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Difference Between a Citation vs. Ticket

Jason Metz

The terms “citation” and “ticket” often mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably. A traffic ticket typically refers to a motor vehicle citation. If you get a citation (or ticket) for a moving violation, like a speeding ticket, it could result in fines, license suspension and an increase your car insurance premiums at renewal time. Here’s what you should know.

Don’t ignore a citation

Traffic laws vary depending on the city and state, but ignoring a citation can often lead to bigger penalties. If you get a moving citation, like a speeding ticket, you’ll generally have some options:

  • Pay the ticket. This could result in points on your record and an increase in your car insurance. Depending on the state, you may be able to get the points reduced if you attend an approved driving school.
  • Fight the ticket. Your citation should have instructions on how to appeal the charge. You’ll typically have to go to traffic court where the citation was issued.
  • Do nothing (not recommended). If you don’t respond to a citation, this could mean waiving your right to a hearing. Depending on the state, this could lead to an increased fine, court costs, administrative fees, late fees and even a warrant for your arrest. If you don’t pay your fine and fees within the specified time frame, your license could be revoked or suspended.

Can you pay a citation without going to court?

Depending on where the citation was issued, you may be able to pay the citation online, by mail or over the phone.

Does a citation go on my record?

If you are convicted or you plead guilty, the citation will likely go on your driving record.

Will a citation affect my insurance?

Car insurance companies usually look at the last three to five years of your driving record when setting rates. This includes car accidents and tickets. Moving violations typically result in an increase in car insurance premium at renewal time. For example, EverQuote users reported an average insurance increase of 26% after a speeding ticket. See the average increase after a speeding ticket in your state.

In some states, insurance points are different from driver’s license points, so it can be difficult to guess when a ticket will stop impacting your car insurance rates. Ask your auto insurance agent. You may also be able to find some other ways to get cheap car insurance.