North Carolina is serious about car insurance. Driving without it is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor, which means you could be on the hook for a number of penalties.
If you're caught driving without car insurance in North Carolina, the state may choose to suspend your driver's license, charge fines ranging from $50–$150, or require jail time. The penalties are more severe for frequent offenders.
How much insurance do I need in North Carolina?
According to the North Carolina Motor Vehicle Safety and Financial Responsibility Act, all drivers must carry car insurance with at least these coverage limits:
- $30,000 for bodily injury per person
- $60,000 for bodily injury per accident
- $25,000 for property damage
Penalties for driving without insurance
If your policy has lapsed, you must pay a civil penalty fee that ranges from $50 to $150. The amount depends on how many lapses you have on record. More importantly, driving without insurance is considered a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina. That means you could either face imprisonment or be placed on probation for up to 45 days.
The state has a few ways to check your insurance status.
- Your insurance company informed the DMV. Insurers are required to notify the department of motor vehicles if you've canceled coverage.
- You couldn't provide proof of coverage. Law enforcement officers can ask you for proof of insurance during traffic stops or at the scene of an accident. If you don't have it, the officer may fine you and notify the DMV.
In either case, the DMV will send you a form FS 5-7, which is a liability insurance termination notice. You have 10 days to respond and prove you either have insurance or you've purchased a policy. If you don't respond by the deadline, the state may take your license plates for 30 days and suspend your registration.
In the table below, we've listed the penalties you could face for first, second and subsequent offenses. These penalties are in addition to court fees.
|Civil penalty: $50/License reinstatement fee: $50||Registration suspended for 30 days||Probation for 1–45 days|
|Civil penalty: $100/License reinstatement fee: $50||Registration suspended for 30 days||Jail time or probation for 1–45 days|
Third and subsequent offenses
|Civil Penalty: $150/License reinstatement fee: $50||Registration suspended for 30 days||Jail time or probation for 1–45 days|
If you can't find an insurer willing you sell you a policy, then contact the North Carolina Reinsurance Facility. This company provides coverage for high-risk drivers.
Penalties for first offense
First-time offenders get the lowest penalties. If you can't provide proof of insurance when a law enforcement officer asks for it, then you'll pay a $50 civil penalty fine and may be put on probation for up to 45 days. The state will suspend your registration and license plates for 30 days unless you submit proof of insurance and pay an additional $50 for reinstatement.
If you need to buy a new policy after a lapse, then compare quotes from multiple insurers to make sure you find the best rate. You may need to find an insurer that works with high-risk drivers.
Penalties for second offense
If you have two offenses within three years, the civil penalty increases to $100. The state takes your registration and license plates for 30 days until you buy insurance. If your license was suspended, you'll need to pay the $50 fee to get it back. You also might face jail time or probation for up to 45 days. But you can avoid jail time and suspension by submitting proof of insurance within 10 days of receiving the FS 5-7 Notice, along with paying the civil penalty.
Penalties for third and subsequent offenses
When you hit your third offense within three years, the civil penalty fine increases to $150. You also lose your registration and license plates for 30 days until you get insurance and pay the $50 reinstatement fee. You may face jail time with a chance of probation.