If you have ever received a citation while driving, you may have wondered about the difference between a speeding citation vs. a ticket. The truth is that these two words can be used interchangeably. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team took a close look at these terms to help you understand what you should do if you receive a citation and how you may be able to lower your rates if you find yourself with a moving violation on your driving record.

Difference between citation vs. ticket

If you receive a ticket from a law enforcement officer, it’s the same thing as receiving a citation—there is no difference in these two words. Both of them refer to an action taken by the police to record an infraction you have committed while driving or when parked. You may receive a ticket when an officer notices that you have done something illegal, such as speeding, or even at times when you’re not driving, for example, if you park illegally by a fire hydrant. In general, there are penalties associated with citations, which may involve a court appearance, fines and even jail time for serious infractions.

Citations, moving violations and speeding tickets

As we noted above, a citation is a ticket; these are the same things. They can be divided into two categories: moving violations and non-moving violations. These are some of the more common types of each of these citations:

Moving violations

  • Speeding: A speeding ticket for driving over the stated speed limit can earn you a fine as well as higher insurance rates.
  • Running a red light or a stop sign: Penalties may vary for these moving violations, depending on the state in which you live and whether your action resulted in an accident.
  • Driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI): Driving while you are affected by drugs or alcohol is one of the most serious moving violations you can commit. In most states, it will remain on your license for up to five to 10 years. Some states even require a DUI to stay on your record forever. Either way, it is almost certain to impact your car insurance costs.
  • Reckless driving: You can earn this citation if you drive in a manner that shows a willful disregard for safety. For example, if you are caught while street racing, you may receive a ticket for reckless driving.
  • Failure to signal: Letting the driver behind you know when you are turning can help you avoid a fender-bender. It’s also the law, and you can earn a ticket if you fail to signal.

Non-moving violations

  • Parking violations: Parking in a space that is not allowed, such as next to a fire hydrant or in a no-parking zone, can earn you a ticket.
  • Expired registration: If you are driving with a registration that is expired and are caught doing so when your car is parked, or you are stopped for something else, you may find yourself with a citation.
  • Equipment violations: This may occur if your car isn’t properly equipped to be driven, for example, if you have broken headlights, a loud exhaust system or non-functioning brake lights.
  • Failure to produce proof of insurance: If you are stopped for another matter or are involved in an accident and cannot show proof of insurance coverage, you are likely to be liable for a ticket.
  • Tinted windows: In some jurisdictions, there are laws in place regarding window tinting and how dark it can be. If you violate these laws, you may be subject to fines or other penalties.

What is a written warning?

If you are given a written warning while driving, this is not the same as a citation or ticket. It is a formal notice issued by law enforcement for a minor traffic violation. Unlike a citation, it does not result in fines or penalties. Instead, it serves as a cautionary measure, alerting the driver to the infraction and emphasizing the importance of complying with traffic laws. While it does not carry immediate consequences, repeated warnings may result in future law enforcement actions.

What to do if you get a citation or ticket

If you receive a citation or ticket while driving, it’s important to respond promptly. First, carefully review the ticket to understand the violation, the fine amount and the court date. Options usually include paying the fine, contesting the ticket in court or attending traffic school to mitigate penalties. Negotiating tickets may be possible in some jurisdictions, where you can plead for a reduced fine or attend defensive driving courses in exchange for dismissing the ticket.

Failure to address a ticket can lead to serious consequences. Unpaid fines may result in increased penalties, license suspension or even a warrant for arrest. Ignoring the citation can negatively impact your credit score and make it challenging to renew your driver’s license or register your vehicle. It’s crucial to weigh the available options, respond promptly and consider seeking legal advice, if needed, to navigate the best course of action.

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How does a ticket impact your car insurance rate?

Depending on your auto insurance company and driving history, your car insurance rate could increase if you receive a traffic citation.

First-time auto citation

If you are concerned about the impact a citation may have on your auto insurance rate, you may consider asking about ticket forgiveness. Some insurers allow forgiveness for first-time offenders, where a ticket will not impact their insurance premiums.

For repeat offenders or drivers whose insurance does not offer forgiveness, a single citation could raise your premium by several hundred dollars per year. Depending on the severity of your citation, you may see your insurance premium spike by quite a bit.

Driving record Avg. monthly cost* Avg. annual cost* Increase above national avg.
Clean driving record $212 $2,542 0%
Speeding ticket $256 $3,068 21%
At-fault accident $298 $3,580 41%
DUI conviction $403 $4,840 90%

*rates are for full coverage

Repeat traffic citations

Too many motor vehicle infractions, especially if they result in your driver’s license being revoked or suspended, could cause significant premium increases or even cause an insurer to discontinue your coverage. This can happen in one of two ways.

If you have had a few infractions, but your driver’s license is still valid (meaning it has not been suspended or revoked), you may get a policy non-renewal notice from your auto insurer. This notice gives you an advanced warning that you cannot renew your auto insurance policy with that company. If you are deemed a high-risk driver, you not only face higher insurance rates but may have a harder time securing an insurance policy.

If your license has been suspended, you could get a notice of cancellation from your auto insurer. This can happen at any time during the term of your policy. You may also need to file an SR-22 certificate for having multiple speeding tickets or to reinstate your driver’s license.

In addition to fines, getting a ticket may add points to your driving record. If you incur enough points, you may have your license revoked by your state’s motor vehicle department. If you get a traffic citation, the surcharge may be applied to your next policy renewal. It is important to note that some policy terms may be shorter than others, so you could see a premium increase sooner if you have a six-month policy versus an annual policy.

What is ticket forgiveness?

Also called accident forgiveness, ticket forgiveness in car insurance refers to a policy endorsement that protects a driver from premium rate increases following their first at-fault accident or traffic violation. With ticket forgiveness, the insurer “forgives” the policyholder for a minor infraction, typically considering it a one-time incident and not worth raising the insurance rates for as a result. Not all insurers offer this, and those that do sometimes include it only as an optional rider that can be purchased to add to the policy.

How can I lower my car insurance rates if I get a speeding ticket?

Having traffic violations on your motor vehicle record can impact the cost of your premiums for a few years, but there may be ways to offset the negative financial impact. Taking an approved driving course is one method for possibly reducing the cost of premiums when you have citations on your record. Enrolling in a safe driver program, where you agree to use telematics (such as an installed app or device) in exchange for feedback on your driving, is another way to earn a potential discount. Lastly, talk to your insurance agent or company to ensure you are taking advantage of all available discounts. Keep in mind that increases to your premium rate following an infraction are usually temporary and may last only a few years, after which your rates will decrease if you have maintained a clean driving record since the infraction.

Frequently asked questions

    • A citation is another word for a ticket. Both terms refer to a document issued by local or state law enforcement explaining that you are accused of committing a traffic offense, like speeding. Failure to resolve your citation could create bigger problems. A warning is a less serious offense, typically a verbal notification by a police officer, that most likely will not be included on your motor vehicle record.
    • Every car insurance company calculates premiums differently by using its proprietary algorithm to calculate the risk involved in insuring you and set your rate. This is done by considering multiple factors about you and your vehicle; each factor is weighted differently by each company, and some are governed by state laws. So, for instance, a person with bad credit who gets a speeding ticket and drives a Maserati in New York will get quoted very different rates than a person with bad credit who gets a a speeding ticket and drives a Toyota in California. The best way to see how much you will pay for car insurance is by requesting quotes from multiple companies for the same coverage types and levels and comparing them.
    • The length of time a violation remains on your driving record depends on its severity and the state. Speeding ticket convictions generally affect your insurance rates for three years or more. However, a DUI citation may remain on your driving record forever.


Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2024 rates for ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Rates are weighted based on the population density in each geographic region. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

Our base profile drivers own a 2022 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

Incidents: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident, single speeding ticket, and single DUI conviction.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.