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Do parking tickets affect insurance?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

If you live in an urban area, you may have experienced the inconvenience of parking tickets. While it may seem like a minor annoyance, a parking ticket can turn into a financial nightmare. If you get a parking ticket regularly, the cost of the fines can add up — particularly in some cities that have extremely high parking fines. An independent study found that the average parking ticket in San Francisco costs $97.40. New York City, the second-most expensive place to be ticketed, comes in at $71 on average, per ticket.

While multiple tickets add up in out-of-pocket costs, you may also wonder, “do parking tickets affect insurance?” It depends on how you handle them. In this article, Coverage explores how and when parking tickets can affect insurance, either directly or indirectly. 

When parking tickets affect insurance rates

Because it’s not reflective of your driving behavior, a parking ticket is not considered a moving violation (which has a significant impact on the average cost of car insurance), nor do they go on your driving record if left unpaid. Parking tickets won’t be reported to your insurance either, even if you forget to pay one or two. Although not directly, unpaid parking tickets can have a secondary or indirect affect your car insurance premiums:

Credit score

Ignoring your tickets isn’t a good idea from a financial perspective. Failure to pay parking tickets can cause them to go into collections. While it used to be universally true that collections could report your failure to pay tickets to crediting agencies, recent changes from the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP) have changed the situation. The plan effectively prevents traffic and parking tickets from being reported to the major credit bureaus, but information on the implementation of the NCAP changes is somewhat limited. To be on the safe side, it’s best to not leave parking tickets unclaimed. 

If unpaid parking tickets are or have been reported to the credit bureaus, it could negatively affect your credit score. When you sign up for car insurance, auto insurance carriers in most states will check your credit to determine your risk to insure and determine premiums accordingly. If you ignore parking tickets and they do end up in collections and reported to the major crediting agencies, the negative mark on your credit score could very well affect your auto insurance premiums.

Suspended license

Although a parking ticket is minor, refusing to pay it can snowball into a bigger issue. In some states, if you have multiple unpaid parking tickets, your driver’s license will get suspended. Other states have enacted legislation that prevents parking tickets from affecting your license. 

However, many municipalities will report the unpaid tickets to the DMV as a last resort to get paid. And if this happens and your license is suspended, your insurance carrier may find out, which could lead to an increase in insurance premiums because of the suspended license. 

How to avoid letting parking tickets increase insurance rates

To avoid letting parking tickets become further complications for you, make sure you stay on top of your tickets when you get them, and pay them off on time. Most municipalities will send you several notifications of a ticket due, giving you the opportunity to contest them or pay the fine. 

How to prevent parking tickets

Preventing parking tickets is the best way to avoid the hassle of fines and a potential car insurance rate increase. If you’re getting more than one or two parking tickets per year, you may want to re-evaluate how and where you park your car. Here are a few tips:

  • Read signs on the block carefully and look for parking restrictions.
  • Choose to park in a parking garage that charges you upon leaving — you won’t have to worry about a street parking meter running out of time.
  • Avoid broken parking meters — some municipalities will not excuse a parking ticket even if you claim the meter was broken.
  • Leave your car home and take public transportation.
  • Set a timer when you feed the meter as a reminder and give yourself five to ten minutes to get back to the car before the parking meter expires.

Other consequences of parking tickets

Even though they don’t go on your driving record, unpaid parking tickets come with other consequences you should watch out for.

A boot may be placed on your car

The city may place a locking device on your tire that doesn’t allow you to drive the car off. You will need to pay your parking ticket before someone comes and removes the boot. In most cases, you’ll also need to pay a fine in order to have the boot removed.

Your car may get towed

Fail to pay your parking tickets and your car may be towed. Towing is an expensive outcome of an unpaid ticket; many tow companies will charge you steep fees for the towing, daily storage at the yard and to release the car back to you.

You could get arrested

If the unpaid parking ticket was issued by the municipality or a police officer, it can be turned over to the courts, which can result in a warrant for your arrest. The next time you get pulled over for an unrelated incident, you may end up in jail. Exact policies for this outcome may vary depending on which state you live in.

Your license can be suspended

Failure to pay your tickets can potentially lead to your driver’s license being suspended, although legislation in some states prevents this. If this happens and your insurance carrier inevitably finds out, it could lead to an increase in insurance premiums. 

The takeaway:

  • Parking tickets can double (or more) in price if you leave them unpaid too long.
  • The consequences of not paying your parking tickets include getting a boot placed on your car, getting towed or even getting your license suspended.
  • Neglecting any tickets can affect your car insurance rates in the long run if the tickets affect your credit or your license is suspended

Parking tickets can seem like a minor issue, but if left unpaid, can result in more complications and costly fines down the road. While not directly, unpaid parking tickets can have a long-term impact on your rates if they result in negative marks on your credit score or in the suspension of your license. Avoid parking tickets by parking in garages or leaving your car behind and using public transportation.

Cynthia Paez Bowman

Writer

Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development.

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