Shopping for car insurance can be a hassle, but you have to do it. It’s the law and, not only that, it’s common sense. But some drivers are harder to insure, and they have to pay higher premiums because of it. Like a teenager who just got their license. Or your 67-year-old Uncle Eugene. Or your friend Jennifer who (for whatever reason) hasn’t had car insurance in 10 years. These drivers are considered “high-risk,” and they have to purchase car insurance known as high-risk auto insurance.
Let’s face it: Your cousin Earl’s history of four speeding tickets in the last two years doesn’t exactly make insurance companies line up and say, “Woo! Let’s insure that guy!” So, what makes you a high-risk driver, and how can you stay off that list? Read on to find out more about high-risk insurance!
What Is High-Risk Auto Insurance?
Okay, high-risk auto insurance (also known in the industry as non-standard auto insurance) is the coverage you have to buy when an insurance company decides you’re more at risk of getting into an accident and filing a claim than the average driver. Simple, right? There are lots of reasons an insurance company would consider a driver to be high-risk. You can control some of those reasons, and you can’t control others. And there are also insurance companies that won’t insure high-risk drivers at all, which means having an insurance pro in your corner is super important if you fall into this category.
Do you have the right auto insurance coverage? You could be saving hundreds!
So, what kinds of things do insurance companies look at to determine if someone is high-risk?
What Is a High-Risk Driver?
Some stuff is out your control—like your age or if you haven’t owned a car in a while because you’ve been living in a big city. You can be “Citizen of the Month” with a spotless record, and those things can still factor in. But there are other things you can control.
Here are some common types of drivers insurance companies consider to be high-risk:
When you turn 16 and get your driver’s license, you’re automatically considered a higher risk than an experienced adult driver. But there are some things young drivers can do to get lower premiums—like get good grades in school, not get any traffic tickets, and stay out of accidents. If you keep a clean driving record, your premiums will gradually go down until you’re 25 years old.
If you’re the parent of a teen driver, including them on your insurance is one way to save money on their insurance—unless they wreck the family minivan and cause your premiums to go up. But let’s not think about that.
Let’s face it: If you live in Manhattan, just having a parking space can cost as much as rent in other cities, and you can take the subway to get almost anywhere. If that’s the case, there just isn’t really a reason to own a car. And if you’ve never owned a car, why bother getting a license? But if you move to the suburbs, it’s time to start driving.
If you’re an adult over the age of 25 and you just got your license, insurance companies will regard you as high-risk. This usually happens because a driver has lived in a big city and never needed a car before.
Drivers 65 and Older
We hate to break it to you but, just as you can be “too young” to be considered low risk, you can also be “too old.” While your insurance premiums gradually go down as you pass the age of 25, they start going up again once you hit 65. Unfortunately, drivers 65 and older accounted for 6,784 traffic fatalities in 2017.1 That’s 18% of all the traffic fatalities that year. Insurance companies look at these stats to determine risk factors, and it’s tough to argue with numbers like that.
Drivers With Lapsed Coverage
Maybe you moved to the big city and didn’t need a car anymore. Or you went away to college, and mom and dad wouldn’t let you take the car. Maybe you were just a cheapskate who didn’t buy car insurance. (Just kidding. We know that wouldn’t be you). There could be lots of legitimate reasons why you didn’t keep your car insurance (except for the last one). But now that you need it again, you might find your premiums to be higher than you remember since you haven’t been covered in a while. Don’t worry. The longer you drive without getting into accidents and keep yourself out of traffic court, your premiums will eventually come down!
Drivers With Poor Credit or No Credit
Look, we know this is dumb, but we have to say it: If you end up without a FICO score, you might have higher premiums. We know. It’s stupid. But if you’re debt-free, don’t go doing something dumb like sign up for a bunch of credit cards just to get yourself a FICO score. It doesn’t say anything about your finances other than that you love debt. You wind up paying a bazillion dollars in interest to save a couple hundred bucks on car insurance. Don’t swap one version of stupid for the other.
And, unfortunately, if you have bad credit, insurance companies will count that against you and consider you a bigger risk to insure than someone with good credit.
Hey, we don’t make the rules. We’re just telling it like it is.
Drivers With Moving Violations
Slow down! Speeding was a factor in 26% of all traffic fatalities in 2017.2 That’s 9,717 people who died in car accidents because someone was going too fast. So, it’s no surprise that getting tickets for speeding can affect how much you pay for insurance. And if you get too many tickets, an insurance company will stick you in the high-risk category. If you get too many tickets for speeding or other moving violations (like running traffic lights) within a five-year period, your insurance company will get the message that you’re an accident waiting to happen. (Let’s face it: You probably are an accident waiting to happen.) So they’ll jack up your rates. For the sake of your own well-being and your insurance premiums, slow down and be careful out there!
Drivers With DUI or DWI Convictions
Look, drinking and driving is a terrible and dangerous thing to do. There’s no other way to say it. You could kill someone. You could kill yourself. It’s just not worth it. Get a designated driver, call a cab, or use a ride-sharing app to get home.
In addition to all that, getting a DUI is the fastest way to become labeled as a high-risk driver. And insurance companies can go back five to 10 years (even farther back in some states) to check for DUIs on your record. If you’re convicted of driving under the influence, you’ll need to get an SR-22 certificate from your insurance company that says you meet the minimum financial responsibility requirements to get the insurance coverage required by law. Your insurance company has to file the SR-22 before you can reinstate your driver’s license, and some states will require you to carry an SR-22 for many years. In California, you have to carry an SR-22 for 10 years after a first offense.3 In Alaska, it’s five years after a first DUI conviction and it increases with each offense after that. After a fourth conviction in Alaska, you have to carry the SR-22 for life.4
So, again, don’t drink and drive!
Drivers With Other Serious Violations
Offenses like road rage incidents, hit-and-run accidents and excessive speeding (usually defined as going more than 20 miles over the speed limit) will all get you demoted to the high-risk category faster than a cat with its tail on fire. So, chill out! Driving can be stressful, so do your best to relax during your commute. Maybe listen to The Dave Ramsey Show and hear the calming sound of Dave yelling at people who leased a car! (Okay, maybe you don’t have to do that exactly, but listening to a debt-free scream can put just about anyone in a good mood.)
In all seriousness, the way you drive can make your premiums go through the roof and cause you even more stress when you sit down to do your budget. So take it easy out there and get home safely.
Need Help Finding High-Risk Insurance?
We get it. Things happen. Maybe you’re in one of the age groups that’s considered high-risk. And everybody makes mistakes. If you make yours when you’re behind the wheel, you still need car insurance. And because a lot of insurance companies may not even sell high-risk insurance, it can be hard to know where to turn.
The good news is that you can get help from one of Dave’s insurance Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs). These independent insurance agents can shop around for the best deals on high-risk insurance—or any other kind of car insurance! Our ELPs are rock stars, they have the heart of a teacher, and they live in your community—so they know all the laws in your state and how they affect your insurance premiums.