Taking a defensive driving class can save you money on your car insurance rates. And it may help make you safer driver to boot.

Many auto insurance companies reward you with lower premiums after you take a defensive driving course, but not everyone qualifies. A defensive driving course is only one step of many toward getting cheap car insurance. The classes – often sponsored by groups such as AARP, AAA and the National Safety Council at a cost of $20 to $100 – give you a refresher course in the driving laws in your state and teach you driving skills to better handle skids, pass other cars safely, use anti-lock brakes properly and more.

To get a car insurance discount, the course must be approved by the state and accepted by your insurance company. Many states and insurers accept online classes; others don't. According to AARP, 34 states and Washington, D.C., actually mandate a discount for safe-driving classes:

  • Alabama
  • Alaska
  • Arkansas
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Louisiana
  • Maine
  • Minnesota
  • Mississippi
  • Montana
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • West Virginia
  • Wyoming

How to tell if you qualify for a defensive driving discount

Insurer requirements for defensive driving discounts vary from company to company and from driver to driver.

Esurance, for example, offers around 15% off to drivers both young and old. Drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 qualify for a defensive driving class discount. Geico rewards drivers over age 50 and even helps pay for the course. Allstate and The Hartford set no age requirement at all.

If you're over the age of 55, you can get a smaller discount, usually around 5%. Typical savings for a 65 year old driver are about 4% off the total insurance bill, says Insurance.com Managing Editor Des Toups, based on 50-state data gathered by Quadrant Information Services (senior drivers also qualify for other discounts).

Defensive driving classes can also lower your points

Defensive driving classes can also benefit you if you have traffic violations. Some states reduce or expunge points from your driving record and require auto insurance companies to give you a mandatory reduction in your car insurance premium after you complete the class.

Defensive driving courses and the auto insurance discounts associated with them vary from state to state. But by and large, courses will lower your premium over a three-year period. And since having a speeding ticket can increase your annual premium from 5% to 20%, this can be a significant savings.

The cost of defensive driving classes

Courses that reduce points are the most expensive. In most cases, you'll take the course in a classroom setting. However, some states allow you to take a class online. Your state’s DMV will have a list of point-reduction classes.

Defensive driving courses can take between four and eight hours. Check with your car insurance company before choosing a class to make sure your insurer will accept it because when you've completed the course, your car insurance company will require proof you took the class (usually in the form of a certificate).

Although most companies and states will allow you to renew the training (and discount) every three years, the discount can be taken away if you get into an accident, so be sure to apply the skills you learn.

This article is adapted with approval from carinsurance.com: http://www.insurance.com/auto-insurance/saving-money/defensive-driving-classes-save-on-car-insurance.html

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How to Save on Car Insurance With a Defensive Driving Discount and was authored by Emily Edwards.


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