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The Cost Benefits to Taking a Defensive Driving Course

A defensive driving course can do a lot more than teach you how to be a safer and more efficient driver. A usually timid driver can become more assertive when it comes to their spot in traffic while still adhering to traffic laws. At the same time, they may notice that their auto insurance rates have lowered as their provider rewards them for taking steps to be a safer driver. Or perhaps they have amassed some points on their driver’s license due to a past traffic violation. Such drivers can redeem themselves by attending a defensive driving course and have the points removed or any traffic ticket dismissed.

So, it’s no mystery that defensive driving courses will be beneficial for the costs of car insurance or driving violations, but is a defensive driving course really worth the cost? For a lot of drivers, that is the question before they invest their time and money in an online or in-person defensive driving course. These are the main questions this post will be answering -how much completing one such course will cost and how exactly it will affect elements such as auto insurance premiums.

What is a Defensive Driving Course?

Every driver has completed a general driver’s education course to receive their license at some point, usually when they are 16. Defensive driving isn’t usually included in the general curriculum, nor is it required to get driver’s certification, meaning defensive driving courses are typically optional. In some cases of traffic violations, taking a course may be required in order to have it dismissed. The material of a defensive driving course revolves around avoiding collisions, and other dangers drivers may face on the road. Another significant lesson is learning how to prevent oneself from getting into an auto accident at all. Above all, defensive driver courses always teach the lesson of driver courtesy and traffic law compliance. A large percentage of drivers who have taken a course report that they drive more often because they feel they are such safe drivers.

As mentioned in the previous section, a defensive driving course can also be taken for:

  • Dismissal of ticket or citation - A defensive driving course is a win-win in this situation because not only would you not have to pay for a ticket or citation after a minor traffic violation, but you would also take steps to become a safe driver and making sure it doesn’t happen again.
  • Removal of driver’s license points - Driver’s license points function like golf. The lower the number of points, the better. A certain amount of points indicates a certain amount of traffic violations. Accumulating too many points can result in a license suspension. In order the reduce the number of points on a license or have them removed altogether, you may be able to attend a defensive driving course.
  • Decrease of auto insurance rates - With the completion of a defensive driving course, your auto insurance provider will see you as less of a high-risk driver. Insurance companies base their rates on how likely a driver would be to cause an accident or risk. A defensive driving course creates safer drivers -that’s just a simple fact of life-based on stats and math.

Is a Defensive Driver Course Worth The Cost?

To quickly answer the question, yes. A defensive driving course would absolutely be worth the cost. This isn’t a marketer trying to sell you on it; this is again stats and math.

Here’s how defensive driving discounts work:

  • Driver pays attendance cost - The attendance of a defensive driving course has a fee anywhere from $15 to $100. Online attendance is also an option that can cost between $20 to $40.
  • Course is completed - Upon completion of an approved defensive driving course, an auto insurance discount will be given to the graduate. This discount can last for up to three years.
  • Discount amounts vary - The discount a driver receives after completing a defensive driver course can range from 5% to 20%. 10% appears to be the average.

How Much Can a Defensive Driving Course Save You?

To give you an idea of how it adds up, let’s say that you pay $105 a month for your auto insurance -that is the national average. Let’s also say that you enrolled in a defensive driving course for $40. Upon completion, you’re given a 10% discount on your auto insurance premiums. A 10% discount applied to $105 is $14 off, so your new rate is $91. Given one year, you will have saved nearly $170. That seems worth paying $40 for. And that’s just after one year. Imagine the amount of money you will have saved after three years.

Do You Qualify For a Defensive Driving Discount?

Defensive driving discount qualifications depend on a couple of personal and auto factors. For the most part, there are select drivers around the United States that qualify for such discounts.

Whether you qualify for a defensive driving discount is based on:

  • Auto insurance provider - Most insurance companies offer defensive driving discounts with approved courses. There may be instances where some don’t. Always check with an agent to see if they do.
  • State of residence - Discount amounts vary by state as well. An example would be that the discounts offered in California will naturally be different than those offered in Georgia.
  • Type of course - It matters whether the defensive driving course is online, in-person, or in the car. Insurance providers can be picky about which kind of school they accept certification from.
  • Personal driving record - Sometimes, insurers only give discounts to policyholders with good driving records. Several traffic violations can result in a less-than-stellar-looking record or driver’s license points. Discounts aren’t offered to drivers who were court-ordered to attend a course.
  • Age of driver - Defensive driver discounts are only available to drivers older than 55 years old and younger than 25. This is because these are the most at-risk groups of drivers -younger, new ones, and older.

What Insurance Companies Offer Defensive Driving Discounts?

Let’s take a look at how the largest names in auto insurance handle defensive driving courses and their discounts. From there, you may notice some common practices they share and what separates them from one another.

National insurance companies that offer defensive driving discounts are:

  • GEICO - Offers defensive driving discounts to their policyholders over 50 with an average discount of 10%. California drivers, however, can only receive 5% off. At the same time, there are some states where GEICO drivers can get a 15% discount.
  • Farmers - This defensive driving discount is only offered to older drivers who are 65 or older. Courses that are taken also have to be DMV-approved.
  • Allstate - Drivers, both young and old, are able to receive defensive driving discounts. These discounts can go up to 10% after completing at least six hours of a defensive driving course. Younger drivers use teenSMART, which can provide discounts.
  • Nationwide - Older Nationwide policyholders can qualify for an insurance discount of 5% after completing a DMV-approved course.
  • Travelers - Younger drivers, even those under 21, can qualify for a driver training discount of up to 8%.
  • USAA - Family members and military personnel are eligible for such discounts. Of course, an approved defensive driving course should be completed.
  • MetLife - Drivers with a MetLife policy are held to a standard for a discount between 5% to 10%. They must be licensed for at least a couple of years and must pass the defensive driving class with at least an 80%. Courses by MetLife cost $21.95 to attend.

Who Offers The Defensive Driving Courses?

Defensive driving courses are offered by various organizations, most of which are approved by a state’s Department of Motor Vehicles. A lot of these organizations also have the mission statement of providing more driver’s education for safer drivers.

These organizations are:

  • National Safety Council - Uses an online defensive driving course called SafetyServe which can result in premium decreases upon completion. Insurance companies like GEICO and MetLife have partnered with them.
  • American Safety Council - For $15 to $30, you can take an online traffic safety course from the American Safety Council, which offers more lessons than the typical defensive driving course. Insurers who have partnered with the American Safety Council are GEICO and Travelers.
  • AARP - Designed for ages 50 and up, AARP’s Smart Driver four-hour courses can be taken online. Course subjects go beyond defensive driving, with classes focusing on distracted driving prevention, medicating while driving, and advanced safety techniques while out on the road. Cost ranges from $20 to $25, depending on whether or not the driver is an AARP member.
  • AAA - Another defensive driving program designed for older drivers that can be taken either online or in a classroom in four hours. AAA charges their members $30 for online courses and $36 for classroom courses. Non-members pay $42 for any of the courses.
  • TeenSMART - As previously mentioned, teenSMART is a defensive driving program for younger drivers. They promise to help lower teen drivers' collision rates by 30-70%. However, teenSMART is one of the most expensive defensive driving courses at $120. But, this can be worth the discount on a young driver’s insurance, mainly due to the fact young drivers also have the most expensive insurance rates.
  • Local driving schools - It never helps to return to the local driving school where you originally got your license. Many driving schools offer defensive driving courses in addition to their traffic school. However, they may or may not be certified by the DMV, so be sure to inquire about that.

How to Pick The Best Defensive Driving Course

The first step is figuring out which courses you wouldn’t be able to attend with the process of elimination. Firstly, think about your age and what defensive driving course you qualify for. An example would be if you’re 23 -since you aren’t a senior driver, you’ll have to settle for the courses for young drivers. This disqualifies AARP and AAA. Then with your options in mind, you should further filter out any options which aren’t certified by your state’s DMV so that they can provide insurance discounts or dismiss a traffic ticket. Lastly, look at the curriculum of the course and see how beneficial it can be for you. Speaking with an instructor beforehand is also a great way to understand what you are getting into.

Which is Better: Online or Classroom Defensive Driving Courses?

The differences between online and in-person courses can be night and day, but some differences may not be as obvious as others. We’ll start with online defensive driving courses. These can be completed on your own time and in your own home, which is far more flexible for some people. At the same time, they may be cheaper than classroom courses. However, there is no instructor to report to or answer questions, and the course may not be approved by your state’s DMV.

Inversely, classroom-held defensive driving courses always have a certified teacher at the helm. Local traffic laws are more so covered in in-person courses and only take an afternoon or a weekend. The only negatives would be they are less flexible and have more regulations to contend with than an online course. However, it is the quickest way to complete a defensive driving course.