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What Is High-Risk Insurance?

Paying extra every month for high-risk car insurance is right up there with getting a root canal. (Okay, maybe not that bad, but still . . .) But don’t lose hope! There are some things you can do to improve your car insurance situation and get back on the right track.

We’ll walk you through the ins and outs of high-risk car insurance—how much it costs, what makes someone high risk and, most importantly, what you can do about it if you are.

Some drivers just cost more to insure. Like a teenager who just got their license. Or your 71-year-old Uncle Eugene. Or your friend who hasn’t had car insurance in seven years while using public transportation in Chicago. Or your cousin Earl who has a history of four speeding tickets in the last two years. These types of drivers are all considered high risk.

So, what exactly puts someone in the high-risk category? And how can you stay off that list? Let’s dive in!

What Is High-Risk Auto Insurance?

Okay, high-risk auto insurance (also known in the industry as nonstandard 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? It’s a category outside of a standard auto insurance policy.

There are lots of reasons an insurance company would consider a driver to be high risk. (Driving barefoot isn’t one of them.) 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’re in this category.

So, what kinds of things do insurance companies look at to determine if someone is high risk?

Who Needs a High-Risk Insurance Policy?

There are some high-risk factors that are out of your control—such as your age or if you haven’t owned a car in a while (like if you’ve been living in a big city). You could be Citizen of the Month with a spotless record and those things would still factor in. But there are some things you can control. (More on that in a second.)

Here are some groups of people insurance companies consider to be high risk:

  1. Teenage drivers
  2. First-time drivers
  3. Drivers 65 and older
  4. Drivers with lapsed coverage
  5. Drivers with no credit or poor credit
  6. Drivers with moving violations
  7. Drivers with DUI or DWI convictions
  8. Drivers with other serious violations

Let’s take a closer look at each one.

Teenage Drivers

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. This goes for college students as well! 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, adding them to 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.

First-Time Drivers

Let’s face it: If you live in Manhattan or any other big city, 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.


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If you’re an adult over the age of 25 and you just got your license, insurance companies will view you as high risk.

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 6,907 traffic fatalities in 2018. That’s 19% of all the traffic fatalities that year. That’s one reason why drivers in this age range are considered high risk.

Drivers With Lapsed Coverage

Maybe you used to have a car, but then you moved to the big city and didn’t need one anymore. Or you went away to college and got around by walking or biking. There are lots of legitimate reasons why you didn’t keep your car insurance. But now that you need it again, you might find your premiums are higher than you remember since you haven’t been covered in a while. Don’t worry. If 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 sign up for a bunch of credit cards just to get yourself a FICO score. The FICO score 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 2018. That’s 9,378 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 three to five years (and even up to 10 years 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 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.

So, again, don’t drink and drive!

Drivers With Other Serious Violations

Offenses like road rage incidents, hit-and-run accidents and excessive speeding will all get you demoted to the high-risk category. So, chill out! Driving can be stressful, so do your best to relax during your commute. Maybe listen to The Ramsey Show and hear the calming sound of Dave yelling at people who leased a car. (Okay, maybe that’s not exactly calming, 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. Take it easy out there and get home safely.

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How Much Is High-Risk Auto Insurance?

How much you’ll pay for high-risk auto insurance varies state to state. It also depends on your driving record, age, credit and all those other things we listed above. But definitely expect to pay more—sometimes a lot more.

For instance, someone with multiple DUIs on their record can expect to pay much more than they would normally pay. On the other hand, those with minor infractions—like a ticket for talking on the phone while driving—will pay only a little more. But again, there’s a lot of factors that go into high-risk car insurance, and quotes vary widely based on people’s circumstances.

Now that we’ve got the bad news over with, here are a few ways you can potentially lower your high-risk car insurance policy.

How to Lower Your High-Risk Auto Insurance

You can’t help how old you are or if you’ve gone a season without a car, but there are some risk factors you can work on to lower your premium for high-risk car insurance.

  • Be a safe driver. This is a smart plan for you, other drivers on the road, and your wallet. Slow down, stop texting, don’t drink and drive—these are some of the basics that can save you big over time.
  • Wait it out. Dings on your driving record don’t go away overnight. You may have to wait several years to more than a decade for some violations to drop off your record. What’s more, most companies will not remove accidents and violations from your policy record before you renew with them. In the meantime, your goal is to be a safe driver and not add any new violations.
  • Ask forgiveness. Notice we said most companies won’t remove those dings before renewal—but there are exceptions! If you ask, some companies will remove accidents and violations before renewal, which could bring that premium even lower. You’ve got nothing to lose, and plenty to gain, by just asking!
  • Lock it in. Some companies offer auto premiums that are locked in and will never increase (a great solution for people over the age of 65). 
  • Pay your bills on time. Bad credit can actually increase your annual car insurance premiums. That’s right—not paying your electricity bill on time or letting credit card bills stack up can negatively impact what you pay for car insurance. Get on a budget ASAP and stick to it.
  • Take a defensive driving course. This is for all our first-time drivers, teenage drivers, or drivers getting back on the road after their last policy lapsed. Check with your insurance company and see if they’ll give you a discount for completing a defensive driving course.

When you’re a smart, safe driver, it pays off. Just because you’re high-risk today doesn’t mean you will be forever. In the long run, you have more control over your insurance premium than you think. And good agents have strategies to help you reduce what you pay for car insurance. That’s why having a top-notch agent is so important!

Need a High-Risk Auto Insurance Quote?

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 our team of trusted and independent insurance pros called Endorsed Local Providers. These agents can shop around for the best deals on high-risk insurance—or any other kind of car insurance! Our pros 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.

Find an ELP today!

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Ramsey Solutions

About the author


Ramsey Solutions has been committed to helping people regain control of their money, build wealth, grow their leadership skills, and enhance their lives through personal development since 1992. Millions of people have used our financial advice through 22 books (including 12 national bestsellers) published by Ramsey Press, as well as two syndicated radio shows and 10 podcasts, which have over 17 million weekly listeners. Learn More.

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