personal finance

A Single Traffic Violation Can Cost You Hundreds of Dollars in Car Insurance

Meghan Nash / Getty

A single driving violation increases your auto insurance costs by an average of 35%, according to a recent Insurify study.

Relatively minor infractions matter, too. A speeding ticket will cost you an extra $422 annually on your next insurance quote, which is considerable — especially compared to the extra $723 you'd pay annually for a DUI.

Here are the average annual quotes for auto insurance applications in 2021, based on various driving violations:

  • Clean record: $1,483
  • Failure to stop at a red light: $1,891
  • Speeding: $1,905
  • Failure to stop at a stop sign: $1,919
  • At-fault accident: $2,005
  • Negligent driving: $2,070
  • Failure to stop for a school bus: $2,192
  • Careless driving: $2,192
  • Tailgating: $2,206
  • DUI: $2,916

Your driving record doesn't just affect a potential insurance quote, it can affect your current bill, too: Monthly premiums will almost always go up when you make a claim for an accident, and most insurers have policies that can raise rates for other forms of bad driving, too.

These "premiums are based on your risk profile, which anticipates whether you're going to file a claim," says Tanveen Vohra, an insurance expert at Insurify. "When you get a speeding ticket, that sends insurers the message that you're indulging in reckless driving behavior and might file a claim for damages somewhere down the line."

It varies by state, but most driving violations will be added to your driver's record. Insurance providers have access to this information and can use it to justify an increase to your monthly bill. Insurers can also choose to not renew your policy when it expires, especially if you have serious violations, like a DUI.

The severity of your violation also determines how long it stays on your driver's record. Typically, a speeding ticket will stay on your record for three years, while a DUI can be 10 years or more, according to ValuePenguin. 

Poor credit can be worse than traffic violations

In addition to your age, where you live and how you drive, auto insurers also use your credit score to determine your annual cost of insurance. Here are how the average annual rates break down by credit score, according to Insurify's data:

  • Fair/poor (300-600): $2,378
  • Average (601-660): $1,919
  • Good (661-780): $1,640
  • Excellent (781-850): $1,540

Having a poor credit score seems to matter more than how well you drive. The difference between a good and poor credit score will cost you $736 extra in annual costs for auto insurance, compared to $709 for a careless driving violation.

This has led to critics calling for a ban on using credit scores to determine auto insurance rates. They argue that it unfairly punishes people for their credit history rather than how they actually drive. A driver who's had to declare bankruptcy due to unexpected medical debt is not necessarily a bad driver, but they'd be paying more for car insurance, for example.

Whether these rules change or not, the best way to avoid paying hundreds of extra dollars per year on car insurance is to keep a good credit score, along with a good driving record.

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