By: Will Moore
The cost of auto insurance is different for every driver. While each insurance company uses its own formula to determine customer rates, most consider the same factors, including age, gender, marital status, driving record, vehicle, city, state.
If you’re labeled as a high-risk driver, you may face exceptionally high premiums. However, there are still a few ways to save money on car insurance if you fall into this category.
What Makes You a High-Risk Driver?
There are a few things insurance companies consider when deciding if someone is a high-risk driver. If you are seeing especially high insurance premiums, it may have something to do with these risk factors:
- Traffic violations: Points on your license result in higher insurance premiums. Some tickets cause higher rate hikes than others. For example, one of the worst things you can do for your insurance profile is get a ticket for street racing.
- At-fault accident: Any time you are found at fault for an accident, expect your premiums to rise.
- DUI or DWI: A DUI or DWI can drastically raise your premiums.
- Age: Statistically, young drivers are more likely to be involved in an accident. The highest insurance rates are assigned to drivers between the ages of 16 and 18. Drivers between 19 and 25 also typically see high rates. Rates tend to level off at 26 and gradually decrease each year.
- Vehicle type: Insurers look at average crash and theft rates for your car’s particular make and model. This means that sports cars are often costly to insure, as they’re seen as high-risk.
- Credit score: A poor credit score means higher auto insurance rates. California, Hawaii, Massachusetts and Michigan have banned the practice of using credit scores to set insurance rates, but other states use them to calculate risk.
Some of these factors you cannot control. Traffic violations will stay on your record, increasing your premiums for a certain number of years. However, there are tips you can follow to reduce your rates if you’ve already been labeled a high-risk driver.
Tip 1: Compare Insurers
Shop around and compare rates from multiple insurers. Some companies offer better rates for high-risk drivers than others. Progressive in particular is a good option for high-risk drivers. According to cost research conducted by Motor1, Progressive auto insurance rates tend to be among the lowest for these types of drivers. However, there is not a single best insurer for every driver.
Whenever your driver profile changes, such as due to an accident, marriage, buying a house or an improvement in your credit score, it can be worth reassessing your insurance options. Because there are so many factors that determine insurance rates, a significant change can mean you may be able to get cheaper rates with another company.
Tip 2: Take a Defensive Driving Class
Government-approved driver safety classes are offered in every state. The length of these courses can vary, but they are typically between six and eight hours long. Taking one of these classes will reduce the points on your license, which can lower your premium.
Most insurers advertise discounts for drivers that complete an approved driver safety course. In several states, insurers are required to provide a discount for completing a driver safety course. Contact your insurer to ask about approved classes.
Tip 3: Take a Driver’s Education Class
This tip is only applicable to younger drivers. While adults can take a driver’s education class, if you are over 25, it is unlikely to mean an insurance discount. If one reason you are labeled a high-risk driver is because of your age, completing a driver’s education class will often lower your rates.
Some insurers offer their own driver safety courses for young drivers. State Farm has a program called Steer Clear® that provides digital training resources including a trip-monitoring feature. Completion of this program results in discounts.
Tip 4: Enroll in a Usage-Based Insurance Program
Many major providers have usage-based insurance apps. These are programs you can download to a smartphone that track driving habits. These apps may monitor braking distance, speed and total driving time. Good drivers are rewarded with premium discounts. The following insurers offer such programs:
- State Farm: Drive Safe & SaveTM
- Progressive: Snapshot
- Allstate: Drivewise®
- USAA: SafePilot
Program availability may vary by state. The USAA SafePilot program, for example, is only available in Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. And the list above represents several of the largest insurance companies, but your own provider may also offer a usage-based discount program. Contact your agent and ask or visit your insurer’s website.
Tip 5: Reduce Your Coverage
Most every state has a minimum required level of insurance you must carry. The common types of required insurance are liability coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection.
Collision and comprehensive car insurance aren’t required in any state but are common insurance policies. In most cases, it is a good idea to carry this type of coverage, as it will pay for damages to your own vehicle after an accident or unexpected catastrophe.
However, you may consider dropping these policies if you can’t afford your car insurance premium. As your vehicle ages, it may not be worth maintaining comprehensive and collision policies. Typically, once your car is more than 10 years old, you should consider dropping coverage, though it depends on your vehicle. The general rule of thumb is that if your comprehensive and collision annual premium exceeds 10% of your vehicle’s value, you should cancel this coverage.
Without dropping coverage, you can also get a lower premium by requesting a higher deductible.
Keep in mind that lapses in coverage can result in rate hikes down the road, so dropping your insurance coverage altogether (dropping liability coverage) can be a bad idea, as it means higher premiums in the long-term.
Tip 6: Buy a Different Car
If your vehicle is the reason you have a high insurance premium, consider swapping to a cheaper-to-insure car. Drivers with speeding tickets will be charged more if they want to insure a sports car, and switching to a standard model can mean a lower premium even if you have a clean driving record.
Theft rates are sometimes used to determine the cost of your vehicle’s comprehensive insurance, so if you have this type of policy, purchasing a car that is less likely to be stolen will lower your rates. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), the cars that were reported stolen most often in 2019 were:
- Ford pickups
- Honda Civics
- Chevy pickups
- Honda Accords
- Toyota Camrys
Newer cars tend to be more reliable and have better safety features. For this reason, rates for liability insurance are lower for these cars. However, comprehensive and collision policy prices are based on the value of the vehicle insured, so a new car may raise your rates for these types of coverage.
Tip 7: Have Patience
The final tip to follow to reduce insurance rates as a high-risk driver is to play the waiting game. Practice safe driving, especially if you have a violation that will fall off your record soon. If you avoid accumulating more tickets, eventually, your past mistakes won’t contribute to your insurance score.
How long it takes for a traffic violation to leave your record or for points to be removed from your license depends on the state. It typically takes three years for a traffic violation to cease to impact your insurance premium. This time period can be longer for a DUI or DWI.
Waiting also means you’ll get older. The impact of aging on your insurance rates will be most significant between the ages of 16 and 25.
While you are waiting, you can try to increase your credit score, which will take time but will pay off when it comes to your insurance premium.
After three years has passed from your last accident, you’ve turned 26 or your credit score has increased, it can be a good idea to turn back to Tip #1. Compare insurance providers to find your best option, which may have changed.
Unfortunately, if you are labeled a high-risk driver by the insurance companies, there is little you can do to change this designation. You can, however, follow the tips above to reduce your rates as best you can.
With time, your high-risk driver stigma will go away if you avoid speeding, accidents and DUI violations. The single best tip any high-risk driver can follow is to avoid the habits that get one labeled high-risk in the first place.