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High-Risk Car Insurance Guide

Published May 31, 2022
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Guide to High-Risk Car Insurance

This article has been reviewed by licensed insurance industry expert Moshe Fishman.

Being a high-risk driver usually means higher insurance rates. These drivers are usually found to have one or more accidents, multiple minor violations or one major violation, have a lapse in coverage, or DUI/DWI conviction. Older drivers and inexperienced, young drivers are also deemed “high risk” since studies show they are more likely to get into a vehicle crash. 

If you are a high-risk driver, you’re paying higher insurance rates and may be looking for cheaper coverage or other options. Or you may find it difficult to find auto coverage based on your record and/or other factors that label you a high-risk driver.

Since driving without auto coverage is against the law in most states and increases your being a higher risk, you’ll need to find solutions. 

What this article covers: 

  • Definition of a high-risk driver
  • The four categories of driving risk
  • How to determine if you are considered a higher risk
  • The consequences of being a higher risk driver
  • How to find car insurance when classified as high risk
  • Steps to become a lower-risk driver

What you should know:

  • Accidents and poor driving records contribute to you being labeled higher risk.
  • There is no industry-wide rule in determining who is a higher-risk driver.
  • Inexperienced teenage drivers and older drivers (60+) with declining skills are also considered higher risks.
  • High-risk drivers are also more likely to submit more claims and have poor credit. 
  • Driving without insurance is illegal but you can still get nonstandard auto coverage even if your car insurance policy has been canceled. 
  • Although rare, you could be denied insurance coverage as a high-risk driver and be required to buy insurance from your state’s assigned risk pool.
  • Lowering your risk to “preferred” from a high-risk category can take three to five years depending on the insurance company and your record.

What is a high-risk driver?

High-risk drivers are just as they sound—drivers that pose a greater risk while on the road. They are more likely to have been involved in at-fault accidents. They are drivers who may have more than one minor ticket or violation, a serious violation, or have chalked up a DUI or DWI. 

But it’s not just about your poor driving record or the infractions you rack up. High-risk drivers are also more likely to submit claims, have poor credit, and have a history of bad driving. 

Or they may be young, inexperienced drivers, who are more likely to be involved in an accident or be distracted while driving. In fact, according to the National Institute of Health, newly licensed teen drivers “have a very high crash risk.”

But there is no one absolute rule or formula that makes you a higher-risk motorist. And although the insurance industry is not uniform in its determination of high-risk drivers, there are some typical reasons why drivers fall into this category. 

  • Major Violation – You have a major violation like a DUI conviction or speeding ticket.
  • At-Fault Accidents – If you cause more than one accident within the past 3 to 5 years.
  • Multiple Minor Violations – Multiple and frequent tickets and/or accidents will also get you into the riskier category.
  • Points Accumulations – This relates to points accumulated from driving violations, accidents, and claims that accumulate on your driving record and increase with severity. 
  • SR-22 or FR-44 – Needing to file the SR-22 or FR-44 as a result of driving without insurance coverage or due to a conviction. 
Typically, high-risk drivers have:
A major violation (DUI conviction/speeding)
Multiple at-fault accidents (past 3 to 5 yrs.)
Multiple /frequent tickets or accidents
Points accumulation (due to driving violations)
SR-22 or FR-44 filing requirement (due to a conviction or lack or insurance)

What are the risk classifications of drivers?

To help determine factors for risks, insurers place drivers into different classifications based on factors like location, driving history, claims, credit, etc. These categories may vary from one insurance company to the next but typically include preferred, standard, and high-risk. Here’s what these risk classifications look like:

Nonstandard-Risk: Also known as high-risk drivers, these folks are most likely to file a claim. This group includes drivers who have a bad driving history, DUI, or multiple tickets or accidents. Young, inexperienced drivers and older drivers with declining skills are also included in this group. 

Standard-Risk: Standard-risk drivers might have one or two minor tickets or accidents and a minimum of one at-fault accident. They also have prior insurance and hover around an average credit score. If you are an average risk driver, you can expect middle-of-the-road premiums. 

Preferred-Risk: Preferred-risk drivers are usually over 25 years of age with no tickets, safe driving history, prior insurance, and good credit. They also live in areas with lower vandalism and theft. These drivers are considered to be at the lowest end of the risk scale.

Uninsurable: One other group of drivers includes those who are uninsurable. This means they have been denied insurance by companies and are unable to find an insurer to cover them.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, if you are a higher risk driver (see Nonstandard-Risk above), you may be denied “traditional coverage.” Being uninsurable is considered rare. But if you find yourself in this group, you can turn to insurers who specialize in covering high-risk drivers with high-risk auto insurance, or you may have to join a state-assigned risk pool (1% of drivers nationally need to join).

How do I determine if I am a higher-risk driver?

For most drivers in this category, it should be obvious that they fall into this group. If not, your current insurer will let you know by raising your rates considerably. 

High-risk drivers may have a poor driving history of car accidents, violations, and file claims with their insurer. Or maybe you are a teenager who is new to driving. Older drivers (60+) with decreasing health and reaction skills can also be listed in this category. So can drivers with poor credit.

To know if you are considered a higher risk, you should consider the factors that insurance companies use to determine your classification. Depending on your risk factors, you may even be dropped by your insurance company. 

Here are some determining factors (depending on your state of residence) that may label you high risk:Users outline

Your age: Young and inexperienced drivers lack driving time and situational knowledge making them more susceptible to accidents. In addition, older drivers may have declining skills and reaction times.

Your driving: Bad driving includes having a major violation (e.g., DUI), frequent/multiple minor violations, multiple at-fault accidents, and points accumulated on your record from violations.No Driving outlineSteering Wheel outline

Your insurance lapsed: If you allow your insurance to lapse for lack of payment or if your policy was canceled, you can expect to pay higher premiums. Driving without insurance is illegal and can result in penalties and license suspension.Debt outline

Your credit: A poor credit rating allows insurers in most states to charge you higher rates. You cannot, however, be denied insurance because of your lower credit score.Car outline

Your vehicle: Driving some types of cars can cost you more in auto insurance. For example, some high-powered models like sports cars, which cost more in repairs, tend to be owned by drivers who have an increase in auto claims.Briefcase outline

Your work: If you drive long distances for work (e.g., a delivery driver) you may be classified as a high-risk driver by auto insurers. In this case, you may want to consider a business auto policy.

What consequences do you face when you’re defined as a high-risk driver?

The consequences of being labeled high risk definitely include paying higher auto insurance rates. For example, drivers with a DUI conviction on their driving record can expect to pay considerably more in premium costs. “One person every 52 minutes” dies in the U.S. from a drunk-driving crash according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This unfortunate statistic is why insurers see those with a DUI as a much higher risk.

Bankrate states that a driver convicted of a DUI would pay a national average of $3,139 compared to $1,674 for a driver with a clean driving record. However, not all insurance companies will cover a high-risk driver with a DUI and the guidelines will vary by state. Most states also require an SR-22 or FR-44 form to reinstate your license and prove that you have coverage as a high-risk driver. 

Being denied coverage is also a possible consequence of being a high-risk driver. Your coverage can be canceled, or your insurer can decide not to renew your auto policy. Your insurance carrier has up to 60 days to cancel for any reason with a few exceptions (fraud, license suspended, not paying on time, lack of payment). If canceled, your insurer should provide you with advance notice.

When this happens, you could find yourself unable to find an insurer that will provide you with car insurance. Having auto insurance coverage is a legal requirement so you may need to buy insurance from an assigned risk pool in your state.

Having a nonstandard policy may mean your driving record will be reviewed more often. In addition, there will be limits on who else can drive your vehicle.

How do you find car insurance if you are considered high risk?

If you have been canceled by your carrier or have been denied insurance, there are still ways to find coverage. But you will need to be prepared to pay a significant increase (up to 5x the standard rate) in your car insurance premium. In this case, you should shop around and compare insurance quotes from other auto insurance carriers. 

If you find it difficult to get car insurance due to your risk status, you may have to look for insurers who specialize in car insurance for high-risk drivers. But if private insurers are not a possibility, and you have been denied multiple times, you should be able to get help from your state through an assigned-risk pool. However, the rates will be much higher than with standard policies.

What steps can I take to become a lower-risk driver?

High-risk drivers, especially those with a DUI, contribute to an unsafe environment for other drivers on the road. Those with a poor driving history who continue to drive unsafely put others at risk. 

Unfortunately, once you are considered high risk, it may take from three to five years to get back to standard status. This, of course, will depend on your insurer and why you were categorized as high risk in the first place. During this time, you will likely pay much higher premiums. 

Lowering your risk is possible but will require some work (and patience) on your part. Here are some ways to lower your driving risk:

  • Drive safely: Lowering risk starts with better driving. Avoid getting violations and being involved in accidents. Buckle up, avoid distractions like texting, stop speeding, obey the traffic laws, avoid driving in hazardous conditions, and don’t drink and drive.
  • Take a driving course: Consider taking a defensive driving course to learn safe driving skills and begin practicing good driving behaviors.
  • Improve credit rating: Pay your bills on time and pay down your debt. Limit the number of credit accounts, use less than 30% of your limits, and check your credit report for accuracy.
  • Drive a safe car: Some insurance companies will cancel your auto insurance policy for driving what they believe is an unsafe vehicle. In addition, some vehicles are more expensive to repair. Some examples of uninsurable cars include custom cars, altered vehicles, cars sold outside the US, high-powered autos, exotic, classic, collectible, and salvaged vehicles. 
  • Deter theft, vandalism, carjacking: Take measures including vehicle features and driving/parking behaviors to prevent these crimes.

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