This safe-driving perk protects your premium after an at-fault accident.
Car insurance is a grudge purchase that no one enjoys shopping or paying for, but nearly all states require at least minimum coverage.
Accident forgiveness is an insurance benefit that can help to differentiate providers and policies. Carriers that offer accident forgiveness provide you with the assurance that after your first at-fault accident, your monthly premiums will not increase. For drivers that want to hedge their bet against the potential costly after-effects of a wreck, accident forgiveness is a great option to look into.
What is accident forgiveness?
Accident forgiveness is a car insurance add-on or perk that protects your monthly premium from increasing after your first at-fault accident. Depending on your provider, you either pay to add it to your policy or earn it after keeping your record clean for a specified number of years.
A range of insurance options similar to accident forgiveness include:
- First-ticket forgiveness. Protects you against a premium increase after your first violation or ticket. Similar to car accidents, tickets or moving violations typically result in a rate hike.
- Disappearing deductible. An optional feature that reduces your deductible by a specified amount each year you’re insured without an accident. For instance, Nationwide’s Vanishing Deductible program decreases your deductible by $100 for each accident-free year.
- Good driver discount. Rewards drivers who maintain a clean record with a discount off typical rates — usually a flat percentage off monthly premiums.
How does accident forgiveness work?
Accident forgiveness kicks-in once you get into your first at-fault accident and submit a claim to cover the damage. Typically after you submit a claim, your insurance premium increases to cover the cost of the damage paid out and because you’re now deemed a high-risk driver. If you have accident forgiveness you won’t experience a rate increase to your monthly premium after your first accident.
How much does it cost?
You might not have to pay anything at all for accident forgiveness. Many insurers provide it as a loyalty perk, upgrading the policies of longtime customers who keep their driving records free of accidents for three or more years. Other insurers offer it as an add-on feature, with costs that vary by provider.
Still others offer accident forgiveness as both a perk and an add-on. Geico, for example, upgrades its customers’ policies after five years of accident-free coverage or as a paid policy option for around $6 a month.
Why would I need accident forgiveness?
Accident forgiveness can provide you peace of mind that comes with premiums that stay the same after a first accident.
Insurance rate hikes after an accident can be huge depending on the amount of damage paid out on the claim. Even a small fender bender can affect your premiums, leaving you with higher payments for up to three years after an accident.
The exact premium increase you face depends on your carrier, the severity of the accident and your state. But averages hover around 44% after reporting a claim.
When you consider that one in eight people are on the road without insurance, even the most cautious drivers may need to worry about footing the bill after an accident.
Is accident forgiveness worth it?
It depends on your driving habits. Generally, accident forgiveness can save you money in the long run if it’s a free benefit or you’re paying a small monthly fee for it.
Say you pay a $100 monthly premium to Geico for a policy, and you get into an accident. Factoring in the potential 44% premium increase you face after filing a claim, your premium increases to $144 — or $528 more a year. Paying a mere $6 a month to add accident forgiveness to your policy would have prevented that increase.
If your accident is the result of risky driving, like a DUI or high-speed driving, however, accident forgiveness won’t prevent your insurer from dropping you at renewal time.
How can I qualify for accident forgiveness?
The easiest way to qualify for accident forgiveness is to maintain a clean driving record. Most insurers require at least three years of crash-free driving before you’re eligible for the benefit.
Note that if you change providers, you’ll likely reset the clock to whatever term your new insurer requires for eligibility. It’s just one way that insurance companies build loyalty.
For multidriver policies, the benefit likely applies to one accident across all drivers on your policy. When a covered driver takes advantage of accident forgiveness, it’s typically no longer available to other drivers on the policy until you earn it back.
What if I don’t qualify for accident forgiveness?
If you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness due to claims over the past three years, you can research alternative high-risk car insurance options. One way to save is to explore pay-as-you-go car insurance. Usage-based policies are a great choice for drivers with a short commute and less-than-clean driving record. The money you save on low mileage can counteract the higher premium for high-risk drivers.
How long an accident stays on your driving record depends on your state and the severity of the crash. On average, a typical at-fault accident will be on your record for three years. If you focus on three years of driving with no claims, you can then apply for accident forgiveness.
Not all states allow insurers to offer accident forgiveness to their customers. When signing up for a policy, ask your provider if your state allows this option.
How to qualify for accident forgiveness
- Drive defensively. Even if you’re a safe driver, assume everyone else on the road isn’t. Stay watchful of other drivers, especially at intersections and when passing or turning.
- Take a driving improvement course. Brush up on your driving skills and get a refresher of advanced road safety skills.
- Avoid making small claims. If you can pay out of pocket for a broken windshield, your rates won’t increase after a claim and you should be closer to qualifying for accident forgiveness. And if you’re able to pay for small repairs out of pocket, you can afford a higher deductible, which has the side effect of lowering your rates.
Pros and cons of accident forgiveness
- Safe driving perk. If your driving record is free of accidents over three to five years, your insurer may upgrade your policy to include accident forgiveness.
- Protects your premiums. Saves you money by preventing premium increases after an accident
- Limited availability. Accident forgiveness isn’t legal in all states, and not every provider offers it.
- Not always free. You might need to pay to add this benefit to your policy.
- Covers your first accident only. After your first at-fault accident, accident forgiveness disappears from your policy’s benefits — often for another three to five years.
Is luxury car insurance worth it?
If you’re on the fence about whether or not luxury car insurance is worth paying for, consider all of your options before making a decision.
For example, if you drive a BMW but are still confined to a specific budget, you might want to stick to a conventional insurance policy and pay extra for higher collision and comprehensive coverage. Another option would be to pay for an umbrella policy to get extra liability coverage beyond the limits that your car insurance policy offers.
On the other hand, if you drive a super expensive car like the Aston Martin One-77, which sells for around $1.9 million, getting top-of-the-line luxury car insurance is going to be worth it in the long run, since the cost of repairs could be huge.
Who offers accident forgiveness?
|Farmers||Free policy upgrade after three years of no accidents|
|Geico||Free policy upgrade after five years of no accidents|
|Liberty Mutual||Available for purchase after five years of no accidents|
|Nationwide||Available for purchase|
|Progressive||Free policy upgrade for customers of at least five years with no accidents over three years|
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How do I apply for accident forgiveness?
To apply for accident forgiveness, first check your current coverage to make sure that it’s not already on your policy. This is especially true if you’ve been with the same carrier and accident free for three or more years.
To apply with your current plan, either log in to your online account or call your insurer to ask if the benefit is available. When shopping for new carriers, you can often select accident forgiveness as an optional add-on to a policy quote.
To protect yourself against a potential premium increase, accident forgiveness can be a valuable benefit to consider.Shop around for the best overall value when considering your car insurance options.