A former insurance producer, Laura understands that education is key when it comes to buying insurance. She has happily dedicated many hours to helping her clients understand how the insurance marketplace works so they can find the best car, home, and life insurance products for their needs.

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Written by Laura Berry
Former Insurance Agent Laura Berry

Melanie Musson is the fourth generation in her family to work in the insurance industry. She grew up with insurance talk as part of her everyday conversation and has studied to gain an in-depth knowledge of state-specific insurance laws and dynamics as well as a broad understanding of how insurance fits into every person’s life, from budgets to coverage levels. Through her years working in th...

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Reviewed by Melanie Musson
Published Insurance Expert Melanie Musson

UPDATED: Apr 1, 2021

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Most people are aware that their auto insurance costs are determined by their driving history. When they think of driving history, its common to assume this means a history of prior accidents, but that is not the only factor that car insurance companies assess. Overall driving behaviors influence the cost of insurance, and tickets and citations are a large component of that figure. Even if you have never been involved in an accident, tickets will cause your rates to increase.

View common questions and answers about Tickets and Car Insurance

Auto insurance companies do not assess all tickets in the same way, and a ticket will not have as much of an effect on your policy as an accident will. Nevertheless, if you wish to keep the lowest possible auto insurance rates, you will work diligently to avoid getting tickets for traffic violations.

Why Tickets Cause Rate Increases

There are two primary reasons why auto insurance companies assess higher rates to people who have received tickets for traffic violations:

1.) Drivers who get tickets may be more likely to get involved in an auto accident. The reason that certain behaviors are illegal, such as speeding, failure to yield right of way, running red lights or changing lanes without signalling, is that all of these behaviors can cause accidents. Because traffic laws help to keep the roads safe, anyone in violation of those laws is engaging in risky behaviors.

2.) Drivers who do not get tickets are less likely to be involved in accidents. Insurance companies want to reward their best drivers. This is because people who never have car accidents are the ideal insurance clients; they pay regular premiums but never require claims settlements. In order to lure good drivers to stay with them, insurance companies offer discounts. One way to determine a good driver is to check their history for accidents and traffic violations.

This means that insurance companies offer coverage on a baseline. People with no citations at all will pay below average rates and people with numerous citations will pay above the average rates. The average cost of insurance will assume a handful of traffic tickets throughout a driver’s lifetime.

What Tickets Affect Car Insurance Rates?

Not all tickets that you receive will have an effect on your auto insurance. Only tickets related to your actual driving habits will affect your premiums. This means that speeding and traffic violations will impact the cost of your insurance, but parking tickets will not. Of course, parking tickets can still be expensive and can cause problems with your license and other legal trouble if left unpaid, so there are many reasons to avoid getting a parking ticket; your auto insurance provider won’t really mind or notice either way.

Violations are also ranked as “minor” and “major” tickets. Minor violations include speeding less than 15 mph over the speed limit or having a malfunctioning taillight. Major violations would be things like running red lights, reckless endangerment or any violation that actually caused an auto accident. Insurance companies will treat major violations differently than minor ones.

How Many Tickets does it take to Affect a Premium?

Insurance companies work on a points system. These points are separate from the points against your license that the DMV may assess, so just because you have points on one does not mean you have points on the other. You should check with your insurance company to determine exactly how points accumulate and how many points any particular violation is worth.

As a general rule, each incident that occurs will be worth a certain number of points against the driver’s driving record. After a certain number of points are accrued, the insurance rates will increase. If enough points are accrued, the insurance company may cancel the policy or refuse to renew it.

The specific details of how points are calculated and assessed will vary from one insurance company to the next, so it’s a good idea to check with your insurer to verify any questions that you have. Because points are assessed differently, your rates may be calculated differently at a new insurance company. This is one reason why rates fluctuate so much between different insurers. An accident may be worth more with one company, but speeding tickets may be worth more with another.

How Can I reduce My Rates if I Have Tickets?

Fortunately, it is possible for points against your driving record to drop off over time. Most points will only remain against your record for a maximum of seven years; after that period, your rates should decrease as long as you maintain safe driving habits. This means that even if you have a very bad driving record, you can repair the damage and reduce your insurance costs over time.

Until your tickets begin to roll off of your driving record, you may need to find other ways to reduce your premiums. Ask your insurance company if there are any discounts you may qualify for. Depending on your situation, you may be able to reduce the cost of insurance by taking a class, installing safety features on your vehicle or maintaining multiple types of insurance with a single provider.

Also bear in mind that not all safe driving programs are contingent on you driving ticket-free. In order to lose safe driver privileges, you may need to be involved in an accident, not just obtain a ticket. This means that though your rates may not be the lowest possible, you should not lose a safe driving award that you already have just because you get into an auto accident.

Car insurance rates can be a complex subject, and it’s a good idea to check with your agent or the insurance company’s customer service department if you have any questions. The insurance representative will be happy to review your rates with you and determine what ways you can reduce the cost of your policy and what flaws are holding you back from he best rates. They will also be able to explain how points are assessed and any other company-specific questions you may have.

If you do not already have insurance or you’re thinking about purchasing insurance from a new company, be sure to ask the new company about the way they deal with premiums and tickets before agreeing to the policy. This will protect you from paying more for auto insurance than you need to and ensures that you know exactly what your policy will cover before you sign the paperwork.