If Guinness had a record for “most auto insurance quotes gotten online,” I’d probably be a shoo-in. I’ve gotten hundreds of quotes online, either for myself or while writing an auto insurance-related review for Money Under 30.
Yet, despite going through the quote generation process countless times, I admit to always glossing over this particular question:
To my credit, though, it’s never made sense to check “YES”. I myself have never taken such a course, nor has my alter ego (for getting quotes for female drivers), Sansa S. Tark.
But once my own insurance company arbitrarily raised my premiums, I decided it was time to reinvestigate the defensive driver discount. After all, I’d already secured every other possible discount, so this was my last bastion for saving some cash.
“Becoming a defensive driver… How hard could it be?” I thought. “Surely the resulting discount will be worth it. Heck, maybe I’ll even learn a thing or two.”
Thus began my foray into getting a defensive driver discount – a task that actually ended up full of surprises – and since I ended up saving money and learning something, I felt compelled to share the story with you.
So without further ado, here’s how I got a defensive driver discount; how you can, too; and why it’s totally, 100% worth it.
What is a defensive driver course?
As I stared at the prompt above on my provider’s Potential Discounts page, the first thing I wondered was:
“What exactly is a defensive driver course?”
Because in my mind, when I read “defensive driver,” I thought of Keanu Reeves as John Wick fending off Russian gangsters while driving his Mustang Boss 429.
The reality is a bit different.
Instead, a defensive driver course is basically like Driver’s Ed 2.0 – that’s why it’s been blessed by a more accurate nickname in recent years: driver improvement.
What you should expect from a defensive driver course
In terms of what to expect, a defensive driver course will typically start by refreshing some of the basics you might’ve forgotten since your first driver’s test, such as:
- Maintaining a safe distance.
- Recognizing uncommon road signs.
- What to do when you’re behind a school bus, etc.
But as the name implies, the main focus of a defensive driver/driver improvement course is to sharpen your driving skills by making you more vigilant, knowledgeable, and overall aware, of the risks you might face while driving.
So, once you’re through recapping some basic essentials, a good defensive driver course will then cover:
- Predicting and preparing for all sorts of risky driver and pedestrian behaviors.
- Estimating your and other drivers’ stopping distances at various speeds.
- Maintaining a safe distance behind various types of vehicles.
- How to safely handle aggressive and distracted drivers.
- How to drive in various extreme weather conditions (and when to stay home).
That’s certainly a lot of ground to cover, so with my busy schedule in mind, my next two questions were as follows:
- How long will this take?
- Will it be worth it?
How long does it take to complete a defensive driver course?
As I discovered next, there are two very different types of defensive driver courses out there:
- DOT-approved courses that last a minimum of six hours, require in-classroom learning, and cost at least $95.
- Unofficial, online-only defensive driving courses that take one hour and provide a “certificate” for $25.
At this point, my hopes of scoring a discount felt dashed. The former option sounded arduous and expensive, and the latter option sounded like a scam. Even if I had six hours to spare on a weekend, would I really want to spend them in a stuffy classroom learning about road signs?
I mean, maybe.
I’d consider it if the defensive driver discount was like 30%. Maybe even 20%.
That made me realize something – my provider never explicitly told me how much the defensive driver discount was worth – they only implied that one existed, and I could easily get it as long as the course wasn’t court-mandated.
The plot thickens.
How much is the discount for taking a defensive driving course?
To get some answers, I rang up my auto insurance provider. Exactly how much could I save with a defensive driver discount, and would it be worth both a $95 check and six hours of my life spent underneath flickering fluorescent lights?
My provider’s answer was surprisingly instant and straightforward – which made me wonder why they didn’t just publish it online:
“You can save up to 10% with a defensive driving discount.”
A clear and honest answer, but a disappointing one nonetheless. To me, 10% just wasn’t worth the time and money.
Considering the two types of courses I found, I decided to get some further clarity.
“Which courses do you accept for the discount?”
“We accept any defensive driving course that’s listed on your state’s DOT website.”
Ugh. I’d already checked my state’s DOT page, and naturally, it didn’t mention a single course under six hours long.
Desperate, I leaned in like a nightclub patron trying to schmooze a bouncer:
“Do y’all accept those one-hour courses I’ve seen offered online? I mean, they cover a lot of the same material, right?”
At that point, he pulled a classic customer service ninja move, very politely repeating his previous line word-for-word. This had the genius effect of making me feel like a goober without getting him in trouble.
Touché, good sir.
“Gotcha… well, how long does the discount last?”
“For as long as you have a policy with us.”
This revelation made me perk up. I knew that some providers require you to retake your defensive driving course every three to five years. By comparison, a lifetime discount sounded pretty good (as long as I didn’t find a compelling reason to switch providers).
“So it’s 10% off, forever?”
“Up to 10%. Sometimes it’s 3%, sometimes it’s 7%, it’s hard to say,” he said with equal parts sincerity and trepidation. I could sense he was afraid I’d get annoyed at his vague answer, but it actually made sense to me. Insurance premiums are highly tailored to the driver, so it makes sense that the defensive driving discount would be, too.
He and I reached the shared conclusion that I could probably count on saving at least 5% from a defensive driving discount. I thanked him for his time and continued my investigation.
Next, it was time to do the math
At that point, I had some math to do. 5% off my six-month premium was about $50, so it would take a full year of premiums just to pay off the course fee. I just had to decide what six hours of my free time was worth.
However, my mind changed course when I suddenly remembered reading something on one of the “unofficial” defensive driving course’s websites.
Something that suddenly didn’t make sense anymore.
Can you still get an insurance discount by taking a one-hour course?
My provider sounded adamant that they only accepted DOT-approved (i.e., six-hour) defensive driving courses, but that didn’t match up with what I read on DriveSafe’s website.
DriveSafe, who sells both one-hour and six-hour courses, are themselves adamant that the former would be accepted:
On top of that flex, DriveSafe offers a Money-Back Guarantee, stating “No risk. We promise your money back if you’re unable to save on your insurance with our course certificate.”
I still wasn’t quite convinced. My mind conjured up a nightmare scenario where I sent my one-hour certificate to my provider, only for it to be received by the same guy I had a conversation with earlier. Baffled, he’d wonder:
This dummy again? Didn’t I tell him twice?
For further assurance, I figured I’d reach out to DriveSafe via their homepage chat function. Once I connected with a live rep, I asked them point-blank:
“Do y’all have a record of customers from [my state] with [my provider] successfully getting a defensive driving discount with your one-hour course?”
Not only did they say “Yep!”, they even gave me a personalized discount code for $5 off.
At this point, I overrode my paranoia with hope and intrigue. I bit the bullet, dropped $25 – $5 = $20 on the course, played some Emancipator on Spotify, and started becoming a defensive driver.
So, what was the course like?
Now, I obviously can’t share screenshots or fine details of DriveSafe’s paid course, but you can get a picture of what it looks like by visiting their homepage.
While taking my one-hour defensive driving course, I was impressed by:
- How well organized all of the information was.
- How challenging the quizzes and final exam were, forcing me to take notes and actually learn something.
- How helpful the tips, tricks, and content are even for experienced drivers.
Overall, I was totally surprised by how helpful a one-hour defensive driving course is
No offense to DriveSafe, or any other driver improvement teacher, but I kind of expected the defensive driver course to be a joke, full of obvious tips like “don’t drive on wet cement” and “don’t lick traffic cones.”
However, I was proven wrong. The class was actually packed with helpful advanced driver tips – guidance that has sincerely helped me be a safer and more cognizant driver. As someone who drives a four-foot-tall Miata around a city of 10 million, I’ll take any safety tips I can get.
But before I further wax poetic about defensive driving courses, there was one final step in the journey.
Would my provider actually give me a discount for a one-hour, online-only defensive driving course?
To find out, I emailed my DriveSafe certificate of completion to my provider and held my breath. A week later, this appeared on my dashboard:
During my next billing period, I saved an additional 7% from my defensive driver discount – more than enough to pay for the course and my time spent.
This surprise, happy ending to my defensive driving adventure led me to an easy conclusion: getting a defensive driver discount was 100% worth it.
Even if my defensive driver discount wasn’t a lifetime perk, I’d gladly do it again every three years – not just for the savings, but to help me stay sharp on the road.
I can’t guarantee that your provider will give you a discount for taking DriveSafe’s one-hour course as mine did. DriveSafe sounds pretty confident that most providers will, but those are their words, not mine.
What I can guarantee is that it’s 100% worth finding out.