High-risk car insurance

How to get cheaper cover when you're classified as a high-risk driver. Compare quotes and apply today.

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Caught using your mobile phone behind the wheel? Picked up points on your licence as a result? That’s just one of the things that could mean insurers see you as a high-risk driver. And if you’re considered high risk, it can have a major impact on your car insurance premiums. We explain what could put you in a high-risk car insurance category and how to keep costs to a minimum.

What is high-risk car insurance?

High-risk car insurance caters for drivers that insurers think are more likely to make a claim, due to certain risk factors. Your age, your driving history and even where you live could mean an insurer sees you as a high-risk driver. Your risk factor might be compounded by the type of car you’re driving, too. When a car insurer sets your premiums, these are largely based on the level and type of risk the insurer thinks you represent.

What makes someone a high-risk driver?

You may be considered a high-risk driver if:

  • You’ve been involved in a car accident
  • You have a history of making insurance claims
  • You’ve had your licence revoked due to serious driving offences
  • You have outstanding criminal or motoring convictions, including those that result in points on your licence
  • You only recently passed your driving test
  • You are a young driver (aged under 25, for example)
  • You live in a location with a high level of accidents or car crime
  • You work in an occupation that’s considered high risk

How do I know if I am considered high risk?

Danny Butler

Finder insurance expert Danny Butler answers

Unhelpfully, insurers don’t typically offer a button to click that will tell you whether you’re low, medium or high risk in their eyes. However, if you’re struggling to find an insurer that will offer you cover, or if the quotes you’re getting are sky-high, there’s a good chance you’re regarded as a high-risk driver.

There’s no magic formula for working out what factors are making you higher risk, and different insurers will measure risk differently. But if you fit one or more of the criteria outlined in the checklist above, it could well be the reason.

Is it harder to get insurance as a high-risk driver?

Unfortunately, yes, it can be harder to find cover from mainstream providers as a high-risk driver.

Generally, insurers determine their own driver categories. One provider might have 3 set tiers – for low, medium and high risk – while another might take a more nuanced approach.

Either way, car insurers are under no obligation to offer cover to all drivers, and some may decline to quote if they consider you a high risk. Insurers that are willing to offer cover are likely to charge more than they would for lower-risk drivers.

If you struggle to find cover from mainstream providers, it could be worth trying more niche insurers that specialise in high-risk car insurance.

Does high-risk insurance offer the same cover as other policies?

Typically, yes. Once you’ve found a provider that’s willing to insure you, you should be covered in the same way as any other driver, depending on the level of cover you opt for. There are 3 main levels.

  • Third-party. This is the minimum level required to legally drive on UK roads. It covers you against the cost of injury to other people or damage to their cars or property. Third-party insurance offers no protection for your own car.
  • Third-party, fire and theft. Offers the same third-party protection as above, plus cover if your car is damaged by fire or stolen.
  • Comprehensive cover. All of the above, plus comprehensive insurance offers cover for your car if it’s damaged in an accident.

Common convictions that might make a driver high risk

Of all the factors that can make you higher risk, a poor driving history is probably the most obvious. Been caught speeding or driving dangerously? Insurers will assume that this increases the risk of you driving too fast or unsafely again in the future, and load your premiums accordingly.

Here are some common driving convictions that can bump up your premiums substantially. They’ll also land you with points on your licence and/or a fine.

OffenceDetails
Speeding – “minor offence”Provided you are not dramatically exceeding the speed limit, it is likely to be regarded as a “minor offence”. This will result in a Fixed Penalty Notice comprising £100 fine and 3 points on your licence. If it’s your first offence, you may be offered the option to pay to attend a speed awareness course, in which case the points will be eradicated. You won’t need to declare it to your insurer, so it won’t affect your premiums.
Speeding – “major offence”If you’re caught doing more than 45% over the speed limit, the case may be passed to the magistrate’s court and you could face a bigger fine – up to a maximum of £1,000, or £2,500 if you were driving on a motorway. You’ll also receive more points on your licence (typically 6 points), or may even be banned from driving – typically for 7 to 56 days.
Using your mobile phone while drivingYou should not use a handheld mobile phone while driving – including to send texts. This applies even if you’re sitting in stationary traffic. You could end up with 6 points on your licence and a £200 fine.
Failing to stop after an accidentThis is regarded as a serious offence, with a maximum penalty of £5,000 or even 6 months’ imprisonment – though the latter is only in the most serious cases. You’ll also get 5-10 points on your licence, or may be disqualified from driving.
Driving without insuranceIt is illegal to drive a car on UK roads without at least third-party insurance. If you are caught driving uninsured, the police could give you a fixed penalty of £300 and 6 penalty points.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugsDriving or attempting to drive while under the influence of drink or drugs – including if your alcohol level is above the permitted limit – is one of the most serious driving offences. You’ll receive up to 11 points on your licence and could face an unlimited fine, a driving ban of a year or more, and imprisonment.

Do I have to let my insurer know if I have points on my licence?

Yes. Most, if not all policies stipulate that you must tell your insurer about anything that raises your risk level unless you can reasonably expect the provider to know about it already. You should declare it to your existing insurer as soon as the offence takes place, and to all subsequent insurers when you get a quote.

  • Even if you think your insurer does know about it already, it’s worth confirming and checking that your cover is still valid.
  • If your insurer doesn’t know about it, not telling them may be used to deny a claim later on.

Avoid unnecessary headaches by alerting your insurance provider to any changes in your driving record.

Can my age make me higher risk?

Yes. Data from the Association of British Insurers (ABI) shows that certain age groups are much more likely to make a car insurance claim than others. This means people that fall into these age groups are seen as higher risk by default.

The biggest and most frequent claims are made by drivers aged 20 and under, who therefore face the highest premiums. Those aged 86 plus are also likely to be seen as higher risk due to significantly higher-than-average claim frequency and size.

Can my postcode make me higher risk?

When setting premiums, an insurer will look at your location’s level of crime, how quiet or busy the roads are and how many claims have been made for that area. If you live in a city with busy roads and a relatively high accident rate, or an area where car crime is rife, you’ll likely be seen as higher risk than someone who lives in a safer, rural area.

Can my job make me higher risk?

It might not be the first thing that springs to mind when you wonder what’s driving up your insurance premiums, but people in certain professions incur higher premiums than others, all else being equal. Sometimes this is down to when you’re likely to be driving. For example, doctors, nurses and other shift workers might be driving to and from work at unsociable hours (and potentially driving tired).

Could my car put me in a high-risk car insurance category?

Potentially, yes. Even if your personal risk factors are low, your choice of car could put you into a high-risk category. So be prepared for high car insurance premiums if you drive any of the following:

  • A high-performance car. High-performance models will be seen as less safe, regardless of who’s behind the wheel. And, to be fair, most people won’t buy fast cars with powerful engines if all they plan to do is potter sedately to the local supermarket.
  • An unusual car. For example, imported cars may be more likely to incur higher premiums. Often this is because they will be seen as harder and more expensive to repair.
  • A modified car. If, for example, you’ve altered the suspension or souped up the spoilers, these modifications could mean insurers see your car as higher risk.

Is high-risk car insurance more expensive?

You wouldn’t usually associate anything “high risk” with moderation, and the same is true of the cost of high-risk car insurance. As you’ve probably worked out by now, car insurance for high-risk drivers (or cars) is pricier than equivalent cover for low-risk drivers.

How much more expensive depends on exactly what’s pushing up your risk. As an example, let’s take one of the least avoidable risk factors: age. According to the ABI’s latest figures, 18-20 year olds pay average premiums of around £1,000. Drivers aged between 36 and 80 pay less than £500, on average. If you’re a young driver, check our dedicated young driver insurance guide for advice on how to keep costs down.

If more than one risk factor applies to you, the price is likely to go up exponentially. If you’re a 19-year-old, London-based driver with 3 points on your licence, be prepared for a shock when you get quotes.

How can I reduce my risk level?

Step one to reducing your risk level is to understand the factors affecting car insurance premiums. This can help you easily pick out ways to reduce your costs that apply to your particular risks.

A few tactics that could help reduce your risk level in a few cases include:

  • Take an advanced driving course: Pass Plus, for example. Even if you don’t think you need it, officially learning safe driving techniques with an approved instructor could make you eligible for premium reductions. This might help in particular if you’re an inexperienced driver, or want to prove you’ve learned your lessons after being convicted of dangerous driving.
  • Drive a car that’s cheaper to insure (if possible). You can find typical car insurance rates by a car’s make and model online. Rates for smaller cars tend to be less expensive than high-performance or flashy cars. Features such as safety devices and anti-theft systems could earn you extra discounts.
  • Secure your car. Many insurers will think favourably if your car has an up-to-date, high-quality alarm, or if you store your car in a secure garage at night.
  • Drive carefully and safely (from now on). If you have points on your licence, in most cases you’ll need to wait for 4 years for them to be “spent”. For very serious offences, such as drink-driving, it’s 11 years. But if you commit a second offence before the first set has expired, a judge can take this into account and could penalise you more harshly than simply adding your new offence to your record for 4 or 11 years. Safe driving also reduces the risk of you making a claim, helping you build up your no-claims bonus.

What else can I do to reduce the cost of high-risk car insurance?

If you’re lumped into a high-risk car insurance category, there’s no one way to guarantee cover at a low cost. It’s worth comparing a range of providers. If necessary, speak directly to a provider that specialises in high-risk drivers.

Here are a few major steps you can take to reduce your premiums.

  • Keep an eye out for discounts. Some providers offer discounts just for renewing online, for example.
  • Drop optional extras you may not need. If you could live without a courtesy car while yours is in for repair, check if it would be cheaper to go for a provider that doesn’t offer one.
  • Choose a higher excess. Your excess majorly affects your premiums. A higher excess can result in wiggle room for more important claims.
  • Consider telematics insurance. This tracks how well you drive using a small “black box” that’s installed in your car. If it proves you’re driving safely, your insurer is likely to reduce your premiums.
  • Look into pay-as-you-go insurance. If you don’t drive every day – or even every week – see if you qualify for use-based insurance.
  • Pay your premiums up-front. It often costs less overall to pay your premiums up-front each year rather than monthly.
  • Look for a multi-policy discount. If you bundle multiple cars or insurance, including home insurance, life insurance or other coverage, with one provider, you’re often eligible for a multi-policy discount.

    Bottom line

    There may be any number of reasons why an insurer puts you in a high risk category with an equally high car insurance premium. But don’t fret just yet. If you’re careful, there are steps you can take to lower your costs.

    Don’t default into auto-renewing with the same insurer from fear that nobody else will cover you. It’s always a good idea to shop around, even if it’s specialist cover. Once you have found some policies that match your needs, compare them to find the best.

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