How Can I Get a Defensive Driving Discount?

If you’re eligible, getting a defensive driving discount on your car insurance can lead to safer driving and a lower insurance rate.

Older couple driving car
Updated May 13, 2024
Fact checked

We receive compensation from the products and services mentioned in this story, but the opinions are the author's own. Compensation may impact where offers appear. We have not included all available products or offers. Learn more about how we make money and our editorial policies.

Finding ways to save money on car insurance can be challenging. If you meet eligibility requirements, taking a defensive driving course could help save a significant amount on your car insurance.

To get a defensive driving discount, your insurance carrier may require you to take a course on ways to avoid an accident. After successfully completing the course, the insurance carrier discounts your policy premium for a couple of years. Although a defensive driving course can be a great way to get a discount, not every insurance carrier offers it, and not every customer will be eligible.

Determining how to get a defensive driving discount and finding the best course to fit your needs and your state’s requirements takes a little effort, but it could be worth it in the long run.

In this article

Key takeaways

  • Several insurers offer defensive driving discounts on select policies if customers meet eligibility requirements.
  • Many defensive driving auto insurance discounts are only available to people age 50 or older but vary by state and insurance provider.
  • If you qualify for a defensive driving car insurance discount, taking the course can be an excellent way to save money and make you a safer driver.
  • Courses cost around $25, which is usually more than covered when the discount is applied to your policy.

What is a defensive driving discount?

Defensive driving discounts are available through several car insurance companies and are even required by law in some states. The discount varies by auto insurance company but is usually between 5% and 10% of your total premium.

Although taking a defensive driver course may be a good way to get an insurance discount on your premium, it can also help you become a safer driver.

It might be tempting to grumble about already knowing how to drive but don’t confuse a defensive driving course with a driver’s education class. Driver’s education courses teach young drivers basic driving skills and road safety.

In comparison, defensive driving classes help experienced drivers improve their skills and better anticipate behaviors that might lead to an accident. Topics vary by course but often include accident prevention techniques to help avoid dangerous situations and improve your overall driving safety.

Tip
If you have points against your license for unsafe driving, some states may allow you to take a defensive driving course in exchange for a point reduction. The amount varies, but in New York, for example, if you complete a 5.5-hour defensive driving course, you may see up to four points removed from your license.

Qualifying for a defensive driving discount

In most cases, to qualify for a defensive driving insurance discount, you must be a certain age, complete a state-approved defensive driving course offered through an insurance carrier authorized company, and provide documentation that you successfully passed the course.

In some states, carriers are only required to provide a defensive driving discount to drivers over 50 or 55. In other states, drivers under 25 can also receive a discount for taking a defensive driving course but may have to take longer or in-person classes. States like Georgia and New York extend the discount to drivers of all ages if they have applicable insurance policies and complete a Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) approved class.

Many people over 55 may see their insurance premiums start to creep up, even if they haven’t had a recent accident. While insurance rates for people aged 55-75 don’t climb as high as they do for teens and early twenties, as we age, insurance companies typically charge higher rates, likely due to slowing reflexes and the greater potential of getting into an accident.

Most defensive driving discounts last for the length of the class certification, typically between one to three years. Eligible drivers may be able to requalify for the discount when it expires if they take another defensive driving course or an approved refresher.

What’s involved in a defensive driving course?

Defensive driving courses come in various forms. Depending on the driver’s safety company you work with, the course may be completed entirely online or in person.

Many defensive driving courses cost less than $25, although specific costs vary by the course provider, the length and topics included in the course, and state. For example, in California, the American Safety Council online defensive driving course for GEICO customers costs $12.50, but in New York, it may cost $21.50. Taking a course in person will likely cost more than online.

Online courses generally take four to six hours and are often formatted so you can use any device with internet access. Most courses allow you to work at your own pace. Material is broken out into sections, and your progress is bookmarked. Depending on the course, you may have to complete it within 30 days of registering, though specific time limits vary by the company offering the class.

If you want to complete an in-person course, contact your insurance agent or company to ask which courses qualify for a discount and if you’re eligible. They often have a list of approved companies offering defensive driving courses, and you can save time researching costs and time commitments.

Participation requirements

Before you think you can sign up for an online course and just turn the video on in the background, many courses have built-in features to verify that you’re actively participating.

Depending on your course, you may be required to validate your identity when logging on as well as repeatedly throughout the course.

For example, the New York Safety Council course uses security questions and voice biometrics to ensure participation. When the questions appear, you have 45 seconds to answer correctly. If you fail to answer a question after three tries, you’ll be locked out of the course and must re-register.

Students will also have to provide a voice sample and call the computer system to provide a unique student ID only available on the computer screen. You’ll have to call back several times during the course to provide new voice samples that match your original. If you fail two voice checks, you’ll be locked out and fail the course.

Once you complete the course, your certificate of completion will be available electronically, and the company may also mail a physical copy to your home address. Some courses even report course completion directly to your insurance company to make getting a discount easier and faster.

Choosing a defensive driving class

When choosing a defensive driving course, it's important to ensure that it's authorized and approved by your insurance provider. Insurance company websites will often list acceptable options, or you can call your insurance agent directly to confirm which courses qualify and that you’ll be able to receive a discount for taking one.

Two popular options are the American Safety Council and the National Safety Council, though other options may be available in your state.

Defensive driving classes help drivers prevent accidents and offer proactive safety tips and tactics. The topics covered may include:

  • Traffic crash problems
  • DWI and other hazardous acts
  • Aggressive driving
  • Driving distractions
  • Legal and financial consequences
  • Crash dynamics
  • Safety equipment
  • Traffic laws specific to your state
  • Traffic signals
  • Sharing the road with emergency vehicles
  • Following and stopping distances
  • Interacting with school buses and emergency vehicles

You’ll have to pass timed quizzes to move on to the next topic. For example, the New York Safety Council test provides a five-question quiz at the end of each module, and participants have five minutes to earn a passing score of at least 75%. If you fail any quiz three times in a row, you’ll be locked out and have to re-register.

Steps to get the defensive driving discount

Before you sign up for a defensive driving course to receive a discount on your insurance, it’s essential to do your research and ensure you’ll qualify with your insurance company.

To get the defensive driving discount:

1. Confirm your state allows defensive driving discounts and eligibility requirements.

2. Check with your insurance carrier about the discount options for your policy. Calling your insurance agent directly to confirm can save you time and energy, but you may also be able to find the information on the insurance company’s website.

3. Confirm eligibility requirements, including age limits or other restrictions.

4. Find a course that meets your insurance carrier’s requirements.

5. Compare the cost, time commitment, and curriculum of various courses, either in-person or online. Find one that fits your schedule and budget.

6. Actively participate in the course and pass the certification test.

7. Provide the certificate to your insurance provider. Many companies allow you to upload your course completion certificate online, but others may have you email or physically mail a copy.

8. Confirm that the discount has been applied at your next policy renewal.

Companies that offer a defensive driving discount

As you search for the best car insurance be aware of any ways to lower your car insurance premiums. Although not every carrier offers a defensive driving discount, several do, including:

Company Discount Requirements
Farmers Varies by state
  • Be at least 65 (55 in some areas)
  • Complete a defensive driving course approved by your state’s DMV
Nationwide Varies by state
  • Be at least 55 years old
  • Had no at-fault accidents in the previous 35 months
  • Complete a defensive driving course approved by your state’s DMV
GEICO Varies by state
  • Must be at least 50 years old (varies by state)
  • Complete a defensive driving course approved by your state’s DMV
  • In some states, have no at-fault accidents or traffic violation convictions
State Farm Varies by state
  • In some states, drivers must be 55 or older
  • Voluntarily complete a Mature Driver Improvement Course approved by your state’s DMV within the last three years
American Family Varies by state Be at least 55 years and be a resident of a qualifying state:
  • Colorado
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Georgia (drivers younger than 55 may qualify for a discount)

FAQ

Does Florida offer defensive driving discounts?

Yes, Florida offers defensive driving discounts to people 55 years and older who complete an approved defensive driving course. The discount varies by age and driving history, but you could save 5% to 10% on your insurance premium for up to three years.

What is the defensive driver discount in New York State?

The defensive driver discount in New York State is 10% and is available to all New York drivers. It is valid for three years if you take an approved defensive driving course and provide your insurance company with a certificate of completion.

How much is the defensive driving discount in California?

The defensive driving discount in California varies by insurance provider. GEICO offers a 5% discount to drivers aged 50 and older who have completed a suitable defensive driving course. Other insurance carriers may offer different discounts based on age, driving record, and location. State Farm insurance requires the primary driver of a vehicle in California to be 55 or older to qualify for a discount.

Bottom line

Taking an authorized defensive driving course could be a great way to save money on car insurance, especially for older drivers. A defensive driving course can help you take advantage of every discount available and make you a better driver.

Be sure to contact your insurance company before signing up to confirm your eligibility, and once you’ve completed the course, make sure the discount is applied to your premium. Safe driving can benefit you and your wallet.

  • You could save up to $500 with some companies
  • Compare dozens of providers in under 5 minutes
  • Fast, free and easy way to shop for insurance
  • Quickly find the perfect rate for you

Author Details

Kate Daugherty

Kate Daugherty is a professional writer with a passion for providing others the head start they deserve on their financial journeys. Largely self-taught, Kate relied on books, blogs, and trial-and-error to learn how to budget and save for the future, all while working to pay back about $15,000 in student loans.