How your driving record affects car insurance rates

Find out what shows up on your driving history, how often providers access it and tips to improve it.

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Police Handing A Ticket To A Woman In Car

Think of your driving record as a snapshot of the last five years or so of your life behind the wheel. If your record is squeaky clean, it’ll be music to your car insurance company’s ears.

But a driving record that has more than just a minor blemish or two? That could end up costing you in higher premiums until you have a clean slate.

What is my driving record?

Also known as a motor vehicle report, your driving record provides detailed information about you and your driving history. Your insurance company can access your driving record, which included information like:

  • Your full name and address
  • Your date of birth
  • Your gender
  • Your driver’s license number, type, class and any restrictions
  • Any points on your license
  • Details about driving convictions, like speeding tickets, accidents and DUIs

How does the point system work?

All provinces and territories use some kind of point system to categorize different levels of violations noted on your driving record. The number of points you’ll get for various driving infractions varies by provinces.

For example, in Ontario, you’ll get three points added to your license if you’re going more than 16 km over the limit but less than 29 km over. But if you’re charged with careless driving in Ontario, you’ll get six demerit points. Accumulating 15 points or more will get your license suspended for 30 days.

Too many points on your driving record impacts your car insurance rates. The more points, the higher your premium.

What factors affect my driving record?

Lots of factors can affect your driving record — some more detrimental than others. For example, a minor moving violation affects your car insurance rates much less than a DUI. Additionally, different insurance companies might have different policies for specific driving record blemishes, which can include:

  • Speeding tickets
  • Accidents
  • Tailgating
  • Late payments or overdue bills
  • Too many past insurance claims
  • Getting a traffic ticket in a school zone or construction zone
  • DUIs

How much do minor moving violations affect my insurance rate?

If you get a ticket for minor moving violations, such as failing to stop at a stop sign, running a red light or even throwing trash out your window, your insurance premiums could go up. It’ll depend on your insurer, where you live and your driving record.

Some insurance companies let these violations slide if you have a clean driving history, whereas others immediately raise your rates. If you live in a province that uses a typical point system, you could get anywhere from zero to three points for these types of violations.

Things like parking tickets, equipment citations and a broken tail light typically won’t make their way to your driving record, so your car insurance premium should stay the same. Just make sure to take care of your expired tabs or broken lights as soon as possible after the citation.

How does a speeding ticket affect my insurance rate?

It’s impossible to predict exactly how much your insurance company will raise your rates after getting a speeding ticket because so many different factors are involved. If it’s your first speeding ticket, your insurance company might offer ticket forgiveness and your rates won’t budge. But if you have two or three speeding tickets on your driving record, your rates could increase. For severe speeding violations — such as going 50 km over the posted speed limit — your insurance rates will likely increase more than they would for a minor infraction, such as going 16 km over the limit.

How does a DUI affect my insurance rate?

Driving under the influence is one of the most serious driving violations, so expect your insurance rates to skyrocket for the next few years. Some insurance companies may just cancel the policy all together following a DUI conviction, leaving you to get coverage through a high-risk insurer. If your policy is not cancelled, you can expect your rates to increase by anywhere from $1,500 to over $5,000 more annually.

How long do these factors stay on my driving record?

More serious violations will stay on your driving record and affect your insurance rates for longer than minor ones. In general, you can expect the following:

  • Speeding tickets, cell phone violations and other moving violations stay on your record for 3 years.
  • At-fault crashes stay on your record for 3 years, but they could still affect your insurance rates for up to 5 years.
  • DUIs stay on your record for 6 to 10 years, but if you maintain a clean driving record for 6 to 8 years, you may be able to lock in standard insurance rates even with the DUI still showing on your record.

Why do insurers check my driving record?

Insurance companies determine your risk before they take you on as a customer. One way to do this is to look at your driving record. Insurers use this data to predict how likely they’ll end up paying out a claim.

For example, someone with a clean driving record and no history of accidents is considered a safe driver and might even get a special discount. The insurance company sees this person as low risk, which equates to lower monthly premiums.

On the other hand, someone with multiple speeding tickets and accidents on their driving record is probably more likely to get another speeding ticket or be involved in another accident. This person is considered higher risk to insurance companies, which means higher insurance premiums.

How do insurance companies use my driving record?

Your insurance company will likely charge you higher rates as long as you have a violation on your record. So that speeding ticket you got 2 years ago could still be the reason you’re paying higher rates now. Insurance policies with accident forgiveness look past your first driving infraction, like a speeding ticket or at-fault accident, and won’t raise your rates. Repeat offenses, however, could raise your rates, but that depends on your insurance company and where you live.

When do insurers check my driving record?

Since it costs insurance companies a fee to check your driving record, most won’t keep constant tabs on you. In most cases, insurance companies look at your driving record when you first apply for an insurance policy, switch companies and sometimes when you renew your policy. So if you get a speeding ticket under your current policy, your rates might not be affected until your policy renews.

Make sure you’re not withholding information if you apply with a new insurer. If you fudge the truth on your insurance application your provider will find out eventually, which could cost you much more than you bargained for. In extreme cases, your insurance company could drop you and try you for civil fraud.

If you have a ding coming up on your record, most experts suggest not changing policies or companies. That way, if your rates go up, they might not take effect until after you renew your policy and your insurance company peeks at your record again. However, if you get charged with a serious driving conviction, like a DUI, you should notify your insurance company right away. Otherwise, your insurer may have the right to deny your claim later on.

How do I check my driving record?

Knowing what your driving record looks like can help you estimate your annual insurance costs. It can also help you determine when you might qualify for a discount based on a new clean slate. To check your driving record, follow these steps.

  1. Go to your provincial or territorial ministry of transportation’s website and navigate to the Driving records page.
  2. You can typically choose to request your record online, in person or by mail.
  3. You’ll need to provide personal information like your full name, date of birth, Social Insurance Number, address and driver’s license number. You’ll also likely charge a fee of $10 to $20 to obtain your record.
  4. If you requested your record online or in person, you could get it immediately. Otherwise, it could take a couple of weeks to receive by mail.

How often can I request my driving record?

There doesn’t seem to be a limit, so check it as often as you’d like. So if you’re worried about frequent changes to your record, you can request a new copy, though you’ll still have to pay the fee each time.

What are my options if I have a bad driving record?

If your driving record is less than perfect, you don’t need to lose hope. You can still get an insurance policy, but you might have to pay a little more or settle for lower coverage options.

Some insurance providers like Desjardins and Echelon offer nonstandard car insurance for people with poor driving records.

Once your driving record improves, you can adjust your policy or compare other car insurance options to find a better rate.

How do I improve my driving record?

Luckily, you have quite a few options when it comes to improving your driving record and locking in a lower premium.

  • Contest questionable tickets. Contesting a traffic ticket could help you keep your points down and insurance rates low. Even if you don’t get the ticket thrown out completely, you could pay a smaller fine without points.
  • Pay out of pocket. If you’re in an accident that doesn’t involve someone else or their property, paying out of pocket for the damages can keep insurance costs from rising, since you won’t be filing a claim.
  • Take a driver safety course. Insurance companies want to know that you’re committed to being a safe, accident-free driver, so taking a course can help you score discounts.
  • Request forgiveness. In some cases, traffic convictions can be permanently erased from your driving record if your request for an expungement is accepted. The rules depend on where you live, though, and you might have to wait a certain length of time before you’re able to request an expungement.
  • Give it time. The good news is that most infractions on your driving record don’t stay there forever. Accidents usually hang around for about five years, and speeding tickets and other minor moving violations might be gone in three years or less. DWIs and DUIs will last the longest — sometimes up to 10 years or more.

How do I request a DUI expungement?

First, you have to be eligible for expungement, which could mean waiting at least 5 years after you’ve payed the fine associated with your conviction. If you have more than one DUI on your record, it’s likely you won’t be able to expunge them.

Since driving under the influence is a criminal offense in Canada, the process to get it expunged is the same as that for any criminal charge. You’ll have to fill out an application form and compile a list of documents, including any court and police records.

You may be required to show up for a court date to speak with a judge about why you believe your record should be sealed or expunged. It can be helpful to work with an attorney during this process.

Bottom line

Understanding how your driving record works and how to access yours can help you anticipate car insurance rates and find the best mix of value and coverage options. Even if you have a few red marks on your driving record, compare car insurance companies to find the one that works best for you.

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