Insurance companies categorize drivers and coverage tiers to help calculate their risk exposure — to minimize the likelihood of having to shutter the business due to taking on more risk than they can potentially afford to pay out.
A standard insurance policy provides conventional coverage for drivers considered low-risk by insurance companies — These drivers, who typically have good credit and incident-free driving histories, and drive average cars, are able to acquire affordable car insurance rates from any of the "big name" insurance companies. As long as you have an average driving history without a pattern of serious infractions or violations, you can expect to get decently priced quotes from many insurance companies.
Similarly, the preferred tier of coverage typically offers the lowest premiums for drivers with excellent driving histories and credit, and these customers will save the most money because of the lower risk they pose to their insurance company.
If you're ever denied coverage from an insurance company or issued a non-renewal, there's a possibility you'll need to seek a non-standard insurance policy instead. These policies are reserved for high-risk drivers and are typically more expensive than standard car insurance policies because of the increased liability high-risk drivers present to an insurance company. Though the level of coverage differs from insurer to insurer, you can get your bases covered — but be prepared to pay for it.
The buying process for both standard and non-standard car insurance policies remains the same for the most part — but depending on why you need non-standard insurance, the process may differ. For example, if you need to file an SR-22 after a DUI conviction, you'll need the insurance company to file this form on your behalf to prove to the state that you've acquired adequate car insurance to drive.
You might need non-standard insurance if you:
- Are a younger driver under age 25
- Have poor credit and live in a state that allows insurance companies to use credit to influence premium rates — which the majority of states allow
- Have a foreign license and no driving record in the U.S.
- Have a lapse in coverage or no previous coverage
- Have previous DUIs or serious traffic violations like speeding tickets and reckless driving
- Have a history of accidents
- Need an SR-22 form to drive and get insurance
- Drive a rare car, luxury supercar, or a car with a salvage title
Which companies offer non-standard car insurance policies?
Most large and well-known car insurance companies offer non-standard policies alongside preferred and standard tiers. Some, like The General, specialize in providing non-standard insurance at more affordable rates.
As always, you should shop around as much as possible no matter your driving history, credit score, age, or location.