Almost all states require drivers to carry liability insurance. If you cancel your car insurance and do not immediately obtain coverage, your registration will also be canceled. Even a one-day lapse in coverage can result in a registration suspension in certain states. Although laws regarding specific time frames vary among states, driving without car insurance and valid registration is illegal in every state.
States require auto insurance companies to electronically transmit insurance coverage details to the state's department of motor vehicles. Generally, the insurance companies have 30 days from the date coverage begins and ends to transmit the insurance information. The information is entered into an insurance database and cross referenced with the automobile's vehicle identification number maintained in the tag and registration database.
Lapse in Coverage
If your insurance coverage does not lapse, your registration remains active. Each state has its own definition of a lapse in coverage. For example, a lapse in auto insurance is 10 days or more without coverage in the state of Georgia. The DMV may assess a lapse fee of around $25 to $50. If the fee is not paid within 30 days, the DMV can suspend your vehicle's registration. In some states, including New York, a lapse fee is charged for each day the car goes without coverage. You can avoid a lapse in coverage by purchasing a new policy with a coverage date that begins before your current policy ends.
Driving Without Registration
Driving your car while the registration is suspended or revoked is a misdemeanor offense. In addition to fines and a license suspension, law enforcement could impound your vehicle. Operating an unregistered and uninsured car can also lead to points being added to your driver's license. Too many points in a short period of time can result in a license suspension and increased auto insurance rates.
Turning in the Plates
If you do not plan to drive the vehicle, you must surrender the plates to the DMV before canceling insurance coverage. If you fail to turn in the plates, your registration and license can be suspended. When you turn in your plates, you receive a credit for the unused portion of your registration fees. You can also transfer the registration to another vehicle in your name.
- DMV.org: Registration & Insurance
- Georgia Department of Revenue: Penalties and Fines - Lapse of Insurance Coverage
- New York State Department of Motor Vehicles: What are the Requirements for Motor Vehicle Registration in NYS?
- State of Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles: License Plate Surrender & Registration Fee Refunds
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.