If you are interested in obtaining life insurance to protect your loved ones, but are concerned that your poor driving history may hurt your chances, you are in the right place. Just keep reading.
The level to which a questionable driving history will affect your chances at a great policy offer has to do with the number of violations, the kind of violations, and the carrier you choose.
Life insurance companies assess the risk to their profitability by assigning an underwriting grade to all applicants. This is true no matter what the pre-existing condition(s) of the applicant may be.
Regardless of whether your application is seen as a risk to the carrier due to High Cholesterol, depression, or even smoking marijuana, the insurance company will assign a risk assessment to the application.
The purpose of this article is to help you navigate the life insurance process if you have a spotty driving record.
The Information Insurance Carriers Will Use to Make a Decision.
Insurance underwriters will usually divide moving violations in to categories of severe and less severe. The majors tend to be DUI, Reckless Driving, and license suspension.
Traffic violations, including excessive speed, failure to obey lights/stop signs, seat belt infractions, improper lane change and distracted driving are viewed by most carriers as less severe. However, having multiple moving violations can be equally as bad a major violation.
Speeding, in particular, is dealt with very differently from one state to another. In some states in the United States, going more than 20 miles an hour more than the speed limit could result in a major charge and that will cost you thousands more over the life of your life insurance policy.
They Know About Your Driving Record
Although most life insurance applications will have questions about arrests/conviction for driving while intoxicated, and suspensions, underwriters will rely on information gathered from your motor vehicle report (MVR). This is a driving history provided by the Department of Motor Vehicles. The fine print of the life insurance application requires your authorization for the carrier to review this information.
If you are not positive about what is on your motor vehicle record. You can request a copy from your state’s DMV. This is a good idea because the cost is usually under $20 and you will have the knowledge before having to choose a carrier.
The reason it is important to know before applying is because different carriers have different appetites for spotty driving records. If you don’t know, and apply anyway, you’d have to be very lucky to get the best rates available.
If you are thinking about applying for a no medical exam policy, understand that your DMV record will still be available to the underwriting department.
Possible Underwriting Ratings for Life Insurance with Bad Driving Records
If you have a severe violation in the last 2 years you will likely be faced with a substandard or “rated” policy. After 2 years there is a sliding grid, that is company specific, that will give you an opportunity for preferred or preferred plus after five years. Independent agents with access to multiple carriers are the best resource to make a decision as to which carriers to send the application.
Minor, or less severe, infractions work the same way, based on the number of violations over a period of time …usually 3 years. As an example, it is hard to get a preferred plus rating with more than two moving violations in the last three years. Whereas, you could have as many as four or five over the same period of time and be graded standard.
How Much Will Life Insurance with a Bad driving History Cost?
Because all situations are unique, it is difficult to generalize without knowing the specifics. However, the example below demonstrates to you why it is important to know your record and use the skills of an independent agent.
Male Age 43 Non-smoker
20 Year Term, $500000 Benefit
Excellent overall health, 3 moving violations in the last 30 months.
It so happens that the carrier with the lowest “preferred best” rates ($ 45.24/Mo.) will tolerate 3 moving violations in 3 years.
However if you went to an agent that did not have access to that company, you would be paying significantly more. The next best priced carrier would have graded your policy as “preferred” and you would have paid a little more than $2400 more over the life of the policy. Not exactly the kind of change you can scrounge up from the cushions in your couch.
What’s worse, is that some carriers may have likely graded you as “standard” and you monthly bill would have more than doubled. It is this type of clear example that shows you how important it is to choose an agent with multiple companies available to him or her. Most good independent agents will have the ability to work with at least 40+ companies.
The next move in protecting your family with life insurance if you have a poor driving record, is to get a driving history (if you are unsure of the violations). Once that part is all set, get in touch with an experienced independent agent and go over your options. The process is laid out step by step at the Life Insurance Help Desk.
While this article has been focused on how driving history affects your life insurance prospects, it should be pointed out that the same rule of “different risk appetites for different insurance companies” applies to all conditions. So, regardless of whether it’s a spotty driving history or a medical condition, using an independent agent is your only reliable method of getting the most competitive offers. Without having access to multiple carriers, you are really only relying on “dumb luck”. As such, it would most likely be bad luck.
About the Author
James Tobin, CFP is the founder of the Life Insurance Help Desk. In addition to providing expertise on life insurance matters, he teaches ESL and is a news junkie. Mr. Tobin reside with his wife in Norwalk, CT