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In the car insurance industry, “standard” refers to one of several risk-rating categories. Car insurance companies rate policies based on risk and generally categorize drivers as nonstandard (also called “high-risk”), standard or preferred. Your risk category will influence your rate.

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Understanding what standard auto insurance is and how it can affect your premiums may help you make more informed decisions about your car insurance coverage. If you learn that you are a high-risk driver, you may be able to improve your record to move into the standard category. And if you are a standard driver, perhaps you can take steps to obtain the desirable preferred-driver status.

What is standard auto insurance?

Standard auto insurance refers to a rating category that auto insurance companies use to determine how much of a risk a driver presents. Generally, the higher the perceived risk, the more a driver will pay for coverage. Most drivers fall into the standard category.

Standard auto insurance does not refer to a coverage amount or type of policy. Because insurance is relatively customizable, with various combinations of coverage types, limits and endorsements available, there is no such thing as standard auto insurance coverage. However, standard rated policies will include at least the minimum requirements required by the state, such as liability insurance.

What are the different categories of auto insurance?

When determining your insurance premiums, carriers will place you into different risk categories, or tiers, based on several factors, like driving and claims history. These categories are standard, preferred and nonstandard. The difference between standard and nonstandard auto insurance is that standard drivers pose a lower insurable risk, which usually translates into cheaper premiums than higher-risk nonstandard drivers, on average. When comparing standard vs. preferred auto insurance, preferred drivers generally have the lowest risk of filing a claim, earning them even better rates than standard drivers.

  • Preferred auto insurance is reserved for the lowest risk drivers, preferred risk typically applies to those with a clean driving and claims record, with excellent credit (where allowed) and payment history and continuous coverage.
  • Standard auto insurance is offered to the majority of drivers who are low risk, but may have less-than-perfect credit or a violation on their driving record.
  • Nonstandard auto insurance is for high-risk drivers, which may include those who have a poor credit score, new drivers, those who have a lapse in coverage or a serious traffic infraction preventing them from receiving a standard risk assessment.

The following table outlines some of the defining characteristics of drivers who may land in each risk category. Please note, credit is a rating consideration in most states except California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Michigan.

Preferred Standard Nonstandard
Likely has excellent credit Good or average credit Poor credit
Continuous car insurance coverage Prior continuous insurance Coverage lapse
No prior accidents or traffic violations No more than two minor violations May have a serious conviction, such as a DUI
May require an SR-22
New driver

Who needs standard auto insurance?

Most states require that you carry an auto insurance policy to drive legally. Standard car insurance is common across the country, as the majority of drivers fall into the standard rating category.

Keep in mind that standard auto insurance does not refer to a type of policy, a type of coverage or certain coverage limits. Standard auto insurance refers to a risk-rating category. When you are getting auto insurance quotes, you will not be able to choose your rating category. Insurance companies will assign you a category based on your rating factors, like your driving history and insurance history.

Reasons why you might not qualify for standard insurance

You may not qualify for standard insurance and, instead, require nonstandard insurance if you fall into one of the following categories:

  • You’re under the age of 25 or over 75.
  • You have a history of filing insurance claims.
  • You have had a DUI and need your insurer to file an SR-22 for you.
  • You have a salvage title on your car.
  • Your license is from another country.
  • You’ve had a significant coverage lapse in the past.

If any of these apply, or your insurer thinks you’re a risk for any other reason, you may not be able to purchase a standard policy. You may be offered a nonstandard policy, or, if the company you are getting a quote from does not write nonstandard insurance, you may be declined coverage. Although not all standard insurers offer nonstandard insurance, there are nonstandard carriers available. Shopping around can help you find the best rate for nonstandard car insurance.

How to get standard insurance

Getting standard car insurance is a fairly simple process, and a bit of research could help you find the best policy for your needs at the cheapest price. Here are some steps you can follow to help you find the right options for you:

  • Shop around: Getting multiple quotes from different standard auto insurers is one of the best ways to get the cheapest rates without sacrificing coverage. To know you are getting the best price, compare the same coverages across multiple companies.
  • Do your research: Researching the different coverages, discounts, policy features and third-party rankings for various companies could help you find a carrier that fits your needs.
  • Utilize discounts: Most companies offer discounts for good driving, safety measures and company loyalty, among others, and these savings opportunities can bring your premium costs down.
  • Consider working with a local agent: While getting quotes and buying a policy online can be easy and convenient, you may find that working with a licensed insurance agent in your area can also be helpful. Local agents may be more familiar with the specific needs of drivers in your state and city, and might be able to guide you toward a company or certain coverages.
  • Fill out an application: When applying for the policy, you’ll need to fill out an application that asks questions to determine your risk level and eligibility. You will likely need to provide information about you, your vehicle and your driving history.
  • Pay your premium: Your first premium will probably be due when your application is approved. Setting up an online payment structure may earn you a discount and make it easy to pay each month. You might also save for paying in full.

How much does standard insurance cost?

The average cost of standard car insurance is $1,771 for full coverage and $545 for minimum coverage per year. Your rate will likely differ as there are many factors that determine how much you will personally pay for coverage. For insurance, your driving record, claims history, state of residence and the type of car you drive will all affect your final cost of car insurance.

Frequently asked questions

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