Having a lapse in your car insurance automatically pegs you as a potential risk taker to insurance companies. This risky behavior extends to your likelihood to an insurer of getting into a car accident. As a result, your rates will be higher. How much higher? We explore further in this article.
What is a Lapse In Car Insurance?
A lapse in car insurance is any period in which you have a registered car, but do not have car insurance. There may be several reasons: your policy ran out, your policy was cancelled because you missed a payment, you no longer drive, you were deployed, and many more.
If Your Policy Ends Due to Missed Payment or You Forget to Renew the Policy
The most likely scenario is missing a monthly payment or forgetting to renew, leading your company to cancel the policy. Once your policy is no longer in effect, your car insurance company will notify the DMV telling them you are uninsured. Depending on the state, being uninsured will leave you open to fines and numerous other penalties. The longer you wait to renew your policy, the more expensive your rates will be as well.
If You are Being Deployed Overseas, or Studying/Moving Abroad
If you are being deployed overseas, you won't be using your car much. The same goes for those living or studying abroad for a period of time. Military members have a few companies like USAA, GEICO and Esurance that will allow them to suspend car insurance while they're away. Suspending insurance is not considered a lapse, thus sparing them from raised rates. If you are studying or moving abroad, you will have to get an affidavit from your state's DMV stating you will not be using the vehicle.
Not every company will allow you to suspend your car insurance. If your car is leased, you may not have the option to suspend coverage. If suspension is not possible, you can remove yourself from the policy (if there are others on it) or cancel your insurance. That would be considered a lapse, and thus leave you open to raised rates from your insurance company unfortunately. You may be able to avoid any DMV and state penalties however by filling out an exemption form from the DMV.
How Much Will Auto Insurance Rates Increase after a Lapse?
To get an idea of how rates would increase, we compared a series of quotes from New York and Pennsylvania from GEICO, State Farm and Progressive. We were curious to see if the states and companies differed in their penalties for a lapse in coverage. We got quotes for three scenarios: people who were currently insured and seeking renewals, people whose insurance recently expired within the past month, or who haven't had insurance for more than 30 days (but were insured in the past). The prices per month are listed below:
|State||Company||W/ Car Insurance||Canceled Under 30 Days||Canceled More 30 Days|
|New York||State Farm||$163||$164||$227|
|Avg. Increase in Rates||8%||29%|
The results show the importance of getting back on an auto insurance plan as soon as your old plan is cancelled. The two states and three companies had about the same average rate increase for a lapse in coverage. There appears to be a small penalty for those with a lapsed policy of less than 30 days, but that can dramatically increase if you let it go on for longer, an average of about 30% more per year. That can translate to hundreds of dollars that you'll be overpaying. So what are some ways to get back coverage?
What Should You Do If You Have a Lapse in Coverage?
The one thing you should never do is drive uninsured. Driving without insurance, as we discuss here, is costly and illegal. Getting caught in an accident uninsured could even lead to jail time in some states. If you are uninsured, and need to drive, you need to get back onto an insurance policy.
Of course, that may not be so easy if you are constrained financially, and missed payments because you could not afford them. Car insurance is expensive, and it does take a chunk of your monthly salary. If your livelihood depends on using your car however, you are going to need to find a way to get affordable auto insurance. Our best advice would be to restructure your policy. Choosing lower limits, can ease your payments by a good amount. By going here, you can also find numerous other ways to get down your monthly rates, such as applying for discounts. The longer you wait, the more expensive your rates will become, thus costing you more money in the long run.
Which States Impose a Penalty for a Lapse in Coverage
If you have a registered vehicle, you need car insurance in mostly every state in the U.S. Some states are better than others at regulating that, going so far as to have companies reporting to state DMVs whenever the insurance for a registered car has lapsed. When the DMV knows about your lapse, you leave youself open to a license and/or registration suspension, civil fines, and SR-22 filings. Each state has varying forms of punishment, as you can see in the table below:
|Alabama||$200 license reinstatement penalty then $400 second time|
|Alaska||$100 license reinstatement penalty for first lapse|
|Arizona||$50 license reinstatement penalty|
|Arkansas||$50 license reinstatement penalty|
|California||$14 license reinstatement penalty|
|Colorado||$40 license reinstatement penalty|
|Connecticut||$200 license reinstatement penalty|
|Delaware||$100 lapse penalty per vehicle/ $5 per day after 30 days|
|District of Columbia||$150 lapse penalty/$7 per day after 30 days|
|Florida||$150 registration and license reinstatement penalty for first lapse, $250 for second, $500 for third|
|Georgia||$25 penalty for lapse longer than 10 days, then $60 after 30 days|
|Hawaii||$20 license reinstatement penalty|
|Idaho||$85 license reinstatement penalty|
|Illinois||$100 reinstatement penalty|
|Indiana||$150 reinstatement penalty first offense, $225 second offense, $300 for third offense|
|Kansas||$100 reinstatement penalty first offense, $300 for second offense within 1 year|
|Kentucky||$40 registration reinstatement penalty|
|Louisiana||$125 lapse penalty for 30 days, $225 for 31 to 90 days, $525 over 90 days up to $850 max|
|Maine||$50 license reinstatement penalty, $20 to $30 additional penalty, and $35 registration penalty|
|Maryland||$150 penalty first 30 days, $7 for each day following 30 days, and registration penalty up to $25|
|Massachusetts||$500 reinstatement penalty|
|Michigan||$50 registration penalty|
|Minnesota||$30 license and registration reinstatement penalty|
|Mississippi||$30 license reinstatement penalty|
|Missouri||Have to be stopped by police,|
|Montana||No charge for first lapse of insurance|
|Nebraska||Reinstatement penalty of $500|
|Nevada||$250 penalty for under 30 days, $250 if lapse b/w 31 to 90 days, $500 if lapse b/w 91 to 180 days, and $1,000 lapse was more than 181 days|
|New Jersey||Restoration penalty of $100|
|New Mexico||Registration reinstatement penalty of $30|
|New York||$8 per day civil penalty for lapses under 30 days, $10 per day for next 30 days, and $12 per day for 30 days after|
|North Carolina||$50 civil penalty first lapse, $100 for the second lapse, $150 for third|
|Ohio||$60 penaltys, $100 reinstatement penalty for first offense, $300 for second, $600 for third|
|Oklahoma||$125 administrative penalty and $275 reinstatement penalty|
|Oregon||$75 license and registration reinstatement penalty|
|Pennsylvania||$88 restoration penalty|
|Rhode Island||$50 reinstatement penalty|
|South Carolina||$5 per day lapse penalty up to $200|
|South Dakota||$50 to $200 license reinstatement penalty depending on time lapses|
|Tennessee||$50 administrative penalty and $65 license and registration restoration penalty|
|Texas||$100 reinstatement penalty|
|Utah||$100 reinstatement penalty|
|Vermont||$71 license reinstatement penalty|
|Virginia||$145 registration reinstatement penalty|
|Washington||$75 reinstatement penalty|
|West Virginia||$100 registration reinstatement penalty|
|Wisconsin||$60 license reinstatement penalty|
|Wyoming||$50 reinstatement penalty|
Some states are harsher than others, but essentially, you should try to never let your auto insurance lapse.