Everything you need to know about driving safely and legally in the Lone Star State
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In Texas, all 17.8 million drivers are required to hold liability auto insurance coverage. If you are living in Texas, you can expect to pay around $1,085 annually for auto insurance, which is 4 percent higher than the national average.
Whether you are moving to Texas or have been living there for years, it is always a smart idea to brush up on the requirements and laws. We’ve gathered everything you need to know about driving safely and legally in Texas.
Here are the minimum requirements in Texas:
If you are looking for cheap car insurance in Texas, you may think purchasing the minimums is your best option. While this may be the cheapest option, we do not recommend it. Rather, we recommend supplemental coverage for the best chance of not paying out of pocket after an incident.
We recommend having $500,000 worth of total liability coverage in Texas, including bodily injury and property damage.
Comprehensive covers any damage to your vehicle that is not due to a collision, such as weather damage, earthquake damage, landslide damage, or theft.
The limit for comprehensive coverage is the actual market value of your car. You can find the actual market value of your vehicle by going to a car pricing website, such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds, and plugging in your make, model, year, and mileage.
Understand that your car depreciates when you leave the car dealership. The wear and tear of driving also can cause price depreciation. The actual market value of your car is not what you paid for it, but what it is worth now.
Collision coverage covers the costs of repairing or replacing your vehicle in the case of an at-fault collision. The limit for collision coverage is the actual market value of your car.
We recommend getting at least $500,000 in coverage. Uninsured motorist coverage covers damage to your vehicle or you if an uninsured or underinsured motorist causes you damage or injury.
Medical payments coverage covers the cost of your medical bills if you are at fault in an accident. We recommend having $500,000 in coverage to ensure you don’t have to pay out of pocket for medical bills after an at-fault accident. Since auto insurance in Texas works under an at-fault system, you can get your injuries covered only by medical payments coverage, not personal injury protection.
The cost of car insurance in Texas averages about $1,085 annually, which is 4 percent higher than the national average of about $1,047.1 However, we have seen annual auto insurance rates as low as $152 and as high as $1,823 for young drivers.
If you are shopping for auto insurance policies in Texas, look into these providers:
With all of the above companies, make sure to consider their customer satisfaction ratings from sites like J.D. Power. Compare car insurance quotes today.
Although Texas car insurance is more expensive than average, there are multiple ways to lower the cost.
Raise your deductible. The higher your deductible, the lower your premium. If you can’t afford to have a higher deductible were you to get in an accident, you shouldn’t raise it.
Texas accepts both digital and paper forms of insurance. If you’d rather keep your insurance digital, your provider may offer a mobile app. Otherwise, you can download a digital version of your auto ID card from your provider’s website.
If you get caught driving without insurance in Texas, there are consequences.
Now that you understand the insurance requirements, let’s talk about Texas driving laws.
Texas is an at-fault state, meaning that the at-fault party pays for both property damage and medical expenses. If each of two parties is partially at fault, they can split the costs by their percentage of fault. Because Texas has a modified comparative negligence law, the accident victim’s recovery is reduced by their percentage of fault. If the injured party’s fault is 51 percent or more, they are not allowed to recover compensation.
Although there are an estimated 1.5 million uninsured drivers in Texas, drivers are not required to have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.3 However, Texas insurance providers are required to offer both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage.
In Texas, uninsured and underinsured motorist coverages can be stacked, meaning that you combine coverage limits for multiple vehicles. Texas allows stacking as long as it is across multiple policies. To get your combined coverage limit, multiply your uninsured/underinsured motorist limit by your number of cars.
For drivers with a DUI, Texas never removes DUIs from their records (and they can expect higher car insurance rates). Whether it is your first offense or you are a repeat offender, the consequences are no light matter.
|DWI offense number||First||Second||Third|
|Amount of time in jail||3 days mandatory, up to 180 days||1 month-1 year||2-10 years|
|Loss of driver’s license maximum time||1 year||2 years||2 years|
Texas requires all drivers to wear their seat belts at all times. Police can write you a citation for not wearing your seat belt regardless of whether you committed any other traffic violations, which means that the law is under primary enforcement.
In Texas, distracted driving laws apply to anyone driving in school crossing zones and on public school property during school hours. Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using their cell phones while driving, and all drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. If caught texting while driving, there will be a $25-$100 fine for your first offense and a $100-$200 fine for subsequent offenses.4
In Texas, teens need to follow certain restrictions to graduate to adult licenses by the time they turn 18. To apply for a learner’s license, they must be 15 years old. During this time, they are only allowed to drive under the supervision of a licensed adult who is 21 or older in the front seat.
At 15 years old, teens can apply for minor restricted licenses if extenuating circumstances require them to drive on their own before they turn 16. Qualifying exemptions are the illness or disability of a family member, participation in a vocational training program, or unusual economic hardships.
To get their provisional licenses, they must be 16 years old and have had their learner’s licenses for at least six months. Teens are allowed to drive independently, but they need to abide by a handful of restrictions. Driving with their provisional licenses, they cannot do the following:
If they have any trace of alcohol in their system and are under 21 years old, Texas will suspend their licenses. Texas also suspends the licenses of minors convicted of buying, possessing, or consuming tobacco.
Teens can apply for adult licenses when they turn 18 if they follow all of Texas’ teen driving laws.
The maximum time you can wait before filing a lawsuit is two years after the event. This time frame applies to both property damage and bodily injury claims. If you wait longer than two years, your provider may not cover your claims.
Auto insurance companies cannot cancel policies that have been in place for 60 days or more unless the following conditions occur:
Texas providers have 10 days to notify you of a midterm cancellation, regardless of whether or not it is due to nonpayment.
If a provider decides not to renew your policy, it has 30 days to inform you before the expiration date. The provider must give you notice and explain its reasoning for not continuing your policy before it drops it. Common reasons why providers drop policies are that the provider no longer offers that type of insurance, it doesn’t want to write as many policies in your area, or you have a drunk driving conviction.
Texas allows self-insurance for motor carriers. Carriers must apply and submit materials to the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles to prove they have an adequate net worth and have established an insurance program. The minimum collateral is $115,000.5
Vehicles registered in Texas must pass an annual safety inspection. All testing takes place at the Department of Public Safety–licensed Official Vehicle Inspection Stations. Along with the safety inspection, vehicles must undergo emissions testing in 15 counties:
Different types of vehicles have different costs for car inspections.
An SS-R2 is a certificate of financial responsibility that shows you are meeting the state’s minimum insurance requirements. An SS-R2 is required in the following situations:
You must hold a valid SS-R2 for two years from your most recent conviction. If you fail to maintain an SS-R2 for two years, it can result in additional enforcement actions or reinstatement fees.
Defensive driving is driving in a manner that uses safe driving strategies to let motorists avoid hazards. According to Texas laws, you can take a defensive driving course to dismiss one traffic ticket every 12 months; classes can be taken either online or in person. Note that some violations are not dismissable:
In at-fault states like Texas, each party pays for damages based on their degree of fault. If you aren’t happy with the result, you can file a civil suit to compensate for economic damages such as medical expenses or lost wages. Claims can also cover noneconomic damages like pain, suffering, and anxiety. You can file a civil lawsuit in Texas only if the monetary amount of your loss is over $500.
In Texas, you are required to make a police report if injury, death, or property damage from an accident is worth over $1,000. If the accident involves at least $1,000 worth of death or injury, you must file a report immediately. If the accident involves at least $1,000 worth of property damage, the deadline to file a report is 10 days from the incident. Failure to report by the deadline can result in a suspended license.
In Texas, it is legal for insurance companies to discriminate based on your credit score when deciding your insurance premiums. It is also permitted to discriminate based on gender, so men pay more for car insurance in this state.
A total loss is when repairs for your vehicle would cost more than the vehicle’s estimated value, the car cannot be safely repaired, or the damage meets your state’s total loss guidelines. In Texas, if the repairs cost more than 100 percent of the car’s actual market value, it is declared a total loss.
Now that you’re familiar with Texas’ driving laws, it’s time to look into registering your car, getting a copy of your car’s title, and contacting the state’s insurance department.
You need insurance to register a car in Texas. Take these steps to register your vehicle, whether it’s for the first time or for a renewal:
|Processing and handling||$4.75|
To find your local tax office and DMV, go to https://www.txdmv.gov/motorists/register-your-vehicle.
Here’s how to get a copy of your car’s title if you need it to prove ownership:
If you have more questions about Texas’ insurance laws, you can contact its insurance department.
If you are in an accident and need repairs, you should know that the average cost of labor and parts in Texas is 3 percent higher than the national average of $383.37.
Whenever you move, it is essential to look at the crime rates in the area. The higher the crime rates are, the higher the insurance rates will be.
In Texas, the motor vehicle theft rate is 14 percent higher than the national average, making Texas second in the nation for car theft. According to the FBI, the motor theft rate was 287 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020.8
Odessa has the highest motor vehicle theft rate in Texas, with 664 thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020. Many other cities in the state have higher motor vehicle theft rates than the state average. Here are the motor vehicle theft rates by city:
|City or area in Texas||Number of motor vehicle thefts per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020 (high to low)|
|Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land||418|
|San Antonio-New Braunfels||380|
In 2019, Texas had the highest rate of traffic fatalities in the United States, with 3,615 fatalities per 100 million vehicle miles traveled. This is 80 percent higher than the national average of 708 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled.
Why is the traffic fatality rate so high? Texas has lower traffic levels and more open roads, resulting in speeding. Speeding and distracted driving are the two most common causes for traffic fatalities in Texas.10
Whether you are new to Texas or have lived there for years, brushing up on state-specific requirements and laws can save you from a traffic violation or registration error. If you are crossing state lines, check out our state-by-state statistic guide to stay informed on other states’ requirements and driving laws.
Keep reading to find out more about Texas auto insurance.
Texas car insurance is expensive compared to the rest of the U.S. According to data collected by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2020, Texas’ insurance rates are 4 percent higher than the national average of $1,047. Driving in Texas, you can expect to pay $1,085 annually.
On average, Texas drivers pay $90 for auto insurance monthly, according to the average 2020 rates from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.
In Texas, you must have $30,000 per person and $60,000 per accident of bodily injury liability, and $25,000 in property damage liability.
Insurance rates are so high in Texas because its cities are highly populated. According to the Texas Department of Transportation, more people drive in the cities, which means accidents are more likely. Not only is Texas second in the nation in terms of auto theft, but it has the highest rate of traffic fatalities in the country — 80 percent above the national average, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Accidents and traffic fatalities are two factors that increase insurance rates.
2019/2020 Auto Insurance Database Report. NAIC. (2023, Jan).
Penalties for Driving without Auto Insurance by State. Consumer Federation of America. (2014, Jan).
One in Eight Drivers Uninsured. Insurance Research Council. (2021, Mar).
Transportation Code. Government of Texas. (2017).
Texas Administrative Code. TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF MOTOR VEHICLES. (2015 Oct 23).
Inspection Station Locator. Texas Department of Public Safety. (2021).
2020 State Repair Cost Rankings. CarMD. (2020, Jul).
Crime in the United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation.(2019)
NICB ‘Hot Spots’: Auto Thefts Up Significantly Across the Country. National Crime Insurance Bureu. (2021, Aug).
WHAT ARE THE LEADING CAUSES OF CAR ACCIDENTS IN TEXAS? Teb B Lyon & Associates. (2021).