You got a ticket. What happens to your insurance rates?

Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Mar 5, 2020

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Here's what you need to know...

  • Traffic tickets often have bad timing and many negative consequences
  • The type of violation you get helps determine if it will increase your rates
  • Your driving history will also play a major role in how a ticket affects your rates
  • How much your rates will go up is a complicated question with many variables
  • There are things you can do to avoid an increase in your insurance premiums

You’re cruising down the highway, lookin’ for adventure, or whatever comes your way. The wind is rustling your luscious locks of hair, the sun is glinting off your aviator sunglasses, and like nature’s child, you were clearly born to be wild.

Then the lights begin flashing behind you. You get a pit in your stomach. This wasn’t supposed to happen. You were just out enjoying a leisurely drive, nothing more than a slow jaunt down the road. Surely you didn’t break the law.

But then the officer tells you that you were doing 60 in a 45 zone. That means a ticket, a fine, and maybe some points on your license.

The first thing that goes through your mind is, Is there any way I can talk my way out of this? When the officer doesn’t respond to your assurances that this kind of thing never happens to you and that you’ve been an Eagle Scout since you were 12, you realize a ticket is headed your way.

Once that sinks in, you think, What’s this going to do to my insurance?

You begin to see dollar signs flashing before your eyes. You picture yourself stuffing envelopes full of cash and sending them to the insurance company.

But you’re not sure. How much will a traffic violation raise your insurance rates?

The answer is: it depends.

That’s where we come in. Let us break down the what, why, and how of traffic violations. We’ll also give you some tips for what to do after a ticket to avoid having your insurance go through the roof (hint: fleeing the country isn’t a good option).

If you’ve recently been ticketed, now’s the best time to compare auto insurance rates. Use our FREE tool above to get started!

What was the violation?

Your insurance rates may rise depending on the type of traffic violation.

There are some that will absolutely up your rates, including:

  • Impaired driving
  • Refusing a breathalyzer or blood test (this doesn’t make you look guilty at all!)
  • Refusing to stop after an accident
  • Driving with a suspended license
  • Racing
  • Running from the police (if we have to tell you this, you have bigger problems)

When the insurance company sees these violations on your record, they will immediately realize you’re not the most reliable driver. You can be sure your insurance rates are going to see a serious bump.

There are some violations that might increase your insurance rates, including:

  • Speeding
  • Improper turn
  • Following too closely (road rage anyone?)
  • Passing a school bus
  • Expired or missing driver’s license
  • No insurance or no proof of insurance
  • Child-seat violations
  • Texting (depending on the state)
  • Failure to yield
  • Improper passing (double yellow line, etc.)

Whether these go on your record and increase your insurance rates depends on your previous record.

If you’re clean and this is your first incident, you may not have any issues. However, if you’re a road warrior who is constantly tailing others, racing your buddies, or blowing past school buses, you can be sure you’re going to get the hammer. You also may want to get some anger management classes.

Most likely, you won’t see any increases from minor violations like parking tickets, noise violations, broken tail lights, etc.

Here’s one really important piece of advice: Don’t be a jerk to the police officer. If you’re respectful, polite, and have a clean record, there is a chance you’ll get off with a warning.

But if you mouth off to the cop, make stupid jokes about donuts, or are just straight up obnoxious, you can count on a ticket.

How clean is your record?

In addition to the type of violation, your overall driving record can significantly affect whether your rates go up. There are a number of factors that play into a potential increase, like which insurance company you use, when the accident happens, age, etc.

As Paul O’Donnell puts it:

All companies check your record when you first become a customer, and some will revisit it when your policy renews, or at regular intervals, normally every 18 months to two years. Younger drivers automatically get more frequent checks from many companies. . . .

Age won’t protect you, of course, if you’re a lousy driver, or a drunken one. If you’ve been signed up as a higher risk, higher premium driver, you’ll be monitored more closely, since the cost of pulling your driving record is frequently built into the rate.

Essentially, if you’re in an accident and the insurance company pulls your record and sees the accident, your rates may go up.

Some insurance companies also offer violation forgiveness policies. Think of this as a sort of get out of jail free card, except instead of jail it’s only an insurance increase. If you run from the police, you’ll still go to jail.

You pay a little extra each month for this, but it usually means that your rates won’t go up for small infractions. Just note, you’ll probably need to already have a clean driving record to qualify for this.

Additionally, more and more companies are offering safe driver discount programs. Granted, these are a little Big Brother-ish. Usually, they involve installing a device in your car to track how you drive.

If the company sees that you drive safely, they may give you a discount on your premiums. Of course, this also tells them if you are doing 95 in a school zone, so beware.

How much will your insurance go up?

The amount your insurance will increase depends on a few things. First, it depends on which insurance company you use. Some insurance companies raise rates significantly more than others.

For example, Quadrant Information Services indicates that if you were to blame for an accident, your yearly premiums may look like the following:

  • State Farm – $755 more than those with a clean driving record ($63/month)
  • Geico – $842 more than those with a clean driving record ($70/month)
  • Allstate – $1,150 more than those with a clean driving record ($96/month)
  • Progressive – $1,277 more than those with a clean driving record ($106/month)

The increase can also depend on the type of violation:

Tickets Increasing Rates GraphFinally, your rates will go up depending on what state you live in. If you live in New York your rates may only go up a bit, but if you live in Washington D.C. you’ll see much higher increases.

The moral of the story? Get quotes from multiple insurance companies, and don’t do stupid things on the highway. If a cop catches you driving like you’re in The Fast and The Furious in front of the White House, you can sure that your premiums are going to way up.

How can you avoid an increase?

There are some violations that will always lead to an increase. If you lead 15 cops on a highway chase, OJ Simpson style, you’ll go to jail and probably be unable to get insurance for a long time.

But if you have a relatively clean record, there are some things you can do that may keep your rates from rising.

Many states allow you to take a defensive driving course instead of getting points assigned to your license. Yes, you have to pay for the course, but that’s probably better than having points on your license for the next several years. Plus, you get to learn all about driving, which is as much fun as you remember it being in high school.

You also have the option of contesting your ticket in court. This can either result in the ticket being dismissed altogether or the amount you were over the speed limit being reduced. Both of these can keep points from being assigned to your license and therefore minimize rate increases.

The closer you were to the speed limit, the better the odds of contesting your ticket.

For example, if you were nine miles over the speed limit and the officer only puts 13, you may be able to get the ticket reduced by three to four miles, which may prevent points from being added (depending on your state).

Another piece of advice: don’t go into the courtroom acting like a big shot lawyer. This isn’t Law & Order. State your case plainly to the judge. If you can demonstrate that a speed limit sign was difficult to see or that there was an abrupt speed drop that wasn’t obvious, you have a better chance of making your point.

Don’t pretend to be a lawyer. Nobody likes a show-off.

If you were born to be wild, your insurance company will make you pay for it. Your best bet is to drive safely and obey the laws. If you fail to do that, your rates may go up depending on the severity of the violation, your state, and insurance company.

When picking your insurance plan, do plenty of research about rate increases due to violations. This will prepare you for what’s ahead and ensure you get the best policy.

The information is in your hands. Don’t make the mistake of not acting. Enter your zip code below to start your FREE comparison!

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