Nonstandard car insurance for high-risk drivers

If you’re considered a high-risk driver, it will be harder for you to find affordable car insurance, and you’ll need what’s typically called a nonstandard policy.

Anna Swartz


Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Managing Editor & Auto Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

Published August 27, 2019 | 3 min read

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Key Takeaways

  • A poor driving record, bad credit or being a young, inexperienced driver can put you in the “high-risk” driver category when you apply for insurance

  • Insurance for high-risk drivers, also called nonstandard car insurance, is just regular insurance — but it will cost more if you’re high-risk, and there may be restrictions on your policy

  • Some insurance companies are more willing than others to insure high-risk drivers

When you apply for car insurance, the insurer will look at factors like your age, driving history, credit score and coverage history, all of which will help determine your rates. Insurers use that information to gauge who is riskier to insure, meaning who is more likely to get into accidents or file claims.

Certain factors, like having a serious driving violation or being a teen driver, will put you in the high risk category, meaning you’ll need what’s called high-risk or nonstandard auto insurance. High-risk auto insurance is basically the same as standard insurance, but it’s pricier, and some car insurance companies may not offer coverage to certain high-risk drivers. Here’s what to know about shopping for high-risk car insurance.

In this article:

Who is considered a high-risk driver?

There are a number of reasons a driver might be categorized as high-risk by insurance companies, some of which may make it harder to find affordable coverage than others. You might be labeled high-risk for the following reasons:

  • Being a young or inexperienced driver. If you’re below the age of 25, or you’re a new driver, you’ll be considered high-risk and your age and inexperience will make it hard to get standard rates on auto insurance. Teen drivers are notoriously pricey to insure, but many car insurance companies offer special discounts for teen drivers who complete driver’s education or participate in other types of safety programs.

  • Being an older driver. Drivers between the ages of 25 and 65 typically get the best auto insurance rates, but once you hit 65, insurers start to see your age as a risk factor again and rates begin to climb. Senior drivers will continue to see rate increases as they hit aging milestones.

  • Having a DUI/DWI on your record. This is a surefire way to be labeled a high-risk driver. A DUI conviction will mean you’ll pay more for auto insurance, and if your license was suspended, you’ll likely also need to ask your carrier for an SR-22 form to prove to your state that you have auto insurance and get your license reinstated, another red flag for your insurer.

  • Having a poor driving record. Even if you don’t have a DUI on your record, other serious violations like a hit-and-run, causing an accident without car insurance, or even multiple speeding tickets can put you in the high-risk category and raise your rates.

  • Spotty coverage history. If you’ve had lapses in coverage, meaning you have gaps during which you had a car but did not have car insurance for it, insurers may see you as high-risk. This is true even if you weren’t driving during that time, which is why it’s best to keep a minimum amount of insurance for your car, even when it’s in storage.

  • Bad credit. Having poor credit can also put you in the high-risk category and make it harder to find coverage at standard rates. Some car insurance companies are more willing to insure drivers with poor credit than others, so if your credit score puts you in the subprime category, make sure to shop around for the best offers while taking steps to improve your credit.

What is high-risk auto insurance?

As we mentioned above, high-risk, or nonstandard car insurance is just car insurance for drivers whose profiles put them into a high-risk category. A high-risk policy will cost more than a standard car insurance policy, often significantly more. There also may be restrictions on your policy, like limits on who else can drive your car, or certain coverages you can’t get, like rental car reimbursement.

Depending on what factors are putting you in the high-risk, or nonstandard category, you may be stuck in somewhat of a Catch-22, where you need more coverage even though coverage will be more expensive for you than it would be for other drivers. For example, if you have a history of at-fault accidents, your premiums will be higher, but you should also consider setting high coverage limits to protect you in case you’re in a collision.

Where can I get high-risk auto insurance?

Some car insurance carriers simply won’t write policies for drivers who fall into the high-risk category. If you get a DUI or cause an accident, you may find that your current car insurance provider declines to renew your policy when the policy period is up. And if you apply for insurance as a high-risk driver, some companies simply won’t offer you coverage. However many major car insurance companies will insure high-risk drivers — at a cost. You may be able to find car insurance through a major player like GEICO or Progressive, although you’ll pay more than you would for standard insurance.

Then there are companies that cater to high-risk drivers, like National General, which offers quotes for drivers with a DUI on their records, and Titan Insurance, an affiliate of Nationwide that insures high-risk drivers in need of an SR-22.

How to save money on high-risk auto insurance

Because high-risk, or nonstandard auto insurance is more expensive than a standard policy, it’s extra important for high-risk drivers to get the best rates on their car insurance.

If you’re considered a high-risk driver, the standard car insurance discounts probably won’t give you significant savings. Here’s what you need to know about saving money on nonstandard car insurance.

Shop around

Shopping around and comparing auto insurance quotes is always important when you’re looking to save money on car insurance, but it’s especially crucial for high-risk drivers.

Because not every insurance company will offer you a policy, and some are friendlier to high-risk drivers than others, it’s helpful to work with an independent broker — like Policygenius — where an expert can help you compare quotes from different auto insurance companies and choose the coverage that fits your budget and your needs.

Wait it out

If you’re considered a high-risk driver and the only insurance options available to you are beyond your budget, it might be smart to take a break from driving, assuming you can figure out some alternate mode of transportation.

Violations on your driving record will eventually “fall off.” Most insurers will only look at the past five years of your driving history, so if you have an accident from several years ago that’s bringing your rates up higher than you can afford, waiting it out might be a viable solution for you.