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High-risk driver insurance


If you’re a driver who has had a run of bad luck or unfortunate behavior – including accidents, speeding tickets or DUIs – you might find it difficult to get an auto insurance policy.

Fortunately, you still have options. High-risk insurance can provide you with coverage when a standard auto insurance policy no longer is an option.

However, be aware that high-risk insurance -- sometimes called nonstandard insurance -- comes with some key differences that can make it more expensive, yet less comprehensive, than standard coverage.

What should I expect with high-risk driver insurance?

To understand why you might need a high-risk policy, you need to remember a basic fact about insurance, says Nicole Farr, spokesperson for the Arizona Insurance Institute.

All insurance coverage is based on risk,” Farr says. “That is why companies gather as much information as they can about background and driving history.”

Lower-risk drivers file fewer claims, and do not have a lot of traffic violations and accidents on their driving records.

By contrast, semerald factors can cause you to be labeled “high risk,” making it difficult -- or impossible -- to find car insurance from a standard auto insurance provider.

For example, perhaps your driving record is especially spotty in terms of accidents and speeding tickets. Or, maybe you have a DUI on your record.

You also might be considered high risk if you are a new driver without an extensive driving history, or you have had a recent lapse in coverage. Owners of high-performance cars and people with bad credit also can fall into this category.

High-risk insurance is similar to standard insurance, in that you are protected in case your car is damaged, or you smash into another car and possibly injure or kill others.

But there are some key differences between standard coverage and nonstandard coverage.          

“The biggest difference between a high-risk policy and a standard policy is the cost,” Farr says.

When insuring a high-risk driver, the insurance company is taking a bigger financial risk than it does when it writes a policy for a lower-risk driver, Farr says.

“So, the high-risk driver will be asked to carry more of the financial responsibility through a high premium payment,” she says.

Are there other ways high-risk insurance differs from standard policies?

A high-risk insurance policy also can differ in other key ways.

For example, a high-risk policy might limit who can drive your car. It might specify that only drivers named in the policy can drive the vehicle. Or, it might exclude all drivers of a certain age -- typically under age 25 -- from being allowed to drive your car.

Fail to follow these rules, and your insurer might reject your insurance claim.

High-risk policies also might include step-down provisions that reduce liability coverage amounts for your policy if someone who is not named on your policy drives your car.

Other possible differences include:

  • The insurer might check your driving record more frequently.
  • Your insurer might cover repairs at a depreciated rate, rather than providing you with a check to cover the full cost of repairs.
  • The policy might not provide coverage if you are sued for punitive damages.
  • You might not be offered perks such as accident forgiveness.

When shopping for a high-risk policy, be sure to read the fine print so you know what is and is not covered. Also, you can search for complaint and financial information at the National Association of Insurance Commissioners website.

How do I find high-risk driver insurance? 

If you need high-risk insurance, shop around and compare rates, says Nicole Farr, spokesperson for the Arizona Insurance Institute. 

"Not all insurance companies offer high-risk insurance," Farr says. She notes that your ability to secure insurance coverage often depends on the reason you are considered a risk.

Some major insurance companies -- including State Farm and Progressive -- might be willing to write a high-risk policy, Farr says.

However, your odds of getting coverage are better through a nonstandard insurance company. Such companies include:

  • The General, a subsidiary of American Family Insurance
  • Titan Insurance, a subsidiary of Nationwide Insurance
  • Dairyland Insurance, a subsidiary of Sentry Insurance
  • Geico Casualty, the high-risk branch Geico
  • Infinity Insurance
  • Safe Auto Insurance
  • Gainsco Insurance
  • Victoria Insurance
  • Bristol West Insurance
  • Affirmative Insurance
  • Alliance United Insurance
  • United Automobile Insurance
  • Access Auto Insurance

"These companies specialize in this type of insurance and may be able to get the consumer a better premium," Farr says.

What happens if I can’t find high-risk insurance?

If you can't get coverage anywhere, you might have to turn to a state-assigned risk pool.

"State-assigned risk pools are designed to be a last resort for drivers needing to obtain insurance" Farr says. "Most states require the consumer to exhaust all resources for insurance coverage before applying for state assignment."

Once you apply to the state, typically the state department of insurance will choose an insurance company to provide insurance for you.

"Insurance premiums tend to be much more costly in this program than through either standard or nonstandard insurers," Farr says.

How much does high-risk driver insurance cost?

As you'll see in the chart below, some high-risk factors will typically raise your rates more than others, and the hike in your cost also depends on your insurance company. That's because each insurer uses its own formula to assess risk. Enter your state in the search field to see the average increase for each of the following: DUI,  two speeding tickets, one bodily injury accident, poor credit. 

StateAverage rateDUI rateDUI % increase2 speeding tickets2 speeding tickets % increase1 bodily injury accident1 bodily injury accident % increasebad creditbad credit %
North Carolina$836$3,206284%$1,49178%$1,16139%$1,02523%
North Dakota$1,365$2,14357%$2,06351%$1,55314%$1,86437%
New Hampshire$865$1,776105%$1,28248%$1,14032%$1,63789%
New Jersey$1,348$2,49985%$1,94945%$1,72828%$2,00148%
New Mexico$1,125$1,78759%$1,35320%$1,35821%$1,71853%
New York$1,336$2,14460%$1,61321%$1,69927%$2,41481%
Rhode Island$2,117$3,50265%$2,71028%$2,72429%$2,84734%
South Carolina$1,055$1,56648%$1,23417%$1,36229%$1,75967%
South Dakota$1,080$1,52041%$1,39629%$1,53042%$1,71559%
West Virginia$1,534$2,52364%$1,84120%$1,82719%$2,34453%

*CarInsurance.com commissoned Quadrant Information Systems to field rates for 10 ZIP codes in each state for a male driver, age 40, with a policy including $100,000 in liability coverage per person injured, up to $300,000 per accident and $50,000 in property damage, with comprehensive and collision at a $500 deductible. The average rate is for a clean record; the other rates show how much the base rate increases for the infraction, on average. California, Hawaii and Massachusetts state auto insurance laws prohibit use of credit scores when underwriting policies.

Am I doomed to carry high-risk insurance forever?

Purchasing high-risk coverage is likely to be expensive. Fortunately, you are unlikely to remain a high-risk driver forever.

“If the driver can improve their habits behind the wheel -- driving more cautiously, avoiding accidents and dangerous situations, and even driving a safer vehicle -- insurers will notice,” Farr says.

Farr says the Arizona Insurance Institute advises all drivers to check with their insurance agent or representative on an annual basis to see if they qualify for discounts or new programs the insurance companies offer.


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