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ByTaylor Moore Finance & Insurance Writer

Taylor Moore is a finance writer for Reviews.com. Her work has been published in Chicago magazine, the Chicago Reader, and elsewhere.

The Best Auto Insurance Companies for High-Risk Drivers

Car insurance companies determine risk using a number of different factors, but it ultimately boils down to how likely they believe you’ll file a claim or get into an accident. This means that you can be considered a “risky” driver due to factors outside your control, like age, gender, and where you live, and due to events on your driving record, which could include accidents, speeding tickets, and DUI convictions.

We looked at the 59 biggest car insurance companies and determined the best four for high-risk drivers, taking into account coverage options, discounts, and other policy features. Your status as a high-risk driver means that your rate is likely to be higher than average — and could even result in being denied coverage — but there are discounts and programs that can help mitigate the higher premiums. Regardless, we always recommend gathering quotes from multiple insurance providers so you can figure out which is best for you.

The 4 Best Auto Insurance Companies for High-Risk Drivers

The Best Auto Insurance Companies for High-Risk Drivers: Summed Up

  Progressive Allstate The Hartford Nationwide
Our review Our review Our review Our review
Best for
Discounts Young drivers Seniors Usage-based insurance
A.M. Best financial strength rating
A+ A+ A+ A+
J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study rating
3/5 3/5 3/5 3/5
Online claim filing
24/7 support
Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote Get a quote

Progressive — Best Discounts


Best Discounts
Progressive

Progressive

Pros
Easy ways to save
Usage-based insurance option
Cons
Subpar claims satisfaction
Few safety discounts

Why we chose it

Easy ways to save

Progressive offers a slew of discounts targeted to those considered “high-risk” drivers. For example, teens, who typically have higher rates than other drivers, can earn savings for being 18 years old or younger. Students can also get a deduction on premiums for having good grades or going to a college far from home.

Additionally, Progressive rewards drivers who haven’t had any tickets or accidents in the past three years. If that’s you, you could save up to 31% on your premiums. The insurance company also provides low-effort ways to save. For instance, it offers discounts for getting your car insurance quote online, for signing documents online, for forgoing mailed documents and relying on email, and for setting up autopay.

Usage-based insurance option

If your profile and driving history make you stereotypically “riskier” to insure (i.e., if you are young, a senior, or someone who has had lapses in car insurance coverage), we recommend looking into Progressive’s Snapshot program, which can give you a discount on your rate based on how you actually drive on the road. Snapshot uses an app on your phone or a telematic device in your car that transmits driving data back to your insurance provider. It’ll look at how often and how far you drive, how quickly you brake and accelerate, and how often you use your phone while driving (if you have the app installed).

“When a company sees that you’re not an aggressive driver, you can see savings that are sometimes in the hundreds of dollars,” says Daniel Walker, owner of auto insurance broker FCI Agency and writer for AutoInsurance.org. “Plus, sometimes just the knowledge of having a device or app that is tracking these habits is enough to help you clean up your driving.”

Those who don’t drive frequently or use their cars as primary transportation will likely benefit the most from using this program. Good drivers will also like this, since it’s a way to prove yourself to your insurance company. If you are someone who tends to take riskier maneuvers while driving (like accelerating and braking fast, speeding, and using your phone while driving), this program may benefit you as well, as it offers driving tips tailored to your actual driving habits — but just know that if you don’t adopt its advice, there is a chance that Progressive may raise your rate at renewal.

Points to consider

Subpar claims satisfaction

In J.D. Power's 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study, which evaluated the 23 top insurance providers, Progressive didn’t do so hot. It scored three out of five, performing well below the national average and below 16 other insurance companies. This is not necessarily a deal breaker — the score is considered “about average” — but it is worth weighing Progressive’s customer service record against those of other providers, like Amica and ERIE, which earned top marks in the study.

Few safety discounts

While Progressive does have Snapshot, which can give you a discount based on your real-life driving habits, it doesn’t have the range of safety feature discounts that other insurance companies have. For example, many of its competitors provide discounts for buying anti-lock brakes and anti-theft devices. Others will reward you for proactively participating in driver’s education and defensive driving courses. Given that Progressive prides itself on its discounts, this seems like a glaring omission.

Allstate — Best for Young Drivers

Best for
Young Drivers
Allstate

Allstate

Pros
Student driver discounts
Safe driver discounts
Valuable online educational resources
Cons
Mediocre customer service record
Expensive quotes

Why we chose it

Student driver discounts

Insurers traditionally consider student drivers difficult to insure, but Allstate offers plenty of discounts to offset the burden of higher premiums. For example, if a driver on your policy is under age 25, is a full-time student who gets good grades and attends school within 100 miles of where the car is garaged, and has completed the insurer’s teenSMART driver education program, Allstate will give them a break for being a “smart student.”

Safe driver discounts

Allstate will also reward people for being good drivers. As part of its safe driving bonus (a coverage add-on), you can get a discount on your premiums for every six months that you don’t get into an accident, as well as $100 off your deductible for every accident-free year (up to $500, or five years). Additionally, Allstate offers discounts if you have a car with safety features like anti-lock brakes or an anti-theft device.

Valuable online educational resources

Allstate has such a robust website that even non-customers can benefit from its content. Under its tools and resources page, you can find guides that break down each component of your auto policy, tips on how to get the best rate on your car insurance (regardless of your provider), and a calculator that will estimate your monthly car payments. Teen drivers, new drivers, and anyone wanting clarification on their insurance policy will appreciate this feature of the website. If you end up signing with Allstate, you’ll also become familiar with its online portal, where you can update coverage and deductibles on your auto policy or file a claim in the event of an accident, rather than going through your agent directly.

Points to consider

Mediocre customer service record

We aren’t horrified by Allstate’s record when it comes to claims satisfaction — but we also aren’t impressed by it. In an annual survey from J.D. Power, Allstate was rated three out of five (“about average”), slightly below the industry average and therefore mediocre when compared with other big-name providers. We still recommend pulling a quote from Allstate to see how it compares with other leading car insurance companies, but make sure you weigh your priorities when it comes to customer service.

Expensive quotes

One of the reasons why Allstate scored low with J.D. Power was because potential customers complained that its rates were higher than those of competitors. Because quotes are tailored for each customer and account for a variety of factors, your mileage may vary on this front. We always recommend pulling as many quotes as possible in the research process — the discounts we mention above could significantly offset your initial premium — but just know that Allstate may not be budget-friendly for everyone.

The Hartford — Best for Seniors

Best for
Seniors
The Hartford

The Hartford

Pros
AARP-endorsed
Coverage tailored to seniors
Decent claims satisfaction score
Cons
Lacking in educational content

Why we chose it

AARP-endorsed

The Hartford is best known for its partnership with AARP. Even though it serves drivers of all ages, it reserves special discounts and lifetime renewability guarantee for its AARP members aged 50 and older. The lifetime renewability guarantee means that, barring extreme circumstances, you’ll keep your coverage as long as you maintain your driving license and pay your premiums on time.

Coverage tailored to seniors

In the insurance industry, it’s generally understood that the younger you are, the greater of a risk you’re considered by insurance providers — and that’s why premiums are higher for young people and decrease as you age. But this graph of insurance costs is actually shaped more like a bell curve, as seniors (generally aged 65 and above) are also placed in the “high-risk” pool by insurance companies and are liable to receive higher rates than average. This understanding is why we like The Hartford.

As an insurance company targeted to seniors, The Hartford knows what benefits will best serve its customer base. For example, The Hartford offers a program called RecoverCare, which will reimburse you for home care expenses if you are injured in a covered accident and can’t perform them yourself. This includes house cleaning, lawn maintenance, snow removal, transportation services, food preparation, dog walking, grocery delivery, taxis (if you are unable to drive), and other essential services. While this is a great service for anyone who is incapacitated after an accident (regardless of age), it’s especially important for seniors, whose health may be more delicate than that of younger customers.

The Hartford also offers lifetime car repair assurance from its network of 1,600-plus auto repair shops, accident forgiveness (if you haven’t had an accident in the past five years), and disappearing deductible.

Decent claims satisfaction score

The Hartford scored three out of five (“about average”) from J.D. Power, but it did rank higher than the industry average for overall customer satisfaction. It’s not the highest honor one can get, but it does place The Hartford above our other top picks in this review.

Points to consider

Lacking in educational content

The Hartford’s website has some basic learning materials, like FAQs and some video tutorials on types of car insurance, but beyond that, it expects you to already understand the basics of car insurance. In contrast, many of its competitors, like Allstate, offer robust guides, glossaries, and informational tools to help customers understand the company and car insurance as a whole. Seniors who have been driving for a while may not need this level of hand-holding, but we do appreciate when companies go out of their way to educate customers who are less experienced.

Nationwide — Best Usage-Based Insurance


Best Usage-Based Insurance
Nationwide

Nationwide

Pros
Usage-based insurance option
Vanishing deductible add-on
Cons
Average customer service score

Why we chose it

Usage-based insurance option

Like Progressive, Nationwide has insurance policy options that adjust your rate based on your driving habits. Its SmartRide program is similar to Progressive’s Snapshot, but unlike Snapshot, it is available in all states and won’t raise your car insurance rates if you’re deemed a risky driver based on the driving data it collects (the program will either give you a discount or won’t change your rate at all).

Nationwide also rolled out a “pay-per-mile” SmartMiles program earlier this year that will change your rate based on how much you drive. This is advantageous for people who don’t use their cars often because they work from home or live in an area that’s walkable or has robust public transportation options. For now, it’s only available in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Washington, and the District of Columbia, though the program is set to be rolled out to other states.

Nationwide SmartMiles
Nationwide SmartRide
Progressive Snapshot
Best for
Infrequent drivers
Safe drivers
Safe drivers
States available
4 (Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Washington), and Washington, D.C.*
46 and Washington, D.C. (not available in Alaska, Hawaii, Louisiana, and Massachusetts)
45 (not available in Alaska, California, Hawaii, North Carolina, and New York)**
Features
Pay-per-mile: Pay a base rate + a variable rate that changes monthly based on miles driven
Road trip exception: Only the first 250 miles count on a single day
Based on driving habits: Download app or install device to track driving, see personalized feedback and estimated discount every week, and then lock in final discount after the program ends. Discount applied at policy renewal.
Based on driving habits: Download app or install device to track driving, see personalized feedback and estimated discount every week, and then lock in final discount after the program ends. Discount applied at policy renewal.
Program length
Month-to-month
4-6 months
6 months
Estimated discount
• N/A (based on miles driven per month)
• Safe driving discount: Up to 10% after first renewal
• Signup discount: 10%
• Discount upon renewal: Up to 40%
• Rate won’t increase if driving habits deemed risky
• Average signup discount: $26
• Average annual discount: $145
• Rate may increase depending upon driving habits
Driving factors assessed
Miles driven
Miles driven, hard braking, fast acceleration, nighttime driving
Miles driven, acceleration and brake usage, phone usage while driving

*Nationwide plans to roll out the program to other states soon.
**Coverage varies by state.

Vanishing deductible add-on

Nationwide rewards you for going accident-free. Through the Vanishing Deductible coverage add-on, you can earn $100 in credits for every accident-free year (up to five years). These credits, which reach a maximum of $500, would be applied to your deductible in the event of an accident. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and your Vanishing Deductible credit stands at $400, you only have to pay $100 for repairs. And if you need to use your Vanishing Deductible, the deductible will reset to $100 instead of $0.

Points to consider

Average customer service score

Nationwide was deemed “about average” by J.D. Power, and its score was just below the industry average. This means that your mileage will likely vary in terms of claims satisfaction. It’s worth gathering a quote from Nationwide, along with quotes from many other car insurance providers, but keep in mind that the service you receive may depend heavily on your assigned agent.

High-Risk Auto Insurance FAQ

What makes someone a high-risk driver?

The term “high-risk” is amorphous, but generally this category applies to people whom insurance companies deem more likely to get into a car accident or more likely to fall behind on insurance payments. Unfortunately, this often includes factors outside your control, like age and location. “Teenage and young drivers are considered risky, regardless of their driving history. Sometimes even living in a certain neighborhood can put you in this category,” says Tony Arevalo, an insurance agent at CarInsurance.net.

“Risky” drivers include, but are not limited to:

  • Drivers in their teens and 20s
  • Elderly drivers
  • New drivers
  • Drivers with poor credit history
  • Owners of exotic or high-powered vehicles
  • Drivers with lapsed or spotty insurance coverage history
  • Drivers with tickets, at-fault car accidents, or serious moving violations (such as a DUI or DWI)
  • Drivers who have filed too many insurance claims

How much auto insurance coverage should I have?

At minimum, you should have the coverage that is required by your state. We generally recommend having bodily injury liability and property damage liability, along with comprehensive, collision, medical payments, personal injury protection, and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.

“The more coverage you have, the better off you are,” says Daniel Walker, owner of auto insurance broker FCI agency and writer for AutoInsurance.org. “Basically, buy as much as you can afford. In a situation like this, it’s likely to be expensive, but fines or even lawsuits often can be more expensive.”

For more information, you can check out our guide to buying car insurance.

How do I rehabilitate my driving record?

While some factors may be outside of your control (for example, you cannot suddenly become older or younger), there are things you can do to be seen as safer and more reliable in the eyes of your insurance provider.

For example, you can:

  • Take a driver safety course
  • Always have car insurance and never let it lapse
  • Improve your credit history
  • Get good grades as a student
  • Drive less
  • File fewer insurance claims
  • Ask for a discount or shop around once your violations expire
  • Drive a safer car

What is an SR-22 and why do I need it?

Contrary to popular belief, an SR-22 is not a type of car insurance. It is a document that filed with your state DMV that proves that you have your state’s minimum required car insurance coverage. An SR-22 is typically ordered by the state or court if you have a major driving violation, have your license suspended or revoked, or have committed another offense. The form has to be filed by your insurance company if it’s mandated, so you’ll have to ask your company to help you out. However, not all insurance companies serve high-risk drivers, so not every company will file the SR-22 for you.

While an SR-22 typically doesn’t cost much (ranging from $15 to $25, depending on where you live), you may see a rise in your premiums, says Lev Barinskiy, insurance agent and CEO of SmartFinancial.com. This is due to having moving violations on your record and not necessarily from filing an SR-22. “The good news about the SR-22 is that you only need it for two to five years,” says Barinskiy. “With that said, you cannot escape that fate by avoiding driving during that time. As soon as you get back behind the wheel and buy insurance, you’re back on the clock.”

Can I go without insurance?

No. Driving without insurance is illegal in almost every state, so you must abide by your state’s minimum car insurance requirements. If you are denied car insurance, you may have to get assigned risk insurance. This places you with a car insurance company in a risk pool with other high-risk drivers — those who would otherwise not be insured. With assigned risk insurance, you buy the minimum amount of coverage required by your state, but it’s much more expensive than a normal auto insurance policy. It’s typically considered a last resort. If you feel that you need assigned risk insurance, any car insurance agent should be able to help you get a policy.

Our Other Auto Insurance Reviews

Auto insurance is a complex business, and you’ll want to know everything you can about your insurer. Luckily, we’ve been doing this for a while. Check out our in-depth auto insurance reviews below for more information about individual insurers.

The Best Auto Insurance Companies by State

Every state offers a unique set of insurance providers, and there are plenty of circumstances that affect the policies and coverage available to you. We've reviewed the best car insurance options in every state using a methodology similar to the one for this review on nationwide providers.

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