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What makes a driver high-risk to insurance companies, and what can you expect as you compare quotes?

Are you a high-risk driver?

Generally, those deemed high risk by insurance companies fall into one of these categories:

Inexperienced drivers: You’ve been driving less than eight to 10 years. Most insurance companies levy an inexperience surcharge. The surcharge is highest for those who are newly licensed and gradually shrinks with each year that you drive.

Young drivers: Car insurance for teens is among the very highest because young people have by far the most accidents. Only part of the high rate is due their inexperience. Every insurance company “buckets” age groups differently, but if you’re under age 25 you can expect to be dumped into the most expensive bucket.

Drivers with black marks on their record: A single ticket or minor fender bender might not make you high-risk, but multiple tickets or a serious infraction – reckless driving or a DUI – certainly will. So will multiple at-fault claims. These could require you to get an SR-22, a form from the insurance company that verifies you have SR-22 insurance.

Drivers not currently insured: If you have a license but no insurance, insurance companies assume you’ve been driving uninsured and are therefore riskier.

Drivers with bad credit: Drivers with poor credit-based insurance scores tend to file more frequent claims. An Insurance.com rate analysis found they are charged a rate that is an average of 71% than it is for drivers with good credit.

What is the best insurance company for high-risk drivers?

If you are a high-risk driver, you will be unable to purchase the same policies at the same rates as drivers who fall into the standard and preferred categories. Those drivers, who have no or few violations, minimal claims, good credit and a continuous insurance history, get better rates because they pose less risk. Preferred drivers, who are older, married and own homes, pay the least and get the most discounts.

As a high-risk driver, you may be able to buy a standard policy at a higher rate from a traditional insurance company, or you may buy what's known as a nonstandard policy, where there are restrictions on, say, who can drive the car or how much coverage you can buy.

The nonstandard market represents about one-fifth of all private auto insurance sold and draws both small, niche companies, and the big boys, like Progressive and Nationwide, which have divisions selling nonstandard policies.

“Not all insurers treat high-risk drivers the same way,” says Penny Gusner, a senior consumer analyst for Insurance.com. “Some companies will assess much harsher rate penalties than others on high-risk customers, which means it's always wise to compare car insurance quotes before buying a high-risk policy.”

Here is a list of some insurance companies that sell high-risk auto insurance policies:

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