What Is Non-Standard Auto Insurance?

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Non-standard auto insurance typically refers to the tier of car insurance reserved for risky drivers. In most cases, non-standard insurance is the same as standard coverage; it's just being sold at a higher rate. A car insurance company may determine you are extraordinarily risky due to your driving record or your age and offer non-standard rates. However, non-standard insurance may also refer to coverage for drivers whose needs don't fit within standard insurance categories, such as car insurance for someone who doesn't own a car. Some major insurance carriers sell non-standard auto insurance alongside their standard coverage or through a subsidiary non-standard insurance company. Other independent insurance companies specialize only in non-standard or high-risk auto insurance.

How Does Non-Standard Auto Insurance Work?

“Non-standard auto insurance" is a term used to describe high-risk car insurance, the most expensive tier of coverage. Non-standard insurance is reserved for drivers who are too risky for insurance companies to cover at their standard rates. Typically, car insurance companies break down their coverage into three risk tiers: non-standard, standard and preferred. Those in the preferred tier will save the most money on their insurance premiums, while those in the non-standard tier tend to pay the highest rates, even though their coverage may be the same. These categorizations are necessary for insurance carriers to appropriately calculate their risk exposure and remain solvent.

For example, if you've been convicted of a DUI, or if you've filed multiple accident claims within the past few years, you pose a higher statistical risk to your insurer. As such, you'll fall under the non-standard tier of drivers, and your rates will be much higher than those of average drivers. If you pose enough risk, your insurance company could drop your policy, and you'd have to purchase coverage from an insurance company that specializes in non-standard auto insurance to keep driving. Your insurance company may also categorize you as a high-risk driver if you're younger than 25 or older than 75, if you lack driving experience or if you have a poor credit history.

Buying non-standard or high-risk auto insurance typically works the same way as any other car insurance policy, although your state may impose additional requirements depending on the reason for your non-standard qualification. For example, if you are a teenager and you want to purchase a car insurance policy from GEICO, the only difference you'll see between your policy and that of a middle-aged driver's is a difference in premiums. But the actual process of buying insurance will remain the same.

However, if your state requires you to file an SR-22 before re-registering your vehicle, as it might if you were convicted of a DUI, your process will differ. You'll need to ask your insurance company to file the form on your behalf, which will prove to your state that you've obtained adequate auto insurance. And at the time of filing, you'll have to pay a small fee. Such a driver would also see a significant increase in their auto insurance premiums.

How Much does Non-Standard Auto Insurance Cost?

The cost of non-standard auto insurance will depend on the average cost of insurance in your state and your reason for requiring non-standard coverage. For example, if you have committed a speeding violation, your rates may go up but not as much as they would if you were convicted of a DUI. Surprisingly, we found that in most states, age had the largest influence on rates. Teenage drivers tend to receive higher rates than drivers guilty of a DUI-related accident. As you can see below, the additional cost of non-standard insurance over a standard policy varies significantly based upon state and the reason the driver was determined to be higher risk.

StateAnnual Premium (Standard)Speeding ViolationDUI + AccidentYoung Driver
New Jersey$2,416$4,452$6,576$9,048
New York$1,812$2,544$5,532$6,216

Reasons You May Fall Into the Non-Standard Tier for Auto Insurance

As mentioned above, non-standard insurance is a broad term, and your reasons for requiring it may vary. Generally, any factor that would significantly raise your auto insurance rates would be an indication that you've entered the non-standard tier of insurance.

  • You are a high-risk driver. If you have had multiple traffic violations and accidents that have resulted in an insurance claim, you will likely be labeled a high-risk driver.
  • You are required to carry an SR-22. Your state may require you to carry an SR-22 if you've been convicted of a DUI or other form of reckless driving. For as long as the form is required, you'll have to pay for non-standard insurance if you want to legally drive.
  • Your car has a salvage title. Some major insurers will offer liability coverage for a rebuilt vehicle, but not collision or comprehensive coverage. If you can't obtain liability insurance coverage from a major insurance company, you may need to turn to a non-standard insurance carrier.

Another reason your coverage may be considered non-standard is if you carry non-owner car insurance. Non-owner car insurance is coverage for people who don't own a car but frequently drive. Unlike high-risk drivers, non-owners can find cheap liability insurance through most major insurance companies.

Who Sells Non-Standard Auto Insurance?

Many common insurance companies offer non-standard auto insurance as a separate tier of coverage. Additionally, some large insurers own smaller non-standard insurance companies, which they use to service the high-risk section of the market.

However, if you do require non-standard auto insurance, companies that specialize in non-standard coverage may provide you with better rates than larger insurance carriers. As always you should compare quotes from at least three different insurance companies to ensure you're getting a good rate.

Insurance companies that sell non-standard auto insurance

Finally, if you cannot obtain car insurance from any high-risk auto insurance company, consider your state's assigned-risk pool, which provides insurance to high-risk drivers who cannot otherwise obtain coverage. This should only be used as a last resort, however, as most state's assigned-risk programs tend to be more expensive than coverage offered by non-standard insurance companies.

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