The Woes of Being High Risk and Knowing What to Do About It

badly calculated risks = high risk insurance costs
Maybe next time, run your risk through a calculator first.

How Long Will You Be ‘High Risk’?

The short answer is about 3-5 years. However, like everything else in life, the whole picture is a bit more complicated. For one, ‘High risk’ is just never good for anything, is it? In a cultural context, anyway; I mean, if we’re looking at it from a philosophical standpoint, what does it even mean?

But, I digress.

It’s an unfortunate label that sometimes gets slapped onto our records when we’ve gone and taken a wrong turn down a dark, alluring avenue made poor life choices. Like a kick in the pants when we’re already down and on fire. Of course, you probably aren’t here to read literary metaphors about car insurance. Rather, you’re wondering, now that this is a part of your life, 1) what can you do about it, and 2) how long will it take before everything goes back to normal?

First, you should have an understanding of what being high-risk actually means.

What is High-Risk?

So, first things first, let’s take a look at the 3 categories of ‘risk’ in driving.

  1. Preferred Risk Driver
  2. Standard Risk Driver
  3. High Risk Driver

Now, just by looking at that list, you should intuitively know that you want to be in the first category. Because it’s ‘preferred’, and because it’s number 1 and you want to be number 1 (flashbacks of my mother looming over me, waving my nearlybut-not-quite-perfect report card in my face, while chanting that like it was a mantra).

Ahem.

From thebalance.com, the characteristics of a preferred driver:

  • Age 25 or Older
  • Clean driving record
  • Minimal not-at-fault claims
  • Good insurance credit score
  • Home Owner*
  • Prior 6 months of insurance with liability limits of 100/300 or higher

*no avocado toast for being not high-risk; is it worth it?

The liability limits point is actually just because it is the best protection against lawsuits. In other words, choosing minimal liability coverage typically flags you as a driving risk, over those with the same stats but shell out more. It’s like privilege, but for car insurance. Fun, right?

Your standard driver sits in between the elite, top of the triangle, and bottom-feeders of the aquarium:

  • One or two minor traffic violations
  • No more than one at-fault accident
  • Average insurance credit score
  • Prior 6 months of insurance

What this means is that if you’re in this risk category, you still stand a chance at a decent insurance rate if one or more characteristics (good credit but has a traffic violation; poor credit but clean driving record) is in the positives. Which is kind of like the standard education system in North America.

And then, the third category is the one you don’t want to find yourself in if you can help it, *sad drumroll*

  • Major traffic violation
  • Combination of at-fault accidents and tickets
  • No prior insurance
  • Terrible insurance credit score

You don’t want this, trust me. High risk drivers are known to get into accidents a lot, and to file multiple claims. It’s expensive to insure them, so their insurance is expensive. It’s like a bad feedback loop.

being labeled high risk isn't great, but no need for death threats ... to yourself?
No need for that, your insurance *will* go down. Deep breaths now …

The Good News

With that lesson out of the way, we can look at the silver lining. Since it depends on what ‘stage’ of risk you’re at, and the events leading up to this less-than-desirable outcome, the length of time you are considered high risk depends on what made you a risk in the beginning.

Tip: Once you obtain a policy, it is in your best interest to keep the same policy for six months. Switching before your six months is up, means you will have to start all over, lengthening the time that you pay that high-risk rate.

It is possible to use a multiple declaration pages that prove six months of coverage were paid, but the hassle and time involved may not be worth it. Half a year ain’t that long; I have a jar of mayo in my fridge that’s seen more sun cycles than that (is that gross? I feel like it is).

Multiple Tickets

So you fridged-up more than once. That probably wasn’t a good idea, but hey, I’m not here to judge. If you are high risk due to multiple tickets or at-fault accidents, you can go back to your preferred provider once your oldest violation falls off. After a violation is 3 years old, it typically comes off your record. Of course, you still have to wait for your renewal to see a difference in your rate with the same carrier.

Tip: Ask your insurance agent to give you the dates of all your violations. Switching to a preferred carrier the day after your violation falls off is a great way to save money fast.

Not all insurance companies are the same. Some only count tickets received within the last 2 years. Usually, though, 3 years is the standard.

Major Violation

A major violation (e.g., a DUI) can affect your insurance rate for up to 5 years. You might get away with finding a carrier that is more lenient, but for the most part, a preferred rate won’t be available until 5 years have passed.

Tip: Get your Prada shoes and Gucci bag and start shopping. You’re peering through big ol’ sunglasses that cover 2/3 of your face into internet storefronts for an insurance carrier that does not add a surcharge for major violations after 3 years from your ticket date. Then, once you’ve gotten that down, do the same thing for 5 years from your ticket date, just as a double-check that you are, in fact, getting the cheapest auto insurance possible. Don’t want to get screwed the wrong way, amirite?

Sometimes, You Just Gotta Do The Time

Living with the high rates associated with being high-risk sucks. But it’s a necessary part of the legal and traffic systems to ensure that the roads are as safe as possible. The part you can control is the part that a lot of people overlook. They end up spending more time than necessary  being high-risk, simply because they don’t know to keep continuous insurance coverage.

The Bottom Line

The length of time required to get out of high-risk insurance rates is easily affected by your post-violation actions. Like being on parole, you want to be just a tad more careful, and think just a little bit longer. Don’t get any more tickets, and your path towards freedom and no red flags on your papers is open and waiting for you *mic drop*. Did I do that right?