What Is Non-Standard Auto Insurance?

Insurance can be hard to buy when you're a high-risk driver. This is where non-standard insurance comes in. Here's how it works.
Police officer talking to driver at traffic stop.

Do you have any tickets and accidents on your record? Having too many of each can cause insurers to view you as a high-risk driver. This can make insurance expensive and just downright hard to get. Though, there are still ways for you to buy the coverage that you need to get behind the wheel. For many, this will be non-standard auto insurance.

Non-standard car insurance is an option for high-risk drivers who are having trouble buying coverage. Non-standard insurance is a special type of insurance for people that carriers would normally deny because of their records. You may also see insurers refer to this as high-risk insurance. You can expect to buy non-standard coverage from specialized companies or major providers.

This article will teach you about how non-standard insurance works. We’ll also tell you about what it does and doesn’t cover. Non-standard insurance is only for a select group of drivers, so this article will break down who needs it. Finally, this article will show you where you can get non-standard auto coverage.

How Non-Standard Insurance Works

Non-standard and standard insurance both operate in very similar ways. You buy the policy, and in return, your insurer will cover damages that occur in an accident. The main difference is that non-standard insurance covers people who present a higher risk to providers. These are people who insurers would typically deny because of their records.

Some large insurers, such as GEICO, offer non-standard car insurance. But many of them don’t have it at all. Some companies specialize in offering high-risk or non-standard insurance to people who need it. Many commonly refer to these insurers as non-standard insurance companies.

Non-Standard vs. Standard Insurance

While non-standard insurance is mostly the same as a standard policy, there are still some differences and limitations that you should know about. Below are the main ways that non-standard insurance differs from a standard policy:

  • Non-standard is for high-risk people. Somebody with a good record wouldn’t buy a non-standard policy. It’s only for people who can’t get insurance anywhere else and need it.
  • Non-standard insurance costs more. You are going to pay much more than normal if you’re buying non-standard insurance. This is because of the potential risk you carry.
  • It might have limitations. Some insurers might set limitations on your policy. They may set a limit for the number of miles you can drive or restrict your ability to get discounts. Be sure to speak with your provider to clarify any limitations.

Standard and non-standard insurance are very similar besides the differences above. You would go about buying them the same way. Non-standard also allows you to set deductibles and limits to manage your costs just as standard insurance does.

What Non-Standard Insurance Covers

In general, non-standard insurance offers the same coverage types as a standard policy does. Drivers should expect to at least carry liability insurance. All states except for New Hampshire and Virginia require it to drive. You will also have the option to add the following types of coverages:

  • Collision insurance (part of full coverage)
  • Comprehensive insurance (part of full coverage)
  • Personal injury protection
  • Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage
  • Medical payments coverage
  • Gap insurance

Note: some insurers may not offer all of the above types of coverage with a non-standard policy. Be sure to check with your agent to find out what you can and can’t buy with your insurer.

Who Needs Non-Standard Auto Insurance

Non-standard isn’t for every driver. It’s for a specific group of people. Typically, these people present some kind of risk to insurance companies because of their record or other factors. Below is a quick look at each type of driver who may need non-standard insurance:

People With a DUI on Their Record

A DUI is one of the single worst violations to have on your record. They’re also really expensive for you and your insurer. Having a DUI conviction on your record will automatically cause carriers to view you as a high-risk. Your state may also require you to get an SR-22 form to prove that you have a minimum amount of liability insurance.

With a DUI on your record, your insurer might end up canceling your policy. Other insurers may also deny you insurance. In this case, you’ll have to buy non-standard insurance to get any kind of coverage at all.

People With Lots of Tickets and Accidents

Tickets and accidents are a big reason why people end up needing non-standard insurance. They can stack up over the years and cause insurers to label you as high-risk. Tickets and accidents typically stay on your record for up to three years in most states. Because of this, you’ll stay high-risk for about the same amount of time. This means you’ll likely need to buy non-standard insurance instead of a regular policy.

Younger or Older Drivers

Drivers who are young and beginners may need non-standard insurance. Young drivers tend to have little to no experience. This presents a high risk to insurance companies. If a young driver were to get into an accident, this may send them into the high-risk category.

Older drivers might also end up needing non-standard insurance. Insurance rates can start to rise for people as early as the age of 65. Older drivers may have more experience, but insurance companies still view them as a risk. Drivers over the age of 65 with accidents on their record may become high-risk and need non-standard insurance.

Poor Credit Rating or Insurance History

Insurance companies don’t just look at your driving record when they assess your risk. They’ll also look at your financial history. Your credit rating can be a big indicator of whether you’re going to be able to make consistent payments. Having poor credit can tell insurers that you aren’t reliable or responsible.

Your insurance history is also a factor that insurers consider. Canceling your policy or not making payments in the past can rub providers the wrong way. It’ll show them that you’re a bit flakey and could leave them hanging at any moment. Having gaps in your insurance history can also be bad for you because you have no recent track record. These issues will cause companies to view you as high-risk. Non-standard insurance will be the option in this case.

Where to Get Non-Standard Auto Insurance

You have a few options if you need to buy non-standard insurance. Several major insurers offer non-standard insurance. States may also offer risk pools where they’ll assign you to an insurer. The state requires that insurers offer you insurance when you’re in a risk pool.

You also have the option to go to a specialty non-standard insurance company. These companies specifically offer non-standard insurance to high-risk drivers.

Here’s a list of some of the top companies that offer non-standard insurance (some are major insurers and others are specialized non-standard companies):

  • Progressive
  • Acceptance Insurance (non-standard company)
  • Direct Auto Insurance (non-standard company)
  • GEICO
  • The General
  • National General
  • Safe Auto (non-standard company)
  • Dairyland
  • Infinity Insurance (non-standard company)
  • Bristol West (non-standard company)
  • 21st Century (non-standard company)
  • Kemper
  • GAINSCO (non-standard company)

Are Non-Standard Companies Cheaper Than the Top Insurers?

Now that you know who offers non-standard insurance, you’re probably wondering where you should get it. It’s tempting to think that the specialty companies will be the best and cheapest option. But this isn’t always the case. Non-standard insurance companies know that you don’t have many places to go, so they can afford to charge you whatever they want. To put it simply, they have a valuable product, so they can charge a premium price.

Regular insurers may shy away from offering you insurance when you’re high-risk. But state-assigned risk pools will force an insurer to provide you insurance. This makes it so that the non-standard companies aren’t your only option.

Even though you’re high-risk, you shouldn’t settle for the first insurer you find. You should test the market and find the company that’ll offer you the best rates. In some cases, a regular insurer will be cheaper. At other times, a specialty company may be the best fit. It’s a good idea to gather car insurance quotes and compare them. This way, you’ll find the best deal that suits your needs.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a high-risk driver?

A:  A high-risk driver is someone who an insurer deems as a high risk to cost them money in some way. There are several ways that you can become a high-risk driver. Here are the major causes:

  • Severe violations (e.g., DUIs, reckless driving, driving without insurance, etc.)
  • Poor credit rating
  • Age
  • Poor insurance history (e.g., gaps, missed payments, cancellations)
  • You live in a high-risk area (e.g., lots of theft, vandalism, or natural disasters)

Q: How far back do insurance companies look?

A: Insurance companies usually review the last three to five years of your record. This is because violations, such as tickets and accidents, stay on your record for around the same amount of time.   

Q: How can I buy standard insurance again?

A: You don’t have to be a high-risk driver forever. There are ways to get back in the good graces of insurance companies so that you can get cheaper insurance sooner. But keep in mind that tickets and accidents stay on your record for about three to five years. Here are the ways that you can lower your risk and buy standard insurance again:

  • Take a defensive driving course
  • Drive accident and ticket free for up to three years
  • Rebuild your credit
  • Make insurance payments on time
  • Buy a safe car
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