Lauren Lewthwaite Last Updated On: June 27, 2023

Understanding Accident Forgiveness Car Insurance

Everyone makes mistakes, and we shouldn’t always be defined by them. That’s why accident forgiveness insurance exists. Simply put, accident forgiveness is an insurance add-on that protects your premiums from increasing at renewal should you find yourself responsible for an accident.

Unlike first accident car insurance, which only protects you from your first incident (not multiple) and is only applicable once per policy (not once per driver on a multi-driver policy), accident forgiveness insurance affords you more room to be human. And humans aren’t perfect. 

The trouble with accident forgiveness car insurance is not all insurance companies offer it, nor is it applied the same—some companies give it to loyal customers as a free add-on while others provide it as a paid product (or a hybrid). 

With no “industry standard,” it can leave customers questioning whether it’s worth paying extra for accident forgiveness.

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Table of Contents

Types of Accident Forgiveness Car Insurance

There are three primary types of accident forgiveness offered by insurance providers.

  • Free Add-on For Loyal Customers: If you’re a long-time customer with a relatively clean driving record, some insurance companies will reward you for your loyalty and give you accident forgiveness free of charge.
  • Paid Product: Other insurance providers offer accident forgiveness as a paid product, but only if you qualify. Meaning if you haven’t had an at-fault claim within three years and/or you haven’t been convicted of any moving violations within the calendar year, you may qualify.
  • Hybrid: Insurance companies can also offer accident forgiveness coverage to less safe drivers (with previous claims) or as an incentive for customers to keep a spotless driving record for a few years (often, for five years) before they qualify for free coverage.

Accident Forgiveness Qualifications

If you want to add car insurance with accident forgiveness, there are certain hoops you need to jump through to qualify, like:

  • Moving Violations: To be eligible for accident forgiveness, most companies want to see a prolonged period (3-5 years) free of moving violations on your record.

    Examples of moving violations are:

    • Speeding
    • Running a red light or stop sign
    • Driving under the influence
    • Driving without a license
    • Failure to report an accident or incident
    • Illegal passing or U-turn
    • Failure to yield
  • At-Fault Claims: Another sticking point for insurance companies is having current at-fault claims (within 1-3 years). If a provider can see a trend of at-fault claims on your record, they’re unlikely to offer you even paid accident forgiveness.
  • Loyalty: To encourage customer retention, insurance providers will offer accident forgiveness coverage to long-term customers.

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What Are At-Fault Accidents?

When an insurance company talks about “at-fault” accidents, what they’re referring to is whether an accident is a chargeable offense (accident or violation) or not (minor fender bender). In other words, any time your insurance company is contacted, and you’re more than 50% at fault with damages that exceed a threshold (e.g., $1,000), then the incident is deemed “chargeable.” 

Chargeable offenses result in an increase to your premiums via the addition of a surcharge. Surcharges can be as high as 90% and can affect your premiums for the next three years. Another thing to note is surcharges vary depending on your accident, age, and state.

The difference between chargeable violations and accidents are:

  • Chargeable Violation: At-fault violations imply that you’re guilty of committing a moving violation (e.g., speeding).
  • Chargeable Accident: An at-fault accident indicates that you’re responsible for automotive damage, causing bodily harm or property damage. Examples of at-fault accidents are fender benders or injuries incurred during an at-fault car accident.

Accidents That Won’t Increase Premiums

Accidents happen, and sometimes there’s a perfectly logical explanation why you’re involved in the accident. Some such accidents that won’t likely trigger an increase to your premiums include:
  • Your car was struck by another motorist while parked
  • Tire defect causing an accident
  • When you’re rear-ended and not convicted of moving violations during the accident
  • You’re hit by a police car while in pursuit of an ambulance on route
  • You were subject to a hit-and-run
  • Your accident was a result of falling/flying objects such as gravel
  • An accident involving an animal

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Is Accident Forgiveness Coverage Worth Having?

Unless you get free coverage, to keep your insurance rates lower many people will keep a bare-bones policy to save money, meaning many won’t utilize accident forgiveness.

So the question becomes: Is it worth having accident forgiveness coverage?

The answer is: It depends.

There are a few things you want to consider before deciding if you should add accident forgiveness to your policy:

  • Cost: How expensive is adding accident forgiveness to your policy if you don’t qualify or have the option of free coverage? For this, you want to compare your accident history (clean record, some or many accidents) to the cost of adding it. If your record is clean and it’s $100/year, then over 10 years, that would cost you $1000—is that okay with you?
  • Commuting and Risk Level: How often are you in a car, and how far is your commute? If you’re frequently in a car or driving through high-risk areas (highways or cities known for having an influx of accidents), then having at-fault insurance may be something to consider.
  • High Risk Driver: If you have multiple drivers on one policy, especially young drivers, to avoid a rate increase, you may want to protect yourself by having accident forgiveness.
  • History of Accidents: For drivers with previous at-fault accidents who qualify for auto insurance with accident forgiveness, it may be worth the upfront cost to avoid a significant increase to your premiums should you get into another at-fault accident.
  • Peace of Mind: For some, just having accident insurance is worth the financial cost because it gives them peace of mind. You can drive with ease, knowing that should you end up responsible for an accident that you’ll be forgiven without penalty.

Accident Forgiveness Alternatives

If you don’t qualify for accident forgiveness or your provider does not offer it, these are the good driver alternatives:

  • Discounts for Good Drivers: To reward good driver’s some companies will pay back a portion of your premium after a sustained period without incident (e.g., after 12 months)– meaning a discount of 5%-25% off your annual premium.
  • Vanishing Deductibles: Another discount for good drivers is vanishing deductibles which means, for every year you’re at-fault free, your deductible (e.g., $50) decreases up to a certain dollar amount (up to $500). Deductibles are the upfront fee everyone pays when you put an insurance claim through (at-fault or not).
  • Accident-Free Discounts: The final discount for good drivers is a discount for every year you’re accident-free. Called an accident-free discount, you’ll receive savings up to a certain amount determined by your insurance provider.

Is Accident Forgiveness Insurance Right for You?

Having accident forgiveness car insurance is a no-brainer for good drivers eligible for free coverage, but for drivers deciding whether to put accident forgiveness on their policy, it’s not so simple. 

There are many benefits to having accident forgiveness—avoiding premium hikes and peace of mind—but, depending on your driving habits and how much you can afford, you may decide having accident forgiveness isn’t right for you.  

Frequently Asked Questions

The best thing to do is call your insurance provider or prospective provider and ask if they offer accident forgiveness car insurance and whether you qualify. We can help. Request a free quote from a top provider.

You can buy accident forgiveness for your auto insurance policy anytime. However, if you’re purchasing it after a recent accident, it will not cover previous collisions. Should you want to buy accident forgiveness after being involved in a crash, call your insurance provider and ask whether you’re eligible for at-fault insurance.

This largely depends on the at-fault accident and where you live because state laws differ as to how long an accident stays on your record. But the surcharge will likely remain for a couple of years.


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