What Is a High-risk Driver? (2023 Guide) – MarketWatch

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You’re Considered a High-risk Driver if You Have a DUI, Speeding Tickets or Many At-fault Car Accidents on Your Record, But It’s Possible To Find Car Insurance
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Daniel is a MarketWatch Guides team writer and has written for numerous automotive news sites and marketing firms across the U.S., U.K., and Australia, specializing in auto finance and car care topics. Daniel is a MarketWatch Guides team authority on auto insurance, loans, warranty options, auto services and more.
Rashawn Mitchner is a MarketWatch Guides team editor with over 10 years of experience covering personal finance and insurance topics.
If you have a less-than-perfect driving record, insurance companies may view you as a high-risk driver. This can make it harder to find affordable car insurance coverage. We at the MarketWatch Guides Team created this guide to help you learn what a high-risk driver is and how to avoid that label.
When you’re searching for coverage, it’s best to get auto insurance quotes from multiple companies. We’ve reviewed the country’s best car insurance companies, and we’ll recommend two that offer high-risk insurance coverage.
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The MarketWatch Guides Team is committed to providing reliable information to help you make the best decision possible about insuring your vehicle. Because consumers rely on us to provide objective and accurate information, we created a comprehensive rating system to formulate our rankings of the best car insurance companies. We collected data on dozens of auto insurance providers to grade the companies on a wide range of ranking factors. After 800 hours of research, the end result was an overall rating for each provider, with the insurers that scored the most points topping the list.
Learn more about our methodology and editorial guidelines.
A high-risk driver is someone who’s considered more likely to file insurance claims than a typical driver. Insurance companies look at your driving record to determine how risky it would be to insure you and how much to charge you for coverage. Your insurer will classify you as either low or high risk based on factors such as whether you have DUI (driving under the influence) convictions, several at-fault car accidents or a number of traffic violations on your record.
High-risk drivers typically pay much more expensive car insurance premiums because providers view them as greater liabilities. Insurers also believe these motorists are more likely to make late payments or miss payments altogether.
It’s important to keep in mind that “high-risk driver” isn’t a legal designation, and the factors used to classify drivers as low or high risk vary by insurer.
Auto insurance companies weigh many factors when determining if a driver is high risk or low risk. Typically, you’ll be considered high risk if the past three to five years of your driving history includes any of the following:
Aside from a poor driving record, your financial and insurance histories also help determine whether you fit into the high-risk category. Some of these factors include:
Insurance companies generally consider teen drivers riskier to insure than older and more experienced ones, but not all young drivers meet the definition of high risk.
 
 
High-risk drivers typically pay higher premiums than low-risk drivers. Riskier drivers could cost car insurance companies more money through claims payouts, so insurers protect themselves by charging these drivers more.
In the sections below, we’ll show how certain high-risk characteristics could affect your car insurance rates. The averages are based on rates for full coverage for a 35-year-old male driver.
An image of a driving profile that shows details car insurance companies use to set premiums
One of the biggest factors used to designate a driver as high risk is a DUI or DWI conviction. The table below shows the differences between average annual costs for drivers with a clean driving record and those with a DUI.
On average, one accident can increase your auto insurance premium by almost 50%. Drivers with more than one accident on their record will usually pay significantly more than low-risk drivers.
This table shows annual rate averages based on the number of at-fault accidents a driver has on their record.
*Cost data for accidents taken from 2022 information
Speeding is one of the most common moving violations. Each speeding ticket a driver gets will increase their premium, but the amount of the increase depends on how fast they were going when pulled over.
The table below shows annual rate averages for drivers with various types of speeding violations.
*Cost data for accidents taken from 2022 information
 
 
To avoid paying the higher rates that come with being labeled a high-risk driver, there are steps you can take. Here are the most important things to do to remain a low-risk driver:
Some insurance providers offer discounts for safe drivers or those who take defensive driving courses. But if you have infractions, you’ll likely just have to wait until they drop from your driving record to see a difference. Each state has its own regulations, but most traffic violations stay on your record for three to five years.
 
 
It may be difficult for higher-risk drivers to find cheap car insurance. However, a few providers offer affordable high-risk auto insurance. We recommend getting car insurance quotes from Country Financial and State Farm.
Country Financial can be a good option for high-risk drivers since it offers affordable car insurance for drivers with bad credit and DUI convictions. The company also has a usage-based insurance program called COUNTRY Financial DriverIQ®, which offers discounts to people who drive less often and practice safe driving habits.
The company holds an A financial strength rating from AM Best, and we rate it 8.9 out of 10.0 in our review of the best car insurance companies.
State Farm is the most popular car insurance company in the country. The provider tends to offer reasonable rates to young drivers and those with little driving experience, as well as discounts that can help policyholders save money. State Farm also has a telematics insurance program, Drive Safe & SaveTM, which reduces insurance costs for those who avoid risky behaviors such as speeding.
The company holds an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best, indicating that it’s well-equipped to pay out insurance claims. Because of State Farm’s affordable rates and numerous coverage options, we rate the insurer 9.4 out of 10.0 and name it Editor’s Choice.
Read more: State Farm insurance reviews

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The term “high-risk driver” isn’t a formal legal classification, and the characteristics used to define it vary by insurer. Typically, insurance carriers view drivers as high risk if they’ve been convicted of DUIs, accumulated many points on their driver’s licenses or been involved in several car accidents. A driver may also be considered high risk if they have poor credit or have made multiple insurance claims in the last three years.
The highest-risk drivers are those with DUI convictions or many car accidents on their records. Though most research shows teenagers aged 16 to 19 are the most likely to get into car accidents, insurance companies don’t always consider them high-risk drivers.
Low-risk drivers are those who insurance companies believe are less likely to file claims. These drivers generally have clean driving records with few to no traffic violations and have experienced very few, if any, car accidents.
 
 
Because consumers rely on us to provide objective and accurate information, we created a comprehensive rating system to formulate our rankings of the best car insurance companies. We collected data on dozens of auto insurance providers to grade the companies on a wide range of ranking factors. The end result was an overall rating for each provider, with the insurers that scored the most points topping the list.
Here are the factors our ratings take into account:
Our credentials:
*Data accurate at time of publication.
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