According to experts, most of us will experience a car collision once every 17.9 years. Most of these accidents will be relatively minor, meaning that the biggest headache will be dealing with your auto insurance company!
Of course, if you’ve found yourself racking up more fender benders than the national average—or if you seem to be collecting speeding tickets and other violations—your insurance company might protect itself in one key way: labeling you a “high-risk driver.”
High-risk auto insurance isn’t something any driver hopes for, and it can be hard to know what to do if your insurer wants you to pay a premium for this type of policy. What does high-risk insurance entail, anyway, and what can you do about it?
Here’s what to know if you’ve been asked to take out one of these policies.
What Is High-Risk Auto Insurance?
As the name suggests, high-risk auto insurance is a special type of car insurance for drivers who insurance companies believe are at a higher risk of getting into an accident. This risk, in turn, would make these drivers more expensive to insure. As a result, some insurance companies choose not to insure high-risk drivers at all, refusing to offer any high-risk insurance policies.
You may also hear this type of high-risk policy called “nonstandard car insurance.” Insurance companies are the ones who decide whether or not a given driver presents a greater liability on the road. They make these decisions based on a number of factors, which we’ll get into below.
Who Needs High-Risk Auto Insurance?
There are several reasons a driver might appear “high risk” to an insurance company. Some of these factors pertain to your driving abilities and other things you can work to improve, and others may be things you can’t change.
The risk of car accidents is higher among American teens than any other age group. Their inexperience driving combined with the tendency for distracted driving causes many preventable accidents.
Older drivers may find themselves with higher rates as well, as these drivers continue to be a major cause of car collisions in the U.S. As a result, insurance premiums tend to increase with age from 65 onward.
Insurance companies will view new drivers of any age as an increased risk. Over time, however, a clean driving record can bring down your insurance premiums.
Past Driving Infractions
Any past driving infractions can prompt your insurer to raise your rates, including relatively minor ones like speeding tickets. These small infractions may affect your rates for a short period of time, but major violations like DUIs can affect your rates for years.
If you get into an accident that requires your insurance company to pay for property damage or injuries, they will increase your rates. This is also true in the case of single-car collisions.
Poor Credit History
In some situations, a poor credit score can make your insurer raise your rates. Low scores act as red flags to insurance companies, who may think you’re less likely to make on-time payments as a result. Unfortunately, they may charge a premium for the risk they take on for insuring you!
Insurance Coverage Lapse
If you’ve let your car insurance lapse, you may find yourself with higher rates in the future. This is sometimes true regardless of the reason for the lapse—such as a period in which you were relying on public transportation.
How Long Are You Considered a High-Risk Driver?
The length of time in which an insurer will consider you “high risk” depends on the reasons for the label and the laws of your state.
If you’ve earned a “high risk” label as a result of driving infractions, for example, you can work to keep your driving record clear over time.
Depending on the laws of your state, past driving infractions like speeding tickets will fall off your record within a year or two. More serious infractions like DUIs, on the other hand, may take a decade or more to fall off your record. If you maintain a clean driving record while waiting for these past infractions to be removed from your record, you can enjoy standard car insurance sooner.
If you’re hoping to improve your credit score, you’ll need to put in some extra work. Experts estimate that it can take anywhere from a few months to a decade to improve your score, depending on your starting score.
How Can You Lower Your High-Risk Insurance Rates?
One of the best ways to get a lower monthly rate is by shopping around. Get plenty of auto insurance quotes to find companies in your area that offer cheap auto insurance for high-risk drivers.
If you’re hoping to lower your existing insurance rate, it’s a good idea to call your insurer once a year to ask for a discount. This is especially effective if you can point to reasons why you deserve one, such as a spotless annual driving record, fewer driving miles, or an improved credit score.
Some insurers may also reduce your rate if you complete a defensive driving course in your area.
Depending on the reason you are considered high risk, you may be able to find companies that specialize in offering affordable insurance. Certain companies may offer special insurance for drivers with violations, for example, or insurance for drivers over the age of 65.
Drive Your Way to Better Insurance
At the end of the day, it’s often possible to drive your way toward a better auto insurance policy. While you may need a different tactic if you have a low credit score, a clean driving record can go a long way toward lowering your monthly premiums. Focusing on your driving, reaching out to your insurer on a regular basis, and taking defensive driving courses can be great ways to show your insurer that you’re no longer worth considering “high risk.”
Need more help navigating the road to safer driving? Our other posts are packed with tips for drivers, from car insurance to repairs, so be sure to check them out for additional insights.