If you get a speeding ticket or get into an accident, it doesn’t just disappear after you pay the fee or get compensated from filing a claim. It ends up on your driving record.
Your driving record stays with your state’s DMV. It records any black marks on your driving record down to the last ticket. It can have a pretty big impact on how much you pay for car insurance.
Luckily, marks on your driving record don’t last forever. Find out how long an accident stays on your driving record:
How long does an accident stay on your driving record?
If you get into an accident, it goes on your driving record. It doesn’t matter whether you caused the accident or not.
In the case where you did cause the accident, any tickets issued to you will appear here too. So people who look at your driving record (including insurers) can see whether the accident was your fault or not.
Generally, accidents and tickets stay on your driving record for three years before falling off. For major violations, like a hit-and-run or a DUI, you can expect these to stay on your driving record for 10 years.
These are only general guidelines. Actual length of time an accident stays on your driving record also varies by state.
For example, California uses a points system. Most accidents and tickets can stay on your record for three years and three months. Major offenses stay on your record for a whopping 13 years.
If you’re worried about whether your driving record shows any accidents or tickets, you can check your driving record with your state’s DMV. There may be a fee to get an official copy of your driving record. But many states offer you the option to view an unofficial copy online for free.
It’s a good idea to check your driving record before shopping for insurance. You can make sure that your record is accurate and doesn’t contain any mistakes. This is especially true if it’s been a few years since your last accident because you’ll want to make sure that it’s properly written off of your record.
What happens to my insurance rates if I get into an accident?
First, check to see whether your policy offers accident forgiveness for accidents that you cause. Many policies do, although sometimes this costs extra. If this is your first accident and your policy offers accident forgiveness protection, you’ve likely got nothing to worry about.
But if you don’t have accident forgiveness on your policy, or if you’ve been in more than one accident, you can likely expect a rate rise.
How much does insurance go up after an accident? This depends on a lot of factors, such as where you live, how many claims you’ve filed recently, the severity of the accident, how long you’ve been with your current insurance company, and more.
In general, though, you can expect your rates to rise by around 50 percent to 100 percent after an accident. If you did something major, such as getting a DUI or getting into multiple accidents in a short period of time, most insurers will even decline to renew your policy when it comes time.
Can insurance companies raise my rates if I didn’t cause the accident?
It seems unfair that your rates would go up if someone else ran into you, but in some cases that can indeed happen. Just ask Mark Huntley, co-founder of Credit Knocks who had an driver without insurance back into his Buick Lucerne a couple of years ago.
“My insurance company — State Farm — had to pay about $2,000 for the repairs and they increased my rates from $1,350 annually to $2,125,” says Huntley.
“I did not know that the accident could increase my rates. I thought that having uninsured motorist insurance was just for this purpose. I thought I was paying to be protected from uninsured motorists, but it turns out I was only protecting my car from them, not myself.”
According to one Consumer Federation of America study, this isn’t uncommon.
Not-at-fault accidents can cause your rates to rise. Progressive was the worst offender in this study. It raised rates by an average of 17 percent for drivers who had done nothing wrong except be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Even if you’re with a “safe” insurer, you may not be as safe as you think you are. In the study, State Farm didn’t raise rates at all for the not-at-fault drivers. But Huntley did see his State Farm rates jump up after his accident.
The good news is that some states prohibit this act. If you live in California or Oklahoma, for example, there are laws in place that prevent insurers from raising your rates if you’re involved in an accident that wasn’t your fault.
Is there a way for me to lower my rates if I’ve been in an accident?
If you like your insurance company and are willing to stick it out, your rates might lower back down to normal once the mark falls off of your driving record. But there are plenty of ways to save money on car insurance while playing the waiting game.
You can take a second look at what discounts you’re eligible for to lower your rates. It’s a good idea to check with your agent to see what you might qualify for. Here are some popular ones:
- Signing up for electronic statements
- Bundling your home and auto insurance
- Taking a defensive driving class
- Paying your premium in full
- Installing anti-theft devices in your vehicle
But one of the best things you can do if your insurance company raises your rates is to shop around. Companies will still be able to see the accident on your record, but not all of them will penalize you for it as much as your current insurer.
That’s what Huntley did when State Farm raised his rates after someone hit his vehicle. “I went online and Geico offered me a rate for $1,175 annually. I’ve been with Geico ever since.”
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