Insurance Points: What Are They & How Do They Work?

Insurance Points
Image by on Freepik

Most insurance companies have implemented surcharges for moving violations and at-fault accidents, which some call “insurance points”. Insurance points may also be known as “accident- or violation-related premium increases or surcharges”. Your insurance premium is the amount you pay annually for your insurance policy.

In some states, you may be turned down for insurance or face non-renewal if you have too many “eligibility points” for traffic violations.

Understanding how insurance points work

Insurance points are given to drivers who have driving violations or offenses. These points are handed out by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The point system may differ slightly, or even greatly, from state to state.

You can only get a certain amount of points on your license at a time. Most states are around 11 points total, which can usually be a couple of “minor offenses.” Some actions are major offenses that bypass points and suspend your license. Typically, drivers who lose their licenses with point problems are those who accumulate points over time and don’t get them reduced.

The auto insurance point system is an important tool for insurance companies to determine how much to raise your rates because it shows poor driving. In most states, points are typically held on your driving record in the three to five-year range.

Insurance points are a vital part of the calculation of auto insurance rates. These points are an indicator of your driving risk based on your driving history. However, because insurance companies are reluctant to discuss calculations, the nature of the insurance points system can be difficult to determine.

Car insurance point system

Most point systems insurers use are proprietary, so they can vary dramatically by insurance company. However, many insurance carriers use the system based on the Insurance Services Office (ISO) guidelines.

Insurers assign points to your insurance record for issues such as speeding tickets and other infractions, but they also ding you for claims. Once your point total hits a specific threshold, your premium will be “surcharged.” In other words, your rates are headed up. If your point total gets too high, you may be dropped altogether.

For example, if your insurance company assigns three points for a speeding ticket for 10 mph over the limit and 2 points if you are caught running a red light, your insurance record will have 5 points on it. Insurance companies have surcharge schedules that detail the rate increase for various point totals. If their surcharge schedule indicates that a driver with 5 points would be surcharged 1.25, your rate is headed up 25% until the tickets fall off of your driving record, which will usually take three years.

Insurance points are used to assess your eligibility for auto insurance coverage and for the calculation of rates. In many cases, the impact of insurance points lessens over time. As time passes, if you keep your driving record clean and don’t file any claims, the insurance points on your record could be reduced, leading to a lower premium.

It is always possible to see the specifics of your insurance carrier’s rating system. Contact your insurance agent or your state’s insurance regulatory body and request your insurer’s surcharge schedule. All insurance companies must file their rates with the state insurance regulators.

How do insurance points affect premiums?

When it’s time to renew your policy, your insurance company will likely pull the driving record of all insured drivers listed on your policy. A driving record includes all driver’s license issuances, renewals, violations, points, accidents, suspensions, and other related occurrences. 

At that time, the insurer will consider what type of moving violations you might have picked up. These include speeding or an at-fault accident, along with any claims you made, such as repairs for a parking lot fender-bender. Based on the severity of the violation or accident, your insurance premiums could increase accordingly. 

How do I find out how many insurance points I have?

You can ask your insurance agent about any surcharges or points applied to your premium and what information was obtained, to quantify the additional charges. The agent can also tell you how long the surcharge will apply.

Insurance points typically stay on your insurance policy until they roll off of your driving record after a certain period of time. At-fault accidents remain on a driver’s insurance record for varying lengths of time, typically also two to three years.

Which violations have the biggest effects?

Violations and insurance points vary by state and insurer. Flannagan notes that your rates might go up by 10% for a speeding ticket, or even to 100% for a DUI. Let’s look at an example: North Carolina has created a Safe Driver Incentive Plan (SDIP) and assesses SDIP points, which increase your insurance premium by a set percentage.

Here’s the impact it would have on an $800-per-year policy.

ViolationSafe Driver Insurance Plan PointsPercent IncreasePost-Violation Annual Insurance Rate
Speeding up to 10 mph over the limit in a speed limit zone under 55 mph130%$1,040
Hit-and-run resulting in property damage only480%$1,440
Highway racing or knowingly lending a motor vehicle for highway racing10260% $2,880
Driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 or higher 12340% $3,520 

What happens when you get points on your license?

It will vary depending on the state you live in. However, in most cases, the only significant impact of a few points on your license is more expensive insurance. If you get a speeding ticket, you can expect your insurance rates to go up, but that should be the only significant consequence of the points.

However, the pain will be much more severe if you end up with numerous tickets in a short time or a significant traffic infraction on your record. You could end up with a suspended license, significant fines and even jail time.

For example, in California, points ranging from zero to three are assigned based on the severity of an offense. Most minor offenses like speeding will result in one point on your license. Your license will be suspended for six months, and you’ll be on probation for a year if you get the following:

  • 4 points in 12 months
  • 6 points in 24 months
  • 8 points in 36 months

A suspended license will result in dramatically higher insurance rates and may make it difficult to find a policy.

How to remove points from your license

Once again, the answer varies by state. Here are a few tips for getting points removed from your DMV record:

  • Defensive driving course: Many states allow drivers to take a state-approved defensive driving course to remove a few points from their licenses. Verify this is an option in your state, and get a list of approved courses. Once you pass the course, you must contact the DMV to request removal of the points. Most states only allow this option to be used once every few years.
  • Fight the ticket: If you feel the ticket was unwarranted or there were mitigating circumstances, you can go to court and ask for the ticket to be dismissed or reduced. You may be able to get the points reduced or even eliminated.
  • Verify points drop off: Points will impact your insurance rates as long as they stay on your driving record. Check your DMV record when the points are set to drop off to ensure they have been removed. If they have not disappeared, contact the DMV to request for the points to expire.

How long does it take to remove points from your license?

This varies depending on your state, However, in most cases, you can expect minor violations such as speeding tickets to drop off your record in three to five years. More severe infractions such as DUIs tend to stick around for seven to 10 years and, in some states, for decades.

You should be able to get specific information from your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles or like state agency on how points are accumulated and removed from a person’s driving history.

For examples of how some states handle DMV points, see below:
  • Pennsylvania: The Keystone State allows points to be removed from your driving record for safe driving. You can get 3 points removed from your driving history for every 12 consecutive months (from the date of the last violation) without a violation. Once a driving record is reduced to zero and remains at zero points for 12 consecutive months, any further accumulation of points is treated as the first points accumulation.
  • Utah: Utah’s point system states that one-half of your accumulated points will be removed from your driving record if you go one full year without a moving traffic violation conviction. All points are deleted if you drive for two straight years without conviction. Otherwise, individual convictions are automatically removed three years after the violation date.
  • New York: In New York State, the DMV computer system automatically calculates your point total when assigned points on your license for a moving violation. Your point total is the number of driver violation points you received during the 18 previous months.

Points are counted from the dates of your traffic violations, not those of your traffic convictions. A traffic conviction is required for the points to appear on your driver’s record. Eighteen (18) months after the violation date, the points for that violation are removed from your point total. The convictions remain on your record.

When do driver’s license points reset?

Points generally roll off your driving record after a period of time—typically 36 months—but may remain longer, depending on the severity of the violation. However, certain serious convictions (such as second DUIs, subsequent DUIs, or reckless driving) may stay on your state driving record for longer periods.

How many driver’s license points can you get before losing your license?

As points accumulate, your driver’s license can be suspended. This might be for a certain length of time or indefinitely, depending on the types of violations and severity. 

Here are some examples of how many points within a certain time period can lead to losing your driving privileges. To get your license back, you may need to complete driver’s safety courses, complete your suspension, and/or pay fees.

StatePoints Received Within 
North Carolina123 years
New York1118 months
Georgia152 years
Oklahoma105 years 

How many driver’s license points can I get before my insurance goes up?

There isn’t a simple way to tell how much your insurance premium will increase after a ticket or accident is reported on your driving record. Every insurance company has its own formula for calculating insurance points and how they will increase your auto insurance rates.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like