Can an Insurance Company Charge You for Not Renewing Your Policy?

When an insurance company decides not to renew your policy upon expiration, this is known as a non-renewal. Non-renewals are different than cancellations, which terminate coverage mid-policy. Fortunately, insurers typically cannot penalize you simply for having a non-renewed policy. However, your rates may still increase with another insurer if the non-renewal was due to high claims or risk factors.

Non-Renewal vs. Cancellation

Before diving into non-renewal penalties, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between a non-renewal and a policy cancellation:

  • Non-Renewal – The insurer decides not to continue coverage when the policy term expires. They provide advance written notice explaining why.

  • Cancellation – The insurance company terminates coverage in the middle of an active policy period before the expiration date.

  • Advance Notice – Non-renewals require advance notice ranging from 30-60 days depending on the state. Cancellations require 10-20 days notice typically.

  • Reasons – Non-renewals can happen for a variety of underwriting reasons. Cancellations can only occur for specific reasons like non-payment of premium.

  • Penalties – There are no penalties inherently for having a non-renewed policy. But cancellations may incur fees depending on the policy and state laws.

Common Reasons for Non-Renewal

There are a variety of reasons an insurance company may opt to non-renew your policy. Some common ones include:

  • Too many claims – Making frequent claims can lead to non-renewal due to being too high risk.

  • Poor driving record – Multiple accidents, traffic violations, or a DUI can prompt a non-renewal.

  • Fraud – Fraudulent activity like staged accidents or inflated claims may cause non-renewal.

  • High loss history – A history of claims exceeding your premiums paid can result in non-renewal.

  • Ineligible risk – Factors like license suspension or adding youthful operators can make you ineligible.

  • Underwriting changes – Company adjustments to products and eligibility may lead to non-renewal.

  • Exiting market – Insurers eliminating certain markets or customer segments may non-renew those policies.

If you receive a non-renewal notice, be sure to understand the exact reasons cited so you can discuss with other insurers.

Penalties for Non-Renewal vs. Cancellation

When it comes to penalties assessed directly by the insurer, there is an important distinction between non-renewals and cancellations:

  • Non-renewals – There are no fees, penalties, or other charges levied by insurance companies simply for choosing not to renew your policy upon expiration. You have no obligation to renew.

  • Cancellations – If the insurer cancels your policy prematurely before the end of the policy term, you may have to pay cancellation fees, unearned commission charges, or other penalties depending on your state laws and policy specifics. This does not apply to non-renewals.

The key takeaway is that non-renewals themselves do not typically incur penalties from the insurer. However, subsequent effects on your insurability may still apply after a non-renewal as discussed next.

Effects on Premium Rates After Non-Renewal

While insurers cannot directly penalize you via fees for a non-renewal alone, it may still increase your rates when seeking new coverage. Here are some potential impacts to your premiums:

  • High risk non-renewals – If you were non-renewed due to accidents, claims, driving violations or other risk factors, insurers will likely consider you high risk and charge higher rates accordingly.

  • Loss history effects – Frequent past claims, even if not the direct non-renewal reason, may get factored into your new rates negatively.

  • Market and risk models – General rate increases for higher risk profiles in your market may indirectly impact you after non-renewal drops your previous rate protections.

  • Loss of longevity discounts – Loss of loyalty discounts, longevity pricing, and other tenure-based savings can increase rates.

  • Underwriting scrutiny – Having any non-renewal may lead to more scrutiny and discovery of negative risk factors by new insurers.

While insurers can’t overtly surcharge you for a non-renewal, your underlying risk profile and loss history will still affect pricing. Higher premiums are likely in cases of high claims or risk.

How to Minimize Rate Impacts After Non-Renewal

If you find yourself facing a non-renewal, here are some tips to help mitigate impacts to your rates with new coverage:

  • Improve risk profile – Take safety courses, reduce vehicles, or change driving behaviors to directly reduce risk factors prompting the non-renewal.

  • Review details carefully – Understand the exact reasons cited for non-renewal so you can explain details accurately to new insurers.

  • Shop around – Compare quotes from multiple insurers. Rates and risk models vary. Emphasize improvements if you’ve addressed past issues.

  • Highlight longevity – Tout your multi-year insurance history aside from the one non-renewal incident if you were previously insured for many consecutive years.

  • Leverage discounts – If available, take advantage of discounts for things like bundle policies, paying in full, good student grades, defensive driving courses and more.

  • Raise deductibles – Accepting higher deductibles reduces insurer risk allowing you to lower premium rates.

  • Modify coverage – Dropping non-mandatory coverage types like collision or comprehensive can potentially lower costs.

While you can’t completely avoid premium increases in cases of high risk non-renewals, shopping carefully and emphasizing positive factors can help minimize impacts.

When Could Non-Renewals Lead to Penalties or Fines?

While insurers themselves don’t issue penalties for non-renewals, there are some situations where non-renewals could potentially expose you to fines, fees or other issues:

  • Lapse in coverage – Letting prior insurance lapse due to non-renewal can lead to fines and license suspension in some states if you drive uninsured, even briefly.

  • Financing requirement – If you have an auto loan, the lender will require you carry adequate insurance. A non-renewal could violate those terms.

  • Lease or rental contracts – Non-renewals dropping your coverage below required limits set by rental, car sharing, vehicle lease or other contracts can prompt penalties.

  • Commercial policies – Some business, commercial fleet or rideshare policies mandate maintaining insurance and non-renewals could violate those provider terms.

The takeaway is that while insurers themselves don’t issue non-renewal penalties, be aware of secondary impacts like coverage lapses, loan terms violations and contractor insurance requirements that could potentially follow a non-renewal.

How to Handle an Upcoming Non-Renewal

If you receive an advance non-renewal notice from your insurer, here are some tips for handling it smoothly:

  • Start shopping early – Don’t wait until expiration. Give yourself ample time to compare multiple replacement plans.

  • Review the notice carefully – Make sure you understand the exact reasons given for the non-renewal before discussing with new insurers.

  • Gather documents – Have handy any evidence related to the non-renewal like proof you took a safe driving course if the issue was accidents.

  • Be ready to explain – Be prepared to explain clearly to prospective insurers why the non-renewal occurred if questioned.

  • Provide updated details – If something has changed like adding a new vehicle safety feature, advise new insurers to help reduce your risk profile.

  • Consider alternatives – Assess options like raising deductibles, dropping collision coverage if your car is older, or taking public transportation.

With some preparation and shopping around, a non-renewal doesn’t have to be a major roadblock to maintaining affordable insurance.

Other Non-Renewal Considerations

Beyond potential rate impacts, keep these other considerations in mind following a non-renewal:

  • Check state laws – Make sure you understand your state’s specific non-renewal notice requirements, processes and your rights. States vary.

  • Document details – Retain the non-renewal notice and any other related documents in case questions arise in the future.

  • Payment issues – Non-payment of premiums can prompt rapid cancellation mid-term versus non-renewal at expiration. Don’t mix these up.

  • Appeal option – Some states allow you to request a review or appeal of the non-renewal rationale with the state insurance department.

  • Agent assistance – Your independent insurance agent may be able to advocate on your behalf with insurers regarding the non-renewal circumstances.

Non-renewal notices from insurance companies


Is not renewing the same as cancelling?

Insurers may cancel a policy for those reasons or may instead decide not to renew your policy at the end of the policy’s term. Nonrenewal happens when your insurance company discontinues your policy at the end of the coverage period. A non-renewal can happen through no fault of your own.

What happens if you don’t renew your insurance policy?

If you let your car insurance expire, you may have to pay a higher premium when you reapply for coverage in the future. The insurance company may also view you as high-risk and offer you a higher rate or refuse to cover you. In the case of an accident, you’ll be liable for any damage or injuries you cause.

Can insurance refuse to renew?

Additionally, if the cost of insuring the policyholder has risen too much, the insurer decides not to renew the policy. Furthermore, insurance firms are able to decide not to renew the coverage if it no longer satisfies their underwriting standards. Non-payment of premiums results in the cancellation of insurance.

Can an insurance company refuse to renew a policy because of you?

For instance, your insurer may have concluded that you have incurred too many accidents or losses, have not maintained your property, or have failed to comply with its loss control recommendations.

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