How Driving Records Affect Car Insurance Rates

Your driving record plays a huge role in how much you pay for car insurance. Here's how having too many tickets or accidents can cost you.
sad man with crashed car

It may seem like your car insurance rates can go up or down for no reason. But car insurance companies use many factors to decide your rates. They may look at things like your age, gender, credit score, and even your marital status. Many of these factors help insurers figure out how reliable or risky you are as both a customer and driver. Safe drivers pay less, risky drivers pay more.

Your driving record is one of the most important factors that can impact your car insurance rates. You’ll be able to keep your rates low if your record is clear of tickets and accidents. But you could end up paying a lot more for auto insurance if you get too many violations or a severe one, such as a DUI.

Most car insurance companies will charge you more for coverage if they think you’ll cost them money. A driving record packed with tickets and accidents will make you look like a higher risk to get into accidents and file more claims, costing your insurer money.

Your insurer may even cancel your insurance or choose not to renew your policy if you get a severe violation such as a DUI/DWI or reckless driving conviction. This could force you to look for a high-risk company or join your state’s risk pool just to get coverage.

This article will explain exactly how your driving record affects your car insurance premium. We’ll break down things like what makes up your driving record, and how insurance companies use it when deciding rates. You’ll also find out how you could lower your rates if you have a bad driving record.

What Makes Up Your Driving Record?

Your driving record generally includes types of information about your driving history. Keep in mind that the specifics of what makes up a driving record could vary from state to state. But most states include details such as:

  • Your name and address
  • Your current license status
  • Driver’s license number
  • Driver’s license points
  • Fees
  • Convictions
  • Moving violations
  • Accidents and collisions
  • Suspensions or revocations

You can typically access your driving record by going on your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. You’ll usually have to fill out a request form and provide proper identification such as your name, date of birth, and driver’s license number. Some states may also require you to pay a fee before you can get your motor vehicle report (MVR). Washington State, for instance, charges a fee of $13 for those who want to request a copy of their driving record.

It may be a good idea to check your driving record if you suspect there’s something on it that’ll raise your rates. In this way, you’d be able to prepare for a rate increase, maybe by saving money, dropping extra coverages, and more.

What Are Points Systems?

Several states use points systems to track the violations on your driving record. These systems usually track points up to a specific threshold. This means that you could lose your license if you exceed a certain number of points. Your state may suspend it or even revoke it in some cases. Your insurer will see the points you collect on your driving record and raise your rates if you get too many.

Not every state uses the same points system. This means that the number of points you can get before you get a license suspension or revocation can vary. For example, some states may use eight points, but others may use ten. The amount of time that your state tracks your violations will also vary. A state may monitor points for one year, and another might monitor points for up to three years.

Each state also allocates unique amount of points for each violation. One state may give you five points for reckless driving, and another may give six. Be sure to check your state’s website to see how its point system works.

How Car Insurance Companies Can See Your Driving Record

Car insurance companies periodically access state driving records to assess drivers for risky behavior. They won’t have full access to your record. But they will see all your convictions, traffic violations, and accident history.

In general, insurers will check your driving record when you start a new policy or before a renewal period. They might also look at it when you make changes to your policy such as adding or removing drivers and vehicles. Keep in mind that since insurers check your driving record occasionally, they might not see new violations right away. For instance, it could be a while before you’ll see a rate increase if you’ve just gotten insurance and get into an accident or get a few tickets.

What Kinds of Violations Raise Your Rates?

Many types of moving violations can cause your rates to go up, but others may not. Insurers will increase your premium if they think you’re a high-risk driver. One or two speeding tickets for going five over the limit aren’t likely to cause your rates to go up. But your insurer might bump up your rates if you rack up violations on your record, even if they seem as simple as a speeding ticket or running a red light.

Your insurance company is almost sure to raise your rates if you get a serious violation, like a DUI, on your record. This kind of infraction is often enough to get your license suspended and will signal to your insurer that you’re an unsafe or reckless driver.

Here are some violations that’ll more than likely increase your car insurance rates:

  • Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol
  • Frequent speeding violations
  • Distracted driving
  • Reckless driving
  • Racing
  • Hit-and-runs

How Accidents Affect Rates

Accidents have a major impact on auto insurance rates. Depending on your insurer, you can face higher rates if you get into a lot of accidents, even minor ones. Each insurance company has unique criteria for determining a bad driving record. But too many accidents on your record can make you appear as a sizable risk to file more claims and cost your insurer more money.

Note that your claim history is another important factor that insurance companies look at to decide your car insurance rates. Per the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), your insurance rates are likely to go up if you file too many claims within a short period.

How a Poor Driving Record Affects Your Car Insurance

You’ll pay more for car insurance if you get lots of tickets and accidents. But one or more serious offenses can also make you lose your car insurance altogether. If you get a DUI, for example, your insurer might cancel your insurance. If this were the case, you’d have to try to find a high-risk or non-standard car insurance company that’s willing to insure you. These non-standard companies often charge way more than regular insurers do.

If you lose your standard car insurance due to a serious traffic violation, you could also try to enter your state’s assigned risk pool. That means your state would assign you to a car insurance company in the pool. Just like high-risk auto insurance companies, you can expect insurance from the state-assigned risk pool to be more expensive than regular car insurance.

You can also lose access to discounts with tickets and accidents on your record. This could be another reason you’ll see your rates increase. For instance, you likely won’t be able to get a safe driver discount. That usually requires you to go several years without any major hiccups on your record.

How to Lower Your Rates

Though it seems like a tough spot to be in, you can still take steps to lower your rates if you have a bad driving record. Below are steps you can take:

  • Drive safely. This sounds obvious, but you can always try to establish good driving habits. That’ll help keep you out of trouble and keep your rates low.
  • Try to get discounts. Many insurers offer special discounts for things like bundling your insurance, having multiple cars on your policy, or even being a good student.
  • Take a Defensive Driving Course. These types of classes can show insurers that you have made a strong effort to improve your driving. And, who knows, you might learn a thing or two.
  • Compare car insurance quotes. Your current insurer might charge you more than another one would. You might be able to find a better price on car insurance by shopping around and comparing quotes between car insurance companies.
  • Drive less. Your yearly mileage is a factor that almost all insurers use to pick your rates. Driving less will help you avoid costly tickets and accidents, as well as the impact they have on your insurance.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: How far back will insurers go back in your driving record?

A: The length of time that insurers will look back at your driving record will vary by company and by which state you live in. But it’s common for car insurance companies to look back at your driving record for the past three or five years.

Q: How long will tickets affect my rates?

A: Tickets will affect your rates for as long as they appear on your driving record. It depends on your state, but tickets can typically go off your record after two to five years or even one year in some states.

Q: Can I check my driving record on my own?

A: Almost every state has an online system where you can access your driving record. You can usually check your driving record on your own using your state’s DMV website. Be sure to have the following information handy:

  • Your name, date of birth, and address
  • Your driver’s license number
  • Social security number

Q: What are the best insurance companies for drivers with tickets and accidents?

A: Typically, if you have a bumpy record, the best insurer is the one that’ll write you a policy. However, you can still try to find the cheapest one with the greatest bang for your buck. Some companies offer discounts, accident forgiveness, and other benefits you can use to lower your rates. Check out our article on the best car insurance companies for people with bad driving records.

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