Law and Disorder – 01/26/11

Law and Disorder – 01/26/11

Stranded in my driveway, branded a fool?

By Isabel A. Suárez

Do you have to pay insurance on a car that is not drivable?

I own a sports car that has transmission problems, which needs to be completely replaced.  Due my current financial situation, I cannot afford to have the repairs done in the near future. I have been told by my insurance company that I need to maintain the policy on the car, but that seems unreasonable to me because I have to maintain coverage for both my drivable car and my wife’s car. I do not want to sell the sports car. Do I have to pay for insurance on a car that is not drivable?  What can I do to comply with the insurance laws of Ohio?

– Stranded in my driveway

Dear Stranded,

Dealing with bureaucracy, insurance companies and the law? That’s not only going to leave you stranded but also highly confused. The insurance laws are confusing, but one thing’s for sure, you end up spending money. The question, of course, is “How much?” Let me help you cut your losses…

In Ohio, the law states that all cars must be insured, but most drivers pay for a policy that covers accidents involving drivers that are not insured. Even drivers who do not own a car need insurance if they drive a car that is insured, as when a person over 21 drives a parent’s car. Due to the complex nature of the law, the BMV does not want to risk offering wrong answers inconsistent with the statute, and insurance companies have the additional incentive of wanting to sell more insurance. This is the reason why the only answer given by the BMV and insurance companies is to “insure it.”

There are two solutions to your problem, which will keep you from paying for needless insurance. First, a non-operating motor vehicle does not need to be insured if it is not registered. You can simply cancel the registration on the vehicle. However, this is a problem if you have to keep the vehicle parked on the street. Under Ohio law, all vehicles parked on the street need to be registered and insured. Additionally, in some communities, like Beavercreek, there are laws restricting non-working motor vehicles parked in yards. You will need to determine what your community’s policy is regarding the parking of non-working vehicle on the driveway or the side of the house before you cancel your registration and return your tags to the BMV. If your community has such a prohibition, park the vehicle in your garage before canceling your registration.

If you need or want to maintain the vehicle’s registration, you will have to comply with the BMV requirements, which are not necessarily to maintain insurance on the vehicle. Under 4501:1-2-08 of the Ohio Administrative Code, the BMV randomly selects registered motor vehicles and sends a notice to the owners demanding proof of insurance on a specified date. The owner has only 30 days to prove that the vehicle was insured. The statute, however, provides a list of exceptions to the insurance requirement. For example, if the vehicle is inoperative or has been out of service for a period of at least 30 days, insurance is not required, but the burden is on the owner to prove they deserve an exemption. According to the BMV, a notarized letter from a certified mechanic or a dealership attesting to the inoperability of the vehicle normally suffices. However, the statute also requires that the owner prove he or she normally maintains insurance. Failure to comply with the request within the allotted time will result in a suspension of your driver’s license. If this happens, you will have to pay a hefty reinstatement fee to get your license back.

Maintaining registration and insurance on a motor vehicle costs money.  If you have a registered vehicle that is inoperable, the best solution would be to cancel the registration and return the tags to the BMV. In order to cancel your registration, print the form from the BMV website at Mail the completed form to:



P.O. BOX 16521

COLUMBUS, OH 43216-6521

If you chose to maintain your registration without insurance, it is better to be safe than sorry. So have your documents in a safe place and ready to go just in case you receive one of those lovely notices from your friendly neighborhood BMV. ¡Buenas suerte!

Isabel Suarez is a Cuban-born American who has been practicing law since 1984. Her diverse multicultural and multilingual practice Suarez & Carlin in Old North Dayton especially serves the regions working poor. Isabel is also a board member of and volunteer for the Ohio Intervention Program. You can reach Isabel by email at or by calling her office located at 765 Troy St. in Dayton at (937) 258-1800.

Legal disclaimer

The content herein is for entertainment and informative purposes only, and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk and are advised to seek an attorney if legal consultation is needed. The accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed as laws are subject to change. Neither the author, the Dayton City Paper, nor any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.

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