No matter how careful you are on the road, there is still a chance that you could end up in a car accident at some point. While being involved in an at-fault accident is stressful, having car insurance can help cover damage to all vehicles involved, as well as property damage and medical costs to give you some financial peace of mind. The downside, though, is that any claim you file has the potential to increase your rates, even for a minor accident.
How much the insurance claim you make after an accident will affect your premium will depend on several factors, like the severity of the accident, who was at fault, the type of the claim, discounts you qualify for and the company you are insured with. Understanding how accidents affect your auto insurance premiums, how different company’s rates are affected and ways to lower your overall costs can help you get the cheapest rates, even after an accident.
How much will my car insurance go up after an accident?
Typically, your car insurance rates tend to go up after an at-fault accident, since insurers will now assess you as a higher-risk driver and determine that you’re more likely to file claims in the future. The exact amount that your premium will increase after an accident depends on several factors, including: your auto insurance provider, your driving record, your claims history, your geographic location, and in some states, even your age and gender. Young drivers (under age 25) may see the highest increases after an accident, since insurers tend to view them as an especially risky group to insure.
Based on Bankrate’s analysis of insurance rates from Quadrant Information Services, we found that, on average, premiums for full coverage insurance go up an estimated $750 after an accident. Here are average rates before and after an accident:
|Average annual premium for full coverage|
|Before an accident||$1,771|
|After an at-fault accident||$2,521|
However, in some states, the average premium increase after an accident is higher than the national average. The more damage you cause in your accident, the more you can generally expect to see your premiums increase. If you have a claims free or good driver discount, you could also lose that, too, which is another reason for a high spike in auto insurance premiums after an at-fault accident. And, if you have a history of at-fault accidents, you may see an even steeper rate hike because car insurance companies may view you as a high-risk driver.
Optional comprehensive coverage, which is part of full coverage car insurance, steps in when your car is damaged, but it is not related to a collision. You might file a comprehensive claim because your car was stolen or vandalized or because a tree limb fell on it, or damage was caused by a flood or fire, for example. While comprehensive claims can increase your premium slightly, it may still be worth filing with your insurer to get the coverage you paid for to restore your car to its pre-incident condition.
How much will my rate go up based on my car insurance company?
While nearly every auto insurance company will raise your rates after an at-fault accident, the amount can vary noticeably between companies. Below, we compiled the average auto insurance rates for full coverage before and after an accident from many of the largest U.S. providers by market share.
Full coverage car insurance rates
|Car insurance company||Average annual premium before an at-fault accident||Average annual premium after an at-fault accident|
Why do insurance rates go up after an accident?
Insurance providers don’t raise rates to punish you. Instead, insurers adjust your rates after an at-fault accident to reflect new data based on getting into a collision. By gaining a history of causing an accident, they perceive you to be a riskier driver who has a higher likelihood of filing claims in the future. Though at-fault accidents are the most common types to increase rates, any claim has the ability to increase your auto insurance premiums, especially if you have a high frequency of filing claims in a short period of time.
If you’re considered riskier to insure, auto providers pass that risk on to you in the form of higher premiums. If your rates increase after an accident, that spike may not be permanent. In fact, most auto insurance rates will go down a few years after the accident as long as you don’t have any additional at-fault incidents or moving violations on your motor vehicle record (MVR).
If you have seen your auto insurance policy rates increase after an accident, getting quotes from other carriers could help you lower your premium. However, you should know that your new insurance carrier will also be able to access details about your claim documented on your MVR, including how much was paid out, and will likely factor that into your policy quote accordingly. But because every company charges different rates, you might find that another insurer charges less even after factoring in your claim history. There are both pros and cons to switching insurance providers, so make sure you weigh all factors before making a change.
Accident forgiveness programs
If you were enrolled in an accident forgiveness program prior to your accident, you might be eligible to have the claim surcharge waived. Although guidelines vary by provider and state availability, most accident forgiveness programs are designed to waive the first at-fault loss that occurs on your policy and will waive only one loss within a specified timeframe, typically three to five years.
However, most accident forgiveness programs are optional endorsements that add to the cost of your policy. If you have been with the same company for several years you may qualify for free accident forgiveness coverage, but most companies charge extra to participate and may have limitations for new drivers or new customers.
The following major auto insurers are among the dozens of carriers that extend some form of accident forgiveness coverage to enrolled and eligible drivers:
*Note: State Farm accident forgiveness is only extended to accident-free drivers who have been insured by the company for at least nine years.
How long does an accident stay on your record?
On average, at-fault car accidents stay on your driving record for three to five years. However, the exact length of time depends on your state and the severity of the incident. For example, in New York State, an accident or traffic violation will stay on your record until the end of the year when the incident occurred, plus three years after. In Oregon, an accident or violation will remain on your record for five years.
If you’re involved in a DUI or reckless driving crash, expect the incident to stay on your record for a minimum of five years to a maximum of your entire lifetime. You can check your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website for information about driving record requirements where you live.
Lowering your car insurance rates after an accident
If your auto insurance rates increase after an accident, you may be wondering if there is a way to lower your premium and regain cheap car insurance.
Even if you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness from your car insurance provider, there may be ways you can lower your insurance rate after an accident. The best way to figure out how to save is to speak with your insurance agent. For example, they may suggest discounts for low-mileage drivers, students or being a member of a certain occupation or organization, as well as bundling your auto and home policies with the same insurer. Regardless of your driving history, these discounts may be able to lower your premium, sometimes by 25% or more. This is because most discounts can be stacked together, maximizing how much you save and getting you closer to the cheapest rates you are eligible for.
If you’re not sure where to start, these methods could help you save money on your premium after an accident:
- Improve your credit: Depending on your state of residence, your credit-based insurance score may play a role in determining your car insurance rate. Stay within your spending budget, pay debts and address any discrepancies on your credit report to improve your credit standing.
- Increase your deductible: The higher your deductibles on comprehensive and collision coverage, the lower your premium. Before raising your deductible, keep in mind that if you raise your deductible, your out-of-pocket expenses would be higher if you were to file a claim. For minor accidents, paying out-of-pocket may be doable. But ensuring your deductible is manageable will prevent financial issues in the event of a large accident.
- Look for discounts: Most car insurance companies offer a variety of discounts, including good student discounts and multi-policy discounts. Many also offer usage-based telematics programs that monitor your driving in real time and award discounts for safe practices behind the wheel, such as following posted speed limits and your braking patterns. Examples include Progressive Snapshot, State Farm Drive Safe and Save, Allstate Drivewise and Nationwide SmartRide.
- Shop around: It’s always a great idea to shop around when your policy is up for renewal to find the best prices currently being offered from different car insurance companies. It may be difficult to find a car insurance policy that offers the same coverage at the same price you were paying prior to an at-fault accident, but you may also discover that other insurance companies offer different discounts and coverage options.
- Update your coverage choices: If you absolutely need to lower your insurance premium, you could consider changing your coverage options. Although you should always review these changes with a licensed agent, lowering the amount of insurance you have could lower your premium. You will still need to maintain your state’s minimum required coverage levels, and, if you have a loan or lease, you may need to keep full coverage on your vehicle, which includes comprehensive and collision, but you might be able to trim optional coverage selections.
- Consider a different car: The make and model of every vehicle is rated differently by insurance companies and it costs more to insure more expensive vehicles. This comes down to safety ratings, materials, cost of repair and many other factors. If you need to cut down the cost of your car insurance policy, consider getting one of these cheap-to-insure options
By using one or more of these strategies, you could help lower the sting of higher rates after an accident.
Frequently asked questions
Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2022 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:
- $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $50,000 property damage liability per accident
- $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
- $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
- $500 collision deductible
- $500 comprehensive deductible
To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverage that meets each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2020 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.
Incident: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base) and at-fault accident.