How do auto insurance companies check driving records?

Learn more about how insurance companies check driving records and what they look for when you apply.

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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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 ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 20, 2022

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Things to remember...

  • Insurance companies check driving records when you apply for a new policy and at renewal time
  • Accidents and traffic violations are some of the main red flags your insurance company will look for 
  • The more negative marks there are on your record, the higher your rate will be

Just as many employers perform background checks on potential employees, insurance companies check driving records to determine whether you are a high-risk driver. If your history shows accidents or traffic violations, an insurance company may offer you insurance at a higher rate to protect itself against the risk of insurance claims. Unfortunately, a speeding ticket can be even more costly than the fine associated with it.

You may be wondering how exactly an insurance company can get this information and how a negative driving record could affect you. First, we’ll dive deeper into driving records and what insurance companies are looking for to answer these questions.

Auto insurance companies will check your driving record, so be honest, and start comparison shopping by entering your ZIP code in the free tool on this page to find clean driving record auto insurance quotes, bad driving record auto insurance, and more.

How Insurance Companies Check Driving Records

Insurance companies can check your driving record because of one simple legal identifier: your driver’s license. Any time you have an accident, make an insurance claim or receive a citation for a traffic violation, your driver’s license number is associated with these events. Just as creditors can attain information about you through your Social Security number, insurance companies can get the information they require through your driver’s license number.

What do insurance companies look for on your driving record?

Auto insurance companies look for any negative marks on your record that may indicate you are a high-risk driver. Insurers view accidents, excessive insurance claims, and traffic violations as the biggest red flags. If your record check turns up any combination of these factors, your insurer will likely charge you a higher rate.

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

InfractionRate Increase
Reckless Driving22%
DUI19%
Driving without a license18%
Careless driving16%
Speeding 30+ MPH over the speed limit15%
Failure to stop14%
Improper turn14%
Improper passing14%
Speeding12%
Failure to yield9%
Driving uninsured6%
Driving without a seat belt3%
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Average Rate Increase by Conviction

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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.

How often do insurance companies check driving records?

Insurance companies won’t check your driving record on a whim. Instead, they only check your driving record when necessary, primarily when you get a quote for a new insurance policy or renew your existing policy every six or 12 months.

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How far back do car insurance companies look for negative marks on your record?

Regarding insurance record checks, each state’s requirements are different. So you’ll have to check with your state insurance department for the standard in your area. In general, though, most insurance companies check your driving record over the previous three to five years for violations and accidents. 

If you have a traffic violation that’s more than five years old, don’t automatically assume that it won’t be seen. Your best bet is to ask the insurance company about their driving record check timeframe.

If you’re curious about what is on your driving record, you can obtain your record through your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). You can even get an instant driving record on the DMV website in many states. 

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
Insurance CompaniesAverage Annual Rates with a Clean RecordAverage Annual Rates with One AccidentAverage Annual Rates with One Speeding ViolationAverage Annual Rates with One DUI
Allstate$3,819.90$4,987.68$4,483.51$6,260.73
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$3,025.74$4,330.24
Farmers$3,460.60$4,518.73$4,079.01$4,718.75
GEICO$2,145.96$3,192.77$2,645.43$4,875.87
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$5,701.26$7,613.48
Nationwide$2,746.18$3,396.95$3,113.68$4,543.20
Progressive$3,393.09$4,777.04$4,002.28$3,969.65
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,186.01$3,636.80
Travelers$3,447.69$4,289.74$4,260.80$5,741.40
USAA$1,933.68$2,516.24$2,193.25$3,506.03

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Just one accident can raise your auto insurance cost an average of $80 per month, and one speeding ticket can raise your rates by $45 per month.

Can a car insurance company deny me coverage?

Yes, an insurance company can choose to deny you coverage if they determine that you are too big of a risk. While this may seem unfair since most states require insurance to drive a vehicle, insurance companies are not in the business of losing money. So if the company determines, based on your driving record, that you’re a high risk for too many costly claims to be a profitable client, they can refuse to insure you.

Aside from having too many previous claims or traffic violations, other reasons an insurance company may deny you coverage are:

In most instances, an insurance company will still offer you coverage even with a negative driving record. Of course, your rates will be higher than someone with a sparkling clean record. However, in the most extreme circumstances, the insurer is within their right to deny coverage entirely.

Maintain a Clean Record and Don’t Sweat Driving Record Checks

A poor driving history can cause a lot of anxiety when you know an insurance company is going to check your record. That’s why it’s important to maintain a clean driving record. Sometimes accidents happen through no fault of your own, and an isolated accident isn’t going to destroy your record. It’s the accumulation of multiple accidents, claims, and traffic violations that can make an impact.

All hope is not lost if you already have a record with more negative marks than you’d like to admit. Most insurance companies only look back three to five years, as we discussed. However, you can rebuild your driving record by driving carefully to avoid accidents and traffic violations.

In the meantime, you can compare insurance quotes from various companies to see which can offer the best rate and coverage. Some are more forgiving than others regarding negative driving records, so it pays to shop around.

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