Are 1 in 7 Drivers Forced to Drive Illegally?


5 min read

Purchasing car insurance: for US citizens, it’s often a rather mundane chore—something that whittles away at disposable income, but without which we would be both legally and financially vulnerable each time we got behind the wheel. Savvy drivers spend time finding a good policy that doesn’t cost too much but still offers peace of mind, and while the whole process might not be the most exciting way we could think to spend an evening, most citizens never doubt that as long as we pay for coverage, we’ll get a policy.

But for the approximately 10 million undocumented citizens in the U.S. who are of legal driving age, shopping for car insurance can be impossible. That’s because the majority of car insurance companies require a driver’s license before they will sell you a policy. While there are companies who will work with unlicensed drivers, not having a valid driver’s license limits you on your options.

Just 11 U.S. states and the District of Columbia have policies allowing undocumented citizens to obtain a driver’s license:

Another way undocumented citizens can obtain a driver’s license is through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, available in all 50 states and D.C.

Carriers That Work with Undocumented Citizens

Jordan Perch, from DMV.com told Quoted: “Even though insurance regulations vary between states, insurance companies in all states that issue driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants are allowed to sell auto insurance to citizens who don’t have proof of legal presence in the U.S.”

Perch said, “Undocumented immigrants who live in one of the states that have immigrant-licensing laws should not have a problem acquiring car insurance as long as they meet their state’s driver licensing requirements.”

But what about drivers in the 39 states that do not grant driver’s licenses to undocumented citizens? You guessed it: people often drive uninsured. Perch told Quoted, “The Insurance Research Council estimates that about 14% of all drivers in the U.S. lack proper documentation,” which means 14% of drivers on the road have no way of legally obtaining car insurance.

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Getting Insured

Jordan Perch told Quoted, “The most important thing that undocumented immigrants seeking car insurance should remember is that they must have at least the minimum liability coverage required by the state they live in, which covers property damage and bodily injuries.”

Perch also told us about programs some states offer that help undocumented citizens buy car insurance more easily. Perch said, “California has launched the Low Cost Auto Insurance program, that makes car insurance more affordable for low-income drivers who don’t have a proof of legal presence in the state.” In order to be eligible, drivers must:

  • Hold a valid California driver’s license
  • Own a car that is worth less than $25,000
  • Be at least 19 years old
  • Meet income eligibility guidelines (household maximums: $29,425 for 1 person, $60,425 for families of four)

Insurance through California’s program costs between $213 and $472 per year, depending on driving record and county.

Supporting Legal Driving for All

In the United States, it’s unlawful for anyone to drive uninsured (except in New Hampshire, where drivers can forgo insurance if they prove they can cover damages in a wreck they cause). US citizens have a vested interest in making sure every driver on the road is insured, and not just because access to insurance means less financial and legal instability. Even if you and your family are able to easily and legal purchase car insurance, if you get in a wreck with someone without insurance, the chances the other party will flee the scene is greatly increased, and the chances you’ll see any compensation (if the other party is at fault) is dramatically reduced.

It's estimated that 14% of drivers on the road have no way of legally obtaining car insurance.

Making car insurance available to all US citizens doesn’t mean everyone will follow the law and drive with their state’s minimum insurance requirements, but it will help. In New Mexico (a state which has been trying to repeal the law granting driver’s licenses to all residents) the percentage of uninsured drivers went from 33% to 9%, once all drivers had the option of legally obtaining a license and insurance.

KITV.com notes, “While undocumented immigrants are the biggest population helped by [laws granting residents driver’s licenses regardless of documentation], advocates say many will benefit, including domestic violence survivors and victims of natural disasters.”

We ask commenters to add to the conversation: if you’ve had experience with purchasing car insurance while undocumented, we’d like to know what your experience was like. We’d also appreciate stories from people who are currently trying to get car insurance—or would like to get car insurance—but have hit logistical roadblocks.

  • “The Reason Why 1 in 7 Drivers Are Forced to Drive Illegally”

    No one is FORCED to drive illegally.

    “Savvy drivers spend time finding a good policy that doesn’t cost too much but still offers peace of mind”

    How does someone using your web site know they’ve bought a “good policy”? Is the auto policy sold by Liberty Mutual identical to the policy sold by The General? If not, what are the differences and how are those differences reflected in the pricing? Do you allow a purchaser to review these auto policies BEFORE they buy them? If not, why not?

    “Jordan Perch, of DMV.com, explained to Quoted that all people seeking car insurance—regardless of immigration status—must have a valid driver’s license. Drivers cannot get insurance without a license.”

    This is not true. I know a blind man and an elderly lady who do not drive, have no driver’s license, and have auto insurance.

    • Josh Waldrum

      Thanks for the feedback, Bill. You are absolutely right—Drivers can get insurance without having a driver’s license. We’ve made some changes in the post based on your comments.

      In regards to your “good policy” questions, we always encourage our customers to speak with our licensed insurance agents when they are unsure of how specific carrier policies stack up against each other.

  • Katherine Huerta

    Anyone NOT having insurance or the financial means of compensating another driver should not drive. Walk, use public transportation or a bicycle. Driving is a previlage. Where did plain old common sense go? What a racket!

    • Don Birkholz

      I live 10 miles out of town from where I work, I am not going to walk 20 miles a day, there is no public transportation and I am not going to ride a bicycle 20 miles a day in 20 below on snow packed roads. What is your next suggestion? When I was in the Air Force, I was forced to buy life insurance. When I got out of the Air Force, I saw the Phil Donahue Show and he said a single person has no business buying life insurance. After I got out of the Air Force, someone contacted me an said they were designated by the Air Force to convert my life insurance (which I was force to buy and did not need) to private insurance. Then I get a letter from the Air Force saying they have not designated anyone to convert my insurance to a private company. I was lied to twice to get me to buy insurance. Now, if someone tries to force me to buy insurance, I look it over real good. Nothing in your answer that mentions all the insurance companies opposed to mandatory auto insurance (including State Farm). It is amazing how many people are smarter than State Farm. I think the homeless, living in their cars have no business buying a thousand dollars of auto insurance before they buy their food, rent. The 45 million on food stamps should not be buying auto insurance. I have a brain too, you know.