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Many insurance companies provide discounts to drivers who take defensive driving classes, and the discounts typically range from 5% to 20% off your car insurance premium. The courses usually take four to eight hours throughout an afternoon or weekend, and they cover safety information, driving techniques and local driving laws.
Eligibility varies according to state law and your insurer's policies, although the discounts are most commonly offered to teenagers and drivers over 60. However, even if you're not eligible for a discount, a defensive driver training course may be worth considering, as it will help you improve your driving skills and stay safe on the road.
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Who is eligible for a defensive driver training discount?
The groups most commonly eligible for defensive driver training discounts are drivers under age 25 and above age 60. People in these age groups are the most at-risk for accidents, and they have the highest insurance rates. However, some states, like New York, require insurers to offer rate discounts to drivers of all ages for taking safe-driving courses. It's worth checking with your insurance company to see what is available to you.
What it's like to take a defensive driver training class
A defensive driver training class (sometimes abbreviated to DDC) is usually taught in a classroom setting or online using text, audio and video materials. Defensive driving courses can be anywhere from four to 12 hours in length, depending on state regulations and class format. They generally aren't free, but you can expect to spend less than $100 total.
In a driving safety course, you'll learn driving and road safety statistics, such as the times of day you're more likely to get in a crash and how things like speed affect the severity of a crash. You'll also cover accident avoidance techniques, like proper following distance and roadway scanning, as well as your state's traffic laws.
After you've gone through the course, you might also have to take a comprehension test in order to "pass" and qualify for an insurance discount. Once you've shared the documentation of your completion of the course with your insurer, you'll see a discount on your premium from then on.
Online vs in-person driver training classes: Pros and cons of each
In most states, you'll have the option to take a defensive driving class either in-person or online. So long as the class you take is certified by your state DMV and your insurance company, it's largely up to you which one you complete. There are some advantages and drawbacks for each format to consider.
Online driver safety courses
- Generally cheaper than in-person ($15–$40)
- More flexible timing
- Can be done anywhere
- Fewer opportunities to ask questions to a qualified teacher
- Higher chance it's not accredited/won't get you a discount
In-person driver safety courses
- Generally more expensive than online ($50–$100)
- You have to go to the class at a specific time and place
- May include behind-the-wheel instruction
- In-person instructor can answer questions and provide guidance
- Only takes one afternoon/weekend and you're done
Some states or insurance companies have specific instructors that they accept. Before you sign up for a class, check with your insurer to be sure you'll receive a discount for completing it. Popular choices for defensive driving classes are offered by the AARP, AAA, American Safety Council and National Safety Council.
Car insurance companies that offer defensive driving discounts
Most of the top car insurance companies provide discounts to drivers who take a defensive driving course. The only insurance company out of the top 10 companies in America not to offer some kind of driving course discount is Progressive. However, eligibility and the discount amount vary by individual state laws as well. It's worth double-checking with your state DMV and your insurance agent to see what's available in your area.
|AAA||Varies by state||10%||Discounts on course price available for AAA members|
|Allstate||Varies by state||10%|
|American Family||55 or older||5%–10%|
|Farmers||65 or older||10%|
|Geico||50 or older||5%–20%|
|Liberty Mutual||20 or younger||Varies by state|
|MetLife||Varies by state||5%–10%||Only through SafetyServe|
|Nationwide||55 or older||5%|
|State Farm||25 or younger||8%||Classroom only|
|Travelers||25 or younger||8%|
|USAA||25 or younger||Varies by state|
Remember that a defensive driving discount is only one of many discount and savings opportunities available to insurance shoppers. If you want to reduce your rates, comparing quotes for the lowest price on auto insurance may be just as effective.
Other reasons you may need to take defensive driving classes
In many states, driving courses are also used as either optional or mandatory parts of sentences after traffic violations. This is sometimes also called "traffic school" or "remedial driving courses." For example, a judge may require you to complete a defensive driving course after you commit a serious traffic infraction. Or you might be able to take a course in order to reduce the number of "points" on your license.
In most cases, classes that are court-mandated or designed for people with a lot of traffic tickets are separate from those designed to reduce insurance rates. Additionally, many insurers require you to have a clean driving record in order to qualify for a driver training discount. So if you're assigned traffic school by the court, you may have to wait for your violation to drop off your record before you'll be eligible for an insurance discount.
State-specific defensive driver training courses
For information on specific state requirements for defensive driving courses and discounts, see the following pages.