It’s hard to get affordable car insurance rates when you have a blemished driving record. But take heart: You don’t need a time machine to fix all your motoring mistakes. Clearing your driving record after the fact can be nearly as effective at keeping rates down as avoiding mistakes in the first place.
And there are surprisingly straightforward ways to do it.
How to clear your driving record
A flashing police light in your rearview is never a welcome sight. But keep in mind that tickets aren’t necessarily set in stone. Here are some steps you can take to clean up your record.
- Contest questionable tickets: The National Motorists Association estimates that only one out of 20 drivers contests a ticket. But fighting tickets can be worth the effort, especially if you have a shaky driving record. Even if you’re guilty of an infraction, there might be mitigating factors that can win leniency from a judge. Maybe you were rushing to get to a hospital. Maybe your speedometer was poorly calibrated. If you truly believe you were wrongfully ticketed, you should fight it; that’s the only way to get penalties reduced or dismissed.
- Resolve those “fix-it” tickets: If you get a ticket for, say, a broken taillight, misplaced driver’s license or another fixable faux pas, address the matter right away. Doing so could keep the ticket off your record — and your insurer’s radar.
- Take a driver safety course: Depending on your violation, you might be able wipe away penalty points or get tickets dismissed by completing a state-approved defensive driving course. This will likely remedy only minor mistakes, such as moderate speeding or failure to yield. It won’t erase criminal moving violations, like a DUI.
- Request expungement: Rather than waiting for penalty points to expire, in some states you can request that the violation be expunged from your record. In Maryland, for instance, you’re eligible to expunge certain violations after three years, as long as you haven’t committed any moving violations since or had your license suspended. This could be especially valuable when getting car insurance quotes from companies that look back four or five years (or more) into your driving history.
Tickets? You might be able to get a better deal by comparing quotes through NerdWallet’s car insurance tool.
How long violations affect your car insurance rates
If you’re unable to clear your traffic tickets, you might be stuck waiting them out. The time period varies by insurer and state.
On average, insurers are concerned with accidents and moving violations that occurred within the past three to five years. Serious violations, especially DUIs, affect your rates for longer. In California, a DUI conviction stays on your record for 10 years. In Florida, alcohol-related violations stay with you for 75 years — for life, essentially.
Not all violations affect insurance rates
From an insurance standpoint, you don’t have to stress over every ticket. Parking violations generally don’t affect car insurance premiums as long as you pay on time. And some insurers even forgive certain first-time citations.
A NerdWallet study found that some insurance companies might not bump up rates for one minor speeding ticket, whereas others could charge up to 30% more. This kind of disparity makes it essential to shop around if you have a spotty record.
Violations due to reckless or dangerous driving are extra hard on your wallet. Expect a DUI conviction to add thousands of dollars to the cost of insurance over three to five years. NerdWallet’s study found that in Florida, three moderate speeding tickets over two years cost an extra $600 a year in car insurance premiums on average.
Take control of your driving record to save
Remember, it’s not necessarily the traffic tickets you get that raise car insurance rates — it’s the ones that stick. Knowing how to clear your driving record of minor violations or equipment-related citations helps you maintain a responsible reputation in your insurer’s eyes — and, more importantly, enjoy affordable rates in the future.
Alex Glenn is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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