When you get a ticket, the fine you pay will probably cost you less than the premium increase on your next auto or motorcycle insurance renewal. But just exactly how much more will you pay, and for how long?
Traffic convictions stay on your insurance record for 3 years, and the impact on your premium depends on what you’re already paying, what kind of ticket it is, and what else is on your record. If your license is suspended, that sticks with you for 6 years.
So you just got pulled over for driving 120 km/h in a 90 zone. You should be able to afford the $220 fine, but you have your insurance renewal coming up next month. What’s this really going to cost you? Everybody seems to know that having tickets on your record will make your auto and motorcycle insurance rates go up, but the question is, how much? If it’s a couple hundred bucks, it might not be worth fighting the ticket in court, but what if it’s a couple thousand, or more?
How long do tickets stay on my insurance record?
The first thing you need to know is that most convictions affect your insurance record for 3 years. That’s 3 years from the date of conviction, not the date you got the ticket. So yeah, if you plead guilty and pay the fine right away, it might be close to the date when you got pulled over, but if you fight the ticket in court, it’s the date of the conviction that counts. This explains why some tickets might seem to stay on your record longer than you expect. If you get a suspension, that stays on your record for 6 years.
Not all tickets are created equal
To know how much your premium is likely to go up, first you need to know what kind of ticket you’ve gotten. For insurance purposes in Ontario, all traffic offences are grouped under one of three categories:
- Minor offences;
- Major offences; and
- Serious or criminal offences
As you can imagine, major offences will affect your rate more than minor offences, and serious or criminal offences are the most damaging of all. Learn more about the 3 categories of offences you might be charged with in Ontario.
- Randy Ryerson
- Age & sex:
- 32 year old male
- Suburban GTA
- Driving experience:
- 12 years
- Late model SUV
- Driving record:
- Insurance premium:
To illustrate how each type of ticket might affect actual street premiums, we’ve created a fictional driver, Randy Ryerson, a 32-year-old male living in the suburban GTA with 12 years of driving experience, who drives a late model SUV. He is fake, but the rates are pulled from our live quoting system, and accurately reflect what someone like him would pay.
So how do tickets affect my insurance rates?
Well if you have a clean driving record, and pay $1,488/yr for car insurance like our fictional friend Randy Ryerson does here’s how one or more tickets could affect you.
after 1st conviction
after 2nd conviction
after 3rd conviction
*Rates quoted from Mitch partner insurers
(Note that in real life, you are more likely to have some combination of minor, major and serious/criminal tickets on your record than two or three of the same type. The examples above are for illustration only.)
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The 3 main categories of traffic tickets in Ontario
1. Minor tickets
- Improper use of high beams
- Improperly opening vehicle door
- Turning where prohibited
- Towing people (on bicycle, skateboard etc.)
- Failing to obey signs
- Failing to share the road
- Improper turn
- Failing to signal
- Driving too slowly
- Reversing on a highway
- Driver not wearing a seatbelt
- Minor in the car not wearing a seatbelt
- 1-49 km/h over speed limit
- Driving through, around or under a railway crossing barrier
- Failing to yield the right-of-way
- Failing to stop at a stop sign, red light, railway crossing or crosswalk (outside school zone)
- Driving the wrong way
- Not staying in your lane
- Crowding the driver’s seat
- Driving on a closed road
- Crossing a divided road where no proper crossing is provided
- Improperly passing a stopped emergency vehicle
- Driving with a radar detector or equivalent device
- Improper use of a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane
- Failing to show license
- Failing to show proof of insurance
- Following too closely
- Riding a motorcycle without a helmet
- Driving an unsafe vehicle (lights out, signals broken, bald tires etc.)
When shopping for insurance, having one of these tickets on your record will probably increase your rate by 10-20%. Our fictional driver, Randy, would be paying $1,488 a year with a clean record, and one of these tickets would make that go up to $1,732. Having a second such ticket adds another 10-20%. With two minor convictions, Randy would be paying $1,977. Given that the tickets don’t go away for 3 years, one minor ticket could cost you $450-$900, and two could cost you up to $1,700 before they fall off your record.
If you get a third ticket before one of the other two go away, then you have real problems, because most insurance companies will now consider you high risk and won’t insure you at all. The companies that will insure you will not only apply the above surcharges, plus another 10-20% for the third ticket, but they may have higher base rates, and you won’t have the benefit of shopping the whole insurance market to save money. Over 3 years, this could cost you $6,000 or more. With 3 minor tickets on his record, Randy would no longer qualify for his current insurer and would be paying $3,566 a year.
(Important note: If you find yourself in the high-risk insurance market, Mitch has contracts with all the high-risk insurers in Ontario, so we can get you the best rate out there for you.)
2. Major tickets
- Failing to stop for or obey a police officer
- Distracted driving (texting etc.)
- Showing fake insurance papers
- Graduated licensing violations
- Failing to report an accident
- Stunt driving
- Speeding in a school zone
- Improperly passing a school bus
- Failing to stop at a school crosswalk
- Lying to a police officer
Major tickets can affect you in two ways. First, having one on your record will likely disqualify you from coverage with most auto insurers in Ontario and leave you in the high-risk market. That combined with surcharges could double your rate or worse. With just one major ticket, Randy Ryerson would be forced to go with a high-risk insurer, paying $3,041 a year. Just one such ticket will cost you $3,000-6,000 in additional premiums over 3 years. A second will add another thousand or two, and a third will leave you only one choice of insurer, Facility Association, likely paying 4 times your current rate.
3. Serious or criminal tickets
- Careless driving
- 50+ km/h over the speed limit
- Failing to remain at the scene of a collision
- Impaired driving and related offences
- Dangerous driving
- Driving without insurance
- Driving while suspended
- Criminal negligence
- Vehicular manslaughter
Likewise, If you get a serious or criminal conviction like Impaired Driving or careless driving on your record, this automatically doubles your premium, and likely more, because you only have access to 5 insurance companies. Our friend Randy, who started out paying $1,488 a year with a clean record, would pay $3,623 a year with one serious conviction, $6,383 with 2 serious convictions, and $12,213 annually with a third serious or criminal conviction. The silver lining, if you want to call it that, is that Randy wouldn’t pay this in real life because you don’t need insurance to ride the bus.
Does a license suspension affect my premium?
Which brings us to the question of license suspensions. If you are convicted of a serious violation like stunt driving, it usually comes with a license suspension. Even if that suspension is only for a few months, it stays on your insurance record for 6 years, so long after the actual ticket is off the books, you’ll still be with a high-risk insurer, paying at least double the rate you’re used to.
If I get a speeding ticket, does it matter how fast I was going?
Yes, it absolutely matters how fast you were going in terms of how it will affect your premium.
- If you’re going less than 50 km/h over the limit, this is a simple speeding ticket and is a minor offence. Could cost you as little as $100 extra a year.
- If you’re going more than 50 km/h over the limit, that’s a serious offence. Your premium will double and then some, and your license will be suspended.
In some cases, if you are going much faster than traffic, racing another vehicle and/or weaving in and out of traffic, you can be charged with stunt driving (major offence) or racing (serious offence) even if you weren’t going 50 km/h over.
How do parking tickets affect my insurance?
This is a common question, and it has a happy answer! Parking tickets do not affect the cost of your auto or motorcycle insurance in Ontario.
What about photo radar and red light camera tickets?
In Ontario, you can get a ticket in the mail even if you were never pulled over by a police officer. There are two possible sources:
- Photo radar, where a camera captures your license plate and combines that information with information from a device that measures how fast you were going.
- Red light cameras, where a camera takes a picture of your license plate and a larger picture showing that you were in an intersection while the light was red.
In both of the above instances, because there is no way of effectively identifying who is driving the vehicle, the ticket would not be ratable by insurance companies, meaning the ticket shouldn’t increase your premium.
Do motorcycle tickets count?
Most motorcycle riders also drive a car. If that’s you, remember that your tickets are combined, and affect both policies. So a ticket while you’re driving your car will affect your motorcycle insurance rates, and a ticket while you’re riding will affect your auto insurance rates.
Got a ticket? Call us and save!
Hey look, if you’ve got a few blemishes on your driving or riding record, we probably can’t save you from paying a little more, but because we work with more than 40 different insurance companies, including all the high-risk insurers in Ontario, we can give you the best chance of finding the one company that is going to help you limit the damage. Every insurer treats tickets a little differently, so after a ticket is a great time to see what else is available. Maybe a minor ticket only costs you a couple hundred bucks in the end.
And remember, your record doesn’t go from putrid to perfect overnight. One of our insurance brokers can make sure you know when you qualify for more different insurers, and better rates, because one ticket or two have fallen off your record.
Special thanks to Alex Hillhouse, Mitch team lead, for helping with this post.