Nonstandard auto insurance is designed for high-risk drivers. While standard auto insurance covers most drivers, those who have serious driving infractions, get caught driving without insurance or have had their insurance canceled or nonrenewed are often seen as riskier to insure and may be labeled as high-risk drivers. For these drivers, insurers often charge higher rates and may even refuse coverage. Below, Bankrate’s insurance editorial team explains when you might need nonstandard auto insurance and how to get it.


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Key takeaways

  • Nonstandard car insurance presents a greater risk to insurers, making it more expensive than standard insurance.
  • New drivers, those with poor driving history, having a lapse in coverage and having a foreign driver's license can be considered high-risk drivers.
  • Shopping around with multiple carriers may help high-risk drivers get the best rates on nonstandard car insurance.

What makes you a nonstandard driver?

Nonstandard insurance was created for high-risk drivers unable to obtain a standard car insurance policy. But who is considered high risk? Auto insurers typically qualify the following drivers as nonstandard or high-risk:

  • New drivers: Young drivers often face high premiums because they risk being involved in accidents. Inexperienced drivers with repeat accidents or tickets may need to find coverage from a nonstandard insurance company.
  • Foreign driver’s license: A visitor or temporary resident may not be eligible for standard auto insurance as a driver with a U.S. license.
  • Lapse in coverage: Not having continuous auto insurance makes drivers riskier to insurance companies, especially considering car insurance is required in most states.
  • Incidents on driving history: Speeding tickets, car accidents or a DUI conviction could flag a driver as nonstandard. The severity and frequency of the incidents, plus the insurance company’s comfort with risk, can affect whether a risky driver is ineligible for standard car insurance.
  • Required to carry an SR-22: Drivers who had their license suspended or revoked may have to file an SR-22 certificate as proof they have at least the required minimum auto insurance coverage needed in their state.

The scenarios above could all classify a driver as a higher risk to insure. New or foreign drivers or those with a history of accidents or lapse in coverage may be viewed as more likely to be involved in future accidents and costly claims. An auto insurer may not offer standard coverage, or if they do, premiums could be higher.

How is nonstandard car insurance different from standard insurance?

Nonstandard insurance covers higher-risk drivers who may no longer qualify for standard coverage. The largest differences between standard vs. nonstandard auto insurance are cost and available auto insurers. Nonstandard car insurance is typically more expensive.

Purchasing nonstandard insurance works the same way as buying standard coverage. To find the best price, shop around and compare carrier quotes. Since premiums for nonstandard insurance are typically higher, shopping around could help you find the most affordable premium. Once you choose a carrier, you can purchase a policy. If you are required to file an SR-22, you can ask the insurer to file it with the state on your behalf as proof that you are properly insured.

How are auto insurance premiums determined?

Auto insurance premiums are determined the same way whether you get standard or nonstandard insurance coverage. Insurance carriers use multiple factors to determine how much you pay for car insurance.

These factors may include:

  • Your ZIP code
  • Prior insurance history
  • Driving record of all household members
  • Claims history of all household members
  • Age
  • Gender

In many states, your credit-based insurance score is a factor in auto insurance premiums. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan do not allow credit scores as a rating factor. Certain states, such as Hawaii and Massachusetts, also do not consider gender or age when determining car insurance premiums.

As far as the carrier you choose, the same level of coverage could cost more or less. Some nonstandard insurance companies specializing in high-risk car insurance may help you save on premiums. Insurers also rate incidents differently, such as at-fault accidents and speeding tickets, using proprietary algorithms to calculate premiums.

Frequently asked questions

    • If you were canceled or nonrenewed by your existing carrier, looking for a nonstandard insurance company is the best alternative. Carriers that offer nonstandard car insurance include Geico, Progressive, SafeAuto, and The General.
    • A car insurance company may cancel your coverage or choose to nonrenew it. If this is the case, you will need to find vehicle insurance elsewhere. Finding a nonstandard insurance company may be your best option if you were nonrenewed because of an incident such as a DUI conviction or multiple claims in a short time. Nonstandard carriers may be more willing to work with you and could provide your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with an SR-22 certificate proving you are legally insured.
    • If you have a nonstandard auto insurance policy, you may be eligible for standard coverage after a major violation has fallen off your driving record or you have maintained car insurance for six months or longer. Typically, insurance companies want to see that you can drive safely and maintain car insurance.

      Guidelines vary by each standard insurance company, and you may be eligible for standard coverage earlier, or you may need to keep nonstandard coverage for longer. Time frames will vary depending on the rules of the standard company you are considering.

    • While being a high-risk driver can narrow your options, there are still likely to be several providers that will offer you coverage. Nonstandard car insurance is generally more expensive than standard insurance, but some companies specialize in high-risk drivers and offer more competitive rates than others. When looking for affordable rates, experts recommend shopping around between several companies to see which will offer you the best deal on the car insurance you need.