The cost of your auto insurance premium is based on a number of factors, from your age, gender, marital status, and where you plan to park the car, to your driving history—including any accidents or traffic violations on your record. However, just because you’ve had accidents in the past doesn’t mean your insurance premiums will be affected forever. Insurance companies will update your insurance, allowing older accidents and violations to fall off your record over time, usually between three to five years.
While the specific calculations used to determine premium prices vary from one insurance company to another, it may be helpful for drivers to know how long accidents generally can stay on their insurance. Here’s how accidents can affect what you pay for car insurance, so you can make the best decisions for your driving needs.
How Does an Accident Affect Your Insurance?
Auto insurance providers are in the business of calculating risk. Premiums are based on the insurer’s chances of having to pay a claim. Generally speaking, a driver the insurance company views as high risk likely will pay more money for car insurance than a driver the company views as low risk.
This is why accidents can affect your insurance premium, even if you were not at fault. The fact that the insurer had to pay out a claim above the company’s internally chosen ceiling can be enough to increase your premiums. Getting into an accident likely will result in a premium increase no matter what, and you can expect the increase to be greater if you caused the accident than if you were not at fault.
California and Oklahoma have banned the practice of increasing car insurance premiums for drivers who were in not-at-fault accidents.
Accidents Generally Stay on Insurance for 3 to 5 Years
Even if you do cause an accident, it will not remain on your insurance forever. Generally speaking, accidents may stay on your record for three to five years.
Premiums may go up and stay at a higher rate for at least a few years after the accident, but it can vary by insurance company and state. In general, you can expect more severe accidents, such as ones caused by driving under the influence (DUI) or reckless driving, or multiple accidents in a short period of time, to stay on your record longer than a minor single accident.
How Much Do Insurance Rates Increase After an Accident?
The amount you pay for car insurance likely will increase after an accident, but it depends a great deal on the type and severity of the accident.
For instance, if you have comprehensive coverage, an accident that only causes damage to your own vehicle may result in an average rate increase of about 3%, according to data from auto insurance aggregate website CarInsurance.com. However, according to the same data, if you were to cause an accident that requires a bodily injury or property damage claim, you may see an average rate increase between 26% and 32%. Two at-fault accidents with property damage greater than $2,000 each could have an average increase of 110%, CarInsurance.com data showed.
All of this depends on the insurance company, too. For example, Progressive states on its website that at-fault accidents may raise a driver’s premium by up to 28%. Check with your insurance company to understand how an accident will affect your insurance premium.
How to Deal With Car Insurance Rate Increases
If your insurer raises your premiums after an accident, you may have several options for reducing those costs.
- Compare costs with other insurers: Not all insurance companies raise rates after an accident, and you may be able to find a lower rate with a different insurer.
- Lower your coverage limits or raise your deductible: Reducing your limits or raising your deductible could potentially get your car insurance premium closer to where it was before the accident, although you’ll be sacrificing some coverage.
- Bundle auto insurance with other policies: If your insurer also offers homeowners or renters insurance, you may be able to lower your auto insurance policy by purchasing another policy with them.
- Take advantage of usage-based insurance: Many insurance companies offer customers the option of installing a telematic device in their car to precisely track the driver’s behavior. Opting into this program generally will result in a premium discount and may lower your premiums based on how well you drive.
- Look at all available discounts: Your insurer or another may offer premium discounts for good students, recent graduates, veterans, cars with anti-theft devices, insuring multiple cars, taking a defensive driving course, customer loyalty, and more. Look at all of them and ask the insurance company if you’re eligible.
If you drive less than the average number of miles per year—which is 13,476, according to the Federal Highway Administration—then you may be able to qualify for a low-mileage discount.
The Bottom Line
Although you can expect an accident to affect your insurance, it will not remain on your record forever. Generally, accidents fall off your record within three to five years.
Insurance companies use your accident history to help determine the cost of your premium. Having a serious at-fault accident or multiple at-fault accidents on your record likely will result in a premium increase for a few years, too. However, the specific increases vary from insurer to insurer—and some companies are even willing to forgive accidents.
Even if you do have an accident that results in higher premiums, there are multiple options available for making your premiums more affordable. That means an accident doesn’t have to derail your auto insurance budget.