Mathew B. Sims is Editor-in-Chief and has authored, edited, and contributed to several books. He has been working in the insurance industry ensuring content is accurate for consumers who are searching for the best policies and rates. He has also been featured on sites like UpJourney.

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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 (BBB A+). 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 and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that exis...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent

UPDATED: Jul 19, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Your driving record can be checked by your insurance company
  • Most driving records will have activity in the most recent three to five years
  • Auto insurance companies will check driver accident history, as well as look for traffic violations 
  • Driving records with accidents or traffic violations may result in increased auto insurance rates
  • Insurance companies will check driving records when you’re applying for insurance and also when you’re policy is renewing

Insurance companies know a lot more about you as a consumer than you probably realize.

When you reach out to an insurance company to buy an auto insurance policy, they are going to look at everything that they can to determine your risk level. There are many factors that affect auto insurance rates.

Are you a risk that they want to take on at a low rate, or are you a risk that they want to charge a higher rate to, or perhaps even decline? When it comes to auto insurance, driving record checks are a fact of life.

The driving record is something that is certainly going to come into play here and it is absolutely something that an auto insurance carrier is going to be able to pull and look into in detail.

Auto insurance companies need to look into everything when they are going through the process of underwriting a policy.

Most insurance carriers will pull driving records, credit reports, among other items in order to paint a full picture to them of the risk exposure that you represent.

This type of extensive research is what goes into auto insurance carriers trying to figure out if individual risks fit into their risk appetite. Even outside of you as an individual, the type of car you drive can have an impact on this risk selection thought process as well.

Auto insurance companies will check your driving record so be honest, and start comparison shopping by entering your ZIP here!

Pulling the Driving Record

Can insurance companies check your driving record? Yes, an auto insurance carrier is going to be able to go online and pull down the driving record that is tied to you and your license in short order.

They will be pulling down your full motor vehicle report, also known as the MVR. You can get a copy and MVR online shopping is very easy since most states allow you to order one when their website.

Do insurance companies check driving license with DVLA? The Drivers and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) is based in the United Kingdom and can be accessed if you held a driver’s license in a foreign country.

When the auto insurance company pulls down the full motor vehicle report, what they are going to get is a record summary of all of your most recent driving activity.

Recent driving activity is going to include things such as:

  • Traffic tickets
  • Convictions
  • Accidents
  • Even little things like parking tickets

The driving record is something that is going to help an insurance carrier determine if you are a safe driver or one that poses a major risk to them.

This video shows you how auto insurance companies think about your driving record.

What driving record information cannot be seen by insurance companies? Your driving record will not include tickets for non-moving violations or criminal history beyond driving.

How do auto insurance companies check driving records?

Where do insurance companies get driving records? There are a few ways that auto insurers can order your driving record.

Each way will cost the carrier money, but some methods cost less than others. One of the more popular methods in the past was to order the record right through the state.

Unfortunately, some states don’t process requests instantly which can create a delay.

The next method is for insurers to order a driver’s motor vehicle report through a different risk solutions company that has access to state records and even claims records.

The most popular company that will offer instant driving record information for a fee is LexisNexis. While this option is faster, insurers will have to pay higher administrative fees to pull the records.

How does a driving record impact rates?

The impact on rates is pretty straightforward when it comes to your driving record.

When you have a record that is full of accidents, traffic tickets, and so on, this sort of information is going to result in points against your record and increase your auto insurance rate.

The surcharge on your rate is going to remain there until the point that these negative items drop off of your driving record. Once they do, the surcharge will go away and your rate will greatly decrease.

Let’s look at just how much your driving record will affect your auto insurance rates.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates Based on Driving History
CompaniesAverage Rates with a Clean RecordAverage Rates with 1 AccidentAverage Rates with 1 DUIAverage Rates with 1 Speeding Violation
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24$3,506.03$2,193.25
Geico$2,145.96$3,192.77$4,875.87$2,645.43
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95$4,543.20$3,113.68
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04$3,969.65$4,002.28
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74$5,741.40$4,260.80
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73$4,718.75$4,079.01
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68$6,260.73$4,483.51
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
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Just one accident can raise your rates an average of $80 a month, and one speeding ticket can raise your rates $45 a month.

When you have a completely clean driving record, not only will you be charged the base rate without any surcharge, you may be eligible for auto insurance discounts.

Many insurance carriers will offer safe driving discounts to those with pristine driving records to help drive down rates and attract the best risks. Other discounts may also help offset any rate hikes if your driving record is less than stellar.

Ask for discounts like multi-car, multi-policy, or for being a good student. You can also get discounts if your car’s safety features qualify, like antilock braking and cameras.

Insurance carriers are in a competitive market and always want to have a quality book of business with risks they are comfortable taking on. The competitive nature of insurance is why they have the ability to take on possible risks; they certainly will pull the driving record of consumers shopping for coverage.

Watch this video to learn other factors that go into determining your auto insurance rates.

As a consumer, you need to be aware of this and shop around so that you get the most value for your dollars in terms of coverage you need and the terms you are comfortable with.

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What other factors influence auto insurance rates?

How rates are set is referred to as the rate-making process in the insurance industry.

When rates are made by the carrier, the carrier takes into account how much they’ll need to charge in pure rate for a unit of coverage and how much they’ll need to collect to cover overhead expenses and to stay profitable.

After rates are determined, the company then takes on the task of assessing the risk that a single household presents by providing quotes and then underwriting applications.

Here’s a list of the most common rating factors that’ll be looked at to give you a price estimate:

  • Your individual driving record including moving violations and claims history
  • Age, marital status and years of driving experience
  • Garaging location or territory where the vehicle is stored
  • Vehicle type and safety rating
  • Number of miles driven annually and to and from work
  • Vehicle usage (pleasure, commute or business usage)
  • Voluntary driver education courses or Good Driver Discounts
  • Credit score and insurance score
  • Number of cars owned

The company uses several different rating factors and risk determinants to predict the likelihood that an applicant will file a claim during a single term. Each determinant affects price in a different way.

For example, let’s look at how your age, gender, and marital status can affect your auto insurance rates.

Average Annual Auto Insurance Rates by Marital Status, Age, & Gender
CompaniesAverage Rates
Married 60-Year-Old Female
Average Rates
Married 60-Year-Old Male
Average Rates
Married 35-Year-Old Female
Average Rates
Married 35-Year-Old Male
Average Rates
Single 25-Year-Old Female
Average Rates
Single 25-Year-Old Male
Average Rates
Single 17-Year-Old Female
Average Rates
Single 17-Year-Old Male
USAA$1,449.85$1,448.98$1,551.43$1,540.32$1,988.52$2,126.14$4,807.54$5,385.61
State Farm$1,873.89$1,873.89$2,081.72$2,081.72$2,335.96$2,554.56$5,953.88$7,324.34
Progressive$1,991.49$2,048.63$2,296.90$2,175.27$2,697.73$2,758.66$8,689.95$9,625.49
American Family$1,992.92$2,014.38$2,202.70$2,224.31$2,288.65$2,694.72$5,996.50$8,130.50
Travelers$2,051.98$2,074.41$2,178.66$2,199.51$2,325.25$2,491.21$9,307.32$12,850.91
Nationwide$2,130.26$2,214.62$2,360.49$2,387.43$2,686.48$2,889.04$5,756.37$7,175.31
Geico$2,240.60$2,283.45$2,302.89$2,312.38$2,378.89$2,262.87$5,653.55$6,278.96
Farmers$2,336.80$2,448.39$2,556.98$2,557.75$2,946.80$3,041.44$8,521.97$9,144.04
Allstate$2,913.37$2,990.64$3,156.09$3,123.01$3,424.87$3,570.93$9,282.19$10,642.53
Liberty Mutual$3,445.00$3,680.53$3,802.77$3,856.84$3,959.67$4,503.13$11,621.01$13,718.69
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You can see that younger males are charged much more than older females. The reason is that older drivers have more experience are less likely to be in an accident.

How far back does auto insurance look at driving records?

The concept of using the driving record of an individual is a way to look back to determine what forward behavior may entail.

Every state’s department of insurance is going to vary in terms of how long a carrier is able to look back for a driving record.

The general rule of thumb to go by though is a three to five-year window.

Once you get past that three to five-year window, this is when things such as accidents that you have had, traffic tickets, and so on are going to begin to drop off.

When you finally have a clean driving record, you are going to be seen as a highly desirable risk for a carrier to take on.

How often do insurance companies check driving records?

When do insurance companies check driving records? Your auto insurance company assesses your rates every time the policy is up for renewal, usually about six weeks before it expires. Compare quotes to reduce your rates.

  • Standard and specialty auto insurance carriers all check driving records before extending a household insurance
  • When you have a recent conviction on your driving record, it can affect the rate class that you fall into
  • Speeding tickets can affect rates for up to three years in most states
  • Some carriers don’t check all driving records each renewal to reduce operations costs

Auto insurance companies have to assess drivers and predict whether or not they are likely to file a claim. If carriers didn’t go through this process, there’s no way for companies in the industry to set personalized rates and profit.

Auto insurance driving record checks are perhaps the best way for insurers to predict if there will be a loss based on the driver’s past experiences.

Your driving record is one of the most effective tools that insurers can use for rating purposes. Without a record of your driving infractions, insurers can’t really tell if you’ve maintained a good reputation as a driver or if you’ve had regular issues obeying the law.

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Your Driving Record is Important

If insurance carriers charged someone who has a history of speeding the same rate as someone who’s had a clean record for the last decade, it wouldn’t be a good move. The driver who has a host of infractions on their record is much more likely to get into an accident.

Since accidents typically turn into claims, the carrier needs to take this into account before offering anyone coverage or the option to renew their current plan.

The insurer could just trust what the applicant has to say about their past, but those answers could be biased.

Ordering each person’s driving record is the only way to really verify that what’s being portrayed is true.

Do auto insurance companies check driving records?

Can auto insurance companies see my driving record? If you’re worried about how your driving record will impact your rates, you might be looking for a way to avoid having your record pulled.

With so many carriers licensed to sell insurance, you would imagine that there would be a way around having your record run. Unfortunately, auto insurance that doesn’t check your driving record is not available. This includes standard, preferred, and even commercial insurers.

Can your driving record make you ineligible for coverage?

If you’re shopping around for insurance, your driving record could seriously affect your mission to find low rates.

Consumers who want to buy insurance from a preferred provider aren’t going to be able to meet the underwriting requirements if they have several tickets or accidents. Some preferred carriers won’t insurance you with just an infraction.

You’re better off shopping for coverage through a preferred insurer if you’re an experienced driver with a clean record.

If, however, you have had a blemished past or you’re inexperienced behind the wheel, you’ll have to go through either a standard carrier or high-risk insurer until you’ve proven that you qualify for a better rate classification.

Auto Insurance Rate Classifications for Risk

Some carriers sell coverage to drivers in multiple risk groups. These risk groups are more frequently called rate classifications.

When a driver gets a quote or renews their current policy, their claims record and driving record will be reviewed to place you into a class that directly affects your auto insurance rate. Here are the common risk classes used:

  • Preferred – for drivers with clean records, good credit, and driving experience
  • Standard – for drivers who may have a ticket or an accident and average credit
  • High-risk – for inexperienced drivers or drivers with several infractions on their record

Staying out of the high-risk classification can save you a lot of money on auto insurance.

How far back do insurance companies check driving records?

It’s not necessarily the end of the world when you’re convicted of a speeding ticket. You will have to pay higher rates for a period of time, but you won’t fall into a risky rate classification forever. There is a cutoff where information on your report can no longer be used.

So, just how far back can insurance companies check your driving record? In most states, insurers are only legally allowed to use the minor infractions and accident information on your record for classifying you for three years.

If you’ve been convicted of a major violation for reckless driving or driving intoxicated, the information may affect your rate class for five to seven years.

How else will information on your driving record affect you?

Having convictions on your driving record doesn’t just affect where you can buy the insurance and what class you’ll be assigned to. It can also affect your rates in the form of a policy surcharge.

A surcharge is similar to a penalty that you must pay for being cited for a moving violation and convicted of it. You can also pay surcharges for accidents.

In most states, each conviction that’s reported on your record can be surcharged for a period of up to three years.

The start date will be considered the date that the driver was found guilty of the infraction. Luckily, some states have ordered that the amount of the surcharge must be reduced from year to year.

How much will the surcharge be?

Just like rates, surcharges are set by the insurer. Some carriers might not charge quite as much as others to stay competitive in the standard industry. Others might charge a huge surcharge to their drivers with just one infraction so that they insure a lower-risk pool of customers.

Here are the rate increases that you can expect to pay after specific convictions:

  • Reckless driving – 22 percent
  • DUI – 19 percent
  • Driving without a license – 18 percent
  • Careless driving – 16 percent
  • Speeding 30+ – 15 percent
  • Failure to stop – 14 percent
  • Improper turn – 14 percent
  • Improper passing – 14 percent
  • Speeding – 12 percent
  • Failure to yield – 9 percent
  • No auto insurance – 6 percent
  • Seat belt – 3 percent

Even though the surcharges from carrier to carrier can be dramatically different, there’s still an industry standard. Some convictions are considered less serious and they come with a lesser penalty than others.

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Dates on your Driving Record Matter

Insurers must pay close attention to dates when adding surcharges to your policy. If you were cited for speeding three years ago but weren’t convicted until last year, you could be surcharged for a remaining two years.

If you’re not convicted of an offense at your current renewal, you can’t be surcharged until the next renewal.

Another date that matters is when your license was issued and whether it or not it’s been suspended. This information can be found on your driving abstract.

If you’ve only recently gotten your license or you’ve had your license reinstated, you can still be a high-risk driver. Know how this impacts your rates before applying.

Is your driving record pulled when you get quotes?

If you’re getting a quote for coverage, don’t assume that the agent already knows that you have a speeding or a failure-to-stop conviction. It’s not out of line to think that your record has been pulled but you have to keep the costs in mind.

If an insurer is giving you a free quote with no obligation to buy, they aren’t going to spend the money to run your driving record.

If the agent isn’t aware of your driving record when you’re applying for coverage, it’s reasonable to wonder when the carrier will see your convictions. It’s not when you’re soliciting a quote that the record is pulled but instead when you submit your application for coverage.

When the agent that’s quoted your policy submits the information, they are sending those details to an underwriter. Some agents have the power to run driving records to verify information in their office, but in most cases, it’s the underwriter that will do it.

After everything is reviewed, the final rate is calculated. That final rate could change if any rating information has changed.

When will your driving record be pulled again?

If you had a clean record when you bought your insurance and then were cited for speeding a month later, you’re not in the clear for long. Technically, the insurer can’t increase your rates in the middle of your insurance term because those rates are guaranteed.

That doesn’t mean that that infraction isn’t going to impact upcoming rates.

Typically, the insurance company will run your record again when your renewal is being run.

The renewal is run about 45 days before the policy is set to expire.

You will probably receive your renewal paperwork about 30 days before your new policy is set to start, depending on the state renewal requirements.

If it shows that you’ve been convicted of that speeding citation when the MVR is run, it will impact your renewal rates and eligibility.

Will the insurer run your record every renewal?

When you’re a new client, the insurer will probably run your records each renewal. Some carriers will hold off and skip renewals when you’re a long-time consumer with a clean record. It’s not worth the cost of running a report if the client has kept a clean record.

Making one mistake behind the wheel can cost you for as long as three years. If you’ve been convicted of any type of infraction, make sure that you shop around for coverage online by getting instant rate quotes.

Sometimes it’s best to stay with your insurer and other times you’ll be able to find lower rates through competitors.

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Auto Insurance Companies Ask for a Driver’s License

Why do insurance companies run your license? Auto insurance companies require a driver’s license so that they can assess driving habits. An accident on your record can make your rates jump by more than 40 percent.

  • A driver’s license is an official document that grants the person the right to operate any private passenger vehicle within the state or the country
  • In order to be issued a driver’s license, you must pass a written exam, a driving exam, a vision exam and pay a fee that pays for administrative costs
  • Insurance companies require applicants to possess a driver’s license to be listed as a primary operator on an auto insurance policy
  • Carriers require either a state-issued license or an International Driving Permit so that they can assess driving habits and charge for infractions and other serious violations
  • Auto insurance underwriters review motor vehicle records to set personalized rates for the risk a driver presents

You need much more than just a car to buy a standard auto insurance policy, you’ll also need an insurable interest in that vehicle and a driver’s license.

Since you don’t necessarily need a driver’s license to title a car in your name as the vehicle’s owner, it can be a cause for concern that most carriers actually require their applicants to possess an active license before they’ll extend an offer for coverage.

While there are exceptions to this rule, in most cases, you do need a driver’s license to buy auto insurance. If you’re wondering why this is a common requirement for standard auto coverage, read this guide and learn more about how licensing.

When will an insurance company ask about licensing?

You will typically be asked for your licensing information and details about your driving history when you’re looking for insurance quotes. This information is specifically used to assess risk and to classify the driver.

Here are some of the most common licensing questions an agent or quoting form might ask you for:

  • State where you’re licensed and license number
  • Whether or not your license has been suspended or revoked in the past 3 to 5 years
  • The age you were licensed (in states that allow this to be used by insurers)
  • The total number of years you’ve been licensed in the US or other countries for the merit-based rating (may be asked for proof of international licensing)
  • Your license class
  • If you’ve been convicted of moving violations or other serious infractions in the past 5 to 7 years

What’s specifically used can vary from company to company.

What does a driver’s license do to help insurers underwrite applications?

While you do need a driver’s license or, at the minimum a provisional license, to operate a vehicle, this isn’t the main reason why carriers require a license number on an insurance application.

The reason a driver’s license is an underwriting requirement is because of what it tells the insurer about the applicant.

While it would be nice to think that each and every person that applies for insurance is forthcoming and honest about their driving history, if the information wasn’t ever verified then it’d be tempting for people to be dishonest about tickets and accidents.

Here are some of the ways that a driver’s license is used for ratings:

  • The underwriter runs an electronic motor vehicle report to find out if there’s any suspension, revocations or infractions on the driving record that can affect the rating
  • The underwriter runs a C.L.U.E. report with license number to see if any claims have been filed under the driver’s name
  • The underwriter will use the age licensed or number of years licensed to assess experience credits the driver qualifies for

By requiring their applicants to provide their license, it’s easier for the company to verify that the picture the applicant has painted of their driving habits is honest.

When do insurance companies offer insurance to unlicensed applicants?

There are exceptions to most rules, and some carriers do offer policies to named insureds who don’t have a driving privilege of their own.

In most cases, you can only qualify for what’s called a standard Personal Auto Policy without a license when you’ve voluntarily given up your license because of age or disability.

In order to get insurance, you’ll have to prove you own the vehicle and don’t drive it.

You’ll also have to prove that someone who’s responsible and licensed does use the car on a regular basis.

If you can’t do this, you’ll need to apply for a sub-standard short-term auto policy to buy the coverage that’s required on your car with no license. The only other alternative is to transfer ownership of the car to a licensed party.

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What Auto Insurance Companies Look at in Your Records

Auto insurance companies evaluate your risk in the underwriting period. Companies generally review both your motor vehicle record and your claims history.

  • When you’re researching quotes for auto insurance, the price estimates you receive aren’t guaranteed until after you apply and your application has been reviewed
  • When companies look over an application and verify the information for accuracy, it’s called the underwriting period
  • The purpose of underwriting an application is to run reports to place drivers and households in the right risk class
  • Insurance agents may not have the tools to run your Motor Vehicle Report during the quoting phase, but underwriters always run your most recent Motor Vehicle Report to look for driving infractions and convictions
  • Agents will also run a report through the Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange system to look for past claims and other information that can help with rate determination

Auto insurance is required in most states. Since it’s a product that you both need and are required to carry, it’s important to understand how companies determine how much you’ll pay for coverage.

While every company has its unique rate filing with the state, the factors that companies use to set prices for each applicant are the same across the board.

When you apply for insurance, the agent sends your application to the underwriting department so that proper reports can be run and all of the personal information that you provided on your quote form can be verified.

What’s the difference between an insurance quote and application?

Auto insurance quotes and applications are two very different things. When you start comparison shopping, solicit several different quotes for an estimate on how much you’ll pay for coverage.

These insurance quotes are just a starting point. They aren’t a guarantee for specific pricing or an offer for insurance.

After you shop around and you’ve decided on one specific quote, the next step in the process is submitting your application for insurance.

You must provide very detailed information about your past claims, your driving infractions, and your habits so that the company is equipped with the knowledge it needs to decide if they would like to do business with you.

What is the purpose of auto insurance underwriting?

Applications must go through the underwriting phase before the company decides whether or not to extend you an offer for insurance.

Since auto insurance rates rely heavily on your statistical likelihood to file a claim, the company will spend its resources to run reports and look for contradictions in the answers you’ve given.

The purpose of the underwriting stage is to assess risk so that a company is better able to charge adequate rates.

In the insurance world, a company will never have dead-on projections, but they can invest in underwriting to avoid losing out on profits at the end of the year.

If there were no underwriting, it’d be easy for applicants to say anything that they wanted to keep their insurance rates low.

How are auto insurance policies underwritten?

The internet has completely changed the way that companies can underwrite an application. In the past, it could take days or weeks to order reports and get results.

Now, underwriters can access virtually all of the information that they need to make a final decision by running electronic reports that display instant results.

Underwriters make their decisions based on the underwriting guidelines they are required to use. Each company has their guidelines that are used to target a particular segment of the market.

It’s normal for an underwriter to review each section of the application for obvious errors or contradictions. After doing this, they will run reports. What do auto insurance companies check when they run these reports?

One of the most common reports that auto insurance will run is the Motor Vehicle Report (MVR). MVR is a report that’s offered by a state motor vehicle agency that shows if a driver has any minor or major moving violations.

How Auto Insurance Companies Run Record Requests

In the past, companies would pay to order the report directly through the state’s motor vehicle agency.

While this is still an option, more and more companies are requesting instant MVR’s through consumer reporting agencies like LexisNexis.

The reports are more affordable for the insurer, and they are available from all 50 states.

Not only is it easier to process the request through a risk solutions company, but it’s also easier to read these MVR’s because there is a Standard Violation Code service when the driver has records from more than one state.

What is a Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange report?

Another very popular report that auto insurance companies run to evaluate your application is a Claims Loss Underwriting Exchange (C.L.U.E.) report. The Insurance Information Institute defines the CLUE report as showing the loss history of a home or car.

It’s the one database where all licensed insurance companies can communicate with one another to help with future underwriting decisions.

Here’s what’s included on a detailed loss information report through the database:

  • Insurance Company
  • Address
  • Policy Number
  • Amount Paid
  • Policy Type
  • Loss Date
  • Loss Status
  • Loss Type
  • Inquiry History
  • Claim Dispute Information

C.L.U.E. reports include a seven-year loss history of all of the auto insurance claims that you’ve filed under a policy that you own. If you’ve filed a claim as a driver under someone else’s report, there’s a good chance that record won’t show.

What if your CLUE report isn’t accurate?

If a loss is mistakenly reported under your name, you need to contact the insurer that reported it. You can request a Loss History Report or a Letter of Experience that shows that it wasn’t your claim.

The insurer will then use this to remove the claim from your record.

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Reports to Support Prior Driving Experience Claims

When you’re getting quotes for coverage, you should always let the company know if you’ve been licensed in another state.

Failing to disclose that you’ve been licensed in another state will only work against you because insurers give driving experience credits when you’ve got experience behind the wheel.

You may want to get your own MVR from your prior state to support your claim to more driving experience credits.

This MVR should show when you were licensed and when the license expired. By providing official documents, the company has no choice but to offer you driving experience discounts.

It’s important to be upfront with your insurer when you’re submitting an application for coverage. The most effective way to price rates is to use an online rate comparison tool.

Since you know auto insurance companies will check your driving history, be honest so you get the correct quotes. By entering your ZIP, you can determine which company is going to offer you the best rates based on your driving record.