Lower gas prices last year encouraged more Americans to hit the road, which led to more accidents and claims, and consequently, insurance companies raising rates in response to the increase in claims frequency. If your insurer raised your rates recently, there's a little known discount that can help reduce the impact if you live in certain states. What most drivers do not know is, some states actually require insurers to give discounts to any driver who completes a defensive driving class. Why does it make sense to take it? Because you can find a defensive driving class for as low as $20 - $25, which leads to at least a 5% discount that applies to 2 - 3 years of coverage. Well worth the cost.
Some states require you to be 55 years or older to take advantage of the discount, while other states allow drivers of any age to get the discount. On top of saving on your car insurance, you may even be able to reduce points on your driving record.
States with Mandatory Discount for Drivers 55 Years Old and Above
If you have already celebrated your 55th birthday, and live in California, Florida, Pennsylvania, Washington, Tennessee, Minnesota, or Nevada, you should look into taking a defensive driving class. You may have also heard of this class as the Mature Driver Improvement Course. Regardless of the name, all of these states require their auto insurance companies to give their policyholders a premium reduction. All that it takes to qualify for the discount is for the driver to be 55 years old and above, and successful completion of the approved class. You can usually find a list of approved class providers somewhere on your state's DMV website.
So what can you expect to get? In the case of Pennsylvania and Minnesota, that amount is specified: Pennsylvania senior drivers are entitled to a 5% discount, and Minnesota senior drivers must receive at least 10%. In the rest of these states, the discount amount depends on your insurance company. How much do these discount actually amount to? Our sample drivers on average paid $1,152 a year for auto insurance in Minnesota, and would see at least a $115 drop in his insurance bill with the defensive driving discount. In most cases, your insurer will have to honor this discount continuously for at least 2 - 3 years, so for a class that costs $25, the MN driver can be putting $345 back into his wallet. When it expires, you just need to take a renewal class and you will be eligible for the discount again for another 2 - 3 years.
States with Mandatory Discount for All Drivers
If you live in New York, Florida, Virginia, or Kansas, definitely look into taking a defensive driving class because there is no age limitation to who is entitled to the mandatory car insurance discount (FYI, Florida splits this into two different discounts by age group.) As long as you have a driver license that is issued in one of these 4 states, taking the class from one of the schools approved by your state will guarantee you for a discount.
Two of these states also have specified the discount amount: New York requires insurers to give 10% reduction on liability coverages (BI and PD), PIP, and Collision coverage premiums. Considering that BI, PIP and Collision coverage are some of the costliest portions of your total policy premium, a 10% reduction on each of them can only help. On the other hand, Florida says any driver with a completion certificate of its Basic Driver Improvement course is entitled to up to 10% discount on their total car insurance rates.
Reasons Why You May Not Be Eligible for the Discount
Note that even though defensive driving discount is written into the laws in the states mentioned above, there are still instances that can disqualify you from receiving it. You may have to comply with some underlying rules, such as finding the approved class providers in order to be eligible, or staying accident free in order to keep your discount. In other words, if you cause an accident that resulted in claims while your discount was effective, your insurer has the power to cancel your savings early despite the law.
Another reason could be due to a conflict of benefit. As an example, in most of these states a court may require a driver who has been convicted of traffic violations to take a defensive driving class as a penalty. In this case, your defensive driving class credit cannot be used again towards insurance discount. Both Nevada and New York allow the certificate of course completion to reduce a certain number of points on your driving record (New York: 4 points; Nevada: 3 points). Similarly, the same course completion record cannot be used again towards your insurance premiums.
The bottom line is, while there are many other available discounts for drivers under different conditions, a discount by defensive driving course is perhaps the most widely applicable. The best part is all of these states recognize class credit through an online course, so you can go through the curriculum wherever, whenever you want to. If you live in one of the states mentioned above, there really is no reason to not take advantage of the chance to get yourself cheaper car insurance.