Anything can happen behind the wheel, but when you have a history of car accidents and incidents on the road, it could have lasting consequences, even impacting your ability to get car insurance.

Car insurance is a legal requirement for most drivers in the U.S., but finding the cheapest car insurance when you have a rocky driving history can be a little tough. When car insurance companies price auto insurance, they consider a list of rate factors that determine your risk as a driver. When you have a long history of incidents behind the wheel, car insurance companies may charge you exorbitant prices - if they choose to cover you at all.

This is where non-standard car insurance can help.

What are some reasons a person may need non-standard auto insurance?

Non-standard auto insurance is a term to classify insurance sold to drivers whose risk factors make it difficult or impossible to obtain insurance at standard or preferred rates.

“It doesn’t take much to get into the non-standard insurance ‘penalty box.’ Two or more at-fault accidents within three years, an at-fault accident where a person is injured, a DUI and speeding 15+ mph over the speed limit will put a person in the situation to need non-standard insurance,” says Earl Jones, owner of Earl L. Jones Insurance Agency.

“Once in the non-standard insurance market,” Jones says, “you may remain there for three to ten years depending on the state and the insurance company.”

As Jones explained, there are several reasons why a driver may require non-standard auto insurance.

Salvage title

If you own a car with a salvage title, you won't necessarily pay more for auto insurance, but you may be denied comprehensive insurance for various reasons.

High-risk drivers

You may fall within the high-risk driver group with insurance companies due to multiple accidents, violations, claims, or any combination of the three.

SR-22

If you need to carry an SR-22 to certify financial responsibility, it's likely because you had a conviction, such as a DUI or reckless driving. Most insurers will file the form with the state to prove you have coverage. You'll have to pay a one-time filing fee, typically about $35, on top of the premium.

Non-owner insurance

If you want to insure yourself as a driver without owning a car, you need non-owner insurance. Insurance companies generally charge less for a non-owner policy.

Young drivers

Even insurance for young drivers can be considered non-standard auto insurance because policies for young, inexperienced drivers are often costly. Many teens join their parents' policies instead of having their own.

Those with bad credit

Most states are allowed to use your credit score as a factor in how much you pay for insurance.

Non-U.S. citizens and foreign drivers

Those with a foreign license may pay more for auto insurance if they do not have a driving record in the U.S. Insurers cannot ascertain risk, so they are more likely to refuse coverage or require additional coverage.

Lapse in coverage

If you have previously allowed your insurance to lapse, an insurance provider may refuse coverage unless you purchase non-standard insurance.

Exotic, luxury, or classic cars

When you own a high-value car, some car insurance companies may not offer coverage for rare or luxury vehicles.

Standard vs. non standard insurance

A standard car insurance policy is your everyday auto insurance policy. This type of car insurance coverage is available to those who are considered low-risk by insurers.

Drivers who are eligible for standard insurance include those with:

  • Good or excellent credit
  • Good driving record with few or no accidents
  • Average-value vehicles

These drivers often have their pick of whatever car insurance provider they want. It’s a little different for non-standard insurance.

You don't necessarily need to be a non-standard driver to buy insurance from a non-standard insurance company. Sometimes these specialty insurers are able to offer a more competitive price. Some large, well-known insurance companies own smaller non-standard insurance companies and offer non-standard policies through their agents.

How does non-standard insurance work?

Not all insurance providers will insure high-risk drivers, so you will need to find a provider specializing in high-risk or non-standard auto insurance. Most drivers who do not meet an insurance company's standard or preferred risk underwriting criteria will end up using a non-standard insurer to obtain the auto insurance coverages that they need.

As with most types of car insurance, there can be large variations in price when shopping for non-standard insurance. If you can keep a good driving record without claims, you should stay within the standard (voluntary) car insurance market and likely obtain better insurance premiums.

Once you find the auto insurance provider you want, the buying process is similar to what you may be used to with standard providers. If you need to file an SR-22, ask your insurance company about the filing process to ensure you meet the requirements.

Expert tips on buying non-standard insurance

Although similar to buying standard car insurance, there are a few things that you should know about the buying process for non-standard insurance policies.

Shop multiple car insurance providers

It's always wise to gather and compare car insurance companies, even if you're shopping for non-standard car insurance

Compare non-standard insurance quotes

Shop for policies that provide the same kind of coverage, so you compare quotes for the same coverage.

Consider your state's assigned risk pool

As a last resort, some states have an assigned risk pool that you can use if you can't get anyone to insure you. This is a process where insurers are assigned uninsurable customers on a round-robin basis, and the state sets maximum rates.

Watch out for exclusions and limitations

Some non-standard auto insurance companies will place restrictions on your policy. For instance, there may be step-down liability limits for permissive drivers. Normally, your liability coverage extends in full to those who have your permission to occasionally borrow your car. With step-down provisions, the liability limits drop to the state minimum requirements for permissive drivers, even if you buy higher limits for yourself.

Shop for quotes at renewal time

Perhaps your violations have dropped off your record, or your credit has improved. If you've maintained a clean driving record, you may be able to jump back into the standard driver tier, so it's prudent to check when you are ready to renew your policy. Don't forget to ask insurance companies about discounts you may qualify for.

Where to buy non-standard car insurance?

Some companies work only in the non-standard auto insurance business, while others file rates that are tiered into non-standard, standard and preferred tiers.

Several companies offer coverage for non-standard car insurance. Geico and Progressive are widely-known providers who provide both standard and non-standard car insurance.

This is a list of non-standard auto insurance companies for your policy.

  • Aspire General
  • Direct Auto
  • Falcon
  • Foremost
  • Founders Insurance
  • Good2Go
  • Hallmark
  • Infinity
  • Jupiter
  • Pronto
  • SafeAuto
  • The General

Final thoughts on non-standard auto insurance

Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we run into trouble on the road. These incidents can have a tremendous impact on the kind of car insurance we can get. The everyday car insurance provider may not be equipped to offer the type of special car insurance that high-risk drivers need to operate a motor vehicle in their state legally. It might cost you more, but the coverage you receive will protect you until enough time passes that you are again eligible for standard auto insurance.

Regardless of whether you have a DUI or a long list of incidents on your driving record, non-standard car insurance is the kind of coverage you need to get back on the road.