Lots of people have points on their driving record but not everyone realizes quite how much these can affect your auto insurance rates. In this guide, we will explain exactly how your driving record affects your car insurance, tell you the difference between driving license points and insurance points, and show you the best way to see what your driving record looks like to help you save on costly insurance rate hikes.
We have all made mistakes when driving. Sometimes it is a minor thing like speeding or accidentally running a red light. Sometimes it is something more serious. Most of us also know that all of these offenses end up on our drivers record.
But one thing we are not always so clear about is how our driving record then affects our auto insurance rates. For various reasons, the answer is quite a lot.
In this article, we will explain exactly how the state of your driving record will affect how much you have to pay for car insurance. We will also tell you how to check what your driving record looks like and give you a few tips that could help you to keep premiums as low as possible.
How to find out what your driving record looks like
If you are unsure whether you have any driving license points on your record, if you are close to having your license suspended or revoked, or just want to know what information your car insurance rates are based on, the best option is to take a look at your own driving record.
Because driving records are a matter of public record, anyone can access your driving record including yourself. There are three ways you can do this:
Request a copy of your drivers record from your DMV
Your first option is to go through your state’s DMV. Some DMV’s allow people to access an unofficial copy of their driving record online.
If you want to see an official copy with all the latest details included, you will have to make a request. Most DMVs will charge you a fee for this. Typically, this will be around $10 but prices vary from state to state.
Also, be prepared to wait some time for your official copy. DMV’s don’t usually process these requests quickly, so if you need to find out the information quickly, you might want to try another method.
Request a copy of your drivers record from your insurance agent
Car insurance companies will request copies of your driving record when reassessing your insurance rates. Some are willing to provide you with a copy of this record. A few will even do so for free.
Not all insurance agents are happy to do this so it will depend on the company and individual you use.
There is also one big downside to getting a copy this way. Although it might be free, your insurance company will already have seen this version. That means if there are any errors in it, you will find it much harder to get these changed fast enough to affect their latest quote to you.
In other words, you could end up with higher insurance rates in any case, which defeats the object of checking your driving record in the first place.
Run a background check on yourself
Another option is to use a background check to see what your driving record looks like.
Background checking sites are online tools that search through lots of different public records to pull together various bits of data and information about a person. One of the data sources that they will be able to access is your driving record.
If you run a background check on yourself, you can expect to see the most up-to-date version of your driving record with details of any driving license points and other recent incidents included.
A decent background checking site is able to return this information in no more than a few minutes. They use algorithms to search through driving record databases in moments and will include this information alongside anything else they find in easy-to-read reports.
A background check will help you to identify the state of your driving record and identify any errors that need to be rectified. Ultimately, they can also help you save money on your car insurance too.
Best background checking site for driving records
If you opt to use a background checking site to check your driving record, the next decision is which site to use. There are a lot out there but the quality of information they generate can vary significantly.
Fortunately, we have tested all the top background checking sites to see which is best a digging out accurate driving record data. The results of these tests are now in and our top two recommended background checking sites for driving records are:
Instant CheckMate superfast service is the ideal option if you need to check out your driving record fast. In our tests, it generated comprehensive and accurate driving record data in a matter of moments. This speed doesn’t come at the expense of accuracy either. Their results were as accurate as almost any other site as well as being the quickest.
Speed is not the only Instant CheckMate selling point either. It offers nice mobile apps for iOS and Android devices and a user-friendly desktop dashboard. Information is compiled into a final report that is hugely detailed but still simple to read.
At $34.78 per month or $27.82 per month for a three-month subscription, Instant CheckMate is not the cheapest site around. But if you need to find out details of your drivers records fast, Instant CheckMate is a great choice.
TruthFinder lives up to its name by producing unerringly accurate driving record data every time. Even when we tested it with inaccurate or misleading data, this site was still able to dig out the right information every time.
Truthfinder does not offer the most consistent speeds but what it does boast are consistency and accuracy. Its final reports are well-designed and its desktop dashboard and mobile apps are also excellent. A big USP is the customer support service. It is available 24/7 and can be accessed via a toll-free number.
Prices for Truthfinder are pretty reasonable and one thing our testers really liked was the sense that the customer is always its top priority. Not every site feels that way and it is just one of the qualities that really made TruthFinder stand out from the pack.
What is your driving record?
Everyone who holds a US driving license and is driving legally in the country has a driving record. This file is held by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).
It is essentially a record of every aspect of your driving history. Your driving record will include such details as where and when you passed your test, details of the vehicles that you have registered in your name, and most importantly for insurance companies, any major or minor traffic offenses you have incurred.
Driving records are a public record and can, therefore, be accessed by anyone with an interest. The people with the keenest interest tend to be insurance companies and their agents.
How do traffic offenses show up on your driving record?
If you have committed a driving offense, details will be added to your driving record. You are also likely to be given driving license points. These are penalty points that are awarded in most states when a driver breaks the law.
The precise details of driving license points systems differ from state to state but the majority follow a similar pattern. Minor offenses automatically result in a set number of points being added to your license. The more serious the offense, the more points you are given.
An example of how this works is the State of Georgia. In Georgia, the most minor offenses will result in one point being added to your license. The most serious offenses, such as driving at more than 34 mph above the speed limit, driving aggressively, or unlawfully passing a school bus, will result in a six-point penalty. If you are given more than 15 points over a 24-month period, you can expect your license to be suspended.
What is my driving license status?
State DMV’s have the power to change the status of your driving license if they see fit. They will usually only take this step if you are found guilty of a serious driving offense or persistent minor offenses.
The precise rules about when they will change the status of your license will vary between states, but generally speaking, they are empowered to take the following steps:
- Suspend – If you go over the legal points limit in your state or are convicted of a more serious offense, the DMV is empowered to suspend your license for a set period. This means that you are not legally allowed to drive for the duration of your suspension.
- Revoke – If you are found guilty of a more serious offense, the DMV may choose to revoke your license. This means you permanently lose your driving license and are banned from driving legally across the country. In some cases, you may be permitted to retake your test and earn your license again but this is usually only after an agreed period.
- Limit – DMV’s can also place various limitations on your license. The exact details of these limitations will depend on the offenses you have committed and the laws of the state you are in but they can include things like restricting the size of the vehicle or the areas where you are allowed to drive.
There are two main impacts of a change in the status of your driving license. The first is that you could be banned from driving for either a set period or completely. This can be a major issue especially if you live in a rural area or rely on your car to get to work.
The second impact will be felt with your auto insurance rates. Changes to your license status are likely to result in an increase in your insurance rates. This is because insurance companies base their rates on how much of a risk there is of having to make a payment to you. A change in license status strongly suggests you present a higher insurance risk and their rates will increase to reflect this.
What is the difference between driving license points and insurance points?
Having access to your driving record will give you a good indication of whether you can expect your auto insurance rates to rise. But it is worth knowing that your driving record is not the only thing used by insurance companies to determine what rates you should be charged.
Most insurance companies and agents have their own system of insurance points and it is worth clarifying the distinction between these and driving license points.
As we have explained, driving license points are added to your driving record by your state DMV if you commit a minor traffic violation. These points have an influence over how many insurance points you have on your record too, but there are other things that can add insurance points as well.
For example, if you make multiple car insurance claims, this is likely to result in more insurance points being added to your record. Having an expensive car is another thing that can add points.
Essentially, insurance points indicate how much of an insurance risk you are as a driver. Your driving record is a big part of this but it is not the only part. You can have a perfectly clean driving report and still see your car insurance rates increase.
What is an SR-22/Certificate of Insurance?
If you are convicted of a serious traffic offense such as DUI, driving without insurance, or reckless driving, in some states you may be required to carry an SR-22/Certificate of Insurance in order to get your driving privileges restored.
Contrary to what many people think, an SR-22/Certificate of Insurance is not an insurance policy. Instead, it is a form provided by your insurance company to prove that you have purchased and are maintaining the required level of liability insurance.
Requesting an SR-22/Certificate of Insurance will not automatically increase your car insurance rates on its own. It may add a small administrative fee to your bill but nothing more than that.
The reason rates tend to rise at the same time as requesting an SR-22/Certificate of Insurance is because of the offense you have committed which means the certificate is required. The certificate itself has no effect on your insurance rates at all.
Your driving record is a major factor in how much your car insurance premiums are. As we have explained, the more points and offenses there are on your record, the more of a risk you will seem to insurance agents and the higher their rates will be.
In this guide, we have explained everything you need to know about driving records. We have also advised how you can check the status of your own record. And we have detailed what other factors can affect your auto insurance rates.
Have you ever checked your driving record to see if it is affecting your car insurance rates? Did you spot any errors or manage to avoid a change in your license status as a result of the information you found? Was a background check the most effective way of checking your driving records? If you have any advice or tips for our readers that we haven’t covered in this guide, please do share them with us using the comment box below.