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Driving with criminal convictions

Car insurance for people with criminal convictions

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

By Jessica Bown

Published: 13 September 2021

Man driving car sunny road

Looking for car insurance?

How does a criminal conviction affect my car insurance?

You will often have to pay more for car insurance if you have a criminal conviction against your name, whether or not your crime was driving related. 

Statistically, people with criminal convictions are more likely to be involved in accidents and make claims. So having a criminal record immediately puts you in a “high risk” category as far as insurers are concerned. 

Some insurers refuse to provide cover for people with “unspent” criminal convictions altogether, while others will reject applications from people with certain types of convictions – such as insurance fraud. 

However, there are insurers that specialise in offering cover for people in unusual situations, including having a criminal record. So by shopping around, you can still find car insurance at a fair price.

You have a criminal conviction on your file if you have been found guilty of a criminal offence such as burglary or fraud in a court of law. Cautions, reprimands, anti-social behaviour orders (ASBOs), and fixed penalty notices, on the other hand, appear on your criminal record but are not offences for which you receive a criminal conviction, so do not need to be disclosed.

 

Does the driver have a non-motoring conviction?

Average annual premiums

No

£617.03

Yes

£1,599.65

What criminal convictions do I need to declare?

If you do have a conviction, whether or not you need to declare it also depends on how serious it was, and how long ago it happened. While you must declare “unspent” convictions, which generally happened within the last few years or were very serious, to your insurance provider if asked, you have no obligation to declare “spent” criminal convictions when applying for car insurance. 

You’re also not obliged to volunteer information about your non-motoring convictions unless the insurer specifically asks about them – although most do.  

However, while speeding fines and points on your driving licence are not criminal convictions, they do need to be shared with insurance companies when requested, and are usually shown on your driving licence for at least five years anyway.

How long do criminal convictions stay on my record?

The police keep a record of any criminal convictions until you reach 100 years old. But how long a criminal conviction stays on the file accessible to insurers and other interested parties such as potential employers depends on the severity of the crime and the sentence you are given (rather than the time you actually spend in jail, for example). 

According to the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974, the time a conviction takes to be “spent” should be coherent with the “rehabilitation period” appropriate for your crime. 

So, if you commit a crime that results in fine, it could be considered “spent” one year later – depending on where you live. But if you are sent to jail for more than four years (in England, two and a half in Northern Ireland), you will have that conviction on your file for the rest of your life. 

If you’re unsure whether or not you have any “unspent” criminal convictions on your record, and you live in England or Wales, you can request a basic Disclosure and Barring Sevice (DBS) check costing £23. In Scotland, there is a similar service available costing £25. In Northern Ireland, basic checks cost £18.

Punishment

Time on your record (if over 18)

Fine

1 year from date of conviction

Prison sentence of under 6 months

2 years from the date your sentence ends

Prison sentence of between 6 and 30 months

4 years from the date your sentence ends

Prison sentence of between 30 months and 4 years

7 years from the date your sentence ends

Prison sentence of more than 4 years

Your conviction is never “spent”

Do I need to declare criminal convictions of named drivers?

You can add friends and family members you want to drive your car at times to your insurance policy as “named drivers”. But if they have “unspent” criminal convictions, you must disclose these to your insurer. 

It will probably increase the cost of your cover, but failing to do so could invalidate your policy – meaning you are effectively driving without insurance and would not be able to make a claim.

Remember too that pretending to be the main driver of a car to help someone with convictions pay less for car insurance is also a type of insurance fraud called “fronting” for which you could end up with a criminal conviction of your own. 

How do I get cheaper car insurance if I have criminal convictions?

Even though some insurers exclude drivers with criminal convictions, you can still save money by shopping around for the best deal. You’ll almost certainly still pay more than a typical motorist, but following our five tips below should help to keep your costs down

  1. Offer to pay a higher voluntary excess: increasing the excess you pay towards any claim should bring the cost of your policy down
  2. Build up a no-claims bonus: you can cut your premiums by 50% or more if you can prove you are a safe driver by not making any claims for several years
  3. Drive less: lower mileage generally equals lower premiums – although this is not always the case
  4. Consider specialist insurers: you may be able to save if you can find an insurer that accepts referrals from the Probation Service or HM Prison Service
  5. Take out a telematics policy: if you’re a good driver, you should be able to reduce your premiums over time by having a black box fitted to your car so your insurer can monitor how you drive