While car insurance isn’t required in this state, more than 5 million drivers have it anyway.
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Virginia is one of two states that don’t require car insurance. Instead, you can get away with paying a $500 uninsured motorist fee and calling it a day.
However, without car insurance, you’ll have to pay out of pocket for any property damages or bodily injuries you cause in an accident, which could be well over $500. As such, 89 percent of the state’s drivers choose to carry car insurance, which, fortunately, costs 19 percent less in Virginia than the national average. Here’s everything you need to know about car insurance and driving in the Mother of States.
Virginia doesn’t require car insurance unless you are ordered to get an SR-22 or FR-44, which we will detail below. Everyone else can skip purchasing car insurance and pay the DMV a $500 uninsured motorist fee instead.
However, if you opt to get insurance, you must get at least the state’s minimum requirements.
Liability coverage covers the other person’s injuries and damages in an accident you caused. It does not cover your car’s damages in at-fault accidents.
Now, let’s get back to those SR-22s and FR-44s. These are the only instances where you’re required to get car insurance in Virginia:
While someone with an SR-22 would need to prove they have a liability limit of $95,000, someone with an FR-44 would need a liability limit of $190,000.
In our experience, coverage limits of $75,000 for bodily injury liability and $20,000 for property damage liability are too low. Injuries and property damage can cost much more than that, so buy as much coverage as you can afford.
Aside from these minimum coverages, we recommend a few supplemental coverages to protect yourself financially.
The good news for Virginia drivers? Car insurance costs are low in the Old Dominion state — 19 percent lower than the national average, to be exact. Here are the average annual costs, according to 2020 National Association of Insurance Commissioners data.
Of course, the cost of auto insurance varies widely based on many factors, including your driving history, credit score, gender, and ZIP code. We’ve seen annual costs ranging from $327 to $4,185.27, with the highest auto insurance costs for teens. Average rates are lower for those with a clean driving record and higher for drivers under the age of 25. Learn more about the factors that affect car insurance rates.
Since Virginia doesn’t require car insurance, you don’t need to carry proof of insurance while driving. However, if you’re found not to have paid the uninsured motorist fee or obtained minimum coverage, you’ll have to surrender your plates immediately.
Otherwise, you’ll be charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor and forced to pay a $500 fine. Until you pay this fine, your license and registration will be suspended. Even after your license is reinstated, you’ll be required to maintain an SR-22 for three years following your reinstatement date.
If you go the insurance route, make sure to carry proof of insurance with you whenever you’re driving, in either paper or electronic form.
Now that you’ve gotten your car insurance sorted out, it’s time to drive. But wait: To avoid tickets and license suspensions, first brush up on Virginia’s rules of the road.
Virginia has an at-fault insurance system, meaning that in a car accident, the party at fault is financially responsible for the other party’s property damage and bodily injury. And since the state has contributory negligence law, if a plaintiff acted negligently in any way, they can’t receive compensation, regardless of whether the defendant was more at fault.
Despite the lack of car insurance requirements, only 11 percent of drivers in Virginia don’t have insurance, which is actually 19 percent lower than the national average, according to estimates from the Insurance Research Council.
While the state doesn’t require uninsured motorist coverage (just the fee), if you have it, it will include hit and runs, and you can stack coverage. Stacking means you can multiply your uninsured motorist limit by the number of cars you insure.
|Offense number||Time since last offense||Charge||Minimum fine||Minimum jail time|
|1||N/A||Class 1 misdemeanor||$250||BAC 0.15%-0.2%: 5 days
BAC over 0.2%: 10 days
|2||5 years||Class 1 misdemeanor||$500||20 days to 1 year|
|2||5-10 years||Class 1 misdemeanor||$500||10 days
BAC 0.15%-0.2%: 10 days added
BAC over 0.2%: 20 days added
|3||5 years||Class 6 felony||$1,000||6 months|
|3||10 years||Class 6 felony||$1,000||90 days|
|4||10 years||Class 6 felony||$1,000||1 year1|
|Seat||Who’s required to wear seat belts?||Enforcement for those over age 18||Enforcement for those under age 18|
|Back||Under age 18 only||Secondary||Primary2|
Primary enforcement means police can ticket a person for a violation on its own, while secondary enforcement means the violation must be accompanied by a violation that’s under primary enforcement. In other words, if you are over 18 and not wearing a seat belt in the back seat, the police can ticket you only if you’re also committing another traffic violation.
Virginia has a ban on operating handheld devices for all drivers. If you’re caught using a phone while driving, you’ll incur a fine and points on your driving record.
Teen drivers are more prone to crashes than any other age group due to their lack of experience behind the wheel. That’s why Virginia, like most states, has a graduated driver’s license system for young drivers. If you have a learner’s permit, you’ll face the following driving restrictions.
|Restriction category||Restriction details|
|Curfew||12-4 a.m. if under 18
Parent/guardian in front passenger seat Driving to and from work, school, emergency, or religious activity
|Supervision||Licensed driver 21 or older (can be 18 if they are a legal guardian or immediate family member) in front passenger seat
Exceptions for drivers ages 16.25-18 who have had a permit for 9 months and whose parent signed a Virginia driver training
|Passengers||Only 1 passenger under 18 (excluding family members) for drivers who are also under 18|
Wait no more than five years following a car accident to file property damage claims and no more than two years to file personal injury claims. If you wait beyond Virginia’s statutes of limitations, your claim won’t be covered.
After the first 60 days, car insurance companies can cancel your insurance midterm if your license has been suspended or revoked, you committed fraud or misrepresentation, or you haven’t paid your premiums. In the case of nonpayment, the company has 15 days to notify you before your policy’s expiration date so you can find new coverage. In all other cases, the notification window is 45 days.
Companies can also choose not to renew your policy at the end of its term, but they must give you 45 days’ notice. Learn more about cancellations and non-renewals.
Although Virginia is one of two states that doesn’t require auto insurance (the other is New Hampshire), those with more than 21 vehicles can opt to self-insure. However, they’ll need to have $95,000 worth of collateral and proof that they have net working capital equal to the minimum liability limits. Follow these steps to self-insure if you meet the requirements:
In Virginia, you’ll need to get your car inspected for safety once a year. Here’s how to do it:
|Vehicle type||Inspection fee|
Truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,000 pounds or more Motor vehicle used to transport passengers with a seating capacity of more than 16 passengers (including driver)
All other vehicles
Out-of-state vehicles must also undergo emissions testing in these counties:
Emissions testing is required in these cities as well:
Emissions inspections are also required every two years for vehicles matching these criteria:
|Power source||Model year||Maximum manufacturer’s designated gross vehicle weight rating (in pounds)|
|Gas||Less than 25 model years before Jan. 1 of current calendar year||10,000|
|Diesel||1997 or newer||8,500|
This testing is not required for the following vehicles:
Follow these steps to get your vehicle emissions test:
There are a couple of reasons why a Virginian would take a defensive driving course: The court may have ordered them to, or, if they’re at least 55, they might want an auto insurance discount. Either way, here’s how to take a defensive driving course and take five points off your license every two years:
Virginia’s state driving laws don’t indicate any monetary or serious injury threshold for suing following a car accident. If someone doesn’t agree with a payout following an accident, they’re free to seek economic damages for these claims:
Virginia requires people to immediately report an accident that results in injury or death, or face a fine of up to $250.
Some states ban insurance companies from determining prices on the basis of credit scores and gender, protecting people with bad credit and men from higher rates. However, Virginia isn’t one of those states, so people with good credit and women will pay less.
Let’s say you have a car that is worth $30,000 and you get into a bad car accident, causing $24,000 in damages. In that case, because the repairs will cost 80 percent of your car’s AMV, your car would be declared a total loss, and you’d be reimbursed $30,000, provided you had collision coverage.
In Virginia, the total loss threshold is 75 percent, so any car with damages that cost 75 percent or more of its AMV would be declared a total loss.
Now that you’re familiar with Virginia’s laws surrounding car insurance and driving, it’s finally time to get on the roads.
Follow these steps to register your car:
|Type of vehicle||Weight (in pounds)||Registration fee|
|Passenger vehicle||Up to 4,000||$30.75|
Car repairs in Virginia cost $403.19, which is 5 percent higher than the national average. That breaks down to $148.50 for labor and $254.69 for parts, according to a 2020 CarMD report.
While Virginia has a relatively low rate of car theft, its traffic fatality rate is high.
In 2019, the last time the FBI published national data, Virginia had only 126 car thefts for every 100,000 residents, a rate 95 percent lower than the national average.
However, some of the state’s cities had higher rates, which is normal, as cities often have higher rates than suburban or rural areas. See below for the 2020 data from the National Insurance Crime Bureau.
|Metropolitan statistical area in Virginia||Rate of motor vehicle theft per 100,000 inhabitants in 2020|
|Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News||195|
Auto theft can be theft of entire cars or specific parts, including license plates, tailgates, wheels and tires, third-row seats, and catalytic converters. Learn more about catalytic converter theft in our auto theft research.
Although Virginia is considered a safe place when it comes to auto theft, it has a traffic fatality rate 15 percent higher than the national average, at 831 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled, according to 2019 data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
That’s it for the driving laws and insurance policies in Virginia, but if you want to learn about some neighboring areas, read our articles on D.C. auto insurance and Maryland auto insurance. Not leaving the state anytime soon? Read more about getting car insurance in Virginia below.
Insurance follows the car in Virginia, not the driver. That means that car insurance would cover anyone driving a particular car under permissive use, meaning the owner/lessor allowed them to drive their car.
These are the best and most affordable car insurance companies for a teenager in Virginia:
Because these companies offer low rates, they’re some of the best options for teenagers in Virginia, as adding a teen to your policy can increase your rates dramatically.
A 17-year-old in Virginia can drive until midnight. However, they cannot drive from midnight until 4 a.m., according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles. There are a few exceptions:
Car insurance for a 20-year-old in Virginia costs an average of $2,662 a year, with a range from about $568 to $6,612.
§ 18.2-270. Penalty for driving while intoxicated; subsequent offense; prior conviction.. Virginia’s Legislative Information System. (2022). https://law.lis.virginia.gov/vacode/18.2-270/
Seat Belt Frequently Asked Questions. Virginia DMV. (2022). https://www.dmv.virginia.gov/safety/#programs/seatbelts/faq.asp
Vehicle Safety Inspection. Virginia State Police. (2022). https://vsp.virginia.gov/safety-and-enforcement/vehicle-safety-inspection/
How do I get an inspection? Virginia Department of Environmental Equality. https://www.virginiavip.org/PublicSite/Pages/InspectionStations.aspx