Every day CarInsurance.com receives questions about driving records and their influence on car insurance. Here are the answers to a few of the most common questions.
Why does the insurance company need to look at my driving record?
Car insurance companies review your driving record to see what type of risk you pose.
If you have a clean driving record, it reveals less risk and will likely result in a safe driver discount and lower rates. Having an accident or moving violations (speeding, DUI, etc.) means the insurance company will consider you a high-risk driver, which typically means higher rates. In some cases, for instance if you have two or more moving violations within six months, or multiple DUIs, certain insurance companies won't even sell you a policy.
How often does the insurance company look at my driving record?
Common practice is for a car insurance company to review your driving record when you initially apply for auto insurance and before each renewal period.
When you apply for coverage, your driving record is reviewed to see if you are an appropriate risk for the insurer and to help determine your premium amount.
At renewal time, your driving record is checked to see if you have any violations now listed that would cause your rates to rise, or for policy to be non-renewed. If you have violations on your driving record that have fallen off, your rates should go down when your policy renews.
Insurance companies may also check your driving record when you add or remove drivers, change coverages or add a vehicle.
Will an accident or violation on my driving record raise my rates? For how long?
How much accidents raise your rates typically depends on the nature and severity of the accident, as well as fault. A minor accident may be forgiven under state law or by an insurance company, especially if you are not found to be at fault. If instead you are at-fault for a major accident, you could see a big increase in car insurance rates or even a cancellation of coverage, subject to state law.
Violations can affect your rates because they show you are more of a risk. If you have had a clean driving record for years and get one minor speeding ticket, your rates may not go up but your safe driver discount could be taken away. For more major offenses (i.e. DUI), expect your rates to drastically increase since you are now a much higher risk.
Some states put a limit on how long an auto insurance company can surcharge or raise your rates for an accident or traffic violation, while others leave it up to the insurance company to decide. Most car insurers tend to hold accidents and/or violations against you for three to five years, but some will go back as far as seven years.
You'll see below by what percentage, on average, your rate will increase for common tickets and accident claims, assuming a base rate of full coverage, including comprehensive and collision with a $500 deductible. (If you've been found guilty of speeding, CarInsurance.com has rate increases by state for speeding ticket violations in another article.)
|Violation/Accident||Average percent increase to rate|
|DUI/DWI third offense||255%|
|DUI/DWI second offense||163%|
|2 At-fault property damage accident over $2k||110%|
|SR22 with 1 DUI||89%|
|Hit and run - injury||87%|
|Hit and run property damage||83%|
|DUI/DWI first offense||79%|
|Operating a vehicle in a race (highway racing)||71%|
|2 speeding tickets 11 mph or over||43%|
|At-fault bodily injury accident||32%|
|1 At-fault property damage accident over $2K||31%|
|Speeding 30+ over limit||30%|
|1 At-fault property damage accident under $2K||26%|
|Distracted driving ticket||22%|
|Speeding ticket 16-29 MPH over limit||22%|
|Speeding ticket 11-15 MPH over limit||20%|
|Following too closely||20%|
|Failure to yield||20%|
|Speeding ticket 1-5 MPH over limit||20%|
|Speeding ticket 6-10 MPH over limit||20%|
|Failure to stop||19%|
|Talking on cellphone ticket||16%|
|Lapse of coverage for 60 days||13%|
|Driving without a license or permit||12%|
|Lapse of coverage for 30 days||9%|
|Lapse of coverage for 7 days||9%|
|Lapse of coverage for 15 days||9%|
|2 comprehensive claims for over $2k||8%|
|Driving without insurance||10%|
|1 comprehensive claim for over $2k||3%|
|1 comprehensive claim for under $2k||3%|
What is a moving violation? A non-moving violation? What is the difference as it relates to car insurance?
Definitions of moving and non-moving violations vary from state to state. In general, for an offense to be viewed as a moving violation, your car would need to be in motion when the violation occurred, such as speeding or running a stop sign.
Non-moving violations are pretty much everything that’s not related to your behavior on the road: parking tickets, faulty equipment and expired plates.
Insurance companies' guidelines differ, but normally moving violations are a major rating factor while non-moving violations are not. Non-moving violations may not even be on your driving record. Even when they are, they tend to not matter much.
Can I get insurance if my license is suspended? Can someone else insure my car if I can't?
You might be able get insurance, depending upon the length of your suspension and the insurance company’s guidelines.
Some car insurance companies allow you to start a policy with a suspended license, but require that you are able to obtain a valid license within a short period of time – typically in 30 to 45 days after the inception of the policy.
If you have a long driver’s license suspension to wait out and thus are unable to get a valid license in required time, it will likely be difficult to obtain or keep insurance.
To have someone else drive your vehicle during the suspension, there are a couple of options. One is for you to insure the vehicle, list another driver as the primary driver, and exclude yourself from the policy (meaning you cannot drive the car).
The other option is find an insurer that will allow a driver who doesn’t own your car (doesn’t have insurable interest in it) to put insurance on it. With this policy, you will need to be listed as the owner who gives the person permission to insure your car.
What is the difference between insurance company points and DMV points?
In most states, the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and insurance companies use a point system to keep track of your traffic violations and accidents.
The DMV points hit your record when you receive a ticket for speeding or other illegal maneuvers out on the road. If you accumulate a certain number of points on your DMV record your drivers license may be suspended or revoked. Points vary depending on the severity of the incident. A speeding ticket may only be one point while a DUI conviction could result in six points. Each state has their own system.
The points assessed by your insurance company will be different. They will assign points to your insurance record for speeding tickets and other infractions but also for accidents or other incidents that result in a claim. If you hit a certain point threshold on your insurance record you will be looking at a higher premium (a surcharge) or even a cancellation of your policy.
Insurance companies use proprietary point systems although some states, Minnesota and North Carolina are examples, state regulators set up the insurers point systems.
A surcharge is basically a penalty that you pay for your less than stellar driving. You premium will go up by a predetermined amount once you hit a certain point threshold.
"For example, let’s assume that an insurer assigns 2 points to a speeding ticket for 10 mph over the limit and 3 points to a running a red light citation. You now have 5 points on your insurance record and their surcharge schedule shows the rate for a driver with 5 points would be multiplied by 1.25. This is a 25 percent increase that you will be paying until those tickets fall off of your driving record," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst for CarInsurance.com.
How long do tickets and accidents typically stay on your record?
In most cases it depends on the severity of the violation. As far as your DMV record, it will vary by state and the specific law you broke. While a speeding ticket may only stay on your record for 3 years, a DUI can haunt you for decades. In Tennessee a DUI is on your driving record forever and in Florida you are looking at 75 years before it drops off. In general, a citation will stay on your driving record for three to seven years.
When it comes to your insurance premium, you can expect to pay higher rates until the ticket drops off your record. “Usually your rates are going to be affected for as long as the citation or infraction is on your driving record. This is, on average, between three to seven years depending on the severity of the violation,” says JC Matthews, Co-Founder of Simply Insurance. “Once the infraction is removed, your rates usually will go back to normal.
Severe violations such as a DUI will impact your insurance rates for even longer. “DUIs in some states can stay on your driving record and affect your insurance rates for up to 10 years,” warns Gusner. “In California for example, the DUI won't necessarily hit you with a surcharge for 10 years but your insurer, by law, cannot give you a safe driver discount until 10 years have passed.”
How you can save on insurance even if you have tickets on your record?
Even with a less than perfect driving record there are things you can do to lower your insurance premium and find cheapest car insurance for your particular situation. Here are a few ways to bring down your insurance costs:
Shop your coverage: Doing a car insurance comparison is the best option for bringing your insurance premium back down to earth. Insurance companies rate risk differently and this can result in big differences in premiums. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to coverage levels and deductibles.
“If your insurer has raised your rates you should get quotes from at least three other insurance companies to see if you can find a better rate,” advises Gusner.
Rescore your insurance: Ask your agent or insurer to rescore your insurance, it’s possible that you may qualify for a better rate if your credit has improved or other factors that they consider have changed.
Consider ”Accident Forgiveness” policy: While an “Accident Forgiveness” policy will cost a bit more every month, if you are in an at fault accident it can be well worth it. These policies forgive your first accident so your rates will not increase if you have to make a claim due to an accident.
Defensive driving: “Take a defensive driving course, this will result in a discount on your premium,” advises Matthews. Numerous states also allow you to take a defensive driving course to purge a ticket off your driving record. Check with your local DMV to see if this is a possibility.
Raise your deductible: “A higher deductible will lower your premium for comprehensive and collision coverage,” says Gusner. Consider dropping collision and comprehensive altogether if you are driving an older vehicle. While upping your deductible will lower your premiums, always make sure you always choose a deductible that you can easily afford in case you have to make a claim.
Discounts: Every insurer offers many different types of car insurance discounts. Make sure you are getting every discount that can be applied to your policy. Ask your agent to do a discount check to verify that you are getting all of the discounts you are qualified to receive.