Q

What is accident forgiveness?

A

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

Anna Swartz 1600Stephanie Nieves author photo

By

Anna Swartz

Anna Swartz

Insurance Expert

Anna Swartz is a Managing Editor at Policygenius, specializing in auto insurance. Her work has appeared in Mic, The Dodo, AOL, MSN, HuffPost, Salon and Heeb.

&

Stephanie Nieves

Stephanie Nieves

Property and Casualty Insurance Expert

Stephanie Nieves is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City, specializing in home and auto insurance. Her work has appeared in Business Insider, PayScale, Fairygodboss, and The Muse.

Updated September 13, 2021|3 min read

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No matter where you live in the U.S., your state likely requires you to have at least some auto insurance. Even if you live in one of the few states without auto insurance requirements, you’re still financially responsible for any property damage or injury caused by your vehicle, so insurance is still a good idea.

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But car insurance premiums can be expensive and are often based on factors outside of your control. And your premiums can rise if you’re in a car accident, sometimes by as much as nearly 50%. That means accident forgiveness, a coverage add-on 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.

Summary

  • Accident forgiveness is extra coverage that can keep your rates from going up when you cause 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 premium. 

Some car insurance companies offer accident forgiveness as a standard part of their policies, while others offer it as extra coverage you can purchase. Accident forgiveness at GEICO and Nationwide is offered once per policy, and not per person, so check with your insurance company to see how often you can use this benefit. 

How does accident forgiveness work?

Most major carriers 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!). 

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 carriers offer accident forgiveness?

Not everyone can add accident forgiveness to their car insurance policy. Some carriers 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:

  • Allstate — Offered as an “Allstate Extra”

  • Amica — Included in Platinum Choice Auto

  • Farmers — Forgives one at-fault accident every three years without an accident

  • GEICO — Offers free and upgraded accident forgiveness

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

  • Nationwide — Extends to every driver on a policy, but only allows one forgiven accident per policy

  • Progressive — Offers “small accident forgiveness” for claims less than $500, and “large accident forgiveness” once you’ve been a Progressive customer for at least five years with no accident in three years

  • Safeco — Your first accident is “waived after a set number of years with Safeco without an at-fault accident or violation”

  • Travelers — Available through the purchase of a Responsible Driver Plan

  • USAA — Offers accident forgiveness for free if your household doesn’t have any at-fault accidents for five years

If making sure you get accident forgiveness is a priority, a Policygenius expert can help you find the right auto insurance plan. But there’s no one-size-fits-all answer when it comes to whether accident forgiveness is a smart buy for you. 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 of safe driving. At Liberty Mutual, for example, drivers with at least five years of accident free driving are eligible for accident forgiveness. 

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

quote

A lot of carriers won’t offer you accident forgiveness unless you have a clean driving record.

- Fabio Faschi, Team Lead of Property & Casualty Insurance

Other ways to keep your premiums low

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 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

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does accident forgiveness last?

Accident forgiveness excuses 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.

Is accident forgiveness necessary?

It may be worth it to have accident forgiveness if you have a high-risk driver on your policy. If the chances are high for someone on your policy to get into an accident, then you’ll want to make sure you’re protected financially if it happens. But if everyone on your policy has a clean driving record, then it might not be worth the extra cost.

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 won’t affect your rates.