How your motor vehicle report (MVR) affects your life insurance rates

Your MVR helps insurance companies assess how much of a risk you are to insure. Risky driving leads to higher premiums or denials.

Logan SachonAmanda Shih author photo

Logan Sachon & Amanda Shih

Published July 7, 2020

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Your driving history is one of several factors life insurance companies consider when determining your premiums

  • Most companies look at the past five years of your MVR, or motor vehicle record

  • Certain violations, like a DUI, will make it much harder to get coverage, but not impossible

Many factors influence how much a person will pay for life insurance — health, age, the amount of coverage purchased, etc. Most people applying for life insurance probably know that specific health issues, like a family history of heart disease, or existing high blood pressure, can mean a higher premium.

And the younger you are when you first apply for life insurance, the more affordable your premium will be.. But many people don’t know that your driving history also impacts how much you’ll pay for life insurance.

During the underwriting period, the insurer will look at your motor vehicle report, or MVR, to assess how much of a risk you are as a driver.

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What is a motor vehicle report (MVR)?

Your MVR — also known as your driving record — is essentially a report card for your driving. This is what your life insurance company will look at during the underwriting period.

Your state’s DMV maintains your record, which includes your accidents and violations. Some incidents that would appear on your MVR include:

  • Traffic citations
  • Vehicular crimes
  • Accident reports
  • DUI/DWI convictions

But those accidents and violations won’t necessarily remain on your MVR forever. Depending on your state and the severity of the violation, an accident or violation may stay on your driving history for several years, or a decade or more. For example, a speeding ticket might stay on your record for just a few years, but an instance of driving while intoxicated might be on your MVR for five to 10 years.

Many states also use a points system to track violations — different types of offenses earn you different amounts of points. The point values vary by state, but expect more for more dangerous violations like reckless driving and fewer for lower risk errors like failure to yield. Rack up too many points and you could be facing license suspension or revocation.

Different state DMVs may also maintain multiple versions of your driving history. In Ohio, for example, you can see an unofficial driving record for free, but it only shows the past two years of your driving history, or you can pay $5 to see your driver abstract, which shows the past three years of your history. In New York, drivers have both a standard driving record, with recent violations and accidents, and a “lifetime” driving record, with every incident and violation from your entire history of driving in that state.

Your driving record isn’t as readily accessible as your credit report (which also affects your insurance ratings), but you can order your MVR from your state’s licensing agency.

How does MVR affect life insurance rates?

When you apply for life insurance, the insurance company sets your rates by assessing your risk of dying during the term of the policy you’re purchasing. They do this by compiling your risk factors and assigning you a classification that will determine your monthly premiums.

Each insurer has different standards and even terms for their classifications, but essentially: the riskier you are, the worse your classification will be and the higher your premiums will be. Too many risk factors and you may be denied coverage altogether.

Most life insurance companies will look at the past five years of your driving history when determining your risk factors. In order to get the best classification at most life insurance companies, you need to have absolutely no DUIs (driving under the influence) or DWIs (driving while intoxicated) on your record in the past five years. Some insurers even look at the past seven or 10 years. You also cannot have any record of reckless driving or a license suspension.

Typically, you also cannot have more than two moving violations in the last three years to qualify for the best classification. (A moving violation is any time you break a law while the vehicle is in motion, like speeding, failing to stop for a pedestrian, and failure to use a seat belt).

If you have recent or multiple moving violations, you won’t be able to get the best possible premiums on your life insurance, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be able to get covered.

Insurance carriers vary in how they view your MVR. Some carriers may offer you coverage with a lower classification (higher premiums); others will also charge you an extra flat fee per year (a few dollars per thousand dollars of coverage is possible).

Can you get life insurance with a DUI or DWI?

Life insurance companies are very strict about DUIs and DWIs. Not only can you not get the best classification and premiums, many life insurance companies will postpone coverage if you have a DUI on your record within the past five years. And some companies will decline coverage altogether.

Luckily for drivers who have become more responsible, some life insurance companies are more tolerant of past DUIs than others. Some carriers knock that five-year-window for DWIs down to two or three as the classification gets lower, making it easier to get life insurance despite past transgressions — albeit for a higher premium.

The same goes for reckless driving. While not all life insurers specifically look at reckless driving violations, the ones who do will hold it up to the same standards as DUIs and DWIs.

If you have a recent DUI or DWI conviction, the best course of action is to start the application process, get quotes, and talk to a licensed life insurance agent, who can look at the full picture of your application, including your MVR, and make a recommendation for which carrier is likely to give you the best classification.

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How much will life insurance cost with a DUI or DWI?

We pulled quotes for a healthy 34-year-old male in California with a $500,000 policy and 20-year term. Then we pulled quotes if he’d had a DUI five years ago and if he’d had one two years ago:

COMPANYNO DWIDWI 5 YEARS AGODWI 2 YEARS AGO
AIG$25.89$39.29N/A
BrighthouseN/AN/AN/A
Lincoln Financial$31.41$38.32N/A
Mutual of Omaha$34.30$32.04N/A
Pacific Life$20.80$26.48$40.56
Principal$26.70N/AN/A
Protective$20.99$25.89N/A
Prudential$35.00$41.13N/A
SBLI$21.43$27.22$42.35
Transamerica$20.64$26.66N/A

(Note that some carriers require more info before they’ll quote for this situation; an insurance broker or agent can provide more information after your initial application.)

About the authors

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih

Insurance Expert

Amanda Shih is an insurance editor at Policygenius in New York City. Previously, she worked in nonfiction book publishing and freelance content marketing. Amanda has a B.A. in literature and communication from New York University.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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