A recent 50-state study of penalties for driving without auto insurance indicates that California fines are fairly light compared with other states. The study was conducted by OnlineAutoInsurance.com, a company based in the Inland Empire. However, although California fines are low, police can still tow and store vehicles, so it can still be a costly process.
"When drivers see that $100 to $200 fine for driving without coverage and then look at their premium bill, which is likely to be substantially more expensive, they might consider going uninsured," says Online Auto Insurance manager Cesar Diaz. "But having your car towed and stored can cost hundreds of extra dollars, not to mention the inconvenience of being without transportation during that time. And let's not forget that you might have to pay out of pocket for any damages that you cause while driving uninsured. The better idea is just to shop around for coverage or check your eligibility for the CLCA."
The fines for uninsured drivers in California are between $100 and $200 for the first offense and between $200 and $500 for the second offense. In other states fines can be thousands of dollars for the first offense. The most common fine is around $500. According to California Vehicle Code Section 16029 uninsured drivers do not face a license or registration suspension. In some states such as New Jersey, the punishment for uninsured drivers is a year's suspension.
According to Online Auto Insurance's ranking of uninsured-motorist penalties, at least three other state laws explicitly state that uninsured cars can be towed on a first offense. California does have a program to help low-income drivers get covered by a policy: the California Low Cost Auto Insurance Program (CLCA). If applicants qualify, they receive access to sub-minimum coverage for between $231 and $434 per year.
According to a study by the Insurance Research Council, about 15 percent of California motorists were uninsured in 2009. This figure is a little higher than the national average, which is 13.8 percent. For more information about the list of state penalties go here.