caught unawares.
What happens if you get caught driving without insurance in the UK?
If you’re driving without insurance and are stopped by the police, the first thing they will do is ask you to provide proof of insurance. You will have seven days to provide documents proving that you had the correct cover on the day you were stopped.
If you aren’t able to provide the right documents, or if your insurance has expired, the police will penalise you for driving without insurance. The penalty will depend on your circumstances, and may include seizing, impounding, or even destroying your car.
What are the consequences of driving without insurance?
There are a number of penalties the police can impose. In more serious cases, they may decide that the case will be handled by the court. When deciding on what course of action to take, the court will consider the circumstances, such as culpability and harm caused, and the extent of the uninsured use.
- Fines. If you’re caught driving a vehicle that you aren’t insured to drive, the police can give you a fixed penalty of £300. The fine for not insuring your vehicle, even if your uninsured car is not being driven but is parked on a road, can be up to £1,000. There is no limit to the fine if your case goes to court.
- Penalty points. As well as a fine, you can get six penalty points on your licence. These points stay on your driving record for either four or 11 years, depending on the offence.
- Driving ban. If you’re caught driving without insurance and the case goes to court, there is a chance that you will be disqualified from driving. Drivers who accumulate 12 or more penalty points within a three-year period can be disqualified from driving.
The driving ban can vary in length, depending on your driving record and circumstances, and is decided by the court. If you’re disqualified from driving for more than 56 days, you’ll need to apply for a new driving licence and might need to retake your driving test.
- Seizing the car. The police also have the power to seize your vehicle. If you don’t provide proof of adequate insurance within seven working days of the incident, the police have the right to destroy your car.
If you allow someone who isn’t insured to drive your car, you can be prosecuted for allowing it to happen. The penalties are the same as for the other, uninsured driver.
It’s also important to note that being caught driving without car insurance will affect the price of future insurance premiums that you take out.
Can you go to jail for driving without insurance?
In the UK, driving without insurance is not an arrestable offence and you can’t go to jail for it. It’s still illegal, though. You won’t get a criminal record but it will appear on your driving licence record and you could be penalised.
Does a vehicle need to be insured even if it’s not driven?
In most cases, yes.
Even if you’re not driving your vehicle, if it is parked on public land it must be legally insured. If you park your vehicle on private land or in a private garage and don’t drive it any longer, you need to register it as off road through a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN). A vehicle declared as SORN can’t be parked on public land, even in your driveway where it might accidentally be hit by another car.
When don’t you need car insurance?
Your vehicle almost always needs to have valid insurance. However, there are a few special reasons when car insurance isn’t required. These only apply if the car is no longer being driven or if it’s between owners.
- If the car has been written off, scrapped, or stolen, then it no longer requires insurance. You do need to inform your insurance company as well as the DVLA about this, however.
- If the car is between registered keepers, for example, if you are buying a car from someone else, you don’t need to insure it until you become the official owner. If you’re selling your car to someone else, you need to inform the DVLA of this change of ownership.
- If your car has been declared SORN and is now parked off a public road, it doesn’t need to be insured.
How do police know if a vehicle is uninsured?
Police are able to find out almost instantly if a car is insured and has a valid MOT by using sophisticated Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. This system has access to the MID, which keeps a record of all insured cars in the UK. They can also check your plates against this system if they stop you on the side of the road.
If your car is taxed but not insured, you’ll receive an insurance advisory letter (IAL). Then you’ll need to make sure your insurance is valid and that you have been added to the MID.
Can you report someone driving without insurance in the UK?
If you suspect someone is driving an uninsured vehicle, you can report it to the police. You will need to follow these steps:
- Check the MID to see if the vehicle is listed as insured
- Make note of the vehicle registration number, its make and model, its colour, and its location (street name, town, and postcode where you saw it)
- Report the vehicle online using your local police force’s website
To drive a motor vehicle legally in the UK, you need to have at least third party insurance. Being caught driving without insurance can result in serious charges.
For driving a car you’re not insured to drive, you can receive a fixed penalty notice of £300 and six penalty points on your licence. If your vehicle is uninsured, even if it’s not being driven, the fine can be up to £1,000. If the police decide to hand the case over to the court, the consequences could be even more severe. There is no limit to what the fine could be, you can be disqualified from driving, and the police can seize your car.
You could be driving illegally without realising it. Always make sure your insurance policy covers your car for its intended purpose, and that it hasn’t accidentally expired or been cancelled.
There are a few instances where a vehicle doesn’t need to be insured, such as if it has been scrapped, written off or stolen, if it is declared SORN, or if it’s between registered keepers.
If you own a vehicle or drive somebody else’s, make sure you check you have the adequate insurance cover before getting behind the wheel. If you need a hand, A-Plan is here to help.