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 Reviews.com.

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Dec 21, 2021

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The Lowdown

  • In most states, minor accidents will remain on your driving record for three or five years
  • Accidents for which you’re not at fault may appear on your driving record but won’t necessarily increase your insurance rates. If you live in a no-fault state, your insurance rates may increase even if you’re not at fault for an accident
  • Accidents for which you’re at fault can increase your auto insurance rates by 50% or more. Consider an accident forgiveness program if you’re concerned about a single accident raising your insurance rates significantly

While few, if any, car accidents will affect your insurance rates forever, the amount of time that an accident stays on your record varies depending on the type of accident and your driving history. So how long does an accident stay on your record?

It can also vary based on the state. Generally, many states cut your driving points in half if you go a year without any tickets. Then they eliminate points once you hit two years without more tickets. Insurance companies frequently look 3-5 years back. Some companies may look further back depending on which state you live in, though.

If you’re worried about your auto insurance rates increasing after even a minor accident, you may want to look for an insurance company that has an accident forgiveness program.

With this guide, let’s examine how long different types of accidents remain on your record as well as how your auto insurance coverage can be affected based on the details of the accident.

Once you have a clear understanding of how auto insurance companies treat accidents on your driving record, enter your ZIP code in the free online tool above to compare auto insurance and find a coverage option that’s right for you.

How long do accidents stay on your driving record?

In most states, minor accidents remain on your driving record for three to five years. More serious at-fault accidents (like a hit-and-run) and DUIs may remain on your driving record for 10 years or longer.

In general, if you’re found to be at fault for an accident — or if you live in a state with no-fault insurance, your auto insurance rates will increase and you’ll have more difficulty finding coverage.

Many auto insurance companies will refuse to provide coverage to someone who has been at fault for multiple accidents within the past few years. In these cases, drivers need to obtain what’s known as high-risk auto insurance coverage.

Do accidents where you’re not at fault stay on your driving record?

In many cases, car accidents for which you are not at fault will still show up on your driving record, but your auto insurance rates will not increase. Depending on your insurance company and state, it’s possible that a car accident that you’re not at fault for will increase the cost of your coverage.

If you live in a no-fault state and are involved in an accident, your rates may increase even if the accident was entirely the other driver’s fault. This is because a driver’s own insurance is responsible for payment of their injuries, in no-fault states, through personal injury protection policies that all drivers are required to purchase.

Some states take an approach that protects safe drivers. For example, in both New York and California, insurance companies cannot add surcharges or otherwise increase your rates following an accident unless you’re found to be at fault.

How can you remove accidents from your driving record?

While you won’t always be able to have an accident removed from your record entirely, several options exist for reducing the penalties associated with minor accidents:

  • Contesting a ticket is always a good idea if you know that the circumstances surrounding your violation need to be reviewed. In some cases, simply showing up at court will persuade a judge to reduce your penalty
  • Taking a safe/defensive driving course can remove points from your license in certain states. And even in states that don’t use a point system, completing one of these inexpensive, roughly 10-hour courses can lead to insurance discounts
  • Researching expungement in your state may be beneficial because certain states will remove an accident if you meet certain requirements. Contact your state’s DMV to find out more about your options for removing accidents from your record

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How do accidents affect your insurance rates?

After you’re involved in an accident where you’re found to be at fault, the cost of full-coverage auto insurance increases by about 50% on average. Therefore, exactly how much your auto insurance rates increase can vary considerably depending on where you live.

In general, you can expect insurance rates to increase more if you are responsible for an accident and one or more of the following apply:

  • You were at fault for a separate accident within the last few years
  • Someone was injured during the accident
  • The accident resulted in property damage exceeding $2,000

While filing a claim for an accident where you’re at fault can cause your rates to increase, the Insurance Information Institute recommends that you always promptly report an accident to your auto insurance company. Failure to do so carries a few risks:

  • If someone else involved in the accident sues you, your insurer will have a harder time gathering evidence to represent you
  • If your insurance company finds out about the unreported accident, your rates may still increase even if you decided to pay for repairs/replacement out of pocket
  • If your insurance company discovers that you chose not to report the accident, your policy may be canceled outright

How far back do insurance companies look at your driving record?

For the most part, auto insurance companies will look at the past three or five years of your driving record when determining your rates. So, if you haven’t been involved in a collision or other accident in the past few years, you’ll likely have access to competitive rates and numerous options when it comes to selecting an insurance policy.

However, if you have had a DUI in the past, your state may consider you a high-risk driver even if insurance companies don’t look that far back on your driving record. If you’re a high-risk driver, expect your rates to be much higher than average.

How do accident forgiveness programs work?

Some auto insurance companies offer accident forgiveness programs. These are programs that prevent your car insurance rates from going up after your first at-fault accident. Opting into accident forgiveness usually ends up costing drivers about 4% more annually. This is a reasonable price since it prevents your rates from increasing sharply if you or someone else on your insurance policy is involved in an accident.

Not every auto insurer offers accident forgiveness to everyone. For the most part, these programs are for drivers with no accidents on their record or new policyholders whom insurance companies are aiming to attract.

If the peace of mind that comes with knowing one accident won’t drive up the cost of your insurance sounds worthwhile to you, we recommend investigating accident forgiveness options from Allstate, Progressive, GEICO, Liberty Mutual, and USAA.

What to Remember About Accidents on Your Driving Record

  • Most insurance companies will look at accidents from the past three or five years depending on your state and policy
  • Accidents on your driving record will increase your rates, so look into options for removing points from your record if you live in a state where this is possible
  • If you have a clean driving record, you may want to join an accident forgiveness program now to avoid a future potential rate increase

Now that we’ve determined how accidents affect insurance rates and options, try our free online quote tool to compare companies and find the most affordable auto insurance coverage in your area.