Buying car insurance when you're a high-risk driver.
High-risk auto insurance, more commonly called nonstandard auto insurance, is coverage for someone who insurance companies have determined has a is more likely to get into an accident or file a claim. This assessment is based on your driving history and other data points, like your age, credit score, and insurance history, and it means that your insurance premiums are higher. Auto insurance for high-risk drivers is more expensive, but there are ways to ensure you’re getting the best price.
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There isn’t a particular product called high-risk auto insurance, but instead it’s a catch-all term for auto insurance policies for high-risk drivers. These policies are also called nonstandard policies, and can be much more expensive than standard auto insurance policies and may come with restrictions and exclusions. For example, your coverage may not extend to rental cars.
When you apply for car insurance, each company weighs your driving history and and other personal data to determine your rates. If you’re a high-risk driver, most car insurance companies will still offer you a policy, but they’ll call it a nonstandard policy and charge you nonstandard rates (read: higher).
There are some small auto insurance companies who specialize in writing nonstandard policies for high-risk drivers. Since having car insurance is legally required, smaller companies may be your only option if you have a really bad driving record.
There are a variety of factors that influence your auto insurance rate — from gender to zip code — but there a few things on your driving record that can contribute to you being denied standard auto insurance rates and labeled a high-risk driver. These include:
Having a DUI or DWI in the past five years is the quickest way to get labeled a high-risk driver.
Besides DUIs, there are other serious moving vehicle violations that can up your premium, including hit-and-runs, road rage, and excessive speeding. Being at-fault in an accident can also mark you as a high-risk driver. (Again, most insurance companies are only looking at your last five years.)
If you’ve have multiple violations like speeding tickets or other traffic citations in the last five years, you can also expect your premiums to be higher.
Teen drivers have some of the highest rates out there because they not have a driving record to show a history of good driving. Statistically, teens are very likely to get into accidents. But as long as you keep a clean driving record, your insurance premiums should go down each year until you’re 25. Read more about how to save on car insurance as a teen driver.
Once you turn 65, your car insurance rates may start increasing again, again because of statistics, and they’ll get even higher when you turn 70, since drivers over 70 are involved in more fatal accidents. Read more about how seniors can save on auto insurance.
Adults who are newly licensed in the U.S. may have higher premiums for the same reason as teens do: they have no record of good driving. Immigrants may be able to use proof of good driving history in their former country as a way to avoid this and get standard rates.
Insurance companies penalize you if you don’t have a consistent history of being insured, even if you have good reasons for not having kept your insurance policy (e.g., you spent several years without a car).
Insurance companies have found a correlation between credit score and insurance claims, and if you have a low score, your premiums may be higher.
All drivers should comparison shop when shopping for car insurance, but if you’re consistently getting quoted high rates, you may be a high-risk driver, and it’s especially important for you to shop around.
If you’re a high-risk driver, the insurance buying process is the same for any driver, and often involves getting insured through the same companies.
Everyone should get multiple quotes when applying for car insurance, but it’s especially important for high-risk drivers because the rate differences can be especially high.
The best way to buy car insurance if you’re a high-risk driver is through an independent insurance broker, such as Policygenius. When you apply for quotes through a broker, you fill out one application and get quotes from several different insurers. Plus, since brokers work with several insurance companies, they can ensure you get the best coverage and the best deal. And because car insurance rates are regulated, you’ll get the same quotes if you were to contact each carrier directly but in a fraction of the time.
Super bonus: if you already have a homeowners or renters policy — or are planning to get one — the broker can offer you the same bundled savings that going directly through a carrier would.
It’s especially important, however, for high-risk drivers to work with an experienced broker in order to find the best car insurance company and policy for them. A broker will be able to look at your specific history and make personalized recommendations about where you’ll be able to find the most affordable coverage for your situation.
Many of the major car insurance companies write standard and nonstandard policies, meaning that no matter what your driving history looks like, a broker should be able to help you find a policy.
Policygenius can help you easily compare and buy car insurance.
The good news when it comes to car insurance and your driving history is that nothing lasts forever. Your car insurance company is only interested in the last five years of your driving history, so every accident and traffic violation will eventually fade away.
When you’re applying, shop around and work with a broker to get the best deal for you. And every six months, you should go back to your broker and get new quotes — the special sauce of car insurance rates is different for each company, and a few months could make a huge difference when it comes to your rates.
Drive well, up your credit score, and get new quotes often, and you’ll be well on your way to getting standard rates.
Read more about how to save money on car insurance.
Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.
Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.