What is the penalty for driving without insurance in Washington?

Driving without car insurance in Washington State is illegal. Expect to face fines up to $250, increased coverage rates, and potential license suspension for multiple offenses.

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UPDATED: Jun 2, 2022

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Written By: Laura BerryReviewed By: Joel OhmanUPDATED: Jun 2, 2022Fact Checked

Here's what you need to know...

  • Most drivers, with few exceptions, must purchase auto insurance coverage in Washington and be able to provide proof of insurance when asked by law enforcement
  • A lapse in insurance carries the same penalties as never having had insurance
  • Each offense carries a monetary penalty up to $250 but subsequent infractions can result in suspension or permanent revocation

While the State of Washington does not have the steepest of penalties in the United States for driving without insurance, the fines and other consequences can be quite hefty.

Any driver should know that all 50 states require insurance or proof of financial responsibility and the law takes these requirements quite seriously. The penalty for driving without insurance is serious in every state.

Whether your vehicle is registered in Washington or in any other state, you are required to carry a minimum of the auto coverage required in the state in which your vehicle is registered.

Often drivers have good intentions when seeking affordable auto insurance but fail to make timely installments, resulting in a lapse in coverage.

A lapse in coverage means your policy is no longer in effect and you are literally driving without insurance. 

Always work insurance premiums into your budget to maintain coverage throughout. Auto insurance is no less important than housing, food, and utilities. One infraction will almost always be costlier than that installment you failed to pay!

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Meeting the Financial Responsibility Requirements in Lieu of Car Insurance

Not all vehicles are required to be insured, but the exceptions to the law are few. What you will be required to do is offer proof of financial responsibility if asked by law enforcement. If you are uninsured, the criteria for meeting this obligation include:

  • Become a self-insurer if you or the business you own has a fleet of 26 or more vehicles.
  • Purchase a $60,000 Certificate of Deposit.
  • Deposit $60,000 with the Washington State Treasurer.
  • Purchase a liability bond for at least $60,000 from a licensed surety bond provider.

Each of these options is far more expensive than the auto insurance premium you may be finding hard to pay, and as a result, not an option for the average person.

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When You Are Asked for Proof of Insurance

You can go for years without being involved in an accident or stopped for a routine traffic check but just when you thought you were safe, the unexpected happens.

A brake light or turn indicator is out and a cop pulls you over. Perhaps you were unaware of a speed limit change and you are caught going faster than the posted limit. Due to most traffic laws, it isn’t always an accident that nails you!

One point which many people don’t quite understand is that law enforcement is to assume you are an uninsured driver if you can’t provide proof of insurance. Accordingly, you will get a ticket if you can’t provide the proof required in the State of Washington.

It is suggested that you keep a hard copy insurance card in your vehicle at all times because the State is not liable for your mobile phone or other devices if you choose to show digital proof.

Some vehicles are exempt from carrying liability insurance or from providing proof of insurance as stated in the Washington State Driver Guide. Excluded are:

  • Government-registered vehicles
  • Motorcycles
  • Contract carrier vehicles

Fines and Penalties for Driving without Car Insurance – First Offense

According to the most recent legislation, the monetary fine for a first offense in the State of Washington is “no more than $250” and a total of $37 in related fees.

You must ask yourself if that premium you failed to pay was worth the potential of fines totaling $287 and if you incur other penalties for other violations cited at the same time, that total could quickly mount.

The Cost of Disputing an Infraction

There are times when you may have had insurance in effect but were unable to provide proof when required. This situation can be disputed in a court of law, but at what cost?

Most likely you will need to take time off work and even if you can show proof that you had acceptable coverage, you may still be required to pay a fine. The law clearly states that you must produce proof when asked in addition to holding a valid insurance policy.

Any and all consequences will be left up to the discretion of the judge hearing your dispute. However, the law clearly states that if you can show proof you were insured at the time of the alleged violation, the ticket will be dismissed.

This dismissal may not include any court costs which may be assessed at the time of the hearing.

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Fines and Penalties for Second and Subsequent Offenses

Washington is one of the few states that doesn’t increase the fine for each violation and does not operate on a point system.

However, with each subsequent infraction, the potential increases for suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and those monetary penalties and fees can quickly mount up.

Most drivers can only wish they had found affordable insurance in an event such as a second or third violation.

Successive suspensions can quickly lead to revocation, especially if an accident resulted in severe bodily injury or property damage.

The key points to remember here are that the cost of paying monetary penalties, accompanying fines, and being denied driving privileges can be much more expensive than having the minimum coverage required in the State of Washington.

You will also find that your insurance rates rise accordingly with each violation so it is better to shop around now for affordable insurance than to seek coverage when the cost will be so much greater. Enter your ZIP code below to begin comparison shopping right now.

Editorial Guidelines: We are a free online resource for anyone interested in learning more about auto insurance. Our goal is to be an objective, third-party resource for everything auto insurance related. We update our site regularly, and all content is reviewed by auto insurance experts.

A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He has an MBA from the University of South Florida. Jo...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder & CFP® Joel Ohman

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