While your high school principal may have been exaggerating when it comes to driving you do in fact have a permanent record. It’s known as a driving record or motor vehicle record.
While known by many names — your driver record, driving record, or motor vehicle record (MVR) — they’re all the same thing: a list of the infractions you’ve committed behind the wheel. Yes, it’s the dreaded permanent record, and your insurance company absolutely reviews yours before setting your premium.
But fear not! Insurance companies can’t use your entire history when setting your rate. In fact, you might be interested to know that your MVR actually changes over time.
Maybe “permanent” isn’t the right word…
How States Use Your MVR
The purpose of your MVR is for the state to keep track of you as a driver. As your driving record, it contains moving violations, including at-fault and not-at-fault. Get into a minor violation, it’s generally not a big deal. Get into a bunch, and the state may suspend your license.
Most states use a points system and add points to your record for every violation. The worse the violation, the more points get added, and the closer you’ll be to having your license taken away. Generally, non-moving citations such as parking violations or failure to produce proof of insurance don’t earn you points and are not added to your record.
How Insurance Companies Use Your MVR
When you apply for insurance, the insurance company needs to know whether you are a low-risk or high-risk driver (or somewhere in-between). Using the information on your MVR, insurance companies see your history and are able to determine what type of driver you are and adjust your rate accordingly.
However, most insurance companies only look at the last three to five years of your driving history to determine your risk-level. After all, your most recent history is most likely what will determine what kind of driver you are today. Your 16-year-old self won’t come back to haunt you.
Some companies may look back as far as 10 years, while others only look back two. In addition, some states regulate this look-back period, only allowing companies to look back a certain number of years in determining rates. Depending on where you live and who your insurer is, you may be paying more for your youthful lead foot, or you may already be in the clear.
A Not-So-Permanent Record
Your MVR itself changes over time. Every state has its own laws about what stays on your record and for how long. For example, in California, most accidents and minor violations stay on your record for three years; however, a DUI will stay on your record for 10 years. While over in Florida, a DUI stays on your record for 75 years, so yeah, basically your whole life.
In addition, depending on the violation, most states offer the option of taking a defensive driving course to clear it from your record. Generally, you’ll have to complete the course shortly after getting a citation, but doing so can keep that incident from ever appearing on your MVR. As an added bonus, many insurance companies will lower your rate for taking a defensive driving course (they don’t have to know why you took it). That’s a win-win.
And of course, if you get a ticket, you can always fight it in court. Convince the judge and you can have the ticket thrown out completely or the charges dropped to a non-moving violation, both of which means your MVR is untouched. Even if you don’t get one of these results, you may get the number of points lowered, and that means fewer dings on your record, meaning less expensive insurance.
Getting Your MVR
Before buying insurance, it’s a good idea to get a copy of your MVR, that way you will be able to fix any errors that may be there before an insurance company sees them and truthfully answer any questions on your application to avoid unexpected fees.
Updated MVRs Cost a Fee
However, your MVR isn’t only available to you. Anyone with your information, like your nosey brother or your insurance company, can get it too. Of course, they have to pay the fee as well. But do you know what insurance companies hate doing? Spending money.
What that means is that if you get a minor violation on your record, as long as you’re making your payments and don’t report too many claims, your insurance company probably won’t want to spend the money to see it again. As long as you don’t get a new car, move, or change insurers, even when you renew your policy, your current company may not choose to pay for an updated copy of your MVR, and your premiums may not be affected. *fingers crossed*
On the other hand, if you know about an incident that should be eliminated from your record, but your insurance company offers the same rate at renewal, make sure to have them pull your new MVR. If points have been taken off your record or an incident has moved out of the look-back window (theirs or the states), they can no longer use that against you, so your premiums should decrease.
The Bottom Line
Your MVR is one of the biggest factors insurance companies use in determining your rate. Knowing what’s on yours and how far back your prospective insurers look can save you a bundle on premiums.
Limiting or eliminating points from your record is great, but the best way to get your record clean is to keep driving safely. Time heals all wounds, and as your mistakes fade into the past, they’ll also stop affecting your insurance rate as well.
If you liked this article check out Semo’s other article on How Insurance Works