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.

A non-standard policy is an option for drivers who are having trouble finding coverage. It’s a special type of insurance for people that carriers would normally deny because of their poor driving records. You may also see insurers refer to this as high-risk insurance, which you obtain from specialized providers or major national companies.

In this article:

  • How non-standard insurance works
  • Non-standard vs. standard insurance
  • What these policies cover
  • Who needs this kind of policy
  • Non-standard auto insurance providers
  • Frequently asked questions

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 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 coverage. But many of them don’t have it at all. Some companies specialize in offering high-risk policies to people who need them. Many commonly refer to these insurers as non-standard companies.

Non-Standard vs. Standard Insurance

While a non-standard policy is mostly the same as a standard one, there are still some differences and limitations you should know about. Below are the main ways it 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 coverage anywhere else.
  • Non-standard costs more. You’ll pay much more than normal if you’re buying this type of 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 does.

What These Policies Cover

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

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 This Kind of Policy

Non-standard isn’t for every driver. It’s for a specific group of people. Typically, these people present some kind of risk to companies because of their record or other factors. Below is a quick look at each type of driver who may need this type of 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 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 coverage. In this case, you’ll have to buy non-standard 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 alternate forms of 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 a non-standard policy instead of a regular one.

Younger or Older Drivers

Young and beginner drivers may need non-standard insurance. They tend to have little to no experience, which presents a high risk to insurers. 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. Rates can start to rise for people as early as the age of 65. Older drivers may have more experience, but providers still view them as a risk. Drivers over the age of 65 with accidents on their record may become high-risk and need alternate coverage.

Poor Credit Rating or Insurance History

Insurers 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 another factor providers consider. Canceling your policy or not making payments in the past can rub insurers 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 coverage 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. A non-standard policy will be the option in this case.

Non-Standard Auto Insurance Providers

You have a few options if you need to buy non-standard insurance. Several major insurers offer it. States may also offer risk pools where they’ll assign you to an insurer. The state requires that insurers offer you coverage 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 coverage 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 companies):

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

If you’re shopping for a high-risk policy, check out our article, “Best Car Insurance for a Bad Driving Record,” to learn more. We look at many of the top insurers that offer auto policies to high-risk drivers. Find out how each company ranked.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a high-risk driver?

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

  • 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 and break-ins, vandalism, or natural disasters)

How far back do insurers look?

Insurers 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.

Are Non-Standard Companies Cheaper Than the Top Insurers?

It’s tempting to think that specialty insurers are the best option. But this isn’t always the case. They know that few providers offer non-standard auto coverage, so they can afford to charge you whatever they want. To put it simply, they have a valuable product that you must purchase of you want to continue driving, which enables them to set a premium price.

Standard insurers may shy away from writing policies for high-risk drivers but state-assigned risk pools force them to provide you with protection. This means that you can shop for coverage from more than non-standard carriers. This also means more options for meeting your state’s minimum insurance requirements .

How can I buy standard insurance again?

You don’t have to be a high-risk driver forever. There are ways to get back in the good graces of 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 you can lower your risk and buy standard auto coverage 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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