Editor's note: This article first appeared onCarInsurance.com and is reprinted here with their permission.Click here for the original post.

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You've received one too many speeding tickets, lost your job anddidn't pay your car insurance premiums, or got drunk and crashedyour car.

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What will that mean when it comes to insuring your vehicle?

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These things are considered serious violations by your autoinsurer, and you could see your rates soar—perhaps even doubling asa result, says David Suarez, director of marketing at MercuryInsurance, headquartered in Los Angeles.

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"It's not unusual to assume someone with a DUI would pay twiceas much for insurance as someone without a DUI, all things beingequal," Suarez says.

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While letting your insurance policy lapse may seem far differentthan driving under the influence, both could result in you beingconsidered a high-risk driver by your car insurer. Having severalmoving violations or accidents in a three-year time period alsowill put you in the high-risk category.

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How big an impact these problems have on your rates, and howlong they will influence your rates, depends on the infraction,your state laws and your insurance company. But the good thing isthat high-risk drivers aren't usually stuck in that tier forever.If you keep your record clean—meaning no new tickets, accidents orlapses in coverage—and know the best time to start shoppingfor car insurance, you can escape from the high-risk groupto more affordable rates.

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Here are some tips for when to switch car insurance companies toget a better rate.

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Bill past due notice

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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What you did wrong: Oops - I didn't pay my car insurancebill!

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If you haven't paid your auto insurance bill and your policy haslapsed, you may be considered a high-risk driver for six monthsafter you've purchased a new policy, Suarez says. (If you're justlate with a payment, your insurance company will usually grant youa grace period, he says, which typically ranges from 10 to 30 days,before canceling your policy.)

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Tip: You will want to stay with the samecar insurance company for six months once you buy a new policy. Butonce you've paid on time for six months, it's time to shop aroundfor better rates. Paying your bill for those six months "reflectsresponsibility," says Suarez. Once insurers see you have six monthsof continuous coverage, you typically will then qualify forpreferred driver rates, which are typically much cheaper.

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man drinking while driving a car

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What you did wrong: DUI

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If you have a DUI on your record, your insurer will usuallyconsider you a high-risk driver for between three and seven years,says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for Insure.com. Depending onwhere you live, your state's laws may determine how many years yourinsurance company can take the DUI into account when settingrates.

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Tip: Once that time period is up, yourrates would usually fall. Find out when your DUI will drop off yourrecord in your state. If it doesn't, some states leave it on forlife, then find out from your state's insurance regulator how longyou can be surcharged by car insurance companies for the offense.Once that time is up, shop around. If you're required to carry anSR-22, shop around once you're allowed to drop it, even if the DUIis still on your record. You'll have more insurance companies tochoose from without the SR-22 requirement.

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policewoman writing a ticket

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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What you did wrong: Multiple violations within threeyears

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Keep in mind that you could be considered high risk for years ifyou don't watch your driving behavior. Say you received a DUI threeyears ago, and your insurer no longer takes that into account whensetting your rates. But if you've "received three speeding tickets,or one ticket and have been in two accidents, you're still risky tocar insurance companies," Gusner says.

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Having three tickets or accidents, or a combination of threetickets and accidents within 36 months, is usually enough to pushyou into the high-risk category. Some insurers will even cancelyour car insurance as a result, Gusner says.

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Tip: If you have recent infractions,you're better off not looking elsewhere for insurance. A newinsurance company will check your driving record, Suarez says. Butif you stay with your current company, it may not check yourdriving record upon renewal. "If you get a violation, you might bebetter off just staying put," he says.

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Man taking a driving class

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(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Key considerations for high-risk drivers

  • Insurers take a number of factors into account when settingrates. If you have a lapsed policy and a bad insurance creditscore, you'll probably pay much more than someone with a lapsedpolicy and a healthy credit history, Suarez says. "It's acombination of elements that would make the difference."
  • The rate you pay also depends on the insurance company youchoose. A company that provides coverage to just a few high-riskdrivers will generally charge you more than a company thatspecializes in providing insurance to high-risk drivers, Gusnersays. Typically, car insurance companies that cater to high-riskdrivers offer more bare-bones coverage, for instance, only coveringnamed drivers on a policy, which helps keep their premiums incheck.
  • Don't count on your insurance company to let you know thatyou've moved to a high-risk category—or that you've moved back outagain. "A lot of high-risk drivers probably don't even know theyhave a non-standard policy," Gusner says. So be sure to check onyour status with your car insurance company.
  • Although you're no doubt eager to move to a standard insurancepolicy, there's no way to hurry the process along with your currentinsurance company. "Each insurer will have its own surchargeschedule and driver tier and length of time you need to showimprovement to move to a better tier," Gusner says.
  • If you're faced with higher premiums, there are still a fewthings you might be able to do to take a bit of the sting off—takea driver's improvement course or pay your policy in full. Thosediscounts can "help balance out the surcharges associated with theDUI, bad credit, lapse in insurance or bad driving record that ismaking you a high-risk driver," Gusner says.

Additional information:

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How much car insurance should you buy?

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What you need to know about car insurancediscounts

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Compare average car insurance rates by state andZIP code

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