Driving without car insurance: what are the penalties?

Find out what can happen if you drive without car insurance, the minimum cover you need to drive legally, and what to do if you’re hit by an uninsured driver.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 10 January 2023  | 4 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

Key points

  • It’s illegal to drive on public roads in the UK without at least third-party car insurance
  • You could face a fine and six points on your licence and you may even be disqualified from driving
  • You can still be fined even if you weren’t the one driving the uninsured car or it was only parked on the road and not driven
  • If you’re in an accident with an uninsured driver you may be able to claim through the Motor Insurance Bureau

Driving without car insurance

Car insurance is a legal requirement in the UK and if you drive without it, you could face serious penalties.

It’s against the law to drive on public roads without at least having third-party insurance cover. And even if the car itself is covered, if you’re not correctly insured to drive it you could be penalised.

Insurance policies don’t always automatically renew when they expire. So it’s your legal responsibility to make sure you stay insured and that you’ve got the right type of cover.

What happens if the police stop you for driving without insurance?

The police have number plate recognition cameras and the insurance records of every car at their fingertips to help them identify uninsured drivers.

So if you’re driving in front of a police car, they can easily tell whether your car is insured.

If they suspect you’re driving without insurance, the police will pull you over and ask to see your driving licence and proof that you’ve got valid cover.

You can either show proof of your insurance when you’re stopped at the roadside. Or, if you don’t have your insurance details with you, you’ll need to take them to a police station to be verified within seven days.

What are the penalties for driving without insurance?

According to the GOV.uk website, the consequences for being found to be driving while uninsured could include:

  • Having your vehicle seized and impounded, clamped or destroyed
  • A £300 fixed penalty
  • Six penalty points on your licence
  • Paying a fee to release your car
  • Facing a court prosecution - with the chance of an unlimited fine and a driving ban
  • Higher car insurance premiums

Even if your car’s not being driven but is found parked on the road without insurance, you could still face a fine.

What is the maximum fine for uninsured driving?

The fine for driving without insurance starts from £300, but if it ends up in court the penalty could be far higher than this. In fact, it has the potential to be unlimited, so there’s no saying how much you’d be required to fork out.

What’s more, the police have the right to seize and destroy your car. This can leave you further out of pocket if you’re left having to buy a replacement set of wheels.

And you can still be fined for being uninsured even if you weren’t the person driving your car, as the registered keeper, you’re responsible for sorting the insurance.

Will I get a criminal record for driving without insurance?

No, it’s not a criminal offence to drive without insurance but it is still illegal

If you’re convicted, it won’t appear on your criminal record but a formal note (called an IN10 endorsement) will stay on your driving licence for four years.

As most insurers ask for a driving history of up to five years, you’ll need to tell them about your conviction and face paying more expensive premiums for several years.

What if my policy has accidentally expired?

In the UK, drivers are legally responsible for making sure they have valid insurance. So whatever the reason, it’s likely you’ll face a fine if you get caught driving without car insurance.

Your insurance provider should give you up to four weeks' notice of your policy’s expiry date, and they often send further reminders as the time gets closer.

There’s little excuse for letting a policy lapse, so set yourself a reminder that gives you plenty of time to compare quotes or renew your existing cover.

Does fully comprehensive insurance mean I can drive any car?

No, even if you’ve got fully comprehensive insurance, it’s unlikely to cover you for driving other people’s cars - so check your policy wording carefully.

Generally, the only time you might be covered is if your policy has a ‘driving other cars’ clause. Some insurers will let you add this cover to your policy for an extra cost.

But you may not be covered to drive the other person’s car at all unless you’re specifically named on the policy and you’ve been given permission to drive it.

And if you’re covered to drive another car, you’ll usually only have third-party cover, not the fully comprehensive cover you’ve got for your own car.

When don’t I need car insurance?

Although you almost always need to have car insurance, there are a few exceptions where your car can be legally uninsured, these include if:

  • Your car has a SORN - A valid statutory off road notification (SORN) means you can legally put your insurance on hold while your car’s kept off road in a garage, on your drive or on private land
  • Your car is written off, scrapped or stolen - You’ll need to have informed the DVLA and your insurer that your car can’t be insured any longer
  • Your car is between dealers - You don’t need insurance if your car is registered as being ‘in trade’ and is between dealers or being held in stock

Can I drive on private land without insurance?

You’re only legally allowed to drive on private land without insurance if that land can’t be accessed by the public.

However, even if you're only planning to drive the vehicle on private land, this does not make you exempt from vehicle tax or insurance. To be exempt, you'd need to SORN your vehicle, which means the vehicle should not be in use at all.

What can I do if I’m hit by an uninsured driver?

There are a few things you should do at the time of the accident that will help when it comes to claiming on your car insurance:

  1. Take down the details of the driver and their car

    This includes their name and address, as well as the car’s make, model and registration number

  2. Capture as much evidence as you can

    Note down the date and time of the accident and take photos and videos of the scene and any other supporting evidence

  3. Contact the police and your insurance provider

    Call the police as soon as you can to let them know the other driver was uninsured and inform your insurer straightaway

Can I make a claim if the other driver doesn’t have insurance?

Yes, if you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured driver or a driver who fled the scene, you should still be able to make a claim.

If you’ve got comprehensive cover, you should be able to claim through your insurance provider.

Many insurers offer an uninsured driver promise so your no-claims discount won’t be affected if this happens to you.

If you only have third-party cover, or you can’t claim for damage or an injury elsewhere, you might be able to claim through the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB) which can act on behalf of the uninsured driver.