Being involved in an at-fault accident can increase your car insurance premium by a whopping 41%, on average, according to our research. To prevent this rate increase, some auto insurance companies offer accident forgiveness as a policy add-on or freebie.
Accident forgiveness can be great to have if you or someone else on your policy is a new driver. But in some cases, paying for accident forgiveness can end up costing you more in the long run.
Before you decide to tag on any additional coverage, here's what you should know:
- What is accident forgiveness?
- How to qualify for accident forgiveness
- Is accident forgiveness worth it?
- Which companies offer accident forgiveness?
What is accident forgiveness?
Accident forgiveness is an auto insurance policy add-on or endorsement that shields your car insurance premium from a price increase after your first at-fault collision. It usually covers every driver on your auto insurance policy.
There are four notable limitations you need to know about accident forgiveness:
- The forgiveness on an at-fault claim is often only for the first at-fault accident on the policy, not the first accident for each driver on the policy.
- Accident forgiveness only applies to at-fault accidents on your driving record. This means that a collision accident claim would benefit from accident forgiveness, but a comprehensive coverage claim would not because comprehensive claims generally do not involve other cars.
- Not every company or state offers accident forgiveness. For example, because of California state law, accident forgiveness is not offered by any auto insurers there. Even if accident forgiveness is not offered, some insurers offer safe driving or accident-free discounts to reward your squeaky clean driving record.
- It's also important to keep in mind that accident forgiveness affects your auto insurance rate, not your claim record. While it prevents your current auto insurance premium from increasing after an at-fault accident, other providers will still be able to see any accidents you've had and may increase your rate accordingly if you switch insurance companies.
Do you qualify for accident forgiveness?
Auto insurers usually only provide accident forgiveness for select policyholders, such as:
- Drivers with accident-free records: If you've kept your auto insurance record free from collisions, usually for five or more years, you should be eligible for accident forgiveness.
- Long-time auto insurance policyholders: Insurers tend to reward loyalty. Depending on how long you've been with your auto insurance company, you may be able to get accident forgiveness.
- New customers: Some insurers offer accident forgiveness to new policyholders just signing on as a reward for choosing them.
If you don't qualify for accident forgiveness, you can always save money by seeking out discounts or regularly comparing insurance companies for inexpensive rates.
This is a good time to shop around and compare auto insurance quotes. Whether you decide to go with accident forgiveness or just take a chance, finding a new provider that can get you good coverage with a lower rate increase after an accident works in your favor.
Is it worth buying accident forgiveness coverage?
Deciding whether you should get accident forgiveness comes down to need and return on investment, the two sometimes overlapping. Consider if the risk of you or anyone else on your auto insurance policy being in an at-fault accident is worth the extra cost.
Accident forgiveness may add an average of 3% to 5% to your annual premium. This may be a significant increase for you, but you'll want to see which would cost you more: the cost of adding accident forgiveness to your coverage, or the potential cost increase to your auto insurance premium after an accident.
The following table shows the average auto insurance premium increase after your first accident. The rate increase on your auto insurance policy usually lasts anywhere from three to seven years, depending on which state you live in. Look at your provider's average increase and what that would add up to dollar-wise over three to five years. Then compare it to the cost of accident forgiveness.
|Premium increase after accident
|Note: Average rates are based on non-binding estimates by Quadrant Information Services. Your rates may vary.
On the plus side, if your auto insurance policy covers a teen driver in your household, then accident forgiveness can be an excellent benefit. Some insurers, however, have age limitations on who can take advantage of accident forgiveness so you should check with your insurance company to see if there are any restrictions. Teen drivers are seen as high-risk by auto insurers due to inexperience, and they charge a high rate to cover them from the start.
If you have one or more teens on your policy, accident forgiveness can save you from having to spend even more money on auto coverage. You will, however, want to pay close attention to how many years your auto insurance provider wants your household to go without an at-fault accident. Given that the average qualifying time span without an accident is three to five years, many teens may not benefit from it.
Auto insurers offering accident forgiveness
Auto insurance companies tend to have different criteria for offering accident forgiveness. Some offer it as part of your standard coverage, while others require you to purchase it as an add-on, with conditions. The following are overviews of major auto insurers and their accident forgiveness offerings.
Allstate offers accident forgiveness through the purchase of its YourChoice auto insurance coverage plan. There are two tiers to the YourChoice plan: Gold and Platinum. Allstate's Gold plan allows you to get accident forgiveness coverage after you go three years without an at-fault collision. The Platinum plan gives you accident forgiveness as soon as you sign on.
Furthermore, Allstate has a discount that reduces your auto insurance premium every six months you go without an accident.
Farmers says it will forgive one at-fault accident every three years. While it may have higher-than-average premiums, the recurring accident forgiveness can be an advantage if you're a new or frequent driver.
GEICO has two options for accident forgiveness available to its auto insurance policyholders. The company will either give you accident forgiveness after a set amount of time passes under its coverage without an at-fault accident (check with GEICO for time limits), or accident forgiveness may be purchased at the beginning of your policy term or its renewal. Along with California, GEICO's accident forgiveness is not available in Connecticut or Massachusetts.
The Hartford offers accident forgiveness as part of its Ability Advantage Plus program if you maintain an accident-free driving record for five years. The Hartford is the top auto insurer endorsed by AARP, making it an excellent choice for senior drivers.
Accident forgiveness through Liberty Mutual is offered as an add-on you can purchase if you've gone five years without an accident on your driving record. Furthermore, the insurer offers you a discount if you go five years without an accident.
You can purchase accident forgiveness with Nationwide as an add-on feature. Nationwide only offers accident forgiveness in select states, so check with the company to see if your area qualifies. As an added perk, Nationwide may give you an additional safe driving discount if you go five years without making an auto insurance claim.
Through Progressive's loyalty program, available in qualifying states, the company forgives auto accidents under $500 in covered damages. After five years with Progressive and three consecutive years accident and violation-free, the company forgives your first covered accident over $500 in damages.
With USAA membership, your first at-fault accident after five years being accident-free with the company will not result in an auto insurance rate increase. It's important to point out that USAA only covers currently serving and veteran military members, as well as qualifying family members.
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