Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health in...

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Written by Rachael Brennan
Licensed Insurance Agent Rachael Brennan

Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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Reviewed by Jeffrey Johnson
Insurance Lawyer Jeffrey Johnson

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2022

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In a nutshell...

  • All applicants for car insurance must meet underwriting requirements before they will be extended any policy offer
  • Some insurance companies won’t insure drivers with multiple tickets or accidents on their driving record
  • If you have a bad driving record, you may have to shop for high-risk auto insurance to qualify for coverage
  • Any tickets or accidents that you have within the last three years can be considered in the rating process
  • Not only will you pay high-risk rates, you could also pay a penalty if recent tickets and accidents are surchargeable

If you’re shopping for auto insurance, having a bad driving record is a lot like having bad credit when you need an auto loan.

As long as you have an active driver’s license, you’ll be able to find coverage, but there’s a chance that the coverage will come with a high price tag. Drivers that have a high risk of filing a claim pay high insurance rates.

You can’t avoid paying an inflated insurance rate with a bad record. The most that you can do is prepare yourself for what is to come while you shop the marketplace to find the best rate.

Enter your zip code above to begin your comparison. Fortunately, your bad driving record will improve over time just like your credit. Here’s a guide to shopping for high-risk car insurance:

Why does your driving past matter?

You may want to keep what’s in the past in the past but car insurance companies don’t. If you once were a reckless driver, you may have a record full of moving violations and minor fender benders.

Even though you’ve turned your driving around it doesn’t mean that your past won’t come back to bite you when you’re buying auto insurance.

Auto insurance companies look into your driving past simply to get an idea of how responsible you are while you’re driving a car and how skilled you are at avoiding collisions.

If you’re in an accident or two, the likelihood that you’ll get into another one is high.

There’s also a direct correlation between tickets and accidents. This correlation is why both tickets and accidents are used to determine your future rates.

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How do tickets and accidents affect your rates?

Moving violations and at-fault accidents can affect your personal car insurance rates in multiple ways. Firstly, the insurance company has the right to assess a surcharge to your policy if you’ve had a ticket or an at-fault accident in the last three years.

It doesn’t matter which carrier you were insured with when the record was recorded, any insurer can surcharge you.

Surcharges are penalties that can drive up your premiums but that’s not the only impact you’ll have to worry about.

Just one accident or a couple minor convictions for speeding could land you in an entirely different risk class.

If you were once a preferred risk, going to a standard or high-risk policyholder could affect your premiums even more.

How long can blemishes on your record affect your rates?

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If you default on a credit card, you don’t have to worry about the default affecting your creditworthiness forever. A ticket won’t affect your insurability forever either.

An at-fault accident is only classified as surchargeable for three years and the same goes for a minor driving infraction.

The period doesn’t start when the surcharge is added to the policy, it starts from the accident date or the conviction date reported for the violation. The rules vary for serious moving violations, but in most states, you can still only be surcharged for three years.

The carrier can still look at a DUI or reckless driving conviction for seven to ten years when determining your rate class.

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Why do you need to know a company’s underwriting requirements?

Anytime that you’re applying for an insurance policy with a bad record, it’s important that you find out what the carrier’s underwriting requirements are for new business.

Every carrier sets different requirements. The only limitations are those that are set by the Department of Insurance.

If you have a clean driving record and a valid license, you won’t have trouble meeting most company requirements. You may start getting denial letters when you have the following:

  • Multiple tickets
  • Multiple at-fault accident
  • Combination of tickets and accidents

It’s better not to waste your time applying for a policy through preferred carriers with more strict underwriting guidelines.

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Can you lose your insurance for having tickets and accidents?


If you get a ticket shortly after your new insurance policy takes effect, you don’t have to worry about losing insurance right away.

Being one ticket away from losing your insurance is a scary thought, but carriers can’t cancel your insurance for a new ticket until your policy term is up and your renewal is being processed.

Can you still qualify for discounts with a bad record?

One of the consequences of getting a ticket or being liable for an accident is that you could lose several different discounts.

You’ll no longer qualify for the accident-free discount or the ticket-free discount, but that doesn’t mean you’ll never get a policy credit again.

Here are some discounts you may still be able to save with:

  • Multi-car
  • Multi-line
  • Good student (for drivers 25 and under)
  • Anti-theft device
  • Homeowner
  • Occupation
  • Mature driver
  • Driver training (for inexperienced drivers)
  • Experienced driver (for drivers over 25)

How can you find low-cost insurance with a bad record?


There are plenty of ways to look for low-cost insurance even when you’re a high-risk driver. The very first thing to do is find carriers that have favorable rates for drivers that have spotty records.

Some companies specialize in offering drivers with multiple tickets good rates. You can also try the following:

  • Shop around for a car with a good safety rating
  • Assign safer drivers in the home to more expensive cars
  • Insure high-risk drivers on liability-only vehicles
  • Raise your deductibles
  • Assess whether or not you need full coverage
  • Take traffic school when you’re given the option

Your bad driving record won’t affect you forever. Get through the next few years and you’ll be back to paying preferred rates.

If you want to shop around for high-risk insurance, use our online tool and see which carrier has fair rates for even the riskiest of drivers.