How long will mistakes haunt your car insurance rates?

Gina Roberts-Grey

Dealing with a traffic violation is cumbersome all on its own, what with going to court and paying fines. But in addition to paying your dues, that traffic slip-up could harm your car insurance rates in the long run.

Car insurance companies base rates on several factors, including your age, marital status, geographic location, driving history and, in most states, your credit history. These factors paint a picture of how risky a driver you are, and how much money you could wind up costing the insurer, says Charlie Schein, owner of the Star Schein Insurance Agency in Connecticut.

Here’s a look at just how much pain your bank account could feel as a result of mishaps behind the wheel.

Speeding

You’re flying down the highway when you see the flashing red and blue lights in your rear-view mirror. Uh-oh. Eustace Greaves Jr., owner of Greaves Financial Services and The Bridge Insurance Agency in New York, says getting nabbed for speeding can cause a rate increase of 10 percent to 20 percent.

Not only will your rates reflect that need for speed for at least three years, but your state motor vehicle department also will ding you in the form of points. Points are a state’s way of grading drivers; the more points you "score," the higher a risk you are to an insurer. The number of points you gain from a violation like speeding depends on your state’s laws.

What it will cost you: If your premium begins at $1,000 a year, a 10 percent penalty would tack on $100 in the first year, $110 in the second and $121 in the third.

Get handed a second speeding ticket while you’re still paying higher rates for the first one, and Greaves says you can expect to pay another 5 percent to 10 percent on top of the original bump for the first ticket.

In this scenario and others outlined here, the hikes build on each other from one year to the next.

DWI

An offense as serious as driving while intoxicated can affect a driver’s rates if you've got a policy with a traditional car insurer, Schein says. A 20 percent rate hike is common, although don't be surprised if you see a 30 percent jump.

What it will cost you: Greaves says your insurance company probably won't renew your policy if you have a DWI conviction. But if your car insurance is renewed, it will cost you dearly. If your annual premium starts at $1,000, a 20 percent rate increase would add:

  • $200 in the first year.
  • $240 in the second year.
  • $288 in the third year.
  • $346 in the fourth year.
  • $415 in the fifth year.

Aggressive driving

Cops define “aggressive driving” as behind-the-wheel behavior that heightens the risk for an accident – such as weaving in and out of traffic. This can send your rates through the roof.

Insurance companies don't take this dangerous offense lightly, Greaves says. The average rate hike is 22 percent and can linger for five years, Schein says.

Here's a breakdown of cost increases under that scenario if your annual premium starts at $1,000:

  • $220 in the first year.
  • $268 in the second year.
  • $327 in the third year.
  • $399 in the fourth year.
  • $487 in the fifth year.

Road racing

Do you feel thrills driving at speeds that would be the envy of a race car driver? Is one of your favorite pastimes challenging drivers at stoplights to race you? This reckless habit might cost you if you get ticketed for racing. Racing is a form of aggressive driving that harm your car insurance rates in most states.

Depending on your driving record, a citation for aggressive driving could be grounds for non-renewal of your policy, says Mike Coleman, a State Farm agent in Alabama.

If your car insurance company decides to keep you as a policyholder, the financial hit could be a hike in your rates of up to 30 percent, Schein says.

What it will cost you: If your annual premium begins at $1,000, a 30 percent penalty increase would add:

  • $300 in the first year.
  • $390 in the second year.
  • $507 in the third year.
  • $659 in the fourth year.
  • $857 in the fifth year.

At-fault accident

If you cause an accident, your rates most likely will go up; the increase sometimes is in proportion to how much was paid for the claim, Schein says. On average, Greaves says, an at-fault accident could prompt a premium increase of at least 15 percent for three years.

What it will cost you: If your annual premium starts at $1,000, a 15 percent hike would tack on:

  • $150 in the first year.
  • $173 in the second year.
  • $198 in the third year.

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