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How long does an accident stay on your driving record?

What to Know

  • Monthly insurance rates increase an average of $59 after an accident
  • Some states prohibit providers from raising rates when drivers are not at fault
  • An accident stays on your record for about three years

Knowing how long a fender bender will stay on your driving record and how much your insurance rates will go up is important, especially if you want to compare quotes, companies, and coverage to get lower premiums.

The short answer is that an accident or ticket will stay on your record for three years.

While that general timeframe is good to know, there is more to this puzzle, and we will explore it in detail so we can confidently and answer the questions: How long do car accidents stay on your record? and When does an accident go off your record?

Enter your five-digit ZIP code in the box above to start comparing quotes the right way, and avoid any issues related to fender benders on your driving record.

If you ever wondered when an accident falls off your record or how much your premiums will increase, it depends on various factors. If you’re lucky, some car accidents don’t even go on your record at all.

But ultimately, there is a list of factors that affect car insurance rates, and it’s in your best interest to stay informed of them, so you know the answer to the question, “How long does a car accident stay on your record?”

If you’ve just been in a minor wreck or an at-fault accident and you’re curious about how this car insurance claim is going to impact your rates in the coming years, our guide will walk you through the many different scenarios.


How long does an accident stay on your insurance?

Experts from Tuite Law claim that typically, an at-fault car accident or traffic violation will remain on your driving record for a period of three to five years, depending on your state and company. Similarly, several factors will affect how much your insurance will go up after an accident, such as:

  • Your age
  • Your state of residence
  • The type of damages – personal injury and medical bills vs. property damage
  • How much the damage will cost your insurer
  • Your current insurance company and their specific policies
  • How long you’ve had your coverage with your current insurer – customer loyalty can go a long way.
  • Your long-term driving record – a clean driving history up until now can be a huge advantage.

When determining whether or not your insurance premiums will increase — as well as how much more you may be charged — the insurance carrier will also review some other key criteria, such as the number of accidents you have been involved in and whether or not you were at fault.

How does an accident affect insurance? 

Major accidents can increase your rates by as much as 50 percent on average, although the higher cost of your policy really depends on the amount of your claim.

Generally, car accidents that aren’t your fault should not count against you.

For example, in California, every accident is reported to the state’s DMV by law enforcement. However, if the reporting officer states that the other driver was at fault and you are not liable, then the accident won’t show up on your California driving record.

The exception to this rule is that if the wreck results in over $750 in damages, then an SR-1 accident report must be filed, and the DMV will have a record of it. Nevertheless, in either case, if you’re not at fault, your premiums won’t be affected.

Worst case scenario, if you’ve had multiple wrecks in a short period of time, you may be deemed a high-risk driver. Unfortunately, risky drivers require high-risk car insurance, which can be expensive.

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First Minor Accident or Ticket

If you’re involved in a minor accident, or you receive your first speeding ticket, you may not need to worry about your insurance rates going up. This is particularly true if you have not been in a “fender bender” in the past and your driving record is clean.

In fact, for many drivers who go for long periods of time without any type of accident or ticket, the reward from their car insurer is oftentimes cheap rates, as well as “accident forgiveness” if they are involved in a minor incident in the future. This is why maintaining a safe and clean driving record is so critical to keeping your premiums low and affordable, even after just one incident.


What happens to my insurance rates if I get into another accident?

You are not alone if you have ever wondered how long a wreck stays on your record or how long a fender bender stays on your record. Most of the time, these are considered to be more minor offenses, and it seems excessive to be penalized for these types of instances.

If you’ve been involved in multiple accidents within a short period of time (usually within three years) or have received more than one speeding violation or traffic ticket, then you can expect your car insurance rates to go up. Based on the severity of the accidents, the amount of damage caused, the cost of the claims, your age, gender, insurance provider, and state requirements, your rates may increase substantially.

For instance, a 16 or 18-year-old driver who gets into an accident will experience a much higher rate increase than a 65-year-old who’s had a good driving record for most of his life. Furthermore, if the wreck results from reckless driving or speeding and caused by a male, you should expect costs to go up even more.

At-Fault Accidents and Accident Forgiveness

Being at fault for a car accident is another factor that could lead your insurance rates to go up. This can also be dependent on how many accidents you’ve had overall. For example, if you have had no other infractions on your record, then you may not be charged a higher amount for your coverage.

In fact, most companies offer “accident forgiveness” as a standard part of their policies and allow you to take a defensive driving course for your first ticket in recent years.

Monthly Insurance Rates Based on Time Elapsed from Accident
CompanyNo AccidentAt-Fault Accident 6 Months AgoAt-Fault Accident 4 Years Ago
Average (All Companies)$180$239$187
Bristol West$92$126$95
Commonwealth Casualty$161$190$161
The General$342$487$342
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As you can see from this data, monthly insurance rates increase an average of $59 after an accident. However, this rate trends back down to the original rate by the time four years have passed. Furthermore, it is possible to get car insurance after an accident even if your former company drops you for any reason.

Can insurance companies raise my rates if I didn’t cause the accident?

Yes, and the rate increase will depend on the insurance provider. Some do not raise rates while others, such as Progressive, are known to penalize drivers after a no-fault or not-at-fault accident.

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The good news is that your state may prohibit this policy rate increase. Massachusetts, for example, does not allow insurance companies to increase rates unless the driver was more than 50 percent at-fault. Others, such as New York, California, and Oklahoma, also have laws that limit insurance charges post-accident if it wasn’t your fault.

How Much Does Insurance Go Up After An Accident?

If you know your insurance rates are about to increase after an at-fault accident, then the next logical question is by how much. How much your insurance will go up really depends on your personal profile as a driver. However, studies have shown that the average increase in premiums across the country is about 44 percent.

If you’re looking for a more specific figure, here’s a graphic that shows how much rates went up by state after drivers submitted a $2,000 or more claim.

Judging from the preceding graphic, it’s easy to see that the answer to how much your insurance goes up depends on where you live. Therefore, if you ever asked, “How long do accidents stay on your record in California?” you might get a different answer from someone who lives in New Jersey.

When Do Car Insurance Rates Increase After An Accident?

Generally, if your insurance company decides to increase your premium rates due to an accident, the price adjustment will occur when it is time for your policy to renew. Depending on the type of damage and costliness of the accident and whether or not you were at fault, your rate could increase by 5 percent to 50 percent. A big part of the impact will come from losing any safe-driving discounts you may have qualified for before the accident.

So, based on the new amount of premium, it could end up costing you quite a bit more just to continue with the very same coverage that you had before. At this point, it may make sense to shop around and compare quotes online to see if other insurers are willing to offer a cheaper rate to get your business. This makes sense as a negotiating tactic, even if you don’t plan on switching carriers.

How Long Will My Car Insurance Rates Stay High?

How long your car insurance rates will stay high depends on your state of residence, provider, and driving record going forward. That’s why the short answer to “How long does an accident stay on your driving record?” depends entirely on your individual circumstances.

Is there a way for me to lower my rates if I’ve been in an accident?

Usually, premiums remain more expensive for three years, and over that time period, they slowly decrease to their original prices. If you maintain a clean driving history and avoid any accidents or claims for the next three years, you can expect your rates to readjust. It obviously goes without saying that the cheapest insurance rates will always be reserved for the low-risk drivers who don’t cost the insurance company any money.

Since all insurers differ with regard to how they treat premiums after an accident, it could make sense for you to complete a car insurance comparison to see what other companies are charging for comparable coverage. Just enter car coverage with other insurers.

Know the Rules

If your in an accident, whether you caused it or not, you want to make sure your car insurance provider has fair policies in place to repair the damages. Often times, that looks different depending on what state you live in.

Take advantage of our free online tool to find the right provider, and learn how you can avoid any mishaps associated with fender benders on your driving record.