While your auto insurance company cannot pull your full motor vehicle report (MVR), it does pull a summary listing your most recent tickets, accidents, and convictions. The look-back period for your MVR varies by state and the insurance company. Generally, this period is between three and five years, but it can be much longer. For example, in California, a DUI remains on the MVR record and counts as an offense for ten years, whereas an accident has a look-back period of three years.

How Insurance Companies Use Your Driving Record

When applying for auto insurance, the insurance company conducts as risk assessment as a part of its underwriting process. This assessment or selection process includes determining how to classify the applicant (e.g., low-risk vs. high-risk or standard vs. substandard). The best way to assess the applicant is to review their driving history, which typically includes moving violations and accidents, including at-fault and not-at-fault. The insurance company can estimate the level of insurance risk based on the frequency and severity of recent driving violations and collisions.

If there are several accidents or traffic infractions, the driver is more likely than other drivers to have similar problems in the future, increasing the insurer's liability. Also, he or she will probably make multiple, costly insurance claims; as a result, the insurance company may deem the driver too risky to insure or may charge an increased rate to compensate for the probability it will pay out claims. (For related reading.

Key Takeaways

  • In the underwriting process, an applicant's driving history is reviewed to determine insurability and premiums.
  • A driving history outside of the look-back period (e.g., 3 or 5 years) is not used to determine premiums.
  • The MVR summary typically includes moving violations and accidents, as well as convictions resulting from driving violations.

What Is Included In the MVR?

In addition to accidents and moving violations within the past three years, the MVR also includes information about any criminal convictions associated with the driving record, such as DUIs and any incidents in which the driver failed to appear at a scheduled court hearing related to a driving infraction.

The MVR also supplies the insurance company with information about any license restrictions, such as not being allowed to drive at night due to poor eyesight. Any prior license suspensions or revocations within the look-back period are also included.

What if My Record Isn't Clean?

Luckily, even if you have to pay an increased insurance rate due to a less than favorable MVR, it may not be permanent. Once your infractions are older than the look-back period, they drop off the insurance summary and are no longer considered when determining your premium. If your insurance company has a look-back period of three years, for example, an accident you had in 2016 drops off your record in 2019. If you have no new collisions, your insurance rates may decrease at your next policy renewal.