I'm the so-called financial guru in my household. I get laughed at for my love of "BOGO," which means "buy one, get one free," and my endless quest to pay as little as possible, without sacrificing quality, of course.
I hate paying top dollar for anything. I realize that there are some times when you have to pay full price, and I do so grudgingly. But the more I seek, the more I find opportunities to pay less.
In New York state, drivers who complete the Internet Point and Insurance Reduction Program receive a 10 percent reduction, for three years, in the base rate of their current automobile liability, no-fault and collision premiums. They are also eligible to receive up to a four-point reduction on their driving record when they finish the course.
I had heard that I could get a discount on car insurance if I took a defensive driving course. I didn't know that the discount was mandated by law in New York. In other states insurers sometimes provide a discount for taking defensive driving courses, even if the discount isn't required under law. (See: "Defensive driving classes offer way to save on car insurance.")
I found out that the library has courses, but somehow the thought of spending six hours in the library couldn't excite even the frugalista in me.
Taking an online course to get a car insurance discount
So I opted to do it online and was off on my search for an online course approved by the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. I found one offered by the New York Safety Council. I discovered I would not be able to escape six hours of "lessons," much like the library, but the beauty of an online course is 24/7 access, which gives plenty of flexibility. I paid the $24.95 and the challenge was on.
My course comprised four modules:
The material was dense, but digestible. Each page of content has a time limit, which ends up totaling six hours. I was required to look at each page for the entire time period, even if I was finished reading. The course is set up so that it wouldn't let me move forward until the allocated time was up.
After reading through the material for each module and watching any related videos, there was a five-question quiz that I had to answer within five minutes.
It was easy, if you were paying attention. I'm proud to say I scored 100 percent on all four quizzes. There was no lofty final exam. Truth is, outside of trying to squeeze in the time to get it done, passing the course was painless.
I called my insurance company and told an agent I had taken the class. As soon as I get my certificate of completion (which is mailed within seven to 10 days of completing the course), my insurance company says it will make good on the 10 percent discount. I can just fax or mail a copy of the certificate.
My work is done. The providers of the course will notify the New York DMV that I've completed it, and the information will be entered on my driving record. If you want to double check that your study time was indeed duly noted on your record, you can get a copy of your driving record from the DMV; for New Yorkers access to driving records is here.
I might also be able to reduce my traffic ticket point total by up to four points. Once the DMV gets your certificate of completion, it will automatically take the points off your driving record , depending on when the points were assessed. (See: "Ticket? Uh-oh! Auto insurance rate increases for common driving violations.")
You have to have received the violation and points 18 months before taking the class for them to be considered for elimination. Points for earlier violations or future violations aren't affected.
It's also important to note that having points shaved off your record will not prevent a "mandatory revocation or suspension for violations such as DWI, DWAI, or three speeding violations within 18 months," according to the New York DMV.
More on the point system from the New York DMV: "The DMV point system and insurance company 'point' systems are separate and not related. Point reduction on your driving record does not affect points assigned by your insurance company for violations and accidents."
Here is a checklist for choosing an online driving course, provided by James Solomon, the program development and training director of Defensive Driving Courses at the National Safety Council, and Robbie Cutliffe, owner and head coach with Wheels Milwaukee, a driving school.
1. To get the discount, you will have to complete a driving course that is sanctioned by the state where you live. Before enrolling, make sure the online course is approved by your state DMV.
2. Check with your insurance company before paying for any course. The insurance carrier will be able to tell you if a particular course gives you a discount, and your carrier will be familiar with your state's requirements.
3. Make sure the online course company website has phone numbers, should you need assistance.
4. Call the course provider to be sure you will receive an official certificate of completion. Also ask if you can bookmark the course, which allows you to sign out during the course and re-enter again to complete without an additional fee.
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