How to Save Money with the Defensive Driver Discount

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student learning defensive driving skills

Defensive driving courses dramatically reduce the chance of accidents and tickets while saving drivers money on car insurance. But most people don’t even know this option exists. So in this article, we go through all the essential details, including:

  • What a defensive driver course is
  • How much it costs
  • How much it can save you
  • Other benefits and considerations

By the end, you’ll know how to get the defensive driver discount for yourself and everyone you know. Ready to be the safest driver on the road? 

Let’s get started. 

Key Takeaways:

  • Many insurance companies offer a defensive driver discount, reducing car insurance premiums for drivers who complete an insurer-approved (and sometimes state-approved) defensive driving course. 
  • The discount typically reduces rates by 5% to 15% and lasts for three years or more. 
  • Online courses tend to cost between $15 and $40. Hybrid and in-person classes are around $100.
  • Check with your insurance provider to see if you can also receive a discount on tuition. Some employers and associations (e.g., firefighter unions) offer discounted or free courses. 
  • Completing coursework can improve your driving, reduce the chance of being in a collision or accident, reduce the points on your license, and give you more confidence on the road.

What is a Defensive Driving Discount?

The defensive driving discount is a car insurance discount made available to policyholders (and other drivers on their policies) who have completed an insurer-approved defensive driving course. Most insurance companies award a 5 to 20% discount for up to three years after the course completion. Each insurer has its own rules and regulations about the discount.

Sometimes, the course (and corresponding discount) may go by another name, such as:

  • Safe driving course
  • Motor vehicle accident prevention course
  • Teen driver safety course
  • Mature driver course
  • Basic driver improvement course

Who is Eligible for a Defensive Driver Discount?

Different insurance companies have varying rules regarding the defensive driving discount. Many offer it to any policyholder or driver on a policy who has completed an approved course. Some only make the discount available to drivers of a certain age, primarily teens and seniors. 

Always be sure to verify these details with your insurance company.

Is the Defensive Driver Discount Mandatory?

Yes, in thirty-four states and the District of Columbia, auto insurance providers must discount drivers who have completed an approved defensive driving course. That includes California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and Washington.

Rules differ by state, with some (including California) limiting mandated discounts to drivers 55 and older

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How do I Sign up for the Discount?

There are a few steps you have to take before you can get the defensive driver discount. But it’s easier than you think! You can complete everything from start to finish within one afternoon. All it takes is a little motivation!

Find a Policy Offering the Discount

Your first step is to find an insurance company that offers a defensive driver discount. Luckily, most insurance companies offer this or a very similar discount option. Always read the eligibility rules at any prospective insurance provider, as nearly all have specific requirements regarding which courses are eligible.

Check State-Approved Courses

In some states, the course needs to be approved by the state department of transportation (or a similar department) to qualify for this auto insurance discount. If that’s the case in your state, the insurance company will list it on its website. 

Complete the Course

Once you find an approved class, the next step is to enroll and complete the course. In many cases, defensive driving courses are available entirely online. These courses teach strategies to avoid dangerous situations and reduce collision events. Online teaching suits this type of coursework. And don’t worry! You’ll likely have the chance to practice your driving skills virtually before you take them on the road.

Submit the Completion Certificate to Your Insurer

Once you have completed the course, you will receive a certificate of completion. Typically this is an emailed document or downloadable PDF that you’ll receive directly from the defensive driving school. You can submit that course completion certificate to your insurance company, which typically takes a few days to process. 

Auto Insurance Companies Offering the Defensive Driver Discount

The good news is most major auto insurance companies offer a defensive driver discount, and many smaller insurers do too! Here’s an extensive list of insurers who provide driver training discounts:

Insurer Who’s Eligible Discount
21st Century Insurance 55+ 10%
AAA Anyone 5 to 10%
Alfa 16 to 20, 55+ Doesn’t say
Allstate Anyone 10%
American Family Under 21 5% to 10%
Amica Anyone Varies by state
Auto-Owners Anyone in mandated states Doesn’t say
COUNTRY Financial  Anyone Doesn’t say
Erie Teens Doesn’t say
Esurance Anyone 10%
Farm Bureau Anyone Varies by State
Farmers Anyone 10%
GEICO Anyone 5% to 20%
The Hartford Under 21 (Under 25 in GA) Varies by state
Kemper Anyone Doesn’t say
Liberty Mutual Anyone Varies by state
MAPFRE Anyone 10% (plus $50 off the course)
Mercury Anyone, 55+  Doesn’t say
MetLife Anyone 5% to 10%
Metromile Anyone in mandated states Doesn’t say
National General Anyone Doesn’t say
Nationwide Anyone 5%
NJM Anyone Varies by state
NY Central Mutual Principal operator of the insured vehicle 10%
Progressive Anyone Doesn’t say
Shelter Anyone Doesn’t say
Safeco Anyone Doesn’t say
Safety Insurance Anyone 5%
State farm Anyone 8%
Travelers Anyone 8%
Wawanesa  Teens and 55+ Doesn’t say

Remember that eligibility, discounts, and other factors differ by state. Always verify the discount and eligibility requirements when comparing car insurance policies.

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How Much Does a Defensive Driving Course Cost?

The cost for a defensive driving course ranges depending on your location and provider. Online courses tend to cost less than $50. Hybrid or in-person courses are typically around $100, but some can cost as much as $300. 

Sometimes you can get discounted tuition by working with an instructor partnered with your insurance provider. First responders and other professionals may also secure discounted or free tuition on their course. 

How Long is a Defensive Driving Course?

Most defensive driving courses are between four and eight hours. The length of the course depends on the school and state regulations. If you plan to take in-person and hybrid courses, add your commuting time to that total. 

Choosing the Right Course

instructor and students in a defensive driving class

Not all defensive driving courses are the same or offer equal value. When choosing your course, be sure to account for:

  • The length 
  • How it’s administered (online, hybrid, in-person)
  • Customer reviews
  • Organizational affiliations

Is a Defensive Driving Course Worth it?

For many drivers, the defensive driving course is well worth it. The long-lasting discount covers the cost of the course, sometimes within the first month! But even without the discount, we believe taking a defensive driving class is worth it for most drivers.

Here’s why.

You’ll Learn Accident-Reduction Techniques

According to research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving was responsible for 23,000 deaths and more than 1 million injuries in the US between 2012 and 2018. Across the country, state and local governments have strategized ways to reduce accidents— and they’re studying the effects of the driver and point-reduction training programs closely. 

Here’s what they found:

  • Four studies commissioned by the Florida State Legislature found that Florida traffic school programs significantly reduced both accidents and traffic violations. 
  • The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles determined that some courses reduce accident rates by 21% and reduce violations by 64.5%.
  • A study from the Arizona Supreme court found that teens who complete a defensive driving program were 24% less likely to receive another violation.

Don’t forget that having an accident-free record can lower your rates and earn you a safe-driver discount.

You Can Reduce Points on Your Driving Record

In many states, drivers can reduce the points on their driving record after completing a driving course. In many states, when a driver receives a ticket for a moving violation, they also receive assessed “points“ on their license. Points drive up car insurance premiums when you accumulate too many of them. Also, if you reach a certain number, you could temporarily lose your license.

Completing an approved driver course and submitting proof of completion to the DMV or similar government body (check the rules in your state) typically earns you a reduction of one or more points.

You Can Lower Car Insurance Rates (Even Without the Discount)

The better your driving record, the less you’ll pay for your insurance premium. Drivers can get lower car insurance rates when they reduce the points on their license via a defensive driver course. The discount can apply to your premium for up to three years, depending on the following: 

  • How quickly the driver corrects their record (i.e., how soon after a ticket they reduce their points).
  • The lookback period allowed within the state (i.e., how long tickets remain on a driving record or how far back an insurance company looks into a driver’s record).

You’ll Feel More Confident and at Ease When Driving

Many drivers and passengers feel anxiety on the road. Completing defensive driver training is an excellent way to reduce stress and feel calmer at the wheel. 

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FAQs About the Defensive Driving Discount

What is the best course for defensive driving?

The best course is always one that is both state-approved and insurer-approved. With that said, it should also fit your budget and preferences. Many prefer attending classes on their own time through a computer or tablet and in their homes. That’s why online defensive driving courses are so popular. However, combining online coursework with in-person practice typically gives students a better understanding of defensive driving habits.

How much does a defensive driving course lower your insurance?

In most states, a defensive driving course will lower auto insurance premiums by 5 to 10%. The discount typically lasts for three years. At the end of that three years, drivers can complete another course and continue earning the discount. Over time, defensive drivers can save thousands in car insurance premiums.

What will I learn in a defensive driver course?

Each course will vary, but all will cover safe driving techniques and defensive driving tips that reduce the chance of collision. These habits include following at a safe distance, using turn signals, reducing speed, and avoiding distractions. Students will also learn how to observe the road effectively and spot potential hazards early.  

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