Chelsey Tucker graduated with a Bachelor of History degree from Metropolitan State University in 2019. She now writes about insurance with her specialty being life insurance and has been quoted on Help Smart Phone and MEL Magazine.

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years. He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Mar 19, 2020

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The lowdown...

  • Your driving record can have a serious impact on your car insurance rates and your ability to find insurance
  • If you have any moving violations or other infractions on your record within the last three years, they will be considered
  • Insurers are allowed to add a surcharge to your rate for an infraction that is less than three years old
  • When you have a bad driving record, you’ll have to buy insurance from a high-risk carrier, not a preferred one
  • Drivers with bad records aren’t eligible for discounts for being accident-free and ticker-free

As soon as you’re cited for a moving violation like speeding or rolling through a stop sign, you think about how that ticket will affect your bank account.

You’ll have to appear in court, plead your case, and try to get your fine reduced, but at the end of the day, if you’re convicted of the infraction, you’ll owe the court a sum of money.

You’re going to be ordered to pay a fine, but it doesn’t end there once the penalty is paid off. Not only will you have to pay off the fines to keep your license, but you’re also going to have to pay surcharge insurance rates.

If you now have a bad driving record, let’s talk about what you need to know about getting car insurance.

If you are also in need of better auto insurance rates, start comparison shopping today by entering your ZIP code above!

Every Insurance Company Has Its Own Underwriting Guidelines


You have the right to buy auto insurance in your state when you have a valid license, but you can’t just buy coverage from anywhere you want to.

Every carrier sets their own rates and their own underwriting requirements. You need to identify which insurance carriers are in the preferred marketplace and which ones take the standard and high-risk drivers.

Preferred carriers have stricter requirements because they accept preferred risk drivers with good records and driving experience.

Typically, you can’t have any tickets or accidents in the last three years to get a preferred plan.

If you have some blemishes or a poor record, you’ll have to aim for standard insurers or other carriers that specialize in selling high-risk insurance.

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Why do moving violations affect insurance rates?

Most people understand why an at-fault accident will affect their rates. After all, when you’re liable for an accident, the insurer has no choice but to charge you rates assuming that you’ll have another one.

Accidents cost insurers money in the form of both third-party and first-party claims, so they are a significant risk.

Violations are different. Unless the citation was issued when you had an accident, it wouldn’t cost the carrier any money.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t matter because being cited for a moving violation makes you statistically more likely to have an accident in the future. An infraction on your record will affect your rates even if you never have an accident.

When does an infraction affect your auto insurance?


Not all infractions will show up on your driving record. If you look back at all of the things that you’ve been ticketed for in the past, you might assume that you have a bad driving record in the eyes of all insurers.

That’s not always the case. Only the violations that you’ve been convicted will be considered.

Out of the violations that you’re convicted of, only the minor ones that were cited within the last 36 months can affect a company’s underwriting decision.

If the violation is older than three years old, it’s as if it never happened.

The only exception to that rule is when you’re convicted of something like DUI, reckless driving, or another major infraction that can affect your rates for up to seven years.

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What is a car insurance surcharge?

When you have one or more convictions on your record, insurers who will accept your application will add a surcharge to your rate.

A surcharge is an extra charge that you’ll have to pay for your coverage because you have a spotty record full of tickets or accidents. Surcharges can only last for up to three years.

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How much is a car insurance surcharge for a moving violation?


Car insurance rates are never the same from carrier to carrier. The same goes for surcharges for specific violations.

While there’s not just one guide that tells you exactly how much a surcharge will be, there are reports that give you an idea of how serious each violation is to insurers.

Here are some common infraction surcharges:

  • Speeding 1 to 29 mph over the speed limit – 12 percent
  • Speeding 30 mph over the limit – 15 percent
  • Failure to yield – 9 percent
  • Failure to stop – 15 percent
  • Tailgating – 13 percent
  • Improper passing or turning – 14 percent
  • Careless driving – 16 percent
  • DUI first conviction – 19 percent

Can you avoid being surcharged on your auto premium?

Insurance companies can only charge you for infractions they can see on your record. All convictions appear on your official abstract, but insurers pull a special report.

If you decide to take traffic school for a ticket, it won’t show in the report that the insurer runs. Always enroll in traffic school when it’s an option.

Will you still get other discounts if you have a bad driving record?


Having a bad driving record makes you ineligible for discounts that have to do with safe driving.

Some carriers offer a Good Driver Discount, and others offer an Accident-free discount.

When you have a bad record, you’ll miss out on one or both of these discounts.

You also may not qualify for Accident Forgiveness or Disappearing Deductible policies that benefit you if you have an accident in the future.

Some discounts you can get include:

  • Multi-car discounts
  • Multi-line discounts
  • Low mileage discounts
  • Good student discounts
  • Occupational discounts
  • Good credit discounts
  • Prior insurance discounts

As long as you have a valid driver’s license, you’ll be able to find a company that will insure you. If you truly have a bad record, it will cost you in the form of surcharges and lost discounts.

The best way to find an affordable premium for a high-risk policy is to shop around. Use an online tool to shop the marketplace instantly, and you’ll find a value-priced auto insurance plan.

Try our FREE online quote tool and start comparing car insurance rates today! Enter your ZIP code below!