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How Can I be a Smart Car Owner?

Authored By: Northwest Justice Project LSC Funded

Tips on how to protect yourself from unnecessary expenses and legal problems from owning a car. #0320EN


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Always have car insurance. 

If you are in an accident and do not have insurance, you will get an expensive ticket for failure to have insurance.

You might also get your driver license suspended if the accident was all or even partly your fault and you cannot pay for the damages done to the other vehicle and driver. If your driver license is suspended, it will be hard to go to work or look for work.

*It is a crime to drive on a suspended license.

The only way to get your driver license reinstated is to show proof that you now have insurance AND to do one of these:

  • Pay off the amount of damages owed

  • Enter into a payment plan agreed to by both you and the other driver or their insurance company 

  • Go to a hearing at the Department of Licensing. Show you do not owe the damages because you were not at fault for the accident 

  • File for Chapter 7 bankruptcy

Do not miss any payments if you are buying a car. 

Even one missed payment can lead to them repossessing your car. It does not matter if you have good reason for not making a payment, such as being sick or losing your job.

Get repairs made.

Get referrals from family or friends before going to an auto repair shop.  If a repair costs more than $100, you are entitled to a written estimate. You must then authorize the repair shop to perform the repair. 

Be careful. The repair shop may call you about additional repairs. They may ask you to waive (give up) your right to a written estimate.  You may not want to do this. Ask them to show or return the damaged parts to you before you agree to an expensive repair. Make sure you really need the repair. Read Used Car Purchases: What to do When Your Car Does Not Work Properly.


This publication provides general information concerning your rights and responsibilities. It is not intended as a substitute for specific legal advice.
This information is current as of November 2018.

© 2018 Northwest Justice Project — 1-888-201-1014

(Permission for copying and distribution granted to the Alliance for Equal Justice and to individuals for non-commercial use only.)


Last Review and Update: Nov 01, 2018