Driving Record Dings? How to Save Money Car Shopping

When purchasing a motor vehicle, most people consider a wide variety of factors. Rarely do these factors include one’s driving record. A particularly poor driving record or failure to pay fines will result in a suspended license, which will preclude the purchaser from lawfully operating the vehicle on our highways. Those who have valid licenses but have accumulated a number of violations on their driving history should also take pause, as a poor record can affect a purchase in more ways than one.

Buying the Vehicle

Selecting a vehicle is a personal choice that depends upon one’s needs, preferences, and financial resources. Having a prior driving record will not affect one’s vehicle choice in most cases. However, practical concerns may include one’s driving history. Buyers should not purchase vehicles that they cannot control. A buyer who has received numerous speeding tickets is unlikely to improve the situation by buying a new red sports car. Similarly, buyers who have trouble parking full-sized sedans should stay away from large sports utility vehicles.

Most new vehicle buyers finance their vehicles. Before extending credit, buyers will undergo a credit check to determine their level of risk. Merely having a history of traffic infractions or criminal convictions will not detrimentally affect one’s credit rating. However, traffic violations and criminal convictions usually result in some type of fine or court costs assessed against the defendant. If these fines remain unpaid, the municipality may send the fine to a collection agency, which may report on the convicted party’s credit report.

Delinquencies will diminish the credit score, which will either raise rates or preclude the applicant from financing that vehicle.

Obtaining Insurance

Florida requires vehicle owners to obtain at least $10,000 in property damage liability and $10,000 in personal injury protection insurance. Insurance companies will review an applicant’s driving record to determine whether to insure the applicant and at which rates. Moving violations will negatively affect one’s driving record, which will result in increased insurance rates, subject to the exception discussed in the following section. This occurs even if the applicable fines and court costs were paid in full.

Drivers with a record of infractions may still undo the damage caused by their record. Some insurance companies will offer discounts to individuals who have completed a basic driver improvement course. While this does not clear the driver’s record, his or her insurer may reduce the policyholder’s rates to pre-violation levels or even lower. Drivers who do not have citations on their record should still consult their insurer, as savings may still be possible.

Clearing One’s Driving Record

A Miami, Florida car accident attorney notes that if a citation has not been paid or processed, defendants may be able to avoid having the ticket on their record. In Florida, drivers may elect to complete a basic driver improvement course after receiving a citation every twelve months. Drivers do this by notifying the Clerk of Court of the county in which the citation was received within 30 days of receiving the citation that they wish to attend traffic school.

Drivers who complete this course will not have points on their record, will not be adjudicated as guilty, and will not experience an increase in insurance rates. Drivers may do this only once every twelve months and may not do it more than five times in their life.

Violations that have already been processed may not be removed otherwise. Florida residents may still find a single violation on their complete driving record after 11 years. Criminal convictions for driving offenses such as driving under the influence may not be sealed or expunged in Florida; only dismissals and acquittals may be expunged or sealed. This can complicate matters for persons attempting to obtain insurance.

As a practical matter, many insurers will only request records dating back three or seven years. Vehicle buyers who shop around for insurance will find that rates differ widely depending upon how far back a particular insurer checks.

So if you’ve got your eyes on a shiny new car, do your homework first before you step on a dealer’s lot. Not only is it important to research which type of car, what kind of fuel it uses, and its safety standard features, but also how you can clean up your past driving record.

Debbie Nguyen is a designer and blogger in the Atlanta area. She researched the actual costs of buying a new car and was surprised at how many things factor into your overall price. Steinger, Iscoe& Greene is a Miami, Florida car accident attorney group which works with clients to make sure their past mistakes don’t affect their future car buying power.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/markdoliner/3174790048/