High risk means an increased likelihood of having a claim or accident.
High risk auto insurance is for drivers or cars that have a statistically greater probability of hitting something or their vehicles being stolen or damaged. It is sometimes called non-standard (not standard) auto insurance meaning that the risk of having an accident or claim is greater or more probable than a standard risk (standard being the statistical average or norm), and often includes the fact that the non-standard policy is written differently than a standard policy with special features or restrictions that are not standard usually for the purpose of keeping the price lower. For instance, if you loan your car to someone who is not listed as a driver on your policy and that person has an accident in your car, then a non-standard policy may not cover the damage to your car whereas a standard policy would.
An auto risk may be considered High by virtue of having multiple tickets and accidents, or by virtue of a serious violation such as drunk driving (DUI), reckless driving, speeding over 100 mph, speed exhibition, racing or vehicular manslaughter. A new driver or teen driver or an elderly driver may also be considered a High Risk and certain types of high-performance cars are considered higher risks than others.
There are insurance companies that specialize in High Risk insurance and give lower rates than the standard risk companies would. A Standard Risk Company will give great rates for clean driving records, mature drivers, etc. But when an insured driver gets a ticket their rates go way up or when an insured driver has a serious ticket, the preferred risk company doesn't want them at all. It's simply not their game. There are other companies, non-standard auto insurance companies, that take over the job of providing insurance for High Risk drivers and cars.
Often these companies provide only the minimum coverage and have restrictions on the policy that preferred companies would not. High risk companies will provide an SR22 form required by the DMV for a person with a suspended license in order to reinstate their license. Most preferred companies will not supply SR22 forms to the DMV and if you need an SR22 you will have to get quotes through a broker, not unlike myself, for non-standard insurance company rates.
The high risk company may offer lower rates for basic liability than the preferred company. But keep an eye on the billing fees. Frequently the cheapest basic liability with a High Risk company, if paid monthly, will include very high billing fees: $12, $14 to $17 per month. That's where the smaller, high risk insurance company makes its money – billing fees.