Defensive Driver Courses: What's Covered, and How to Get an Insurance Discount

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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.

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.

There may be other eligibility requirements imposed. For example, in order to qualify for a driver training discount from Allstate, you must not have any recent at-fault claims or driving violations. Typically, your discount will last for three to five years, after which you can take the class again to refresh your skills and requalify for the discount.

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.

What's Covered?

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 share documentation of your completion of the course with your insurer, you'll see a discount on your premium from then on.

Typically, a driver training discount will be set at around 5% for three to five years. Plus, if the training helps you avoid an accident or traffic violation, you'll save even more. A single car accident can raise your rates by 23% or more. And a speeding ticket can increase your insurance premium by 33%, not to mention the actual cost of the ticket.

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.

CompanyAge requirementDiscount amountNotes
AAAVaries by state0.1Discounts on course price available for AAA members
AllstateVaries by state0.1
American Family55 or older5%–10%
Farmers65 or older0.1
GEICO50 or older5%–20%
Liberty Mutual20 or youngerVaries by state
MetLifeVaries by state5%–10%Only through SafetyServe
Nationwide55 or older0.05
State Farm25 or younger0.08Classroom only
Travelers25 or younger0.08
USAA25 or youngerVaries 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.

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