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If you’re having trouble getting car insurance because of a lapse in coverage, an at-fault car accident, bad credit or a DUI, you may need a policy from a nonstandard insurer, also known as a high-risk auto insurance company. Nonstandard companies sell car insurance to drivers who are the riskiest to cover and may not be able to find policies from standard companies.
High-risk insurance companies typically charge customers higher rates than standard insurers.
What is a high-risk driver?
Not every “high-risk driver” has a bad driving record. The high-risk category includes a large swath of drivers, many of whom can’t get coverage from major insurers.
Many companies specialize in high-risk car insurance, but there’s no single definition all carriers use. High-risk drivers may include people who:
Have tickets, at-fault accidents or DUI convictions.
Have allowed their coverage to lapse.
Are newly licensed.
Have poor credit.
Own an exotic or high-powered vehicle.
High-risk auto insurance companies will typically cover drivers who need an SR-22 or an FR-44, which certify you have enough insurance after a violation. Insurers will file the form with your state’s department of motor vehicles if you need one.
Where to find affordable high-risk auto insurance
Although a few major insurance companies, such as Geico and Progressive, do accept some high-risk drivers, others like Safe Auto and The General specialize in them. Depending on the risk factor in question, any of these companies could offer the lowest car insurance rates.
Certain agencies and brokers like Good2Go and Freeway Insurance also provide nonstandard insurance. Brokers charge an additional fee that they’re typically required to disclose. If you use one, ask if there are any additional fees not included in your car insurance quote.
The best high-risk auto insurance companies
If you’re considered a high-risk driver, shopping around for the best rates is crucial because each insurer prices policies differently. NerdWallet has evaluated both traditional and nonstandard auto insurance companies. Here’s a list of ratings for insurers that offer policies to at least some high-risk drivers.
High-risk car insurance company
NerdWallet’s auto insurance ratings are determined by our editorial team. The scoring formula takes into account pricing and discounts, the ease of filing a claim, website transparency, financial strength, complaint data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and other considerations.
How much does high-risk car insurance cost?
High-risk drivers are likely to pay more than $565 per year, the average national cost for minimum coverage car insurance according to NerdWallet’s rate analysis. But auto insurance rates at every risk level vary widely depending on your age, driving history, location and other factors, like the type of coverage you buy.
For instance, “full coverage” auto insurance can cost more than double what you’d pay for minimum coverage. Full coverage refers to a combination of different car insurance coverages, including higher liability limits, collision and comprehensive insurance.
Below are the average annual rates for minimum coverage for drivers with bad credit, an at-fault accident or a DUI, as compared to drivers with good credit and a clean driving history.
If you don’t want to skimp on coverage, you can change insurance companies to find a better deal. High-risk drivers, like all drivers, can find the cheapest insurance rates by shopping around.
We can’t predict what your exact rate will be, but we can provide averages for drivers with high-risk profiles. This includes consumers with bad credit or with an at-fault wreck or DUI on their record.
The cost of car insurance with bad credit
Below are the average annual car insurance rates for drivers with poor credit.
Insurers in most states use a credit-based insurance score, which is slightly different from your regular credit score, to help determine how likely you are to file a claim. Your regular credit score is typically a good indicator of your credit-based insurance score.
Using credit history to calculate car insurance rates is illegal in California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan, but our 2021 car insurance rate analysis found that bad credit can double your insurance costs in other states. That’s why it’s important to shop around.
Below are the average annual premiums for minimum coverage in every state for a 25-year-old driver with poor credit.
Annual premium (minimum coverage)
*Using credit history to calculate car insurance rates is illegal in these states.
» MORE: Average car insurance costs
Car insurance costs for drivers with an at-fault accident
National average car insurance rates for drivers with an at-fault accident are as follows:
On average, auto insurance rates go up about 50% after an at-fault accident, according to NerdWallet analysis. In addition to a base-rate increase for the wreck, you may lose any “good driver” discounts associated with your policy. Other marks on your record and the severity of the accident will determine how much your rates increase.
Below is the average annual premium for minimum coverage in every state for a 25-year-old driver with one at-fault accident.
Annual premium (minimum coverage)
An accident generally affects car insurance rates for three to five years, so be sure to shop for auto insurance quotes on those anniversaries.
Car insurance costs for drivers with a DUI
Having a DUI on your record could nearly double your car insurance rates, according to NerdWallet’s analysis. Below are the average annual auto insurance rates for a driver with a DUI.
As always, these rates fluctuate significantly depending on state and company. Below are the average annual rates for minimum coverage in every state for a 25-year-old driver with a history of DUI.
Annual premium (minimum coverage)
Again, shopping around for a high-risk policy is the best way to find the cheapest policy available.
Evaluating high-risk auto insurance companies
As you compare high-risk car insurance options, look for a company that is financially strong (so you can be confident it’ll be able to pay claims) and that doesn’t have too many complaints.
Here’s what you should evaluate:
Complaints: The National Association of Insurance Commissioners collects data on complaints about insurance companies and calculates a ratio for each type of insurance. The NAIC’s ratios are based on the number of complaints filed against an insurance company with state regulators, adjusted for market share. The national median is 1.00. Very high complaint ratios — higher than 1.7 — are out of the ordinary and often indicate a company has had many unsatisfied customers relative to the value of premiums it has written during the year.
Financial strength: The financial strength of a company tells you how likely it is the insurer can pay a claim. An insurer with any of the A grades is a safe bet, but not all car insurance companies have a financial strength rating. A company could be unrated by A.M. Best for a variety of reasons, including that the company hasn’t requested a rating or requests not to be rated anymore.
If no car insurance company will accept you
Even after applying to several nonstandard insurance companies, you may still be denied coverage. As a last resort, you can turn to your state’s high-risk insurance pool through the Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office.
How to avoid high car insurance rates
Some factors that insurers view as risky, such as age, are outside your control. Others, like owning a fancy car, may not be things you want to change. In general, here are some ways to get out of the high-risk insurance category (and lower your rates) as soon as possible:
Take steps to improve your credit. Drivers with poor credit and a clean driving record can pay almost as much for car insurance as a driver with a DUI, according to NerdWallet’s 2021 rate analysis.
Drive safely. You can even take a driver safety course and earn discounts from some companies after completion.
Shop for better insurance rates three years and five years after a traffic violation conviction.
Don’t let your auto insurance lapse. Drivers with a gap in coverage are labeled high-risk, even if they don’t own a car. Non-owner car insurance can help you avoid being labeled as a high-risk driver.
Ready to shop? NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help you find rates.
AVERAGE RATES METHODOLOGY
NerdWallet averaged rates based on public filings obtained by pricing analytics company Quadrant Information Services. We examined rates for 40-year-old men and women for all ZIP codes in any of the 50 states and Washington, D.C., for the nation's four largest auto insurers, Allstate, Geico, Progressive and State Farm.
In our analysis, “good drivers” had no moving violations on record; a “good driving” discount was included for this profile. Our “good” and “poor” credit rates are based on credit score approximations and do not account for proprietary scoring criteria used by insurance providers. These are average rates, and your rate will vary based on your personal details, state and insurance provider. Sample drivers had the following coverage limits:
$100,000 bodily injury liability coverage per person.
$300,000 bodily injury liability coverage per crash.
$50,000 property damage liability coverage per crash.
$100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per person.
$300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage per crash.
Collision coverage with $1,000 deductible.
Comprehensive coverage with $1,000 deductible.
In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added. We used the same assumptions for all other driver profiles, with the following exceptions:
For drivers with minimum coverage, we adjusted the numbers above to reflect only the minimum coverage required by law in the state.
We changed the credit tier from “good” to “poor” as reported to the insurer to see rates for drivers with poor credit. In states where credit isn’t taken into account, we only used rates for “good” credit.
For drivers with one at-fault crash, we added a single at-fault crash costing $10,000 in property damage.
We used a 2018 Toyota Camry LE in all cases and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.
AUTO INSURANCE RATINGS METHODOLOGY
NerdWallet’s auto insurance ratings reward companies for customer-first features and practices. Ratings are based on weighted averages of scores in several categories, including financial strength, consumer complaints and discounts. Our “ease of use” category looks at factors such as website transparency and how easy it is to file a claim. Using our editorial discretion, we also consider customer satisfaction surveys. These ratings are a guide, but we encourage you to shop around and compare several insurance quotes to find the best rate for you. NerdWallet does not receive compensation for any reviews. Read our editorial guidelines.
INSURER COMPLAINTS METHODOLOGY
NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2018-2020. To assess how insurers compare to one another, the NAIC calculates a complaint index each year for each subsidiary, measuring its share of total complaints relative to its size, or share of total premiums in the industry. To evaluate a company’s complaint history, NerdWallet calculated a similar index for each insurer, weighted by market shares of each subsidiary, over the three-year period. Ratios are determined separately for auto, home (including renters and condo) and life insurance.