Colorado Car Insurance Driver’s Guide [Coverages + Advice]
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UPDATED: May 18, 2022
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|COLORADO STATISTICS SUMMARY||DATA|
|Number of Vehicles||4,813,966|
|Most Popular Vehicle||Subaru Outback|
|Uninsured||13.3% of the population
|Miles of Road||88,740|
|Annual Driving Fatalities||Total – 632
Speeding – 210 (33%)
DUI – 188 (30%)
|Average Premiums||Liability – $477
Collision – $263
Comprehensive – $158
Total – $898
|Cheapest Providers||Safeco and Geico|
Whether you’re a current resident of Colorado or considering a move to the Centennial State, you have a lot going on. With world-class skiing and snowboarding, abundant state and national parks, a thriving craft beer scene, legalized marijuana, and teams in every major league (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLS, and even major league rugby and lacrosse), there’s no shortage of fun things to do.
With all those great options, figuring out car insurance is probably not high on your list. It can be overwhelming to consider all the different companies, legal requirements, additional coverages, and other car insurance considerations. It’s certainly not as much fun as a ski resort or a mountain hike or a craft brewery.
But we’re here to help! This page will provide you with everything you need to know to make an informed decision, all in one place. You’ll be able to see the cheapest, highest-rated, and most responsive insurance companies in the state and even your ZIP code. So you can save some energy by getting all your information here and even save some money by finding the most affordable choice for your needs.
Start by entering your ZIP code in our FREE quote comparison tool.
Colorado Car Insurance Coverage and Rates
There are a lot of different things to know about Colorado when considering your insurance company and coverage. Let’s take a look at some general information about the Centennial State before we get into the specifics.
What is Colorado’s car culture?
If you had to guess the kinds of cars Coloradans drive, you might think they favor outdoorsy SUVs. If so, you would be right! The most popular car is the Subaru Outback, and nine of the top 10 most popular cars in Colorado are SUVs.
Although Colorado has desert, prairie, and mountains, the majority of the residents live along the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains in what’s called the Front Range Urban Corridor. That means most people live in the mountains and need a vehicle that can handle steep hills, sharp curves, and serious snow.
With two major interstate highways, I-25 and I-70, crossing the state and over 80,000 miles of road, Colorado presents ample driving opportunities. Whether you’re commuting, driving to a destination, or taking part in a mountainous road race like the Pikes Peak International Hill Climb; Colorado has a lot to offer drivers and a long history of car culture.
How much coverage is required for Colorado minimum coverage?
Colorado became a fault-based insurance state in 2003, and the transition hasn’t been a smooth one. Before the transition, Colorado was a no-fault state. That meant that the driver (or the driver’s insurance) paid for damage to their car and any injuries regardless of who caused the accident.
In a fault-based state, drivers who cause an accident are responsible for paying the costs of all repairs to damaged vehicles, replacing totaled vehicles, and covering the costs of all medical bills for everyone involved in that accident. So if anyone can be on the hook for damage to multiple vehicles, it’s no wonder that Colorado requires drivers to have a certain amount of insurance.
Colorado requires all drivers to have liability insurance with a minimum coverage of 25/50/15. These numbers refer to bodily injury per person, bodily injury per accident, and property damage. In other words, Colorado requires:
- $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per individual
- $50,000 of bodily injury total per accident
- $15,000 of coverage for property damage
Considering that the fault-based rule is that if you cause an accident, you’re responsible for all repairs and replacements, it’s easy to see how low these minimums are. A two-car accident that totals both cars would easily require more than $15,000 to replace both vehicles, for example. If you only had the minimum property damage coverage, everything over $15,000 would come out of your pocket.
To make matters worse, liability coverage only applies to others — if you’re responsible for the accident, liability insurance won’t pay anything for the damage to your car.
In addition to liability insurance, insurance companies in Colorado are required to offer a few other forms of coverage: medical payment and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
- Since 2009, companies in Colorado have been required to offer medical payment, or MedPay, coverage. This coverage provides $5,000 to cover medical expenses from an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
- Companies are also required to offer uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage in an equal amount to the liability coverage. This coverage will provide payment for a driver who was not at fault when the at-fault driver had no insurance or insufficient insurance.
Both of these coverages must be included in any policy in Colorado unless declined in writing by the customer. So you’re not required to carry these forms, but you will by default unless you opt-out of coverage in writing.
What are the forms of financial responsibility in Colorado?
A form of financial responsibility is just a form that states you have car insurance. It’s nothing fancy or confusing, it just shows a law enforcement officer you are following the law and you are a legal driver. This is also known as proof of insurance.
Acceptable forms of proof of insurance are:
- Electronic insurance card
- Valid liability insurance ID cards
- Declaration page from your current car’s insurance policy
- Valid insurance binder on company letterhead (a temporary form of car insurance)
If you’re caught driving without proof of insurance, you may be given a fine. If you’re convicted of driving uninsured, you face some significant penalties, so it’s best to make sure you have the required insurance and keep proof of insurance with you whenever you drive.
How much percentage of income are premiums in Colorado?
Most states require you to have insurance, but the cost can vary a lot. The table below shows the average cost in Colorado and the cost as a percentage of disposable income.
|Year||Full Coverage||Disposable Income||Insurance as Percentage of Disposable Income|
As you can see, the average cost of insurance in Colorado has gone up every year, but the average income has, too. The percent of disposable income that goes toward car insurance has kept pretty consistent, though, costing about 2.15 percent each of the three years shown above.
Of course, your insurance requirements and your disposable income aren’t average. You can use the calculator below to determine what percent of your income you spend on insurance.
If you’re wondering what disposable income is, it’s just the amount of income households have available after paying all applicable income taxes. So even if you input your total income in the calculator, it should still give you a good idea of how your costs compare to the state average.
What are the core coverages in Colorado?
The table below shows the average rates for liability, collision, comprehensive, and combined coverage in Colorado in 2015.
|Coverage Type||Average Annual Cost (2015)*|
|*NAIC data based on state-permitted minimums|
The 2015 national average for combined insurance was almost exactly the same as the cost in Colorado, only 13 cents higher at $981.77.
Beyond the required liability coverage, there are three other core coverages you should know about.
- Uninsured/Underinsured Driver
Collision coverage is just what it sounds like: insurance that covers your car if it collides with another car. If the accident is the other driver’s fault, their liability insurance will cover you. If a wreck is your fault, however, your liability insurance only covers the other driver — damage to your vehicle would only be covered by your collision insurance.
Comprehensive coverage is for loss and damage that doesn’t involve one vehicle hitting another. Things like theft, hail damage, or a tree falling on your car would be covered by under a comprehensive policy.
Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage is required in many states, but not in Colorado. Nevertheless, this coverage is essential if you happen to be in an accident that isn’t your fault with an uninsured or underinsured driver. Over 13 percent of drivers in Colorado are uninsured, so the odds of this happening are better than you might think.
Normally, when you aren’t at fault, the other driver’s liability insurance would pay for your damages. When the at-fault driver has no insurance or not enough insurance, that’s when this coverage steps in to pay for damages after the accident.
What additional liability is available in Colorado?
As mentioned above, the state minimum liability requirements might not be enough to cover even one small accident. Every insurance company will be happy to provide you with additional liability coverage. Besides cost and rating, though, you should look for a company that is responsive and financially healthy.
One good way to get a sense of an insurance company’s financial health (and whether they’re likely to raise premiums soon) is to take a look at the loss ratio. A loss ratio is the percent of premiums that a company pays to resolve customer claims. If a company takes in $100 in premiums and pays out $50 in claims, its loss ratio would be 50. If the same company paid out $150, it would have a loss ratio of 150.
As you can tell from that simple example, a very low ratio means a company is keeping a lot of what it brings in rather than paying claims, while a ratio above 100 means the company is actually losing money.
|Uninsured and Underinsured Liability||95.82||75.14|
As the table shows, Colorado companies’ loss ratio average for medical policies is close to the national average, while the loss ratio for uninsured and underinsured drivers is much higher. In fact, the average loss ratio for this category is close to 100. That means that Colorado insurers aren’t making much on uninsured/underinsured driver claims and are likely to raise premiums.
What add-ons, endorsements, and riders are available in Colorado?
Most popular add-ons and extra insurance policies are detailed in the list below. Click on the links for a more thorough discussion.
- Guaranteed Auto Protection (GAP) – This coverage pays off your auto loan if your vehicle is totaled in an accident.
- Personal Umbrella Policy (PUP) – This coverage kicks in when your liability coverage is exhausted by a major wreck, lawsuit, or disaster. Often, this coverage is thought of as “extra liability” coverage, but it can be applied to shortfalls in both auto liability insurance and homeowners policies.
- Rental Reimbursement – This will reimburse you if you have to get a rental while your vehicle is in the shop.
- Emergency Roadside Assistance – This usually inexpensive add-on will provide help in the event of car trouble, lock-outs, or towing need.
- Non-owner Car Insurance – This coverage is intended for frequent renters or people who use services like Zip Car or Car2Go, two car-sharing companies. It provides liability and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage when driving a car you don’t own and aren’t borrowing. If you borrow a friend’s car, the policy covering that car will apply if you’re in an accident.
- Modified Car Insurance Coverage – If you modify your car beyond the dealer’s equipment, you might need more coverage, and if you made changes that reduce the likelihood of theft or otherwise decrease the odds of having a claim, you may be able to get a discount.
- Classic Car Insurance – Classic cars often require unique parts and have significant investments that require special insurance coverage.
Does gender and age affect my car insurance in Colorado?
It’s not unusual for rates to be higher for males than females. Despite those all-too-common jokes about women drivers, the truth is that men are statistically higher-risk drivers for insurance companies and have higher premiums. This is because men tend to drive more, have more accidents, and get more tickets.
All of these facts raise the average, but rates for men and women of the same age and driving record can reflect higher rates for women in some states.
|Company||Females||Males||Difference||Percent More Paid by Males|
|American Family Mutual||$3,397.20||$4,068.84||$671.64||16.5%|
As you can see above, the average rates in Colorado for men and women conform to the overall trend, with every company we have data for charging between 1.5 percent and 16.5 percent more for males than females. Note that this data is based on actual premiums, including those buying more than the minimum required and high-risk drivers.
The trend for men being charged more holds true on average, but as people age, the difference between rates for males and females starts to shift.
When you look at those who are over 35 and married, you see many companies charging the same rate to either gender and a few charging more to women than men.
|Company||Married 35-year-old Female||Married 35-year-old Male||Difference||Percent More Paid by Males|
This trend doesn’t continue, though. Coloradans over 60 see the rates offered to men and women more like the overall rate trend.
|Company||Married 60-year-old Female||Married 60-year-old Male||Difference||Percent More Paid by Males|
|American Family Mutual||$2,302.28||$2,302.28||$0.00||0.0%|
So overall, males in Colorado pay a higher average premium than females, but some providers charge both genders equally starting when customers are in their 30s, and some even charge women more than men after age 35.
What are the cheapest rates by ZIP code in Colorado?
You can use the first table to sort the 25 ZIP codes with the cheapest rates in Colorado by the average price for insurance, the average for specific providers, or any other way you want. You can also use the search function to find your ZIP code and see who the cheapest provider is right where you live.
|City||ZIP Code||Average||Allstate||American Family Mutual||Farmers||Geico||Safeco||AMCO||Progressive||State Farm||USAA|
The following table shows the 25 ZIP codes in Colorado with the most expensive rates.
|City||ZIP Code||Average||Allstate||American Family Mutual||Farmers||Geico||Safeco||AMCO||Progressive||State Farm||USAA|
It should come as no surprise that the highest average cost for insurance is in Denver. You have to go through more than 30 ZIP codes before you see any results besides Denver and its suburb Aurora. The Coloradans enjoying the lowest average costs are in the Grand Junction area in the far western part of the state, but the Fort Collins area north of Denver isn’t far behind.
What are the cheapest rates by city in Colorado?
Many cities in Colorado are made up of multiple ZIP codes, so for a city-wide ranking, you can see the table below. It shows results similar to those seen in the ZIP code table, though.
|City||Average Insurance cost|
|Green Mountain Falls||$3,984.63|
|Hot Sulphur Springs||$3,732.21|
|Log Lane Village||$3,970.57|
|Mesa Verde National Park||$3,716.71|
|Red Feather Lakes||$3,660.84|
Once again, we see that the most expensive cities are Denver and the surrounding suburbs, while Grand Junction and Fort Collins are among the cheapest.
Enter your ZIP code below to compare car insurance company rates.
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Best Colorado Car Insurance Companies
So which company in Colorado is the best car insurance company? As we’ve already seen, that’s going to depend on a lot of different factors. Not only obvious considerations like what coverage you need come into play; things like your age, gender, and where you live can also have a huge impact on which company to choose. Let’s not forget things like rating and customer satisfaction, either.
What are the financial ratings of the largest car insurance companies in Colorado?
You might think that if a company has a large national presence and is one of the top providers in Colorado that it would have a solid financial rating. Generally, that would be right, but according to A.M. Best, some companies rate better than others. Here’s how the 10 biggest insurance companies in Colorado stack up.
|Company||Financial Strength Rating||Financial Strength Outlook||Long-term Credit Rating||Credit Rating Outlook|
Which car insurance companies have the best ratings in Colorado?
J.D. Power ranks insurance companies regionally every year based on customer satisfaction. Colorado is included in the Southwest region, and these are the results for 2019:
|Company||Overall Customer Satisfaction Index Rating
(based on 1,000 point scale)
|CSAA Insurance Group||818|
USAA ranked the highest, but this company only serves military members and their family members. The Hartford and State Farm are also several points above the regional average. Nationwide and Travelers, on the other hand, are at the bottom of the rankings, falling around 50 points below the average.
J.D. Power only included 13 companies in their rankings, however, and that leaves a lot of companies unaccounted for, especially smaller ones.
Which car insurance companies have the most complaints in Colorado?
It doesn’t matter if you get a great deal on your insurance if the company’s service is awful, right? The companies that get the most complaints in Colorado are State Farm and Geico. Part of the reason for that, though, is that they’re both very large providers. Obviously, a company with thousands of customers will get more complaints than one with dozens.
When you look at the complaint index, which accounts for market share as well as the number of complaints, you find QBE Insurance Group with by far the worst index score and with well-known companies like Liberty Mutual and The Hartford ranking near the top, as well.
|Company||2017 Complaint Index||Total Complaints
|J. Whited Group||7.43||253|
This chart shows the 10 companies with the worst complaint index, but keep in mind the number of complaints, as well. QBE may have the worst index rating, but it got there by only getting four complaints.
There are quite a few companies that had zero verified complaints in 2017, too. Every company below had no complaints, which might just suggest that they kept their customers happy.
|Year||Companies with No Complaints|
|2017||Amtrust||Indiana Farm Bureau|
|Bear River Mutual||Island Insurance Co.|
|Center Mutual||MS & AD|
|Cooperative Insurance Co.||Nodak Mutual|
|DE Smet Insurance Group||Safety Group|
|Farmers||Southern Farm Bureau|
|Georgia Farm Bureau|
Don’t forget, though, that some of these companies may have received no complaints because they have very few customers in the state. Still, not having a single verified complaint certainly isn’t a bad thing.
What are the cheapest car insurance companies in Colorado?
The statewide average cost for insurance every year is $3,892.32 across all companies. So how do the individual companies compare to that across-the-board average?
|Company||Average||Compared to State Average||Percentage of Difference|
|American Family Mutual||$3,733.02||-$159.30||-4.27%|
Safeco is almost $300 cheaper than the next cheapest company, and seven of the nine companies included were below the state average. The two companies that were more expensive than average, Farmers and Allstate, cost more than $1,000 more than the state average.
Does my commute affect my car insurance rate in Colorado?
The table below shows the rate different insurance companies charge drivers in Colorado based on the miles they typically drive. Although rates are available from most insurers for drivers who average more than 12,000 miles a year, this data is not included below as most drivers fall into the two categories below: 6,000 miles and 12,000 miles per year.
|Company||Rate for 10-mile Commuters||Rate for 25-mile Commuters|
The more you drive, the more you risk being in an accident. Sure, there’s some damage or loss that can occur when a vehicle is just sitting around (hail, a falling tree, vandalism, theft), but generally, you have more opportunity to use insurance (especially liability and collision) the more you drive.
But as the table above shows, five companies of the nine charge the same rate for drivers who commute 10 miles as those who drive 25. Considering that these two categories correspond to an average of driving 6,000 miles and 12,000 miles annually, even the companies that do charge more only charge a small amount more for double the driving.
Can coverage level change my car insurance rate with companies in Colorado?
As you might expect, the more coverage you have, the more expensive that coverage tends to be. Just how much different companies charge for different levels of coverage can vary widely.
|Company||Low-level Coverage||Medium-level Coverage||High-level Coverage|
Colorado insurance companies are very consistent in how they rank across levels of coverage offered. The cheapest rates for all levels of coverage in the state are from Liberty Mutual, and the most expensive is from Farmers. You can sort the table above to see how much companies charge based on the level of coverage you need.
Keep in mind that this data from Quadrant Data Solutions does not include all companies in all categories. This explains why Safeco, the cheapest provider overall, isn’t included in the table analyzing levels of coverage.
How does my credit history affect my car insurance rate with companies in Colorado?
It probably comes as no surprise that the better your credit, the less you pay for car insurance. According to a 2007 report from the Federal Trade Commission, insurance companies use credit scores to predict the risk of insuring individuals. In other words, the worse your credit history, the riskier you are to ensure, at least, according to insurance companies. And if you pose more risk, the company is going to charge you more.
|Company||Annual Average for Poor Credit||Annual Average for Fair Credit||Annual Average for Good Credit|
Every company charges more to insure drivers the worse their credit is, usually providing coverage to customers with good credit for thousands of dollars less than those with poor credit.
How does my driving record change my rates with car insurance companies in Colorado?
As important as your credit rating and how much you drive might be, nothing has more of an impact on what you pay for insurance as your driving record. It makes sense that, since it costs companies when customers are in an accident, they would charge more to customers who do things that make accidents more likely.
|Company||Clean Record||One Accident||One Speeding Ticket||One DUI|
What blemish on your record will raise your rate more varies between companies? One thing for sure, though; having a clean driving record will save you money.
Which car insurance companies are the largest in Colorado?
There are a lot of insurance companies in Colorado, but just 10 companies account for 83.43 percent of the market. The total amount of direct premiums written in the state annually is $4,577,030, and the majority of those come from just a handful of companies.
|Rank||Company||Direct Premiums Written||Loss-Ratio||Market Share|
|1||State Farm Group||$906,918||77.60%||19.81%|
As you can see, the 10 largest companies in Colorado have a relatively high average loss-ratio. In fact, American Family’s loss-ratio is over 100, which indicates the company is paying out more than it’s collecting in claims. American Family is, therefore, likely to raise rates shortly, and Traveler’s Insurance in Colorado has a very high loss-ratio as well.
State Farm alone accounts for nearly 20 percent of the market in Colorado, and with a healthy loss-ratio, above-average customer satisfaction, and rates well below the state average, the company seems to be in a strong position in the state.
How many car insurance companies are available in Colorado?
When it comes to how many choices for insurance there are in Colorado, as in all states, there are two types of insurers: domestic and foreign. Domestic companies are the ones that are based in Colorado.
There are 10 domestic Insurers in Colorado.
But don’t let that lead you to think that there aren’t a lot of choices. Foreign companies are those that provide insurance to Coloradans even though they aren’t based in the state.
There are 848 foreign insurers licensed to operate in Colorado. That means that Colorado drivers have 858 different companies to meet their insurance needs.
There are a lot of things to consider about finding the right insurance already. Between how your credit and driving record and age and gender can influence what you pay and all the different types of insurance coverage you might need or want, there’s a lot to think about. On top of that, there are many laws to be aware of when it comes to driving in Colorado.
The National Motorists Association provides a helpful overview of the laws in Colorado.
What are the car insurance laws in Colorado?
Colorado requires bodily injury and property damage, as discussed above. The minimum coverage requirements are:
- $25,000 of bodily injury coverage per individual
- $50,000 of bodily injury total per accident
- $15,000 of coverage for property damage
These are the minimum requirements for coverage, but you may want to have more liability coverage as well as some of the additional insurance options discussed above. In addition, you must have proof of your insurance with you any time you drive.
Acceptable forms of proof of insurance are:
- Electronic insurance card
- Valid liability insurance ID cards
- Declaration page from your current car’s insurance policy
- Valid insurance binder on company letterhead (a temporary form of car insurance)
If you don’t have your proof of insurance, you may be given a fine. If you don’t have insurance, however, the penalties can be much worse.
How State Laws for Insurance Are Determined
Colorado’s Legislature enacted dozens of laws in 2019 and debated hundreds more. Some driving issues like the liability insurance requirements or mandatory chains on your tires during heavy snow are well settled in Colorado. Other issues like how to handle texting while driving, however, is still being worked out.
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) sets standards across the U.S. It is a regulatory support organization created and governed by the chief insurance regulators from the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and five U.S. territories.
They offer this excellent guide to understanding how laws are passed.
There’s no requirement for windshield coverage for minimum liability policies in Colorado. Some insurance companies offer a zero-dollar deductible for windshield coverage, however, and it may be worth learning more about windshield coverage.
Windshield glass damage is one of the most commonly filed auto insurance claims in the country, and with the strong storms and plentiful trees in Colorado, it’s certainly not an uncommon claim here.
Colorado requires drivers to have insurance, but some drivers might have a hard time finding a company willing to insure them. If a driver can’t find insurance, Colorado has a program called the Colorado Motor Vehicle Insurance Plan that is part of the Western Association of Automobile Insurance Plans. This association of several states works together to bring high-risk drivers together with companies that will provide insurance.
As you might imagine, though, high-risk insurance is not going to be cheap. We saw how much a single blemish on a record can increase rates, so a driver with several incidents ought to be prepared for high-risk coverage to cost a lot.
While most states have programs in place for high-risk drivers, only a few offer a subsidized option for low-income residents. Unfortunately, Colorado is among those states with no low-cost insurance option provided by the state. Luckily, many companies offer low rates.
Automobile Insurance Fraud in Colorado
Colorado’s Attorney General has a Consumer Protection Bureau and a website dedicated specifically to fighting fraud in the state. The FBI estimates that insurance fraud costs the industry billions of dollars annually and that those costs are passed on to the consumer, costing families between $400 and $700 in additional premiums.
But what exactly is insurance fraud? The following video will help explain.
The Insurance Information Institute provides a thorough overview of insurance fraud generally. For information on Colorado’s penalties and laws or to report insurance fraud, visit the Attorney General’s Stop Fraud Colorado site.
Statute of Limitations
The statute of limitations refers to the amount of time you have to pursue a legal remedy like suing or pressing charges after an incident. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for personal injuries is two years, however, for vehicle accidents, the statute of limitations is three years.
Even though you have three years to pursue your case, there are a few reasons to consider acting faster:
- Your case might be weaker if, in the time since the accident, important evidence has been lost or witnesses’ memories have gotten worse.
- If the accident involved a Colorado government vehicle or employee, you only have 180 days to provide notice of the accident, or you won’t be able to recover at all.
Colorado has a few unique laws that you should be aware of.
- In Colorado, there are different levels of drunk driving with different names and penalties.
- Driving with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .05 to .08 is considered Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). This offense has lesser penalties compared to the others.
- A BAC between .08 and .15 results in a charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI).
- A BAC above .15 can result in the driver being considered a persistent drunk driver. This classification results in greater penalties for a first time DUI similar to having more than one DUI.
- Colorado’s DUI statute also covers driving under the influence of drugs or driving under the influence of drugs used in combination with alcohol. For an overview of the penalties for driving under the influence, see this summary from the Colorado Office of Legal Services.
- Colorado allows year-round use of studded tires.
- Colorado requires the use of chains on tires during snow emergencies.
What are the vehicle licensing laws in Colorado?
Colorado requires all vehicles to be registered within 60 days of purchase. In addition, new residents are required to get Colorado residency and vehicle registration within 90 days. Failure to do so can result in fines or license suspension. For more information, take a look at the Colorado DMV website.
Since 2005, The REAL ID Act has been changing the way that some state identifications are issued. Getting a REAL ID requires showing multiple proofs of identity, but is required to access federal buildings and commercial aircraft carriers.
Starting in October of 2020, a REAL ID or other compliant identification will be required to fly.
Penalties for Driving Without Insurance
If you’re caught driving without proof of insurance, you may be given a fine. Driving without insurance or with only insufficient insurance is a much bigger problem. Drivers who are convicted of driving uninsured face the following penalties:
- Four points against your driver’s license (12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months results in suspension)
- First offense – Minimum $500 fine and license suspension until you can show proof to the Division of Motor Vehicles that you are insured
- Second offense – Minimum $1,000 fine and license suspension for four months
- Third and subsequent offenses – Minimum $1,000 fine and license suspension for eight months
- Courts may add up to 40 hours of community service to the above penalties
If you are caught without insurance, you may need to file for what is called SR-22 insurance or high-risk insurance. Having high-risk insurance or getting a citation for driving without proof of insurance will cause your provider to increase your rates.
To avoid all those problems, it’s best to keep your insurance up to date and always drive with proof of insurance.
Teen Driver Laws
For teenagers in Colorado, the steps to getting a license change depending on how old the driver is when the process starts.
If the driver is 15, they must complete a 30-hour driver’s education course, but if the driver is 15 and a half when they apply, they are only required to take a four-hour driver awareness course. In either case, the driver will be on a license that restricts driving at night or with passengers for one year.
These restrictions do not apply if the driver is supervised by a licensed parent.
If the driver is over 16 at the time of applying, they can apply for a license that allows for driving beyond the restrictions with supervision by any licensed driver 21 years old and older.
These restrictions apply for 12 months before the driver can apply for an unrestricted license, though if the driver turns 18 before that year is up, the 12-month requirement is waived.
Drivers under 21 also face enhanced penalties for driving under the influence, including being guilty of DUI with any detectable BAC.
Older Driver License Renewal Procedures
Renewing your license after age 66 is almost the same as renewing your license before that age in Colorado.
The only change once you hit that milestone is that you must renew your license in person every other renewal rather than every third renewal. The requirement to have a vision assessment and to renew every five years doesn’t change, and you can still renew your license by mail or on the internet.
Once you establish residency in Colorado, you should get your Colorado driver’s license within 30 days. If you have a valid out-of-state license, all you need to do is go to the DMV for a vision assessment. The driving test will be waived as long as you have a valid license from another state or one that has been expired for less than one year.
You will also need:
- Two documents proving your physical address in Colorado
- Proof of your social security number
- Proof of your lawful presence in the United States
- Applicable fee ($28 for a driver’s license or renewal)
- If under 18, an affidavit of liability and guardianship or proof of emancipation.
License Renewal Procedures
The cost to renew your license is $28. If you’re under 66, you can renew your license by mail or online twice before you have to do so in person, and if you’re over 66, you have to renew in person every other time. In any event, the renewal is good for five years.
Negligent Operator Treatment System (NOTS)
You may not recognize NOTS, but you probably know what it is anyway. NOTS is the widely adopted system of tracking driver negligence with a points system. Colorado has a points system of its own, and it’s a good idea to be familiar with how the points system works.
Your license will be suspended if:
- You’re under 18 and get six points in 12 months or seven points before age 18
- You’re between 18 and 20 and get nine points in 12 months, 12 points in 24 months, or 14 points between age 18 and 21
- You’re 21 or older and get 12 points in 12 months or 18 points in 24 months
So what violations will add how many points? The table below contains many common violations and how many points they carry.
|Careless driving with a fatality||12|
|Defective head lamps||1|
|Driving on the wrong side of the road||4|
|DUI (driving under the influence)||12|
|DWAI (driving while ability impaired)||8|
|Failure to dim lights||2|
|Failure to observe signal or sign||4|
|Failure to reduce speed for hazards||3|
|Failure to signal||2|
|Failure to stop for school bus||6|
|Failure to stop for school zone signals||6|
|Failure to use due care while passing stationary vehicle||3 (6 points if injury, 8 points if death)|
|Failure to yield right-of-way||3|
|Failure to yield to disabled pedestrian||6|
|Failure to yield to emergency vehicle||4|
|Failure to yield to pedestrian||4|
|Following too closely||4|
|Leaving the scene of an accident||12|
|License restriction violation||3|
|Seat belt violation||2|
|Serious bodily injury to vulnerable road user||12|
|Speed contest (street racing)||12|
|Speeding one to four miles per hour over the limit||0|
|Speeding five to nine miles per hour over the limit||1|
|Speeding 10 to 19 miles per hour over the limit||4|
|Speeding 20 to 39 miles per hour over the limit||6|
|Speeding 40 or more miles per hour over the limit||12|
|Texting and driving||4|
|Underage cellphone violation||1|
|Underage drunk driving||4|
|Unlisted misdemeanor traffic violation||3|
Since earning 12 points in a year will result in a suspension for any driver in the state, you can see which violations Colorado considers most serious. DUI, leaving the scene, causing a severe injury or death, speeding over 40 miles per hour over the speed limit, or participating in a street race will earn you 12 points: basically an automatic suspension.
What are the rules of the road in Colorado?
Once you’ve figured out what insurance you need, there are some important things to keep in mind to keep your rate as low as possible. After all, any ticket will raise your rates in addition to having significant fines and penalties.
Fault Versus No-fault
Colorado was a no-fault state until 2003 when it became a fault-based state. In a no-fault state, a driver’s insurance will cover their own injuries in an accident regardless of who caused the accident. In a fault-based state, the driver who causes the accident is responsible for all damages and injuries.
Seat Belt and Car Seat Laws
In Colorado, anyone in a front seat over age 16 is required to wear a seat belt. Children age 4–7 are required to have a booster seat, children 1–3 are required to be in a child seat with restraints, and children under one must be in a rear-facing car seat with restraints.
Keep Right and Move Over Laws
In Colorado, the law requires drivers to keep right when driving slower than other traffic. When the speed limit is 65 miles per hour or higher, the left lane is for passing only.
Colorado law requires drivers to move out of the lane closest to any stopped emergency vehicles with flashing lights, if possible. This requirement applies to tow trucks and road maintenance vehicles in addition to more obvious emergency service vehicles like police cars, ambulances, and fire trucks.
The maximum speed limit in Colorado is 75 miles per hour on rural interstates. The maximum speed limit otherwise is 65, but remember: this is only the speed limit in the absence of posted variations.
Driving for ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft has become a popular way to make some extra money throughout the country, and Colorado is no different. If you want to drive for one of these companies, make sure that your insurance will cover you when you do.
These insurance providers allow ridesharing use in Colorado:
- State Farm
Automation on the Road
Colorado law allows for autonomous vehicles on the road on a case-by-case basis. The Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation must approve all automated driving systems for safety and use. This is an area of law that is expected to see significant changes as these vehicles become more common in Colorado and nationwide.
What are the safety laws in Colorado?
There are some unusual laws in Colorado that you might not know, especially if you’re new to the Centennial state. Even if you’re a long-time Coloradan, you may not be familiar with some of these.
For example, did you know that while it’s illegal for anyone to text and drive, drivers under 18 aren’t allowed to use a cell phone at all behind the wheel? Even making a call is illegal if you’re under 18. It’s also illegal for all drivers to wear headphones behind the wheel.
Did you ever wonder what to do if you accidentally hit a parked car and can’t find the owner? Well, in Colorado, the law says that you don’t have to choose between leaving a note or calling the police. You have to do both in Colorado.
My favorite little-known Colorado law might be yours, too, if you’ve ever been behind the wheel of a car struggling to maintain speed climbing a mountain. On a narrow mountain road, if one car needs to stop to let the other pass, the law is that the car going downhill has to yield to the one moving up.
In this section, we’ll take a look at laws in Colorado that aren’t as weird and might be important for you to know.
Colorado DUI punishments depend on whether the driver is over 21, the level of alcohol in the blood (Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC), and the number of prior violations.
|DWAI||BAC between .05 and .08||Two days to 180 days in jail
$200 to $500 fine
24 to 48 hours community service
|DUI||BAC above .08||Five days to one year in jail
$600 to $1,000 fine
48 to 96 hours community service
Nine months license revocation
Eight months ignition lock device
|Persistent drunk driver||BAC above .15||First offense can be treated as second offense for punishment determination|
|DUI per se||BAC above .08 even though the driver is/seems unimpaired (passed field sobriety test, for example)||Same as DUI punishment|
|Drunk Driving under 21||Any detectable BAC (over 21, a BAC of under .02 is permitted and below .08 BAC is only punishable if impaired driving is observed)||Same as DUI punishment|
|Second violation (DUI or DWAI)||10 days to one year in jail
$600 to $1,500 fine
48 to 120 hours community service
One year license revocation (if convicted within five years of first conviction)
Two to five years ignition interlock device
|Third violation (DUI or DWAI)||Same as second offense except minimum 60 days in jail (60 days to one year)
License indefinitely suspended (can apply for reinstatement after two years)
|Refusing BAC test||If there is probable cause to believe a driver is under the influence, drivers are required to submit to a test||First offense – One year suspended license
Second offense – Two years suspended license
Third offense – Three years suspended license
After your first conviction in Colorado, you can be required to use an ignition lock device for between eight months and two years. What exactly does that mean?
In addition to the requirements for testing with an ignition lock device, there are also significant additional costs that come with it. According to one Colorado attorney, companies charge between $70 and $200 to install the device and $60 to $90 per month to maintain them.
That means at least $550 for eight months of use and as much as $2,360 for two years in addition to the fines imposed by law.
Marijuana-impaired Driving Laws
Under current Colorado law, marijuana is treated the same as alcohol in most ways. The penalties for driving under the influence of marijuana are the same as those for driving under the influence of alcohol seen in the table above. The ways that marijuana is treated differently are:
- A person can only have 28 grams of the plant, eight grams of concentrate, or 800 mg of edibles on them
- Consumption or open containers in the vehicle are illegal
- The limit is five nanograms of THC in the blood as detected by saliva testing. Like with alcohol, having more than the legal limit of THC detectable in the blood is a per se violation whether you are impaired or not
Distracted Driving Laws
In Colorado, it is illegal to text while driving for all drivers. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from any cell phone use behind the wheel.
Importantly, these are “primary” rather than “secondary” violations. That means that an officer can pull you over just for texting, unlike a seat belt violation. If you aren’t wearing your seatbelt, that cannot be the reason you get pulled over but will result in a penalty if you get stopped for some other reason.
Driving Safely in Colorado
Now that you know how to drive legally in Colorado, we’re going to give you some information on how to stay safe in Colorado. In this section, we’ll take a look at some of the crime and fatality statistics in the state. These statistics come from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Colorado Bureau of Investigations.
How many vehicle thefts occur in Colorado?
Colorado vehicle theft numbers show good news and bad news. The bad news is that the number of thefts keeps rising, but the good news is that the percent of vehicles recovered is remaining consistent even though the number of thefts is increasing.
|Year||Stolen Vehicles||Stolen Vehicles Recovered||Percent Recovered|
The most frequently stolen car models in the state are:
- Honda Civic
- Honda Accord
- Ford Full-size Pickup
- Jeep Cherokee/Grand Cherokee
- Chevrolet Full-size Pickup
- Dodge Full-size Pickup
- Subaru Legacy
- Acura Integra
- Toyota Camry
- Toyota Corolla
How many road fatalities occur in Colorado?
Unfortunately, you can’t have drivers without some accidents (that’s why you need insurance!), and sometimes those accidents result in deaths.
Most Fatal Highway in Colorado
Highway 160, running across the south of the state, is the most dangerous highway in Colorado. Not only does it have the most fatalities, but it also has the highest percentage of fatalities and wrecks of all highways in the state.
Fatal Crashes by Weather Condition and Light Condition
In Colorado, most fatal crashes happen during the daytime. Since this is the time when more people are on the road, this makes a lot of sense. Unfortunately, it seems that reporting weather conditions is rare in Colorado. Most of the fatalities reported do not include information about the weather, but conditions are normal in the majority of incidents that we do know.
|Weather Condition||Daylight||Dark, but Lighted||Dark||Dawn or Dusk||Total|
Because so many of the conditions during fatal accidents are unknown, it’s hard to draw strong conclusions about the role weather plays in fatal accidents. Of the weather conditions we do know, there are more accidents in snow than in rain, but normal weather conditions represent more accidents overall.
Fatalities (All Crashes) by County
You can use the table below to look at each county in Colorado.
|County||2014 Fatalities||2015 Fatalities||2016 Fatalities||2017 Fatalities||2018 Fatalities||Per 100,000 (2014)||Per 100,000 (2015)||Per 100,000 (2016)||Per 100,000 (2017)||Per 100,000 (2018)|
One thing worth pointing out is how misleading the rate of fatalities per 100,000 can be in some of the very small counties in the state. Mineral and San Juan Counties are at the very top, or very bottom of the fatalities per 100,000 statistics list each year. This is because these counties are so small that in years where a single person dies, the number of deaths per 100,000 residents is astronomical.
San Juan County has less than 1,000 residents, so a single fatality will make the rate per 100,000 over 100. Compare that to Denver County in 2018, where 60 deaths resulted in only 8.37 per 100,000.
As you can see, the rural/urban divide in Colorado is growing. In 2014 and 2015, traffic fatalities were split nearly evenly between urban and rural. In 2018, though, the number of fatalities was significantly higher in the cities than in the country.
Another way to look at these numbers is that the fatalities in rural parts of Colorado are staying fairly consistent while the fatalities in urban areas are rising year-to-year.
Fatalities by Person Type
The majority of driving-related fatalities in Colorado involve occupants in cars. As the table below shows, occupants of SUVs, as well as motorcyclists, account for the second and third most fatalities, both categories being close to one another in total numbers.
|Occupants||Car||176 (36%)||163 (30%)||187 (30%)||199 (31%)||177 (28%)|
|SUV||70 (14%)||85 (16%)||85 (14%)||104 (16%)||125 (20%)|
|Pickup Truck||56 (11%)||77 (14%)||64 (11%)||78 (12%)||82 (13%)|
|Van||6 (1%)||21 (4%)||24 (4%)||27 (4%)||17 (3%)|
|Large Truck||10 (2%)||13 (2%)||20 (3%)||26 (4%)||13 (2%)|
|Other||1 (0%)||4 (1%)||2 (0%)||0 (0%)||1 (0%)|
|Light Truck – Other||0 (0%)||1 (0%)||0 (0%)||2 (0%)||1 (0%)|
|Bus||0 (0%)||0 (0%)||1 (0%)||1 (0%)||1 (0%)|
|Total Occupants||319 (65%)||364 (67%)||383 (63%)||437 (67%)||417 (66%)|
|Motorcyclists||Total Motorcyclists||94 (19%)||106 (19%)||125 (21%)||103 (16%)||103 (16%)|
|Nonoccupants||Pedestrian||63 (13%)||59 (11%)||79 (13%)||92 (14%)||89 (14%)|
|Bicyclist and Other Cyclist||10 (2%)||13 (2%)||16 (3%)||16 (2%)||22 (3%)|
|Other Nonoccupants||2 (0%)||5 (1%)||5 (1%)||0 (0%)||1 (0%)|
|Total Nonoccupants||75 (15%)||77 (14%)||100 (16%)||108 (17%)||112 (18%)|
Interestingly, the only change over the years is in the percent of fatalities involving SUV drivers. This may reflect an increase in safety for these vehicles or an overall reduction in the number of people driving SUVs. The other vehicle types included have been consistently involved in numbers of accidents over the years, with more occupants of cars being involved in fatal accidents than other types of vehicles.
Fatalities by Crash Type
According to the US Census, Colorado is the 8th fastest-growing state, so it’s no surprise that the number of traffic fatalities is generally going up. That the total number of fatalities declined in 2018 is a bit of a shock, albeit a good one.
The population of Colorado rose by 379,128 between 2017 and 2018, and yet the total number of traffic fatalities decreased by 16!
|Involving a Large Truck||63||64||88||87||91|
|Involving an Intersection (or Intersection Related)||127||153||200||190||210|
|Involving a Rollover||166||195||212||228||221|
|Involving a Roadway Departure||285||304||295||326||313|
|Total Fatalities (All Crashes)||488||547||608||648||632|
The most common types of fatal accidents in Colorado involve only a single vehicle or a roadway departure. Even though large trucks are a common fear of drivers who are worried about accidents, they only account for a fraction of accidents in Colorado, usually around 15 percent.
Five-year Trend for the Top 10 Counties
The top 10 counties for traffic fatalities in Colorado account for more and more of the overall fatalities in the state. Five years ago, these ten counties accounted for 68 percent of all traffic fatalities. More recently, these counties accounted for 72 percent of all fatalities in the state.
|Rank||County||2014 (% of state total)||2015 (% of state total)||2016 (% of state total)||2017 (% of state total)||2018 (% of state total)|
|1||El Paso||53 (11%)||48 (9%)||48 (8%)||77 (12%)||81 (13%)|
|2||Weld||55 (11%)||55 (10%)||55 (9%)||66 (10%)||63 (10%)|
|3||Denver||42 (9%)||52 (10%)||54 (9%)||49 (8%)||60 (10%)|
|4||Adams||32 (7%)||44 (8%)||60 (10%)||64 (10%)||51 (8%)|
|5||Arapahoe||30 (6%)||37 (7%)||46 (8%)||45 (7%)||47 (7%)|
|6||Jefferson||42 (9%)||55 (10%)||48 (8%)||41 (6%)||38 (6%)|
|7||Larimer||24 (5%)||33 (6%)||44 (7%)||36 (6%)||36 (6%)|
|8||Pueblo||19 (4%)||12 (2%)||20 (3%)||34 (5%)||36 (6%)|
|9||Boulder||16 (3%)||19 (3%)||24 (4%)||31 (5%)||21 (3%)|
|10||Mesa||13 (3%)||20 (4%)||17 (3%)||16 (2%)||20 (3%)|
|Top Ten Counties||330 (68%)||376 (69%)||423 (70%)||464 (72%)||453 (72%)|
|All Other Counties||156 (32%)||170 (31%)||181 (30%)||181 (28%)||178 (28%)|
This trend shows an increase in urban accidents that corresponds to the growth in the largest counties. El Paso, Weld, and Denver counties have had the highest rate of traffic fatalities consistently for the last five years.
Fatalities Involving Speeding by County
Below is a breakdown of speeding-related fatalities by county. You can search the table to see how your county ranks.
|County||Fatalies 2014||Fatalities 2015||Fatalies 2016||Fatalies 2017||Fatalies 2018||Fatalties per 100,000, 2014||Fatalties per 100,000, 2015||Fatalties per 100,000, 2016||Fatalties per 100,000, 2017||Fatalties per 100,000, 2018|
Be careful not to judge too much by the per 100,000 statistic for smaller counties. In counties with low populations like Mineral County, one or two fatalities can show an outsized impact. The larger counties overall like Denver, Weld, and El Paso represent the higher numbers of speeding fatalities just as they represent larger numbers of overall fatalities.
Fatalities in Crashes Involving an Alcohol-impaired Driver by County
You can use the table below to see which counties account for the most alcohol-related fatalities. Data on the table comes from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, and only considers accidents involving drivers with a BAC over .08.
|County||Fatalities 2014||Fatalities 2015||Fatalities 2016||Fatalities 2017||Fatalities 2018||Fatalities per 100,000, 2014||Fatalities per 100,000, 2015||Fatalities per 100,000, 2016||Fatalities per 100,000, 2017||Fatalities per 100,000, 2018|
Once again, the fatalities per 100,000 statistics can be misleading in the smaller counties. The more populated counties of the state tend to have higher numbers overall, including Weld, El Paso, and Denver counties.
Teen Drinking and Driving
Colorado ranks seventh in the United States in arrests of people 18 or younger for DUI.
Colorado had 217 arrests for DUI under age 18 in 2016; that’s 172 arrests per million Coloradans.
Since 2016, the state has seen an increase in underage drinking and driving fatalities. There were 55 fatalities in 2016 and 67 in 2018, an increase of 22 percent
EMS Response Time
Below you can see how EMS response time in Colorado compares between Rural and Urban areas. It’s important to note the percentage unknown column, though. This tells you what percent of EMS responses are not included in the average. As you can see from the high percentages, especially for rural responses, these averages are based on limited information.
|Time of Crash to EMS Notification||Percentage Unknown||Time of Notification to EMS Arrival||Percentage Unknown||Time from EMS Arrival to Hospital Arrival||Percentage Unknown||Time of Crash to Hospital Arrival||Percentage Unknown||Total Fatal Crashes|
Although so much of the data is unknown, especially for rural counties, the data we do have shows that response times are generally faster in Urban parts of Colorado. Given that hospitals and residents are likely to be further apart outside of urban centers, this difference could have been expected. The vast majority of EMS responses are unknown.
What is transportation like in Colorado?
After looking at all that information about legal penalties and fatalities, let’s take a look at something a little lighter. In this section, we will use information from the Census Bureau via DataUSA.io to take a look at congestion, commutes, and rates of car ownership in Colorado.
In 2018, 41 percent of Colorado households owned two vehicles, and 24 percent of households owned three vehicles. Surprisingly for a state with such an outdoorsy reputation, the number of households with no cars is only 2 percent, less than half the national average.
In Colorado, three in four commuters drive to work alone. In 2018, the second-largest commuting demographic were those who work from home. Despite the significant investment in mass transit in the Denver area recently, less than 3 percent of Coloradans commuted via public transit in 2018.
According to Inrix, Denver is the 112th most congested city in the world. In 2018, Denver drivers spent an average of 83 hours in congested traffic, and congestion cost the average driver $1,152.
By comparison, Colorado Springs drivers only lose 50 hours a year to congestion, which costs the average driver there $696.
With all that information at your fingertips, you should be ready to make great decisions about your insurance in the Centennial State. Now that you’ve learned about how insurance works and what driving in Colorado entails, you’re ready to get your quotes.
Just put in your ZIP code and get personalized quotes from multiple companies right now!