How to Find Car Insurance When You Have a Bad Driving Record – Consumer Reports

How to Find Car Insurance When You Have a Bad Driving Record – Consumer Reports

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Too many crashes and moving violations can scare off mainstream insurers, but there are other options
Speeding tickets or other types of moving violations happen to the best of us. Some of us have the misfortune of being at fault in a crash. But if you rack up enough of these incidents—or worse yet, if your transgressions include driving recklessly or under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or with a revoked or suspended license—your car insurance company might raise your rates next time you renew your policy, or more harshly, cancel it altogether.
That can put you in a tough spot. Most states require auto insurance to register a car, and most lenders require full liability, collision, and comprehensive coverage if you’re still paying off a loan on a car. (Even if insurance isn’t required, it’s a bad idea to drive without it.)
If your insurer considers you to be high risk and drops you, it can be difficult to get insurance with one of the mainstream companies that offer the best rates. But fear not. Every state mandates that nonstandard insurance policies aimed at high-risk drivers be made available so that motorists can continue getting from point A to point B in their cars, regardless of their driving record (to a point). The catch is that it will cost more—at least 50 percent more, says Loretta Worters, vice president of media relations at the Insurance Information Institute, an industry group. How much your rate goes up depends on your age, gender, the type of car you drive, where you live, the severity of your misdeeds, and, in some states, your credit score.
As with anything related to car insurance, each state has different requirements about what insurance coverage a motorist must have and what must be offered to even high-risk drivers. Most states have a minimum liability coverage requirement, and most lenders require collision and comprehensive insurance while a car loan is being paid off. The policies available to someone that mainstream insurers reject are called “residual market” or “assigned risk” policies. According to the most recent available data from the Consumer Federation of America (CFA), as of 2016, about 7 percent of drivers in the U.S. were covered by one of these nonstandard insurance policies.
“All insurers that provide that coverage in a state will be ‘assigned’ a share of applicants from the assigned risk plan,” Worters explains.
Search CR’s recommended car insurance companies. Even if your car insurance company has dropped you and you aren’t having any luck getting a policy from a particular insurer, another company might still say yes. Browse Consumer Reports’ list of recommended car insurance companies and get online quotes from several different companies. As Worters notes, each has its own guidelines regarding whom it will insure. Douglas Heller, an insurance expert with CFA, says that many mainstream companies write nonstandard policies for customers with high credit scores but not for people with bad credit. (In many states, bad credit or a recent lapse in insurance coverage is reason enough for an insurer to drop or reject coverage, even if you have a perfect driving record.)
But even if a mainstream company won’t insure you because of a bad driving record, bad credit, or both, it may be able to connect you with an affiliated assigned risk insurer. Keep in mind that although it always pays to shop carefully for car insurance, someone with a bad driving record will most likely have to pay significantly higher rates for coverage and should be even more diligent throughout the shopping process.
See what’s available to high-risk drivers in your state. Some drivers may strike out with all the mainstream car insurance companies, although a nationally representative CR survey of 2,017 US adults from December 2022 found that only 3 percent of Americans who switched to their current auto insurance company in the past two years did so because they had been dropped by their previous insurer. But every state has regulations regarding high-risk auto insurance. In New York, for example, the New York Automobile Insurance Plan (NYAIP) is a special insurance organization established by state law to ensure that just about any motorist can get coverage. Other states have similar programs, most of which are administered by a nonprofit managed by the insurance industry called AIPSO. The AIPSO website has information regarding assigned risk insurance for each state.
As the saying goes, time heals all wounds, and even insurers put the past behind them eventually. How long that takes is up to the individual car insurance company, but there are some steps you can take to improve your standing for the next time you shop for car insurance.
Drive more defensively. Most motorists know that being a good driver—by heeding speed limits and traffic rules, for instance—can contribute to lower car insurance rates over time. In fact, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 29 percent of the nearly 32,000 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2022 were related to speeding. It’s also smart to avoid other types of aggressive driving that can lead to a ticket—running red lights, failing to yield the right of way when you should—and never drive under the influence, no matter what. Worters says all of these behaviors can result in points on your license that can stick around for several years, and, depending on the incident’s severity, affect your insurance rate for even longer than that. “Insurers look at frequency and severity,” Worters explains, adding that if you’ve been convicted of multiple moving violations or have been involved in a number of crashes that led to costly repairs, your rates will go up accordingly.
Pull the plug on distracted driving. According to NHTSA, distracted driving has eclipsed intoxicated driving as the leading cause of traffic fatalities, and it accounts for nearly a third of all crash-related costs in the U.S. Distracted driving also caused 1.3 million nonfatal injuries and 10,546 traffic deaths last year. Although many cars now have technology that allows the driver to make hands-free calls using voice commands, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has found that hands-free calling is just as distracting as picking up a phone to make a call. Needless to say, resisting the temptation to use your phone for anything will reduce your likelihood of crashing. Some insurance companies offer a discount if you opt into a telematics program that allows them to track your driving habits. Although CR and others have noted significant privacy concerns, Progressive, USAA, and others, for example, use app-based trackers that ding drivers for—among other things—answering calls or picking up a phone for any reason while they’re driving.
Take a defensive driving course. Worters says that a defensive driving course can help lower your insurance rates, although any remaining points on your license will still have an impact. But in some states, a defensive driving course won’t make a difference as far as your rates—or the points accumulated on your license—if you’ve been compelled to take the course because of a moving violation conviction. Many courses are offered online, but make sure the one you choose is accepted by the state that issued your driver’s license. A quick search on your state’s DMV website can be helpful in identifying a suitable course if one is available where you live. One CR staffer with a good driving record found that he could save 10 percent by taking a 6-hour online course. 
Improve your credit score. Only three states—California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts—don’t allow car insurance companies to consider a credit score when pricing insurance. The rest permit the practice. According to Value Penguin, an organization that provides financial guidance to consumers, insurers charge people with low credit scores more not because they’re more likely to crash or get a speeding ticket, but because they believe they’re more likely to file a claim. (A recent car insurance survey conducted by CR found that age is more likely than income to influence someone’s decision to file a claim. Older drivers are more likely to file.) CR is fighting to ban the use of credit scores in insurance pricing, but meanwhile, it pays to monitor your credit score and credit reports. Start by getting a free annual credit report from each of the three major credit agencies (Equifax, Transunion, and Experian) at, and reviewing it to make sure the information is accurate.
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