Car insurance for risky drivers

car insurance driver crashingYou may consider yourself a pretty good driver. You know how to handle a car on icy streets and maybe you're even confident negotiating narrow mountain roads at high speeds.

But even the best drivers in the world can receive a speeding ticket or become involved in an accident. If you rack up enough accidents, speeding tickets or even one serious infraction -- such as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs -- you may find yourself classified as a "high-risk driver." That means you won’t be able to buy car insurance in the standard market. Nonstandard or “assigned risk” drivers can expect to pay up to three times more for car insurance than drivers with a clean record.

What is a high-risk driver?

Before selling you car insurance, insurers will check a number of things -- including your driving record and claims and credit history.

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), drivers fall into one of the following categories:

·      Preferred: Drivers with outstanding driving records who get the lowest car insurance rates

·      Standard: Average drivers with good driving records

·      Nonstandard: Young, inexperienced drivers and drivers with many tickets and accidents or a reckless or drunken driving history. These are high-risk drivers.

And then there is a fourth category: Drivers who can't convince an insurance company to sell them a policy.

This type of driver can still buy insurance through their state’s "assigned risk" pool but they'll typically have to prove they've been repeatedly rejected by car insurance companies, and their premiums will be two to three times higher than the national average.

How people fall into a high-risk category

In addition to having multiple accidents, speeding tickets or a DUI, there are other factors that can push you into the high-risk category. The following items will not necessarily place you in the “assigned risk pool” but they can increase your car insurance rates.

·      Bad credit score. Although you can't be denied insurance altogether for a lousy credit score, it can be a factor in what an insurance company will charge you.

·      A lapsed insurance policy. If you failed to pay your car insurance premium and had your policy cancelled by another insurance company, other car insurance companies can find that out and factor it into your premium. You'll also pay higher rates if you drove without insurance for a period of time -- in some states it has to be at least 30 days -- in the previous 12 months.

·      A young driver with no record. The state of Oregon Insurance Division notes that since one out of three young drivers gets in an accident each year, drivers under the age of 25 are typically classified as "high-risk" by car insurance companies.

·      Your profession: People who drive great distances for their job -- pizza deliverers and long-haul truckers, for instance -- are considered high-risk drivers by many car insurance companies. Recreational vehicles, even if they aren't driven much, cost much more to repair than a regular car so they need to carry higher-priced insurance.

·      Your car: Certain types of high powered cars, including some sports cars, can fuel higher auto insurance quotes. These cars are expensive to repair. Insure.com's The most and least expensive vehicles to insure article explains why high-performance cars can lead to higher insurance premiums.

What you can do if you're denied car insurance

If one company turns you down for auto insurance, keep shopping. Even if one company turns you down, another may be willing to sell you a policy. Although you may be classified as a high-risk driver, you may not have to buy from your state’s assigned-risk pool.

How to get rid of the high-risk label

Most car insurance companies will forgive your accidents and poor driving record if you maintain a clean driving record for at least three years. But it varies by insurer; some will look back as far as five years when assessing how risky a driver you are.

Many states use a point system that assigns a score according to the severity of an incident, says the III. And how long those points stay on your record varies by state. Points for such things as illegal turns stay on your driving record for three years in California, for instance, but points for a hit-and-run or DUI stay on your record for 10 years.

Periodically ask your insurance company to review your policy. Ask how long it will take to improve your driving record.

In the meantime, drive carefully, don't cause accidents, pay your insurance bill on time and don't drink and drive.

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