Why your speedometer goes to 160 mph

By , Posted on 01 March 2013

speedometer limits and speeding ticketsI've always wondered why the speedometer in my jalopy goes to 120 mph when my car can barely sustain a speed of 70 mph without shuddering violently. Even when my '97 Subaru was brand new, I doubt it could have pushed the needle to 120 mph, and now new models are sporting 140 mph and even 160 mph limits.

The question is why?

Associated Press auto writer Tom Krisher (@tkrisher) takes the checkered flag for his outstanding article explaining why speedometers exceed the speed capable of most cars.

He says the car-makers marketing departments are "are happy to give people the illusion that their family car can travel at speeds rivaling a NASCAR racer," which feeds into our culture's deep-rooted love for driving fast. Another reason is more practical -- companies often use one speedometer type in various models across the world, saving them money, writes Krisher.

Critics claim that the racy speedometer numbers pose a safety threat, as they may entice drivers to go well over the speed limit. For those who do, and get ticketed, there's also a price to pay – higher car insurance rates.  (See:  "Ticket? Uh-Oh! Auto insurance rate increases for common violations.")

Insurance.com analyzed more than 490,000 auto insurance quotes provided to Insurance.com from 14 carriers between January 2009 and January 2011. We looked at quotes given to drivers with the 14 most common infractions recorded and compared them to quotes given to drivers with no violations. We found that the average rate increases for speeding tickets are as follows:

  • Speeding 30 mph over the limit: 15 percent
  • Speeding 15 to 29 mph over limit: 12 percent
  • Speeding 1 to 14 mph over limit: 11 percent

How long do you pay? Typically, the surcharge lasts three years, though there are exceptions. (See: "Ticket? You could be paying for it for years.")

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About

Des Toups

Des Toups

Managing editor

dtoups@quinstreet.com

Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.

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