UPDATED: Mar 13, 2020
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Virginia is one of two states in America that does not technically require drivers to have auto insurance. However, Virginia still has specific auto insurance laws that drivers need to follow to avoid fines, vehicle impoundment, and jail time.
Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about auto insurance requirements in Virginia, including how much auto insurance you need and whether or not you need car insurance on your vehicle.
Insurance Requirements in Virginia
Car insurance is required in every state in America except for two: New Hampshire and Virginia.
In both of these states, drivers are allowed to drive without car insurance, although they also agree to absorb certain risks for going without car insurance.
In Virginia, for example, you can pay a $500 fee to avoid abiding by car insurance requirements. After paying this fee, you can legally drive without car insurance – although you’re still responsible for any damages caused while driving.
In other words, drivers in Virginia have two separate options:
- You can buy car insurance and abide by state minimum insurance requirements
- Or, you can go without car insurance in Virginia and pay a $500 uninsured motorist fee every time you renew your registration
With either option, you will be able to purchase Virginia license plates or decals. On the road, there is no discernible difference between uninsured and insured drivers in Virginia.
Minimum Insurance Requirements in Virginia
Virginia requires the following minimum levels of insurance coverage:
- $25,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per person
- $50,000 of bodily injury liability coverage per accident
- $20,000 of property damage coverage
When comparing car insurance policies, this plan might be expressed as a 25/50/20 insurance plan. Here’s what each number means:
Bodily Injury Coverage: Bodily injury liability coverage pays for the other driver’s medical bills up to a certain limit if you cause the accident. It can also cover legal fees and other expenses. If the other driver’s medical bills exceed the limits of your bodily injury coverage, then you are personally liable for the remaining amount. Insurance policies have a claim limit per person and per accident.
Property Damage Coverage: Property damage liability coverage covers the cost of repairing the other driver’s vehicle after an accident that you caused. It also covers other damaged property – like a fence or business you damaged.
Some sources online report that Virginia requires drivers to have a certain minimum amount of uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage. However, the state of Virginia appears to have removed these requirements. You can view Virginia’s most recent insurance requirements here.
How to Legally Drive Without Insurance in Virginia
You are allowed to drive without insurance in Virginia, although you will still need to meet certain requirements:
- You need to pay the $500 Uninsured Motorist Vehicle (UMV) fee to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV); this fee expires with your registration and must be paid at renewal
- Second, you still need to pay for any damages caused in an accident; you are personally liable for any vehicle repairs, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other costs you inflict on other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, or property
Because of these requirements, many Virginia drivers purchase car insurance regardless. However, the uninsured motorist option may be popular for drivers who have a high net worth or a fleet of multiple vehicles they drive regularly.
The uninsured driver fee option is also popular among those who have trouble buying conventional car insurance. If you have a history of at-fault accidents or DUIs, for example, then insurance may be prohibitively expensive for you. As long as your license isn’t suspended, you should be able to pay the $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee to get back on the road legally.
What Happens If I Drive Without Insurance in Virginia?
If you drive without insurance in Virginia, then the police officer checking your insurance will verify that you have paid the $500 UMV fee.
If you have not paid the $500 UMV fee, then you are driving an uninsured vehicle illegally.
Virginia imposes severe penalties for not complying with insurance requirements. Your license will likely be suspended. To reinstate your license, you must pay a $500 statutory fee, file a Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate (SR-22) with the DMV for three years, and pay a reinstatement fee.
If your car insurance has lapsed but your vehicle is still registered, then you must reinsure the vehicle to remain legally on the road. Alternatively, you can pay the UMV fee, temporarily deactivate your license plates, or permanently surrender your license plates to the DMV to avoid further penalties.
Do I Need to Carry Proof of Insurance in Virginia?
Drivers in Virginia who have insurance are required to carry proof of insurance in their vehicles at all times.
Drivers who have paid the $500 Uninsured Motor Vehicle (UMV) fee, meanwhile, do not need to carry proof of insurance. The payment of the UMV fee is connected to your vehicle registration. A law enforcement officer will see the payment of the fee when checking your driver’s license.
What Happens If I Get Into an Accident Without Insurance in Virginia?
If you get into an accident without insurance in Virginia, then you are personally liable for any damages resulting from that accident (assuming you were at-fault).
That means the other driver can sue you for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, vehicle damage, and other costs incurred as a result of the accident.
If you were not at-fault for the accident, then the other driver is required to pay for your damages. The other driver’s insurance company will cover any costs you have incurred as a result of the accident. If the other driver is also uninsured, then the other driver is personally liable for those damages, and you can sue the other driver to recover those damages.
Virginia has unique car insurance requirements. Virginia is the only state in America where drivers can pay a fee to negate their car insurance requirements. By paying the $500 Uninsured Motorist Vehicle (UMV) fee, drivers can legally drive without car insurance – although drivers are still personally liable for any damages caused while driving.
Although drivers in Virginia can legally drive uninsured, the vast majority of Virginians choose to buy car insurance regardless. Car insurance covers your personal liability after an accident. Virginia requires drivers to have a minimum of $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $50,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, and $20,000 of property damage coverage (25/50/20).