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Signing up for a defensive driving course could be a great way to help lower your auto insurance rate. Defensive driving courses go beyond what you first learn when you get your driver’s license and can teach you strategies for accident avoidance, how to be a safer driver and how to prevent a crash. If you’re considering signing up for one, Bankrate has all the information you need. Our insurance editorial team walks you through what you need to know about defensive driving courses, from what you can expect them to cover to how much you can potentially save on your premium, so you can decide if taking one is right for you.
What is a defensive driving discount?
If you complete a defensive driving course, your car insurance provider may reward you with a discount, typically between 5 and 20 percent off your premium. Not every driver is eligible for the discount; insurers tend to gear defensive driving discounts toward younger or senior drivers. These age groups are statistically more likely to get into accidents, and would therefore benefit the most from brushing up on their driving technique.
In general, defensive driving courses can take anywhere between 4 and 12 hours to complete. Some have a comprehensive test at the end while others only test over each module. You can look up the courses that are available in your state online to see what’s available in your area. The cost ranges anywhere from $20 to $100, depending on the state and course provider. If you want to earn an insurance discount, make sure that your chosen course is on your insurer’s approved list.
Benefits of defensive driving courses
Although every driver can benefit from taking a defensive driving course, teen drivers may especially want to consider signing up. Teens have fewer years of experience behind the wheel and are generally less prepared to deal with things like other drivers’ road rage or tailgating. Plus, taking a course can help instill good driving habits early on.
For some drivers, a defensive driving course may not be optional. After a serious traffic violation, your state may mandate that you complete a defensive driving course. Most of the time, court-ordered driving classes are different from voluntary ones and will not typically earn you an insurance discount. However, if you have a couple of points on your record that you’d like to remove, a defensive driving course may help — but be sure to check your state’s laws beforehand, as not every state participates in a point reduction program.
What do defensive driving courses cover?
The exact material that is covered in these courses will vary slightly across states and course providers. But, in general, you can expect the following topics to be covered:
- Car crashes: Most courses will give an in-depth review of crash statistics to help drivers learn why crashes occur. Drivers may also learn how to protect themselves from the impact, if possible, and also how to minimize injuries by wearing seat belts.
- Driving psychology: Courses may also review different psychological and physiological factors that can affect how you drive like fatigue, road rage or stress, and offer tips on how to remain calm and present while driving.
- Road dangers: Drivers might learn tactics for remaining safe when encountering road rage or drunk drivers in another vehicle.
- Safety equipment: Most courses will cover the basics of car safety features such as airbags, seat belts, child safety seats and headrests.
Crash prevention: Most defensive driver courses will cover the many ways in which crashes can be prevented, including:
- Scanning the roadway and adapting to surroundings
- The two-second rule for following distances
- Proper stopping distance
- Reaction distance
- Environmental hazards
- Vehicle emergencies
- Sharing the road
- Passing and necessary clear distance
- Right of way rules
- Speed adjustments and railroad crossings
- State traffic laws: Courses will also typically go over any state-specific laws that apply to the student, such as the state’s policy on texting while driving. This may be especially helpful for older drivers, who may not be aware of newer driving laws.
How to earn a defensive driving discount
There are multiple ways to potentially earn a defensive driving discount. Your insurance provider will typically have more than one approved course on their list for you to choose from. Before signing up, you may also want to ensure that your course of choice is approved by your state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
Choose an online or in-person course
You can elect to take a defensive driving course either online or in-person. While both kinds of courses can be beneficial, there are benefits and drawbacks to both.
- Live teaching: if you attend a class in person, you can ask the teacher questions on the spot and get additional tips that may not be found in an online course.
- Accountability: If you study better with structure and accountability, then a live class may help you to get through the course in a timely manner.
- Community support: You may benefit from asking questions or hearing the questions of your classmates.
- Experience: Some in-person courses may include a behind-the-wheel portion, where you can put your newly learned skills to the test.
- Scheduling: With an in-person course, you’ll have less control over when and how you complete the course.
- Cost: In-person courses generally cost more than online ones.
- Additional time: Accounting for travel time, you might have to make more of a time commitment to an in-person course.
- Transportation: If you’re taking a defensive driving course because you’ve been ordered to, you may not be able to drive yourself. Even if you can, you’ll need to account ensure you have a vehicle to use or some other mode of transportation available.
- Pacing: With an online class, you can go at your own pace, versus taking the entire course in one afternoon or over one weekend.
- Convenience: You can take an online class at any time from anywhere. Just log in from your computer, tablet or smartphone.
- Cost: An online class may be cheaper than a live class because it may not have a paid instructor, and, even if it does, the course may be recorded and sent to a larger audience.
- Crediting: There are numerous online defensive driving courses online, but not everyone will be accepted by your insurer. Before choosing a course, double-check that your course of choice is on your provider’s approved list.
- Questions: If you’re unclear about a topic covered in the course, you may need to do your own research. Online courses are not always led by an instructor.
- Equipment: Not everyone may have the necessary computer equipment to take an online course.
- Less accountability and engagement: By taking a course online, you may not have as many opportunities to engage with the instructor (if there is one) and other class members.
Steps to earn the discount
Your defensive driving course may require you to complete training or pass a test in order to receive credit. Once you have passed the course, you will usually receive a certificate of completion. With that in hand, you can apply for the discount with your insurance provider.
Insurance companies that offer defensive driving discounts
The table below lists some large car insurance providers by market share that offer defensive driving discounts. The state you live in may also influence whether or not a defensive driving course will help eliminate points from your driving record.
|Insurance company||Age requirement|
|Esurance||Varies by state|
|Farmers||Varies by age|
Keep in mind that some providers may have strict age requirements and that the discount amount varies from carrier to carrier.
States that offer online courses for defensive driving
If you have a busy schedule and would prefer to take a course online and at your own pace, you could be more drawn to an online course. Thankfully, there are ample options:
Frequently asked questions
There are numerous other ways to potentially save on your car insurance, even if you’ve had a speeding ticket or an accident. One of the most effective is to shop around and collect quotes from multiple car insurance companies. Make sure you’re getting quotes for the same types of coverage and limits so you can accurately compare. In addition, most car insurance companies offer lots of potential discounts that you can combine for maximum savings. Do a little research and check out some of the cheapest car insurance companies to see what discounts they offer that you qualify for and ask them to apply the savings to your quotes.
Some insurers may impose age restrictions on defensive driving discounts. However, if you would like to sign up for a course solely to sharpen your skills and form better driving habits, you will likely be able to sign up for a course regardless of your age.
While it varies across insurers, you can generally expect a defensive driving discount to last from three to five years.
It depends on your state’s laws, as not every state has a points reduction program. In Indiana, for example, completing a state-approved defensive driving course may remove up to four points off your driving record.
If you have been ordered by the court to take a defensive driving course, then you will likely not be able to get a discount on your auto insurance. But taking a course may allow you to keep your driver’s license, or remove points from your driving record depending on your state’s laws.
Even if you are unable to get an insurance discount right away, a defensive driving course may teach you techniques to make you a safer driver. If your insurer offers a telematics discount, you may be able to leverage your new, safe driving skills into that discount.