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Understanding the Differences Between Admitted and Non-Admitted Insurance Policies

When it comes to purchasing insurance, understanding the distinction between admitted and non-admitted policies is crucial. This is especially true in a “hard” market, where coverages are more difficult – and often more expensive – to get in place. Having knowledge of this market helps consumers make informed decisions, impacting the level of protection, cost, and flexibility of their coverage. Let’s explore the definitions, characteristics, advantages, disadvantages, and key differences between admitted and non-admitted insurance policies, helping you navigate the complexities of the insurance market.

What is the Difference Between Admitted and Non-Admitted Insurance Policies?

Admitted insurance policies are those approved and regulated by the state insurance department. These policies must comply with state laws and protections, ensuring a higher level of oversight and security for policyholders. Non-admitted insurance policies, on the other hand, are offered by insurers not licensed by the state but legally sold through licensed surplus lines brokers. These policies are often used to cover unique or high-risk situations that admitted insurers may not be willing to underwrite. 

Admitted Insurance Policies

Definition and Characteristics:
Admitted insurers are approved by state insurance departments and must adhere to state regulations. Their policies are standardized and subject to state oversight, ensuring compliance with specific guidelines and practices.

Regulatory Oversight and Compliance:
State insurance departments regularly review the financial health and practices of admitted insurers. These insurers must participate in state guaranty funds, which protect policyholders if the insurer becomes insolvent.


  • Financial Stability and Guarantee Funds:
    State guaranty funds provide a safety net, covering claims up to a certain limit if an admitted insurer fails. For example, California’s Insurance Guarantee Association offers up to $500,000 in coverage for policyholder claims, ensuring greater financial stability.
  • Consumer Protection:
    Strong regulatory oversight ensures that admitted policies are fair and claims are handled appropriately. Policyholders can file complaints with the state insurance department if issues arise, providing an additional layer of security.


  • Limited Flexibility:
    Admitted policies may lack flexibility due to regulatory constraints, offering fewer customization options. This can be a drawback for those with unique or specialized insurance needs.
  • Higher Costs:
    Compliance with state regulations and contributions to guaranty funds can lead to higher premiums for admitted policies. This increased cost may make them less attractive to some consumers.

Non-Admitted Insurance Policies

Definition and Characteristics:
Non-admitted insurers are not required to adhere to state regulations but must meet certain federal standards. Their policies are often sold through licensed surplus lines brokers, offering coverage that may not be available from admitted insurers.

Regulatory Oversight and Compliance:
While non-admitted insurers are not subject to state regulations, they must comply with certain federal requirements and financial standards. Surplus lines brokers must be licensed to sell these policies, ensuring a basic level of oversight.


  • Flexibility and Customization:
    Non-admitted policies offer greater flexibility and can be customized to meet specific or unusual coverage needs. This makes them suitable for high-risk or specialized situations, such as coverage for natural disasters, specialty business risks, or high-value properties.
  • Access to Unique or High-Risk Coverages:
    Non-admitted insurers can provide coverage for risks that admitted insurers may not be willing to underwrite. For example, Lloyd’s of London specializes in non-admitted insurance and offers coverage for unusual risks.


  • Lack of Consumer Protection:
    Policyholders of non-admitted insurers do not have access to state guaranty funds. This means there is no financial safety net if the insurer fails, leaving policyholders at greater risk.
  • Potential Financial Instability:
    Non-admitted insurers may not undergo the same level of financial scrutiny as admitted insurers. This can lead to a higher risk of insolvency and less financial stability for policyholders.
  • Unique Policy Terms:

Non-admitted insurers may have policy terms you are not used to, including penalties for early cancellation like non-refundable premiums.

Choosing Between Admitted and Non-Admitted Policies

Assessing Your Coverage Needs:
Your agent can help you determine the specific risks and coverage requirements for your situation. High-value assets, unique business risks, or specialized coverage concerns may necessitate non-admitted policies.

Evaluating the Insurer’s Financial Stability:
Research the financial ratings of insurers, such as those provided by AM Best. Insurers with high ratings, such as “A++”, are considered to be more financially stable.

Understanding the Regulatory Environment in Your State:
Review resources from your state insurance department for information on admitted and non-admitted insurers. This will help you understand the protections and risks associated with each type of policy.

Consulting with Insurance Professionals:
Seek advice from an insurance agent who understands your market or industry and can provide insights into both admitted and non-admitted policies. They can help you navigate the complexities and make the best choice for your needs.

Doing your research, consulting with insurance professionals, and understanding your options can help you make an informed decision and ensure you have the right coverage for your situation.

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