Citations vs. Tickets: What’s the Difference?

Last Updated on October 4, 2021

As a driver, you may receive a citation or a ticket for your bad driving behavior.

There’s no difference between a citation and a ticket. Both citations and tickets are written records of something you did wrong while operating your vehicle.

The terms ‘citation’ and ‘ticket’ are used interchangeably to refer to driving infractions, including moving and non-moving violations.

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about citations and tickets, how citations and tickets work – and how they impact car insurance premiums.

What Is a Citation?

A citation is a written notice you receive from a law enforcement officer. You may receive a citation for parking incorrectly, for example, or for speeding.

Also known as an auto citation or ticket, a citation lists your actions and other details of the event – like the date and time when the event took place. It should also list the next actions you need to take – like a date on which you need to appear in court.

If you were disobeying traffic laws, then a law enforcement officer may give you a citation as written proof of the violation.

What Is a Ticket?

A ticket is no different than a citation. The two terms are used interchangeably.

Like a citation, a ticket is a written proof of a violation. The ticket includes information about the actions you committed, the next steps to take, and the date and time on which you committed the actions, among other information.

Citations vs. Tickets for Car Insurance

Your car insurance company may ask about your citations or tickets on your record. If you have citations or tickets within the last three years, for example, then your insurer may charge higher rates.

With most insurance companies, there is no difference between a ticket and a citation. Insurance companies treat these incidents in the same way (assuming you received the citation or ticket for a similar offense).

If you were going 20mph over the speed limit, for example, and received a speeding ticket, then it doesn’t matter whether you received a speeding citation or a speeding ticket: your insurer will raise rates the same.

Non-Moving Versus Moving Violations

Although there’s no difference between a ticket and a citation, there is a difference between a moving violation and a non-moving violation.

Moving Violation: If you committed a driving infraction while the car was moving, then you committed a moving violation. You might receive a ticket or citation for the offense. Speeding and reckless driving are examples of moving violations. Moving violations generally raise insurance rates, regardless of whether you received a ticket or citation for your moving violation. Insurers may overlook a single moving violation on a clean record (say, a speeding ticket where you were going fewer than 10mph over the speed limit). However, insurers will not ignore multiple moving violations or serious offenses.

Non-Moving Violation: If you committed an infraction when your vehicle was not moving, then you committed a non-moving violation. A non-moving violation includes a parking ticket or parking citation. Although the terms citation and ticket are used interchangeably with non-moving violations, a non-moving violation is unlikely to raise insurance rates regardless. Insurers will not raise rates whether you have one parking ticket on your record or 100 parking tickets.

Examples of Tickets and Citations

If you commit an offense while driving, then you might receive a ticket or a citation.

Some of the most common driving offenses for which you might receive a ticket or citation include:

Speeding Tickets: A law enforcement officer may give you a speeding ticket or speeding citation for exceeding the posted speed limit. A speeding ticket or speeding citation will appear on your driving record. If the police officer lets you off with a warning, then the warning should not raise insurance premiums. However, if you received a speeding ticket or citation, then it will likely raise insurance premiums.

DUI/DWI: If you were caught driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated, then you might receive a ticket or citation. DUIs and DWIs are treated as serious offenses. A DUI/DWI ticket or citation may remain on your record for more than 10 years, depending on your state. Regardless of whether it’s called a DUI/DWI citation or ticket, your infraction will raise rates significantly.

Driving Without Insurance: Driving without insurance is illegal in most states. If caught driving without insurance, you might receive a citation or ticket. You may also need to tow your vehicle home.

Other Moving Violations: Failing to signal, running a red light, and reckless driving are other common moving violations you might commit while driving. These moving violations may lead to a citation or ticket, which could raise insurance rates.

How Tickets and Citations Impact Insurance Rates

If you received a ticket or citation, then it should raise insurance rates. A ticket or citation will cause insurance rates to rise.

Some insurers ignore one or two minor speeding tickets, while other insurers ignore your first moving violation on an otherwise clean record.

However, for serious tickets and citations, you can expect insurance premiums to increase significantly after the incident.

Most insurers raise rates by 5% to 15% after a speeding ticket or speeding citation, for example.

For more serious moving violations, like DUIs and reckless driving citations, insurance companies may raise premiums by 60% to 100%.

Depending on your insurer and your previous driving history, your ticket or citation could have a significant impact on your insurance rates.

Citations, Tickets, and License Points

Most states use a points system to track driving violations. The more driving infractions you commit, the more points appear on your license.

If you received a driving citation or ticket, then you might have license points appear on your driver’s license. More serious offenses are associated with more license points.

If you receive multiple citations or tickets in a short period, then you might exceed a certain points limit, which leads to further penalties. Some states suspend your license or require you to take a driver’s education course, for example, before removing points from your record. These infractions will also lead to higher insurance premiums.

Final Word – Citations vs. Tickets

The words ‘citation’ and ‘ticket’ are used interchangeably to refer to driving infractions. Both citations and tickets are written warnings about your driving behavior.

You might receive a speeding ticket or speeding citation, for example, for exceeding the posted speed limit. Whether you call it a speeding ticket or speeding citation, it could raise insurance rates and add points to your license.

James Shaffer
James Shaffer James Shaffer is a writer for and a well-seasoned auto insurance industry veteran. He has a deep knowledge of insurance rules and regulations and is passionate about helping drivers save money on auto insurance. He is responsible for researching and writing about anything auto insurance-related. He holds a bachelor's degree from Bentley University and his work has been quoted by NBC News, CNN, and The Washington Post.
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