Today, I want to talk all about insurance companies: what traffic violations will make your rate go up, by how much, for how long and if there is anything you can do about it. There is a lot to cover today, so let's jump right in!
What traffic violations will affect my insurance?
Only moving violations.
That means if you parked somewhere you shouldn't have or your tail light was burnt out, you may still have to pay a fine, but it won't have any bearing on your insurance whatsoever. Speeding, not stopping for a red light or stop sign, reckless driving, driving without a license, or anything else directly related to your driving are the only violations that can impact your rate.
I got a ticket for a moving violation. Does that mean my insurance company is going to charge me more?
First, many companies will be forgiving with a first-time offense, especially if you've been a customer in good standing. Even if your insurance company doesn't raise your rates, they may still pull your good driver discount.
It's also worth noting that when a violation is recorded on your Motor Vehicle Record (MVR), that doesn't mean that your insurance company will know about it. They need to go and check manually, which they only do when they have a reason to. Those reasons typically include your policy being up for renewal, you making a claim, adding a driver, etc). Because this check costs your insurance company money to perform, they may not even run it every year, which means that in some instances you might not see your rate go up until 1-2 years after you're pulled over.
How much more will I have to pay? For how long?
A report conducted by Insurance.com explains how much your rates are likely to increase, according to each kind of ticket:
- A first offense DUI/DWI: Your rates will likely go up 79%, around $1,131
- Failure to stop: You might see rates increase up to 19%, or $272
- Seatbelt infraction: 3% raise is likely, or $47
- Speeding ticket: Up to 20% increase, $317
- Talking on a cellphone while driving: 16% increase, or around $224
The actual amount will depend on a whole host of factors including: how serious your violation was, your driving record, and how your insurance company weighs those factors.
There is no set law for when an offence will drop off your insurance record, so your results may vary, but three years seems to be the agreed upon minimum for a speeding or similar ticket sticking on your record. Some insurers will hold that ticket for up to five years.
I'm not loving what I'm reading. Is there any good news?
Yes, in fact there is! As I've written above, getting a ticket doesn't mean your insurance rates will go up. There are things you can do to avoid or at least limit a rate increase. Let's go through them:
- Fight your ticket – I've written previously about the true cost of a traffic ticket and how much more than just ‘a fine' you may end up paying, but fear not! What many drivers don't consider is that you can bring your ticket to court. If you win, the fees, points, insurance hikes, etc all go away. You can of course always hire a lawyer to handle this for you.
- If you choose to pay your ticket, or aren't able to win in court, check if there is a defensive driving course you can take. Sometimes that is enough to wipe the ticket from your record or at least get a reduced rate from your insurance company.
- Call your insurance company and talk to them – you'd be surprised what they'd be willing to do if you asked them nicely for a discount. Tell them “times are tough” and ask what they can do. Unless you have a really bad driving record, they'll likely be willing to lower their fees to keep you as a customer. You can also ask about installing a telematics device in your car and if that would make a difference.
- If they aren't willing to help you, don't think you're out of options just yet. Start getting other quotes, you may find an insurer willing to take you on at a lower rate.
- My last ditch recommendation is that if you really need the lower rate, you can try increasing your deductible which will lower your premium, but be careful with this one or you may get stuck in a worse situation if you ever need to make a claim.
I hope you now have a good sense of what a traffic ticket might do to your insurance and what you can do about it.