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Defensive Driving Class: Is It Worth It?

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Shuman Roy is an entrepreneur, business owner, and musician. He started RoysNoys, LLC in 2013 as a music production and education service company. He also offers small business consulting and advisory services to help businesses get from start-up mode to turn-key operations. Shuman earned his M.B.A from the Stern School of Business in 2001...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency...

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Reviewed byJoel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Sep 3, 2020

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The Truth in a Nutshell

  • Defensive driving classes may save you five to ten percent on your car insurance
  • Not all defensive driving classes will remove points from your license
  • Accidents can raise your rates an average of around $80 a month

So is defensive driving worth it? Just how much does defensive driving lower car insurance? Where can you take a defensive driving class?

Defensive driving classes are a great way to brush up on your driving skills while learning how to avoid car accidents.

But the odds of that statement encouraging you to spend anywhere from $25 to $100 and four to six hours of your life studying like you’re in Drivers Education class are about 1 in 1,000,000, right?

Many of the companies offering these courses also shamelessly advertise auto insurance rate decreases by 5-10 percent per year, in some cases for up to 5 years. TTAI is here to (mostly) dispel the advantages of defensive driving courses…but more on that later.

The best way to keep your car insurance rates low is to compare quotes from different companies. Enter your ZIP now to see what company will give you the best discount for a defensive driving class.

Why defensive driver courses?

The reality is, choosing to attend a defensive driving course is typically a decision made to get a ticket dismissed, remove or reduce points from your driving record, or compulsory if a court of law has demanded you do so as a result of a driving offense.

Let’s look at the average annual rates of car insurance after an accident or violation to see just how much insurance goes up after a ticket.

Average Annual Car Insurance Rates Based on Driving History
CompaniesAverage Annual Rates with a Clean RecordAverage Annual Rates with One AccidentAverage Annual Rates with One DUIAverage Annual Rates with One Speeding Violation
American Family$2,693.61$3,722.75$4,330.24$3,025.74
State Farm$2,821.18$3,396.01$3,636.80$3,186.01
Liberty Mutual$4,774.30$6,204.78$7,613.48$5,701.26
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One speeding ticket can raise your rates and an average of $45 a month and an accident can cost you around an extra $80 a month. Defensive driving classes may be worth it if the discount offsets these costs.

While these courses are great teaching exercises for soon-to-be newly licensed drivers and the elderly, a driver between the ages of 22 and 60 can probably live without it – unless the course will serve any of the purposes listed above.

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What do they teach you?

Each company or state may have their own standardized requirements of what must be discussed in order to qualify for the credit.

If you’re taking a defensive driving course, here’s what to expect:

  1. How to prevent automobile collisions
  2. Attributes of the “defensive driver”
  3. Freeway driving
  4. Techniques for safe passing
  5. How to spot and avoid impaired drivers

The above list is only a snapshot of what you’ll be learning. These courses can be as long as six hours, so expect more to be covered!

Watch this video from the National Safety Council to get an idea of what a class would be like.

This is just one example of what you would learn in a defensive driving class.  Each company will be different.

Can you take defensive driving course online?

If you’re wondering where to take a defensive driving class, you can do so in person or online. 

Many of us don’t have the time or inclination to sit in a classroom setting for several hours and listen to someone drone on about defensive driving. This is why many of the classes are “comedy” based nowadays. Without throwing in some jokes from time to time, these classes would certainly lull you to sleep.

The good news is that just about every company offering these classes has taken to the Internet to offer an online version, but is an online course worth it? An online class means you can view the material and test yourself from the comfort of your own home and at your own pace.

One example is the Geico safe driving course that is offered online. The Geico 6 hour class offers a discount of 5 – 10 percent on your car insurance. This is just one of Geico’s auto insurance discounts that may help lower your rates.

According to NOLO, the DMV will assess points to your license with each driving infraction, and when you get enough points, your license will be suspended. It is important to keep the number of points low so that you don’t lose your license.

But with Geico, points reduction is not provided. This course will only give you a discount on insurance, not reduce any of the points on your driver’s license. This means the Geico defensive driving class may not be worth much to you.

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What should I consider before taking a defensive driving class?

Are driving schools worth it? We’re glad you asked. There are a few major points of note when deciding if the defensive driving class is for you. Put simply, here are two things to consider in order to be certain you are not wasting your time or money.

1. Not all defensive driving classes are accredited by your state.

So you paid your $45, sat through 6 hours of material, passed your chapter exams only to find out the course you finished is not approved by your state and the “certificate” you received is worthless towards removing the ticket from your record…ouch!

Tip: Make sure your course CLEARLY states it is recognized and approved by your state prior to clicking the “purchase” button.

2. Not all insurance companies offer a discount for completing this course.

Insurance agents regularly find themselves explaining that these courses are of no benefit toward rate reduction on your policy. As discussed above, these courses will likely only result in a discount for the very young and the elderly. Most insurers expect that you know how to properly operate a vehicle.

How much does a defensive driving course reduce insurance? If you’re taking a defensive driving course to lower insurance, you might be disappointed. 

Look at it this way. If you pay $1,000 per year for car insurance and spend $50 to take a course that gets you a 5% discount…you spent $50 to earn a $50 discount and spent four to six hours of your life doing so.

However, if you’ve got a teen that is eligible for the 5% discount for five years, it could make sense.  And they’d potentially learn something to avoid an accident.

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You Can’t Fool the Insurance Companies

For those of you who took the driving course to get rid of a ticket from your record, consider it a win that the ticket was removed. But understand that insurers have seen it all before and they know the average person only takes the course for that exact reason and would be slightly foolish to start discounting every driver who recently received a ticket.

That said, many insurance companies will not give you the discount if you’ve had a ticket or accident within the past 3-5 years. So don’t expect to get your speeding ticket removed and a discount for taking the course!

Tip: Verify your insurer offers a discount for defensive driving courses prior to taking one…as if anyone would do so for any other reason than to remove a violation! You will likely find they don’t offer a discount unless you’re under 21 or over 60.

As always, shop your insurance rate by gathering insurance quotes and pick up the phone to call a few insurance agents if you are seeking to lower your car insurance bill. The odds are you could get a better deal if you haven’t shopped around in the past two or three years, defensive driving course or not.

Enter your ZIP to compare quotes on car insurance after taking defensive driving classes to get the best discounts.



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