Driving without car insurance in Ireland
Caoimhe Bermingham
Staff Writer

Here we take a look at how the Gardaí are able to find out if you’re driving with or without insurance.

Having a car insurance policy is a legal requirement to drive on Irish roads. 

However, there is a growing cohort of motorists who are choosing to drive without insurance. This in turn is putting uninsured drivers at risk of gaining penalty points, a fine or jail time. If they are in an accident, they are also putting themselves and other drivers in danger of financial loss.

Thankfully advancements in technology have allowed the Gardaí to detect uninsured drivers more easily, and subject them to fines and punishments. 

In this article, we will look at the reason behind the rise in uninsured drivers and what the Gardaí are doing to stop this.

How many people in Ireland drive without car insurance?

According to the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland (MIBI), 188,000 drivers were driving without car insurance in Ireland in 2022, up from 174,000 in 2021. This is the equivalent of 1 in every 12 drivers on Irish roads having no cover. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of insured drivers increased by 15% indicating that more and more drivers are opting to forgo car insurance.

This decision not only makes our roads more dangerous but increases the cost of premiums nationwide. It is estimated that an extra €30 to €35 is added to every motor insurance premium to compensate for accidents caused by uninsured drivers in Ireland.

Why are people driving without car insurance? 

It is against the law to drive on Irish roads without car insurance, however, that doesn’t stop certain people from ignoring this rule and driving illegally. People may decide to drive without car insurance for a variety of reasons such as:

  • They think car insurance is too expensive
  • They can not afford their premium
  • They are banned from driving and therefore can not get insurance
  • They do not have a driving licence 
  • Their latest policy has lapsed or ended

In fact, one female motorist narrowly avoided a jail term after being caught without car insurance for the 26th time in Co. Clare, Ireland in 2022.

How do the Gardaí know if you’re driving without insurance?  

If you’re considering hedging your bets and driving without insurance, think again. The Gardaí have developed advanced technology to pinpoint if motorists are driving illegally. 

Through the use of handheld devices, Gardaí scan car registration plates to detect whether you have a valid car insurance policy or not. For the last twelve years, Gardaí have been using automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to read every car registration plate that passes them at a rate of six vehicles every second, driving up to 180 km an hour. 

Once a driver’s number plate has been registered by this technology, the Gardaí will be able to see:

  • The insurance company you’re with
  • Who your previous insurer was
  • If your tax is valid
  • If your NCT is valid 
  • If you’re driving a stolen vehicle
  • Other information

Gardaí can then access this data in either their vehicle or on their mobile phones. As well as this, the Gardaí received up-to-date data from the MIBI on an estimated 3 million vehicles and over 5 million drivers daily. This extensive data outlines the insurance status and the details of the driver or drivers covered by the policy. 

Setting up Garda checkpoints and visually checking to see if your vehicle has an in-date insurance disc displayed on your windshield is another (more traditional) method the police force uses to find insurance evaders. 

However, this method can have its downsides. 

What is an added benefit of the ANPR system? 

According to the Dublin Regional Roads Policing Division, the ANPR system ensures that drivers are unable to fraud the insurance system. 

For example, a common practice amongst insurance dodgers sees them purchasing their car insurance policies by direct debit. However, once they receive their insurance disc for their vehicle, they cancel this direct debit payment. This means that although it appears that their motor is insured, it is not. As a result, these fraudsters were getting away with only paying 10% of their car insurance policy. 

Thankfully, the introduction of the ANPR system means Gardaí can detect if your insurance policy has been cancelled or not. 

What happens if you are caught without insurance?

According to Citizens Information, if a Garda asks you for your insurance certificate, you must provide it within 7 days. You will also be fined an initial fixed charge of €60, rising to €90 after 28 days, for failing to display an insurance disc on your car.

Any offences for driving without insurance are prosecuted in court. As an insured driver you could:  

  • Be fined up to €5000
  • Receive 5 penalty points
  • Go to jail for up to 6 months
  • Get disqualified from driving 

The severity of your punishment will depend on the judge and your history of driving/insurance offences.

How do you know if you are insured or not?

Typically car insurance policies last for one year. 

Your car insurance provider is obligated to provide you with an insurance renewal notice at least 20 days before your current insurance policy expires, meaning you won’t be left without cover unexpectedly. 

Along with your renewal notice, your insurance provider must provide you with your no-claims discount certificate, which you will need if you decide to take out a policy with a new provider. 

You can renew your car insurance policy or take out a new one with a new provider, either online, in person or over the phone. As the cost of car insurance premiums varies depending on the provider, at bonkers.ie, we recommend that you shop around to find the best value policy to suit your needs every year. 

Discover how to apply for your car insurance policy on bonkers.ie here

Is it possible to have insurance but still be uninsured?

Yes, it is.

Failing to provide the correct information about your car or driving history, can result in your car insurance being invalid. Although you have paid for your policy, if it is the wrong type of insurance for your car, you will not be able to make a claim or drive on the road legally because your insurance policy is inaccurate. 

For example, if you get any modifications done to your car, your policy may no longer protect you as these modifications are not covered in your policy. 

Remember to always declare any modifications you get done with your insurance provider to ensure you still have cover, however, it's important to be aware that many insurers refuse to provide insurance at all to cars that have undergone modifications. 

To learn about the different reasons why you could be denied car insurance read this guide. 

Why do you need to have a car insurance policy?

As previously mentioned, you must have a valid car insurance policy to drive on the roads in this country. 

There is good reason for this as car insurance is designed to protect you from liability if you are involved in a traffic accident or if your car is stolen. If you are found at fault for the accident, it will cover the cost of the other driver’s property and any injuries sustained. 

There are three different types of car insurance policies available that provide different ranges of coverage, these include:

  • Third party
  • Third party, fire and theft
  • Comprehensive

Unfortunately, more and more motorists are failing to take out car insurance cover or are providing false information when purchasing a policy, therefore nulling their policy. As a result, insured drivers are paying higher premiums to offset the financial loss or damage caused by uninsured motors. 

If you’ve discovered your premium has gone up in price, check out the different reasons that may have caused this increase

Get the best value car insurance on bonkers.ie 

Whether you are taking out car insurance for the first time or looking to renew your policy, at bonkers.ie, you can tailor a policy to suit your needs with our free car insurance service

All you have to do is provide us with information on our car and your driving history, and you will receive a direct quote from the insurer outlining a price and policy catered to you. 

As well as this, we offer a range of free services across energy, broadband, banking and other insurance products so you can start cutting the cost of your bills today.

Uncover more about car insurance

If you found this guide helpful, why not take a look at the other guides in our car insurance series?

You can stay up to date with all the latest car insurance news and money-saving tips with our regularly updated blogs and guides

Get in touch

Are you surprised to learn about how many people are driving without car insurance? If so, let us know what you think. Get in contact with the bonkers team today on either Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok.