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Is this rate increase normal for one ticket?


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Question: I got my first ticket in 20 years of driving.  My six-month premium went up by $200. Is this normal?

Answer: Without knowing what violation you were convicted of or what percentage $200 is of your car insurance’s biannual bill, it’s hard to say if this is an average rate increase or not. 

If your total auto insurance bill is for $1,000, and thus your premium went up 20 percent due to this ticket, then that isn’t unheard of. If your six-month premium is only $500 and this ticket made it go by 40 percent, then that would seem high for just one minor traffic ticket hitting your driving record.

There is no hard and fast rule among auto insurance companies that one traffic ticket will equal a premium increase of X amount. In fact, car insurance rates vary greatly from one auto insurance company to the next. Some auto insurers won't surcharge for one minor traffic ticket, while other insurers will surcharge you for the first traffic offense you're convicted of. 

It all depends upon the rating system an insurer has filed with the state and its internal guidelines regarding base rates and surcharges.  However, all insurers will normally take away any good driver discount you had for maintaining a clean driving record up to this point (losing that plus gaining a surcharge can really cause rates to climb).

The amount of surcharge (the extra amount you’re charged) also varies depending upon who your auto insurer is.

For instance, one ticket may result in only a 5 to 10 percent rate increase with some car insurance companies. Meanwhile, with others, it may be 20 percent or more. 

What the ticket was for will also factor into the amount of the surcharge. 

Similar to the way most states assign points to your license, car insurance companies have insurance points that they apply to traffic violations.  The point system varies by insurers, but all assign lower points for minor violations (like running a red light) and higher points for major offenses – such as a DUI or reckless driving.  The higher the points, the higher the surcharge. (See “Do all traffic tickets affect my rates?”)

In most states, to know what your company’s surcharge schedule is you have to ask your car insurance company for a copy.  It’s good to have it on hand so that if you do get a ticket, you’ll get an idea of how much your rates will increase.

Knowing how much a ticket may affect your rates can also help you decide if you need to try and challenge the ticket in court or use another method, such as traffic school, to keep it from making it onto your driving record where your insurer can see it.

Since your rates have already gone up, it would appear you have lost out on any chance to keep the violation from going on your driving record. So, keep these things in mind for next time (if there is one in your next 20 years of driving).

In the meantime, shop around with other car insurance companies to see if you can get cheaper car insurance rates. You may want to see if a pay-as-you-drive plan will give you the best rates.  Safeco’s Rewind program can help a traffic ticket not count against your rates.

Spending as a few minutes of your time to comparison shop for the lowest car insurance rates can save you hundreds, if not much more, on your auto insurance premiums.

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