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Standard vs non-standard car insurance

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Standard auto insurance is available for the majority of drivers. Most major insurers, such as State Farm, Allstate, Geico, Progressive and USAA offer these policy types at affordable prices.

However, some drivers are flagged as high-risk and may not be eligible for standard car insurance. Therefore, a nonstandard auto insurance policy may be their only coverage option until they are no longer considered a high-risk driver. Knowing the difference between standard vs. nonstandard insurance can help you proactively find the best option.

Key takeaways

  • Standard car insurance is available for lower-risk drivers.
  • When comparing standard vs. nonstandard insurance, standard coverage is usually cheaper.
  • Nonstandard insurance covers high-risk drivers who are unable to find standard coverage.

What makes you a nonstandard driver?

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

  • New drivers: Inexperienced drivers under the age of 25 are prone to be involved in accidents. Because of the risk they carry, young drivers face high premiums to cover the increased risk.
  • 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: Policyholders with a lapse in auto insurance could be considered higher risk. If they were driving without insurance or their previous policy was canceled due to nonpayment, insurance premiums and policy eligibility can be affected.
  • Incidents on driving history: Speeding tickets, car accidents or a DUI conviction could flag a driver as nonstandard.
  • 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 is designed to cover 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 car insurance works the same way as if you were buying standard coverage. To find the best price, shop around and compare carrier quotes. Since premiums for nonstandard insurance are typically higher than average, 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?

Insurance companies use the factors mentioned already to classify you as a nonstandard driver. Besides the list, an auto insurance company may charge you more for premiums if you have poor credit — unless you live in a state where credit checks are prohibited.

Factors that also could affect your rates significantly that are not related to you as a driver are your geographic location, vehicle type and the insurer you choose. The area you live in affects the cost of car insurance based on crime rates and the number of claims in the area, including weather-related losses. The type of vehicle you drive affects your premiums due to the cost to replace vehicle parts, how well the vehicle protects the passengers from injuries and how much damage the vehicle can cause to others in an at-fault accident.

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

Frequently asked questions

What is the difference between standard vs. nonstandard insurance?

Standard auto insurance is the best-known type of coverage. It provides the level of coverage required by your state to legally drive at an affordable rate. Standard car insurance is available for lower-risk drivers. It is easiest to find because all the major insurers and regional insurers usually offer it.

Nonstandard insurance is made for drivers considered high-risk by insurance carriers. It is typically more expensive and not as widely available as standard insurance. Some major insurers offer nonstandard insurance, as well as regional and local auto insurers.

What companies offer nonstandard insurance?

If you were canceled or nonrenewed by your existing carrier, looking for a nonstandard insurance company is the best alternative. Carriers that offer nonstandard insurance include Mercury, Geico and The General.

Why are nonstandard insurance premiums more expensive?

Nonstandard insurance was created for high-risk drivers who may not qualify for standard coverage. Because high-risk drivers have a history of accidents, moving violations or other risky activities that typically lead to costly claims, car insurance premiums are higher than average.

If I received a letter of nonrenewal from my car insurance company, how can I get new coverage?

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. If you were nonrenewed because of an incident such as a DUI conviction or multiple claims in a short time, finding a nonstandard insurance company may be your best option. 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.

When am I eligible for standard car insurance?

If you have a non-standard 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 auto insurer, and you may be eligible for standard coverage earlier, or you may need to keep non-standard coverage for longer. Time frames will vary depending on the rules of the standard company you are considering.

Written by
Cynthia Paez Bowman
Personal Finance Contributor
Cynthia Paez Bowman is a former personal finance contributor at Bankrate. She is a finance and business journalist who has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN,, and
Edited by
Managing Editor