Some individuals—usually the young and those with records of accidents or violations—find it difficult to locate a company to insure them.

If you are one of these “high-risk” individuals, the only solution is to shop. Try several of the major groups, and ask to be considered for their “preferred,” “standard,” or “non-standard” plans. Then try the special publicly created “assigned risk” plan for Washington, the Washington Automobile Insurance Plan. Under this arrangement, drivers who are not eligible for even the non-standard rates are able to buy insurance. The driver’s insurance agent or broker applies to the assigned-risk plan on his or her behalf, and these individuals are then assigned to regular insurance companies. Each company is assigned a pro rata share of policyholders according to its share of business in the state, and the policyholder pays the same premium to whichever company he or she is assigned.

Don’t assume that once you have been turned down by a preferred company you must turn to a high-risk company or the assigned risk plan. Companies’ standards for accepting new policyholders vary widely and change constantly as their rates and volume of business change. To enhance your chances, remind agents that you or members of your family have other business with their company—for instance, a homeowners policy or automobile policies for other drivers. On the other hand, don’t stop shopping even after you are accepted by a preferred company. High-risk companies or the assigned risk plan sometimes offer better rates. If you must join the assigned risk plan at a very high price, look for other coverage after a year.