What Is Nonstandard Car Insurance?

Young woman smiling and driving her car on a sunny day

Nonstandard insurance is a type of insurance for drivers who are considered higher risk. People who have limited driving experience or poor driving history can fall into this category—and usually this means you pay higher insurance rates. Read on to learn what nonstandard insurance is and how it works.

Why You Might Need Nonstandard Insurance

When you apply for car insurance, the insurance company will look at the insurance risk you present when deciding your rates and whether to take you on as a customer. They do this by considering factors such as your driving history, the car you drive and how much you drive.

Safer drivers tend to have an easier time securing coverage and landing better insurance deals than drivers with accidents or driving violations on their record. Your credit history can also be considered during underwriting; though the use of credit information is restricted or prohibited in some states.

Car insurance is typically broken down into three risk tiers—standard, nonstandard and preferred. Here's what you need to know about each tier:


Standard insurance rates are typically offered to average drivers with a middle-of-the-road risk level. Drivers in this category might not have a blemish-free driving history, but they don't have a poor enough record to be considered high risk.


The nonstandard insurance category is for drivers who are perceived as a greater liability to an insurance company. You could be considered high-risk if:

  • You're a new driver.
  • You've been in many recent accidents.
  • You've had poor payment history on past insurance policies or you've had many canceled or nonrenewed policies.
  • You have recent driving-related offenses on your record, such as speeding or moving violations.
  • You drive a rare or high-value vehicle.

You may be able to get nonstandard insurance from small companies that specialize in it and larger well-known insurance companies. It's worth noting that not every accident will result in nonstandard insurance and skyrocketing rates. The severity of the accident, the amount of the insurance claim and who's at fault are all factors that can affect its impact on your insurance cost.


Drivers who fall into the preferred insurance category have a very good driving history. These drivers are usually rewarded with the best insurance rates.

How Nonstandard Car Insurance Works

If you're involved in an at-fault accident, get a speeding ticket or have your license suspended, your rate could increase. The process of getting a new policy as a higher-risk driver isn't much different than any other policy—you can reach out to an agent or shop around online for quotes.

The difference is you'll likely notice that quotes are higher than what you see marketed for standard policies. Car insurance rates for higher-risk drivers can vary depending on a wide range of factors. But generally speaking, a driver without prior accidents could see a 50% increase in rates after an at-fault accident, according to The Zebra, an insurance comparison site. After a DUI offense, a driver's insurance rate could increase by 30% to 100% or more.

If an insurance provider decides you present too much risk to insure, however, it could result in insurance cancellation or nonrenewal. Serious offenses such as DUI/DWI and reckless driving could cause you to be added to your state's high-risk insurance pool and make it harder to find coverage. Costs for high-risk insurance policies can be much higher.

How to Reduce Your Insurance Costs

If you're considered a higher-risk driver because of accidents or violations, there may not be much you can do to get into a lower-risk tier aside from waiting until that history is further in the past. That said, taking the steps below could help you secure the lowest rate you might qualify for given the circumstance:

  • Shop around: Comparing rates with multiple insurance companies could help you find the best quotes you may be able to qualify for given your driving history.
  • Work to improve your credit score: In many states, insurers are allowed to consider an insurance-based credit score when deciding whether or not you qualify for insurance and for what insurance rate. This score predicts your likelihood of insurance loss, and your credit history plays a role in the calculation. Making on-time debt payments and keeping low debt balances could help your credit and improve your chances of getting better quotes.
  • Focus on safe driving: Insurers may consider the past three to five years of driving history when determining your risk. That's why it's important to establish a better driving history moving forward.
  • Cash in on discounts: If you're a student driver, showing records of good grades could help you qualify for a discount. Other discounts may also exist if you bundle insurance, so ask agents about options that could lower your rate.

The Bottom Line

Paying higher car insurance because of recent driving history could be a shock to your budget. Consider getting on the phone to speak with agents to shop around and ask about what options you have to lower your rate.

If your credit score is an area that could use improvement, consider signing up for credit monitoring to keep track of score growth as you work on it. With Experian CreditWorksSM, you can get credit reports, FICO® Score updates and alerts for free, which can be useful tools on the journey to improving your score.