What Happens Driving an Unregistered Vehicle with Insurance

Congratulations on buying your first car. Finally, you have your car to get you to school, the gym, and work or even for leisure drives. But hold on there a little. Before hitting the road, is your car registered? Understand what your state requires for one to operate a vehicle legally.

Driving an unregistered vehicle with insurance can get you on the wrong side of the law and put you in trouble.

In most cases, you will likely get a fine and a citation for driving unregistered car. If you’re driving your car with a lapsed registration, you will likely get a penalty but depending on how long after the expiration.

However, the penalty highly varies with the state. For example in the state of Florida, it’s a criminal violation to drive unregistered vehicle. It’s considered a second degree misdemeanor which is punishable by a fine of $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail.

When caught driving an unregistered vehicle, treat the officers with the utmost respect. If you don’t have the proper documentation for registration, be honest and pay close attention to what the law enforcers say.

Driving Unregistered Vehicle in Different States


Unregistered driving culminates in a criminal record, which may have a negative impact on a person’s life in many different ways. A criminal record may hinder an individual from getting a job, a grant for university, admission to certain colleges, or even housing.

Contrary to other forms of traffic offenses, driving without registration does not affect driver’s license points. But, this form of infringement is linked with penalty. A person who is convicted of driving unregistered car may be required to pay a maximum fine of $500. There are further possible limits that might be placed on their driving license.

If the offender is also discovered to be operating a vehicle without insurance, they face further charges, including a penalty of up to $1,000, license points, and up maximum 1 year in jail. Additionally, they can get their license revoked or suspended.


California Vehicle Code Section 5204 (a) prohibits driving without registration. You will pay a $25 base fee and a penalty assessment that could include a state tax multiplier of 4 to 9 times the base amount if you are cited.

It makes no difference if you were ticketed for driving with expired plates after paying the money and waiting for the tags, or if you just forgot to place them on your vehicle. The cops can issue citations each time they stop you over.

Each time you are found driving in California with expired tags, the fines increase. This results in fines of hundreds of dollars. And if you continue to repeat the same violation for more than six months, your car will be impounded in accordance with Section 22651 of the California Vehicle Code (0).


Texas’ registration requirements are comparable to those of the majority of other states. To legally operate a motor vehicle on public roads, it must be registered with the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). All Texas car owners must register their cars with the Texas DMV.

If you reside in Texas and use your vehicle on Texas roads without registering it with the Texas department of motor vehicle, you are driving illegally.

In Texas, the penalties for driving without registration might differ based on the jurisdiction in which the offense happened. The information in the table below was collected from the Bexar County Courts’ Fine Schedule:

Violation Fine
Expired/ no license plate reg $210
Expired/no trailer reg sticker $235
False or fictious license plate sticker or safe inspection sticker $285

 Penalty for Driving an Unregistered Vehicle?

Lack of registration documents means trouble. The reason you should always keep your records up to date and carry them when you are driving.

There are many penalties when found driving an unregistered vehicle with insurance. The police are likely to catch you and require you to pull over. It gets even worse when you are involved in an accident, and the police require registration, license and insurance.

The penalties for driving an unregistered vehicle are fines, impounding and imprisonment. However, regulation of vehicle registration depends on state-by-state in the US.

1. Fines

Driving an unregistered vehicle with insurance can make you face very high fines. In addition, these fines can also impact your driving records negatively. The fines differ depending on each state.

For instance, when a driver is caught within New York driving an unregistered vehicle, they face severe consequences for legal violation.

The fine imposed is likely to increase rapidly if the driver has been driving the unregistered vehicle for more than 60 days. In Maryland, motorists can be fined up to 500$ when caught using an unregistered vehicle.

2. Impounding

In some states, when caught driving an unregistered vehicle, the authorities can take your car and keep it until you clear your fines.

Other states keep your vehicle until you clear all your driving records.

Conversely, if the police catch you driving a vehicle with revoked registration or a car on suspension, they will impound your vehicle. A valid vehicle registration also is prone to suspension due to some circumstances.

It is illegal to drive a car with a revoked registration just as it is driving an unregistered vehicle. It can cost one a fine of $150 to $300 or even lead to impounding.

3. Imprisonment

Driving in every state requires one to have a registered vehicle and a legal license. Therefore, driving an unregistered car is committing a crime.

Thus, ignoring the notices and fines received from the police officers can subject you to imprisonment of up to 90 days. Spending time in jail, however short it might seem, is not worthy of your time. Therefore, get your vehicle registered and be on the safe side of the law.

4. Court Hearing

Even if you resolve the issue with vehicle tags or registration, a court appearance is inevitable if your citation demands it. There isn’t much of an option as to whether you go or not. On the good side, if you renew your registration and pay a discharge fee, your ticket may be dismissed.

Why Is Vehicle Registration Important?

In the same way a person is not allowed to drive a car without a license, you should not drive a vehicle without registration.

The vehicle owner should be issued a registration plate to prove registration with the Department of Car (DMV). The markings of the vehicle plate depend on the state where the car is registered.

When there is a launch of a specific car model, there are usually more than 100 other models sold in the market simultaneously. The models may have similar features or can even appear identical. So, imagine standing in a parking lot with more than 20 cars that look precisely like yours.

How would you identify your own? It could be challenging, but you will easily spot your vehicle, among others, with the vehicle plate numbers. Getting your vehicle registered is thus very significant in that;

1. It Symbolizes Your Ownership of the Car

Vehicle registration is legal proof that you own the vehicle. The lack of a certificate of registration disqualifies you as the owner of the car. Thus, having your vehicle registered signifies that you paid for the car and the taxes involved. It also indicates that you can drive freely on the roads.

2. Verify the Vehicle’s Age

The vehicle’s age is a very significant determinant of the value of the car. It is crucial, especially when buying an already used car. Some people may claim that the vehicle is not very old hence end up over pricing it.

To avoid this, check the vehicle registration certificate to get the exact age of the vehicle.

3. It Is a Mandatory Practice

Not only is registering cars mandatory in the US but also in other parts of the world. It is an offence to drive an unregistered vehicle with insurance. In 1998 a motor act was enacted which states that all vehicles on the road should have a registration certificate.

If the driver does not provide a copy of the registration certificate, the authorities may repossess the car.

Thus vehicle registration is mandatory for everyone that drives.

On Driving an Unregistered Vehicle with Insurance

Before driving an unregistered vehicle, think about the consequences. Is the drive worth risking the loss of those dollars and facing the penalties? You have errands to run, meetings to attend, or you want to go for your first drive. Don’t let the excitement carry you.

For once, picture the police pulling you over for driving an unregistered vehicle. Think about the fines; think about the authorities impounding your car, or worse, yourself sleeping in jail for days. Is it still worth it? I believe not. So, get your car registered and enjoy your ride with freedom.


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