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 insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager

UPDATED: Sep 26, 2020

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Key takeaways...

  • Insurance companies consider convicted criminals high-risk
  • Committing new offenses can make your insurer raise your rates drastically or drop you completely
  • You may not have to divulge older criminal offenses that have been expunged
  • Companies can track your criminal history five to ten years back

When searching for car insurance, one of the questions often asked is whether a criminal record will affect auto insurance premiums. Others worry if they will even be able to obtain car insurance with a criminal record.

Criminal behavior has an adverse effect on multiple areas of your life. Some of the effects are financial while others involve your credibility, reputation, and the ability to survive and succeed in the world.

The law varies on the topic of whether a criminal record will influence insurance rates in different locations, but the short answer is yes.

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The Impact of Criminal Behavior


Criminal behavior of any type is considered a choice that someone makes that is irresponsible, malicious, or negligent in nature, so insurance companies tend to view people with criminal backgrounds as a greater risk than someone with a clean record.

That being said, whether a criminal record will affect a particular person’s insurance or their chances of obtaining a policy depend on some factors.

  • Type of criminal offense – While every type of criminal offense counts on your record, more severe acts such as violent crimes, multiple DUIs, or other criminal behaviors may have a greater impact on your car insurance than lesser offenses.
  • Whether the conviction is spent or unspent – A conviction that is “spent” is one that has expired in terms of the life of the conviction. A spent conviction is one that you have had counted against you but its time has expired. This status is backed by The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act of 1974.
  • The degree of damage from the acts – While the above law protects you from having to report spent violations or criminal acts, if there is personal injury involved, you may be required to divulge the effects of your crime in some cases.
  • How long ago it occurred – The most important factor that influences whether these acts count against you is how long ago the acts occurred.

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No New Offenses

While having a good attorney that can help you get your record expunged can certainly help with older convictions, any new offenses will affect your insurance in an adverse way.

In some cases, new convictions will make your car insurance company cancel your insurance completely. Insurance rates will often skyrocket, and it can be almost impossible to obtain new insurance if your current carrier drops you.

The reason that there is such a strong correlation between car insurance rates and criminal records is that people who commit are simply higher risk.

Although there are some exceptions, the bottom line is that people with criminal records are more likely to engage in more risky behaviors. They may speed or engage in reckless driving, use the car for illegal purposes, or numerous other scenarios.

Insurance companies just don’t like to take a risk with people who continuously engage in criminal acts.

That being said, there are some auto insurance companies that enjoy trying to help those who are rehabilitating from their convictions and previous behaviors and trying to improve their lifestyles.

These companies are dedicated to giving convicted criminals a second chance to rebuild their credibility and their reputation.

Their rates may be slightly higher than standard insurance companies, but they do offer convicted felons a chance to rebuild their reputation with insurers so that they can get on with their lives.

A Vicious Cycle


There is a bit of a catch 22 situation with people who have had prior convictions when trying to obtain auto insurance. They may want to improve their behavior by abstaining from their prior behaviors that got them into trouble, but they may experience trouble getting insured from traditional companies.

This may cause them to get pulled over by police for failing to have valid insurance, which can create a vicious cycle by obtaining further violations and citations.

The best advice is to never get any criminal convictions on your record at all, no matter how small. They all affect your insurance rates.

New convictions can cause insurance providers to completely cancel your coverage. Numerous other things can happen in addition to all of these, causing even further problems.

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When you have a criminal record, the simplest things in life become major obstacles. Insurance is only one of the challenges that you may face if you have serious criminal offenses on your record. Even small ones can result in increased premiums and reduced opportunity for discounts or special rates.

Once you’ve narrowed your choices down to a few companies, contact them and inquire as to whether there is an indemnity plan for convicted felons or people with a criminal record who are considered high-risk drivers.

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Learn from the Mistakes of Others

If you are a young and newly licensed driver, it is good to learn a lesson from those who have gone before you. Committing criminal acts, whether it be from reckless or DUI driving, speed racing, or any other crime-related acts can lead to license suspension, loss of insurance, and huge fees.

This is not just some arbitrary decision made by the insurance companies. It is a proven fact from studies on criminal behavior that criminals engage is much riskier behavior than those who are not.

They also tend to engage in more risky driving, even if their original offense had nothing whatsoever to do with their driving ability or driving record.

Don’t risk this by careless behavior in your youth. Instead, think of the penalties involved from such acts and make responsible decisions while you are young.

If you have a criminal record, it’s not the end of the world. Although you’ve made mistakes, you can move forward and live a life that is productive and gratifying. Much of that new life will require independence and freedom, two things owning your own car provides.

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  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rehabilitation_of_Offenders_Act_1974
  2. https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/022416/car-insurance-rates-too-high-check-record.asp?ad=dirN&qo=investopediaSiteSearch&qsrc=0&o=40186
  3. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/indemnity.asp?ad=dirN&qo=serpSearchTopBox&qsrc=1&o=40186