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

Insurance companies use many factors to decide your rates. Insurers may use your age, gender, credit score, and marital status to determine how reliable a customer or risky a driver you are. Safe drivers pay less, and bad drivers pay more.

Your driver record is essential information necessary to write you a policy. Most companies will charge you more for coverage if they think you might cost them money. A driving history with many tickets and accidents indicates a greater likelihood that you’ll file an expensive claim.

This article will explain how your driving record affects your premium. We break down the information stored by state and local authorities and how providers use it when deciding rates. Then, we detail the consequences drivers face from insurers for tickets and accidents. Finally, we show how to lower rates with a bad driver history.

What Makes Up Your Driving Record?

Your driving record generally includes types of information about violations and citations. Keep in mind that the details within your driver history 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 to 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 $15 for those who want to request a copy of their history.

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 Driver’s License Points?

Several states use point 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 a 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 Insurers Access Your Driving History

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 record when you start a new policy or before a renewal period. They might also look at it when you make changes such as adding or removing drivers and vehicles.

Keep in mind that since insurance providers 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 after causing an accident or receiving tickets for moving violations.

What Kinds of Violations Raise Your Rates?

Many types of moving violations can cause your rates to go up, but others may not. Your insurance company 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 provider 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 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 premiums. Depending on your insurer, you can face higher rates if you get into a lot of accidents, even minor ones. Each 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 provider more money.

Note that your claim history is another important factor that insurance carriers look at to decide your rates. Per the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), your rates are likely to go up if you file too many within a short period. You’ll also lose you claims-free savings if your insurer awarded you a discount for not filing with them.

How a Poor Record Affects Your Premium

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

If you lose your standard coverage 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 an insurer in the pool. Just like high-risk companies, you can expect coverage from the state-assigned risk pool to be more expensive than a regular policy.

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 will no longer qualify for the 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 habits when behind the wheel. 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 policies, having multiple cars on your policy, or even being a good student.
  • Take a defensive driver class. These types of classes can show insurers that you have made a strong effort to improve your motoring skills. You could even get a discount for taking a defensive driving course. And, who knows, you might learn a thing or two.
  • Drive less. Your yearly mileage is a rate factor almost all insurers use to determine your premium. Driving less will help you avoid costly tickets and accidents, as well as the impact they have on your rates.

Frequently Asked Questions

How far back will insurers go back in your driver history?

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 record for the past three or five years.

How long will tickets affect my rates?

Tickets will affect your rates for as long as they appear on your 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.

Can I check my driving record on my own?

Almost every state has an online system where you can access your driving history. You can usually check your 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

Will lots of tickets make me a high-risk driver?

Having lots of tickets or points on your driving record will almost certainly make your insurance company see you as a high-risk driver. When this happens, you could lose your policy or, at the very least, face significantly higher rates. If your insurer cancels your policy, you might have to switch to a non-standard provider that specializes in high-risk coverage.

What are the best companies for bad driver histories?

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 companies for bad driving records.


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