Driving with criminal convictions

Car insurance for people with criminal convictions

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If you have a criminal conviction, your car insurance options are likely to be limited and expensive – even if your conviction isn’t related to driving. But it’s usually possible to find cover, with specialist insurers able to help.

Man driving car sunny road

Having an ‘unspent’ criminal conviction of any type will push up the price of your car insurance. This is because insurers believe drivers with any type of conviction are riskier than others – something which they back up with statistics about who is involved in road traffic accident. Some will simply refuse to offer car insurance to those with criminal convictions.

How will a criminal conviction affect my car insurance costs?

Having any kind of criminal conviction can make it difficult to get car insurance. Some insurers will refuse to cover you while others will quote relatively high premiums.

This applies whether or not your conviction was driving-related, although a driving conviction may make the situation worse.

Statistically, people with criminal convictions are more likely to be involved in accidents and make claims, and this makes them high risk for insurers

Some insurance companies will provide cover only if the conviction isn’t related to driving or insurance fraud. For example, an insurer may cover people convicted of burglary but not those with a dangerous driving or insurance fraud conviction.

What is a criminal conviction?

You will have a criminal conviction if you have admitted to or been found guilty of a criminal offence.

Cautions, reprimands, anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), and fixed penalty notices (e.g. for littering) will be on your criminal record but are not criminal offences.

Speeding fines and points on your driving licence are also not criminal convictions – but you do need to tell your car insurance provider about them when asked.

Spent vs unspent criminal convictions

Since April 2013, drivers no longer have to declare any ‘spent’ criminal convictions when applying for insurance.

The Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 sets out when criminal convictions become ‘spent’. The time is takes for a conviction to become spent is known as the ‘rehabilitation period’.

The rehabilitation period depends on:

  • The sentence given (not the actual offence or time served in prison).
  • Your age when you committed the offence.
  • The number of convictions you have.

Reforms changing rehabilitation periods came into effect in 2014, making them shorter in most cases. Previously, rehabilitation periods started from the date of conviction but under the new regime rehabilitation periods for community orders and custodial sentences are made up of the period of the sentence plus an additional specified period (the ‘buffer’ period).

As an example, a prison sentence of up to six months will be spent after the sentence plus a two-year buffer period.

A conviction resulting in a prison sentence of four years or more is never spent.

Buffer periods are normally halved for people aged under 18 on the date of conviction (except for custodial sentences of up to six months where the buffer period will be 18 months).

Unlock, a charity which helps people with convictions, has a disclosure calculator to help people work out when their conviction is spent.

Car insurance and the law

Car insurance is compulsory – it’s illegal to drive a car without at least third party cover in place. You risk adding another offence to your criminal record if you drive without insurance.

When you apply for car insurance, the insurer will ask if you have any unspent criminal convictions.

It’s important to tell the truth – failure to provide this information accurately and in full could invalidate your policy, meaning any claims would be refused. Deliberately failing to disclose an unspent conviction could be classed as fraud.

Even if you don’t use your car, the Continuous Insurance Enforcement (CIE) rules which took effect in June 2011 mean you must insure your car unless you have completed a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) with the DVLA.

Failure to have either a car insurance policy or SORN in place could result in a fine of up to £1,000.

How to find car insurance if you have a criminal conviction

If you have a criminal conviction you should shop around for car insurance and compare prices in the same way any driver would be advised to do.

However, premiums will be more expensive than those offered to drivers without a criminal record.

If you have a criminal conviction, there are several ways you might be able to reduce your car insurance premiums.

  • Increase your excess: The excess is the amount you’ll need to pay yourself in the event of a claim. The higher the excess, the lower the premium but be careful not to set it so high that you’d struggle to pay the amount in the event of a claim.
  • Drive fewer miles: The lower your mileage, the lower your premiums.
  • Make your car secure: Keep it in a garage if possible, and make sure the car is fitted with an approved alarm and immobilizer.
  • Drive safely: Points for speeding and accident claims result in higher insurance costs.
  • Consider telematics insurance: This works by having a black box recording device installed in the vehicle to record driving behaviour. It then calculates a premium based on the policyholder’s actual driving performance rather than relying on statistics relating to the person’s characteristics. 

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