Should You Take a Defensive Driving Course to Lower Car Insurance Costs?
When you’re shopping for car insurance, it’s worth looking into every applicable insurance discount to help reduce the total cost of your insurance premiums. One such discount is for completing a defensive driving course. Many car insurance companies offer discounts of 5% to 20% off your annual car insurance premium after you complete a qualified driver safety course.
However, not every driver qualifies for a defensive driving discount, even if they take a course. Some insurers limit these discounts to drivers of certain ages, and some states don’t allow defensive driving discounts at all. It’s important to shop around and talk with your insurance agent to see if a defensive driving discount is available to you.
What Is Defensive Driving?
Defensive driving is driving in a safe, responsible manner to help reduce the possibility of traffic accidents or incurring moving violations for speeding, driving under the influence (DUI), failing to maintain your lane, or other driving infractions. In defensive driving courses, participants might:
- Learn techniques to improve their driving habits.
- Study real-life driving situations to evaluate their responses.
- Consider how to avoid potential collisions.
- Review how to spot potential hazards.
The skills you learn in these classes can help you avoid collisions during heavy traffic, drive during weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow, or navigate safely when driving at night. In some classes, you also may learn basic car maintenance.
Can You Get a Defensive Driving Discount?
Your eligibility for a defensive driving discount depends on your location and your insurer, because not all insurers offer these savings in every state. For instance, GEICO offers defensive driving discounts of 5% to 15% depending on where you live. In Georgia, the discount is up to 10%, while residents of Delaware may save up to 15% after completing an approved defensive driving course.
Whether you can receive a defensive driving discount after taking a driver safety course may also depend on your age, as well as other factors. For example, to qualify for the GEICO discount in most states, you must be at least 50 years old and complete the program voluntarily. In some states, you cannot have an at-fault accident or traffic violation on your record. With Nationwide, you must be at least 55 years old with no at-fault accidents during the last 35 months.
How much you can save with a defensive driving discount varies based on your car insurance rates. Before you sign up for a class, make sure to calculate how much you’ll save based on the discount your insurer offers. That will help you decide whether the savings are worth the cost of the class, which depends on the class provider and where you live. In Georgia, driver safety courses cannot exceed $95, while you can sign up for an online course in New York for $24.95.
Defensive driving courses and discounts are different from the discounts some insurers offer to teens and young adult drivers in certain states who take drivers education or safety courses. For instance, State Farm offers a driver training discount to drivers under 21 after they complete an approved driver education course. With Allstate, you could receive discounted rates if your teen driver completes the teenSMART driver education program.
“Whether you are a teen driver, a senior or anywhere in between, auto safety education is always a good idea,” said Bob Passmore, vice president of auto and claims policy for American Property Casualty Insurance Association. “Some states require, and some insurers offer, discounts on auto insurance if you have completed a driver training course. Once you complete the course, be sure to shop around for auto insurance and see which insurers will give you a discount.”
Lowering Your Rates After a Ticket
Depending on where you live, completing a defensive driving course could reduce your insurance rates even after you receive a speeding ticket or other moving violation. In some cases, the ticket may be dismissed once you complete a course, but that depends on the judge presiding over your case.
In certain states, taking a course could reduce the number of points on your driver’s license, which improves your driving record and may help you save money on car insurance. For instance, if you complete a defensive driving course in New York, you’ll remove up to four points from your driving record and your insurance company will be required to provide a 10% discount on your car insurance premiums for three years. In Georgia, completing a defensive driving course can help you remove up to seven points from your driver’s license once every five years.
To see if you qualify, ask your insurance agent if your state offers ways to reduce your insurance rates after receiving a ticket and completing a defensive driving course.
Other Benefits of Completing a Defensive Driving Course
Saving money and reducing the number of points on your driving record are two key benefits of completing a defensive driving course, but they’re not the only ones. Taking a driving course is a great way to refresh your knowledge of driving laws you may have forgotten since you first got your driver’s license. It’s also a good opportunity to learn new defensive driving techniques to help you navigate busy roads and drive safely through bad weather.
Is a Defensive Driving Course Worth It?
While defensive driving courses are not for everyone, they could benefit older drivers who want to refresh and improve their driving skills, as well as people who have received moving violations and want to improve their driving records. As a bonus, completing an approved defensive driving course could help you get a discount on your car insurance rates.
However, if you plan to take a defensive driving course solely to reduce your car insurance premiums, it’s important to crunch the numbers to see how much you might save. The difference may not be enough to cover the cost of the course, but the opportunity to improve your driving skills could make it a worthwhile investment.