How Does High-Risk Auto Insurance Work?

Police officer writing a ticket for a high risk driver
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Zoran Milich / The Image Bank / Getty Images

Insurance companies tend to classify certain drivers as high risk, but what does that really mean?

If you are a stereotypically risky driver—someone with lots of speeding tickets, reckless driving habits, and maybe DUIs on-record—it’s probably no surprise that insurance companies are not leaping at the opportunity to insure you and accept you into their risk pool. But there are other, less obvious things that could make you a higher risk in the eyes of insurers:

  • Being too old or too young
  • Being single
  • Having poor credit
  • Driving a sports car
  • Living in a high-density city

If you would consider yourself a driver with a history of thinking you are above the law, you might be consider a high-risk driver by both the law and insurance agencies. For insurance agencies, high-risk drivers are individuals who the company believes are more likely to cost them money than the average customer.

If you’ve been convicted of a drinking offense, obtained many moving violations in a short period of time, drove without a license, or had your license was recently suspended or revoked, you might have received a court order for an SR-22, or a Statement of Responsibility. You'll be required to keep this documentation on file with the state DMV once you find an insurer willing to take you on.

An SR-22 is not a type of insurance—it is a form that proves to the government that you have insurance.

If you’ve had a serious conviction, you will definitely be paying for it at the insurance company. Drunk driving can raise your premiums and even speeding tickets can raise your rate considerably.

Consider the Big Insurers

If you think that large and prestigious insurance companies would be reluctant to insure you, you’d be wrong. Sure, you’ll pay more than a low-risk driver, but a lot of large insurers have the resources and will to craft insurance policies that would work for you. Geico, Nationwide, and Farmers Insurance all have subsidiaries that work specifically with high-risk drivers. You don’t even have to apply through the other company—rather, you’ll go through the same application process that everyone else does.

But Don’t Discount Non-Standard Insurers

Although the major players may seem like the easiest choice, they won’t always be the best fit for each person. There are dozens of small insurers designed just for high-risk drivers, also known as non-standard insurance carriers, and they are worth checking out.

If you're unable to find a company that will insure you, check out the state government insurance plans available in your area, as a last resort.

It Is More Important Than Ever to Shop Around

Just because you’re a high-risk driver doesn’t mean you should have to accept sky-high premiums without batting an eye. As with any important financial decision, it’s really important to shop around and compare the options.

While you are probably not overjoyed by being labeled high-risk, options abound that will have you safely insured and on the road in no time. You will still be paying more than you would if you were not labeled as a high-risk driver, but shopping around is definitely worth your while. Because you’re starting from a place of paying much more, it’s even more worth it for you to shop around than it would be for someone who is not high-risk.

And it’s not just premium prices you should be shopping around for. You should also try to find a flexible payment plan (if you need it) and as many customizations that would make your life easier as you can. You should also try to find companies that allow you to customize the coverage itself so that you’re only paying for what you really and truly need. However, if you have an SR-22, there may be specifically required minimums you must abide by.

Don’t forget to ask for discounts. Bundling your insurance, having a good driving record, and having a safe vehicle could all save you money each month.

How Insurance for High-Risk Drivers Differs from a Typical Auto Plan

The biggest difference in auto insurance plans for high-risk drivers is the cost. Unfortunately, high-risk drivers will probably pay about 25% more in premiums for their auto insurance policies than those who are not considered high risk.

High-risk drivers will be able to buy a standard policy at a higher rate from a traditional insurance company, or they may qualify for a nonstandard policy from a private insurance company that specializes in high-risk drivers. With that, there are restrictions on who can drive the car or how much coverage you can buy.

It's a good idea to contact your insurance professional or state insurance department to get a list of companies that sell non-standard auto insurance.

Consider Paying a Higher Deductible

A willingness to pay higher deductible signals to the insurance company that you have a vested financial interest in not causing them any expenses—because you’ll be on the hook for it also! Generally, if you’re willing to take on a higher deductible amount, you’ll have lower premiums each month.