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What is accident forgiveness and how does it work?

Accident forgiveness is a coverage add-on that can help prevent your insurance rates from going up after your first at-fault accident.

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Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.&Rachael BrennanRachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Updated|4 min read

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Your car insurance premiums can rise after a car accident, sometimes by as much as nearly 50%.

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Accident forgiveness, a coverage endorsement that keeps your rates from going up after your first accident, can be a good option for drivers who are especially concerned about those cost increases.

Key takeaways

  • Accident forgiveness is an extra, optional coverage add-on that can keep your rates from going up after your first accident

  • Most companies offer accident forgiveness to drivers who have kept a clean record for three to five years

  • Some car insurance companies offer it as a free perk, while others require you to pay to include it in your policy

  • Carriers that offer accident forgiveness include Allstate, Liberty Mutual, Progressive, Nationwide, and GEICO

What is accident forgiveness?

Accident forgiveness is extra coverage that can help prevent your insurance rates from going up after you cause your first accident. 

Many factors go into how your insurance premiums are calculated, and one of them is your driving history — more accidents on your record means higher rates, because you’ll be seen as riskier to insure. But if you have accident forgiveness, your insurance company will agree not to factor your first at-fault accident into your rates. 

Some car insurance companies offer accident forgiveness as a standard part of their policies, while others offer it as extra coverage you can purchase. 

The details of accident forgiveness can vary by company — for example, at GEICO and Nationwide, it’s offered once per policy, and not per person. Check with your insurance company to see how accident forgiveness would work for your policy. 

➞ Learn more about first accident forgiveness

How does accident forgiveness work?

Most top insurance companies offer accident forgiveness, often as an optional add-on to a plan. Basically, accident forgiveness means your rates won’t necessarily go up after an at-fault accident claim.

When you have accident forgiveness, you’re essentially paying for an accident you haven’t had yet (and might never have!). If you have accident forgiveness as part of your policy and you (or a driver in your household) have an at-fault accident, your rates won’t go up because of the accident once it’s time to renew your policy.

Typically, accident forgiveness is a minimal surcharge on your overall premium. But for folks who value coverage over cost, the peace of mind that comes with accident forgiveness might be worth it.

However, adding accident forgiveness to your policy isn't as simple as just signing up for it. With most car insurance companies, you'll have to qualify for accident forgiveness. 

"A lot of carriers won’t offer you accident forgiveness unless you have a clean driving record," Policygenius home and auto expert Fabio Faschi explained. “A lot of times carriers require you to have five, or at least three years of clean driving history to qualify.”

Which companies offer accident forgiveness?

Not everyone can add accident forgiveness to their car insurance policy. Some car insurance companies require you to be accident-free for three to five years to be eligible. Others have age requirements for accident forgiveness.

Popular car insurance carriers that offer accident forgiveness include:

Car insurance company

Accident forgiveness 

Allstate

Offered as an “Allstate Extra”

Amica

Included in Platinum Choice Auto policies

Farmers

Forgives one at-fault accident for every three years without an accident

GEICO

Available as both a free perk for certain drivers and as a paid add-on

Liberty Mutual

Offered if you go five years without an accident or violation (even when with another carrier)

Nationwide

Covers every driver on a policy, but only allows one forgiven accident per policy

Progressive

Most drivers automatically qualify for free “small accident forgiveness” and can pay to add “large accident forgiveness.”

Safeco

Available to drivers who’ve been with the company over a certain number of years without an accident or violation.

Travelers

Available through the purchase of an optional Responsible Driver Plan

USAA

Free if your household doesn’t have any at-fault accidents for five years

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There’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to whether accident forgiveness is a smart buy for you. If making sure you get accident forgiveness is a priority, a Policygenius expert can help you find the right auto insurance plan. 

And if you’re not sure whether or not you even need accident forgiveness, an agent can help you figure out whether it’s something that makes sense to include in your coverage.

Who qualifies for accident forgiveness?

Many insurance companies offer accident forgiveness to any customers who have a history of safe driving — that usually means anyone with at least a certain number of years without an accident or moving violation

With Liberty Mutual accident forgiveness, for example, drivers with at least five years of accident free driving are eligible for the benefit.

And at Progressive, small accident forgiveness, meaning forgiveness for accidents below a certain dollar amount of damage, is automatically applied to your policy (policyholders can pay for large accident forgiveness for more expensive crashes). At many companies, drivers need to have three to five years of accident-free driving to qualify.

Is accident forgiveness worth it?

It can be, depending on your situation. If you have a clean driving record and you want to avoid an increase in your insurance rates after an accident, you might want to purchase accident forgiveness coverage. 

But there are some people who should not consider adding accident forgiveness to their policy, including:

  • Drivers in California: Accident forgiveness isn’t available in California because, in 1988, the state passed proposition 103, prevents insurance companies from charging “excessive rates,” and accident forgiveness qualifies as an excessive rate under the law.

  • Teenage drivers: Most insurance companies that offer accident forgiveness require drivers to have at least five years of clean driving history, which isn’t possible if you are 16 years old and haven’t been driving for at least five years.

  • Households with high-risk drivers: Many insurers require everyone in a household to have a clean driving record for you to be able to add accident forgiveness to your policy. If someone in your family has had an accident in the last five years, you may not be eligible for accident forgiveness. 

Other ways to keep your premiums low

If you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness, there are lots of auto-insurance discounts available to consumers that can help ensure you’re paying for the lowest premiums possible. Those include but aren’t limited to:

  • Good driver discounts: Most providers will give you a discount for going a certain amount of time without filing a claim or getting ticketed. You might also be able to get discounts for taking a defensive driving course.

  • Low mileage discounts: The less you drive, the less likely you are to get into an accident, so some insurers will give you a discount for having a low annual mileage.

  • Affiliation discounts: Check to see if you can get a discount on insurance through your employer, your alma mater or other institutions or associations you belong to, like a sorority or fraternity.

  • Student discounts: Car insurance is usually more expensive for younger drivers, but students can qualify for good student discounts, including for maintaining good grades or making the honor roll or dean’s list.

  • Bundling discounts: You can also usually get a discount by bundling your auto and homeowners insurance through the same carrier.

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Frequently asked questions

How long does accident forgiveness last?

Accident forgiveness keeps your first at-fault accident from being calculated into your rates. It lasts until you get into a second accident, in which case that accident will be factored into your premium.

Do all insurance companies offer accident forgiveness?

Most insurance companies offer accident forgiveness, though they all have unique versions of the benefit. For example, Allstate accident forgiveness is available for an additional cost, while GEICO accident forgiveness is available for free to certain drivers and at an additional cost for others.

What is upgraded accident forgiveness?

Some insurance companies offer accident forgiveness for free to drivers with a clean driving history that have been with the company for three years or more. Upgraded accident forgiveness is when those companies allow you to purchase the accident forgiveness for a fee before you reach the three year mark (or meet the other requirements for free accident forgiveness).

How long do accidents stay on your record?

Most car insurance companies consider the last three to five years of your driving history when calculating your premium. If you manage to drive safely for long enough, your accidents will eventually “fall off” your record, meaning an accident from six years ago probably won’t affect your car insurance rates.

Authors

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

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

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