What is high-risk auto insurance?
High-risk car insurance is really no different than normal car insurance. What is different is the driver.
High-risk drivers have a history of at-fault accidents, speeding tickets or other infractions. Insurance companies aren’t eager to provide coverage to these drivers as they are more likely to file claims. Data suggest drivers who are younger, have bad credit or live in certain ZIP codes are also more likely to file a claim or have one filed against them.
Because of this increased risk, high-risk drivers almost always pay higher insurance rates and fewer choices of car insurance companies.
The best car insurance companies for high-risk drivers
USAA, State Farm and American Family Insurance are three of the best major car insurance companies for those with accidents or other infractions on their driving records. While these companies will raise premiums after an accident or other violation, these rate hikes tend to be smaller than those levied by other insurance companies.
American Family Insurance
American Family Insurance doesn't have as wide a geographic footprint as some other major insurance companies, as it currently serves only 19 states. However, high-risk drivers residing in a state in which policies are available should consider American Family (they even offer policies through Costco). The company's rates usually increase by a relatively small margin after common driving infractions. The company's accident-forgiveness policy allows customers to avoid steep rate increases following their first at-fault accident. To be eligible for this coverage you must meet the following criteria:
- Maintain an accident-free record for five years
- Must have held an American Family policy for five years
- No major violations or infractions
State Farm is one of America's largest insurance companies. While State Farm is not often known as the cheapest option, high-risk drivers can expect relatively minor increases in their premiums after committing any of a number of different driving violations. The company also offers discounts that may lessen the impact of a poor driving record, including:
- Enrollment in the State Farm Drive Safe & SaveTM and Steer Clear® programs
- Driver training or defensive driving courses
- Vehicle safety discounts
- Bundling multiple policies
USAA is widely known as an affordable car insurance company, and this holds true for high-risk drivers. USAA's car insurance rates do not increase as dramatically as the rates of some of their competitors. However, USAA coverage is not available to everyone. Customers must be members of the military — or their immediate relatives — to purchase a policy. USAA offers accident forgiveness, which can keep your rates from spiking after an at-fault accident. Further discounts or ways for high-risk drivers to save on a USAA car insurance policy include:
- Enrollment in the SafePilot telematics program
- Mulitple policy bundle
- Installing an anti-theft device
What driving factors make you a high-risk driver?
When an insurance company calculates your premium for your auto insurance policy, they assess driving and non-driving factors to determine how much risk you pose.
First, insurers typically look at the number of violations or citations you've received.
An at-fault accident — especially with a bodily injury payout — can be a major indicator of insurance risk. It’s not only a financial burden for the insurance company, which is responsible for damages through liability coverage, but an ongoing accumulation of risk as the company insures you moving forward. An at-fault car accident increases auto insurance premiums by an average of $658 per year.
In most states, your car insurance rates will go up for three years following an at-fault accident. USAA ($767), State Farm ($810) and American Family ($884) provide the cheapest six-month policy after an at-fault accident. For more information, see our guide to finding insurance after a car accident.
On average, you can expect your insurance costs to increase by $347 per year after a ticket. Depending on the severity of the violation, the insurance consequences of a ticket will vary. Less severe violations — like speeding — have a smaller impact on insurance premiums. But don't be fooled: speeding tickets are seen as precursors of more serious incidents, resulting in raised insurance rates.
Like an at-fault accident, you can be charged for a ticket for three to five years after a ticket citation. USAA ($677), State Farm ($764) and GEICO ($785) provide the cheapest rates for a six-month policy for drivers with speeding tickets.
Insurance rates rise by an average of over $500 per six-month policy period after a reckless driving charge — or over $3,000 over the course of the three-year chargeable period. In many states, reckless driving is defined as driving dangerously and without care, potentially resulting in bodily harm and/or property damage, and is considered a major moving violation. A reckless driving charge is the fifth most expensive citation that affects car insurance.
The average premium after a reckless driving charge is $1,173 for a six-month policy. USAA ($841), State Farm ($906) and Travelers ($955) provide the cheapest rates for a six-month policy after a reckless driving charge.
Because of the dangers associated with racing, this citation carries some very costly insurance consequences and is the second most expensive violation to affect car insurance premiums. Drivers charged with a racing violation were charged an additional $979 per year for auto insurance. Drive smart — don’t race on public roads!
In our survey of top insurance companies after a racing citation, we discovered insurance companies charge drivers cited for racing $1,218 per six-month policy. State Farm ($925), Travelers ($955) and American Family ($988) provide the cheapest options.
On average, your premium will increase by $477 for a six-month policy after you’re charged with a DUI. This comes out to over $79 per month in excess premium. DUIs result in more property damage, bodily injury and death benefit payouts than any other citation. Regardless of your location, expect your premium to rise by about 65% if you’re charged with a DUI or DWI — not to mention any additional fees or legal ramifications.
If you’ve been charged with a DUI, your cheapest insurance provider might be American Family ($823), Progressive ($919) or State Farm ($940) for a six-month premium. For more information and state-by-state cost breakdowns, check out our guide on shopping for car insurance with a DUI.
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What non-driving factors make you a high-risk driver?
While violations and accidents can lead to higher premiums, a number of personal factors can also influence car insurance rates.
To an insurance company, your credit score is a reflection of what kind of driver you will be. FTC studies show drivers with low credit scores are more likely to file a claim than are drivers with better credit — and when drivers with poor credit do file claims, they lead to more expensive payouts. Any time more risk is involved, your insurance company will protect itself by charging an inflated premium.
If you have poor or low credit, Nationwide ($785), GEICO ($903) and Farmers ($1,179) will likely offer the cheapest six-month policies.
If using your credit score to determine your insurance premium seems unfair to you, you're not alone — some states consider credit score car insurance profiling a discriminatory practice. Learn more about how to find car insurance with bad credit.
|FICO Credit Tier||
Average 6-Month Premium
|Very Poor (300-579)||$1,424|
|Very Good (740-799)
As far as driving is concerned, age matters and youth equates to inexperience — as in risk. Insurance companies see teenage drivers as high-risk due to their lack of driving experience, which correlates to an increased likelihood of filing a claim.
Below are samples of rates comparing six-month premiums between people in their 20s versus adults in their 40s. Drivers who are in their 20s should look to GEICO, Nationwide and USAA for the cheapest average cost of a six-month policy. Read more about how to find cheap insurance as a young adult.
Because insurance is priced by ZIP code and regulated by your state, your location impacts car insurance rates. Living in a state with onerous insurance regulations — such as Michigan or other no-fault states — can impact your premium regardless of your driving record.
Learn more about auto insurance costs by state.
Gaps or lapses in auto insurance coverage are seen as red flags by insurance companies. Drivers with uninterrupted histories of carrying car insurance with high coverage levels are seen as more financially responsible than drivers with coverage lapses.
Looking at the data, a driver with the same current coverage but no insurance history pays over $80 more for car insurance than a driver with five years of insurance history. If your insurance company sees you as financially responsible, they will reward you with a lower premium. Certain insurers won't even draft a policy for a driver who hasn't maintained continuous coverage for the past six months.
|Insurance History||6-Month Premium|
The way in which you use your vehicle can impact your insurance rates. If you use your vehicle for rideshare or commercial purposes, your insurance company might deny coverage outright based on the risk. Using your vehicle in high-density areas — and driving more miles — warrants the premium increase. Use our guide to compare insurance rates for pleasure use vs. commuter use policies.
|Work/commute, less than 10 miles||$744|
|Work/commute, 10-15 miles||$747|
|Work/commute, 15+ miles||$750|
Car insurance rates will vary by vehicle type as well. Owning a high-performance vehicle is considered by insurance companies as an added risk. Vehicles that are capable of off-roading or hitting high speeds, or those with valuable parts, are seen as a risky investment to an insurance company.
Many states use “points" systems to score driving violations. Each violation is tied to a specific number of points that stay on your record for a length of time depending on your state and the severity of the violation. If you earn a certain number of points, you can lose your license.
However, your insurance company doesn’t cite points directly — they use your Motor Vehicle Report (MVR) to see the information that comprises your points total. Your MVR will provide a comprehensive list of any tickets you have been issued, as well as any traffic collisions. Although points on your driver's license can be reflective of a high premium, they do not lead directly to higher premiums.
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How to save money on high-risk auto insurance
Exercise caution before filing a collision claim
Collision claims are meant to repair damage to your vehicle when you collide with a fixed object — like another vehicle, a wall or a pole. These claims can dramatically increase your premium. But depending on the value of the damage, you could pay more than in premium surcharges than the out-of-pocket expense.
Remember that a claim is likely to stay on your insurance record for three to five years. So even if it seems cheaper in the short term to file a claim, you could ultimately end up paying much more in the long run. In general, don't sweat the small stuff.
Learn more about when and when not to file an insurance claim.
Should you file a claim?
- Get an estimate for the out-of-pocket expense at a local repair shop
- Use The Zebra's State of Insurance study to see how much an at-fault accident would raise rates in your state
- Compare the out-of-pocket expenses to the rate increase plus your deductible in case it's cheaper to pay for the damage yourself
Take a defensive driving course
Take the course before the ticket is reported to your insurance company. Although this solution won’t help if you already have the ticket on your record, it’s something to keep in mind in case you are considering signing up for an expensive class.
Consider our partner iDriveSafely for an online defensive driving course. Available in nearly every state, the skills you learn in this course may help you become a safer driver, thus avoiding traffic violations and accidents. Learn more about iDriveSafely's defensive driving courses.
Improve your credit score
Improving your credit score from poor to excellent can save you more than $1,400 per year on auto insurance! On average, you can save about 17% with every credit score bracket you move up. According to The Zebra's rate data, drivers with poor credit (scores between 300 and 579) pay $105 more per month for car insurance than do drivers with very good credit (between 740 and 799).
Go car-free for a while
At the end of the day, it’s hard to undo mistakes you have already made. If you’re a high-risk driver, you’re going to be paying quite a bit more for car insurance. If you can’t afford car insurance currently and can get by with public transportation, a bicycle or rideshare services, try going car-free.
Bear in mind, you will not be able to legally drive your vehicle without insurance coverage. However, this could be a good solution if you’re on a budget.
Compare insurance quotes
This is the most effective way to save money on auto insurance. Not all insurance companies will rate or charge you for your violations equally. There is a lot of variation between companies and the only way to know you're getting the best rate possible is to compare auto insurance quotes near the end of each policy period.
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Where to buy high-risk auto insurance
Because of the risk some drivers present, there are instances where no auto insurance company — not even non-standard insurers, some of which we've listed below — will issue you a policy regardless of how much you're willing to pay. In these unique circumstances, assigned risk insurance comes into play. Assigned risk insurance is a last resort for drivers with very poor driving records seeking car insurance.
In order to qualify for assigned risk insurance, you need to prove you've tried and failed to get insurance multiple times and have been denied based on your driving record. Once that happens, an insurance agent will submit a report to the state notifying them that you need assigned risk insurance. Unfortunately, assigned risk insurance is typically expensive.
Being “too risky” for an insurance company isn’t a definable quality. The easiest way to find cheap auto insurance as a high-risk driver is to shop around.
Compare car insurance policies and make an informed decision.
High-risk insurance FAQs
How much is high-risk car insurance?
High-risk drivers will pay more for car insurance. However, the amount your premiums increase will vary depending on a number of variables. For example, a DUI/DWI conviction can raise your premiums by around 65%, which adds up to an extra $477 for a six-month policy. On the other hand, a speeding ticket could increase the cost of a six-month policy by an average of $174.
Which company has the cheapest car insurance for high-risk drivers?
This depends on your individual situation but among the major carriers, USAA tends to provide the cheapest coverage for drivers in a number of high-risk categories, such as at-fault accidents and speeding tickets. However, as USAA is only available to those in the military (or their immediate family members), other carriers offering lower rates include GEICO, Nationwide, and State Farm. Chances are a major carrier will not offer the cheapest rate so it might be worth looking into a carrier that specializes in high-risk insurance.
What if I can’t find auto insurance coverage?
If you are denied coverage from a standard carrier, your best bet is to look for what’s known as a non-standard carrier. These insurance companies specialize in insuring drivers who don’t have the cleanest of driving records. While you may forego some of the perks offered by standard carriers like GEICO or State Farm, you will be more likely to find coverage. However, if your driving record is such that even non-standard carriers are wary of taking you, most states have what is known as a high-risk pool. Your state can mandate that insurance companies provide auto coverage to these drivers, but beware this coverage is not cheap.
Learn more about high-risk car insurance in each U.S. state:
- Car Insurance for Drivers with Bad Credit
- Car Insurance for Expats
- Car Insurance for Foreign Drivers in the U.S.
- Car Insurance for Good Drivers
- Car Insurance for High-Mileage Drivers
- Car Insurance for Students
- Car Insurance with No Insurance History
- How Does a GED Affect Car Insurance Rates?
- Low-Income Car Insurance
- Male vs. Female Car Insurance Rates