insurance

How Tickets Boost Car Insurance Premiums

Even a minor violation could have a big impact on your rates.

How much will my car insurance premiums increase after I get a ticket?

It depends on the type of ticket. A DUI boosts premiums by 93%, on average, and reckless driving hikes rates by an average of 82%, according to a study by InsuranceQuotes.com, which found average national premium increases after various types of moving violations.

Even a citation for a less serious moving violation can cause a big increase. For example, premium hikes average 18% for driving in a carpool lane and 19% for failure to yield to pedestrians. The impact of a speeding ticket depends on the speed. On average, rates increase 21% for driving 1 to 15 miles per hour over the limit, 28% for 16 to 30 mph over the limit, and 30% for more than 30 mph over the limit. (In some states, excessive speed is considered reckless driving.)

The specifics can vary a lot by insurer and state. For example, the average increase after a DUI was 183% in California but just 55% in Florida, says Laura Adams, senior insurance analyst for InsuranceQuotes.com. Some state laws limit how much insurers can raise rates for different types of violations, she says. InsuranceQuotes.com has a calculator that estimates how much different types of tickets may affect your rates, based on your state, current premium and the type of violation.

Also, some insurers assess bigger rate increases than others for certain types of tickets, based on their own experience with how often people cited for those types of moving violations have claims. And some offer forgiveness programs that let your first moving violation slide, depending on the type of ticket.

You may not see a ticket’s impact on your rates for a while. An insurer can’t raise your rates until your policy is up for renewal (most policies renew every six months). And your insurer might not check your motor vehicle record every time it renews your policy -- although the department of motor vehicles may notify your insurer right away for some major violations, such as DUI or reckless driving.

No matter when your rate goes up, it could affect your premiums for several years. “In some states, a violation may be on your motor vehicle record for up to five years, but the majority of states keep it on your record for three years,” says Adams. A DUI could stay on your record for longer than ten years, she says.

If you do get a ticket and you think you have a good excuse or were wrongly cited, it can be worthwhile to go to traffic court. The potential impact on your insurance rates can be far more costly than the fine. “Anytime you have a major violation, you definitely want to consider hiring a traffic attorney, even if it’s just to find out if you have a case,” says Adams. Some judges will forgive the violation or reduce the charge if you have had a clean driving record for a year or more (though you may have to pay the full fine).

Some states will forgive tickets or erase points from your record if you complete a driving class. Contact your state’s department of motor vehicles to see whether it offers such a program.

Also, some insurers raise premiums a lot more than others do after you get a ticket. Shop around after your insurer hikes your rate to see if another company is more forgiving.

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