DUI Car Insurance: Navigating Costs after Driving Under the Influence

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Understanding how to deal with difficult, life-altering consequences is never easy, but it’s always possible.

A DUI is a serious event. Offenders face jail time, court fines, and loss of driving privileges. Further issues can arise with employers and finding car insurance coverage. Yet, nearly 1.5 million people are arrested for driving under the influence every year.

If you’ve just gotten a DUI, DWI, or OUI (to make things easier, let’s just refer to all three as DUIs), you probably have a lot of questions about what comes next. Facing the complicated road ahead is scary, but this article will help you navigate the best way to find coverage after a DUI conviction. And this article will also address all the ways to ensure you get the lowest price for coverage by comparing quotes with Insurify.

What is DUI insurance?

The term is a little confusing because, technically, “DUI insurance” doesn’t exist. DUI insurance is a term generally applied to the types of policies available to people after a DUI. After a DUI, you’ll be considered a higher risk than the average driver. The more likely a car insurance company thinks you will get into an at-fault accident, the more they’re going to charge you for coverage.

A typical insurance premium can increase by hundreds of dollars after a DUI offense. Increases will also last for as long as a DUI shows up on your driving record. Beyond increased costs, it can also make it more difficult to find insurance. Some insurers simply won’t offer coverage to drivers considered too high-risk.

In the case when insurance cannot be found on the open market, you’ll have to seek coverage through a state-mandated process (more on this below). This can also be referred to as “DUI insurance.”

How much does a DUI typically cost?

It depends on the state—a refrain you’ll hear a lot in this article. The national average cost for just one DUI can easily exceed $10,000. According to Alcohol.org, an organization that compiles resources on abuse and addiction, the receipt looks something like this:

Type of expenseEstimated cost
Bail$100 - $2,500
Car tow and impound fees$100 - $1,200
Court fines$150 - $1,800
Miscellaneous fees like sentencing and probation fees$200 - $1,500
Attorney fees$2,500
Treatment or education$1,000 - $3,000
Ignition lock install$500 - $1,500

However, increased insurance rates are typically the most expensive cost of a DUI. On average, rates will increase by 79 percent, according to an industry study. Insurance costs alone could account for $6,000-$10,000 of the total cost of a DUI. Yes, it will be spread out over the lifetime of the offense, but that’s still enough to make a big impact on your budget.

And the costs don’t stop there. Some drivers may lose their jobs or have some loss in wages for court appearances, community service, or treatment. And, if a driver’s license is suspended, public transit and taxi costs will also add to the bottom line.

How do insurance companies find out about a DUI?

Between the initial arrest and an increase in premium, there will be a small window during which your insurance will not know about your DUI. Insurance companies will discover your DUI any time they run your driving record. While it’s true that your policy might be renewed without rerunning your record, the good times won’t last.

Typically, an insurance company finding out the wrong way will simply drop your policy. And a canceled policy has consequences. Your new insurance company is not going to like the look of a canceled policy when they look at your driving history, and so you can expect to pay an even higher premium.

Even if your insurance company doesn’t drop you for not disclosing your conviction, they may charge you retroactively for coverage. If they want you to pay that upfront, you might be facing a bill well over $1,000.

Another way an insurance company can discover a DUI is through filing an SR-22 form. This is a document required by the state and filed at the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s used to make sure drivers with DUIs have the required minimum insurance going forward. Most likely, your insurance company will have to file directly to the DMV on your behalf. (Read more in Insurify’s official guide to SR-22 insurance.)

The DMV will require at least some amount of certification, meaning they’ll trust documents that come through the insurance company directly more than through a driver. You can expect to pay a fee that will usually be worked into your premium.

In some states, like Florida, drivers are required to file an FR-44 form. Unlike the SR-22, the FR-44 has mandatory increased minimums on liability insurance. This means that, instead of the normal state minimum, drivers filing an FR-44 must have considerably more liability insurance. More coverage also means a higher premium.

How long will a DUI affect my coverage?

The time frame for penalties depends, again, on the state. At a minimum, you should expect to be paying increased premiums for at least three years. This is because in most states your conviction will “fall off” your driving record after three years. It may even be longer, like five or ten years.

In Arizona, a DUI will stay on your record for life! In this case, the state has put a maximum on the number of years an insurance company can charge higher premiums for insurance. In Alaska, you won’t find such protections. Not only will the offense remain on your driving record for life, but Alaska also doesn’t require an insurance company to stop penalizing you after a certain period…meaning you’re at the mercy of your insurance company.

Still, higher premiums are not the only way to increase costs for car insurance. In California, for example, you’ll be required to file an SR-22 for three years, but you’ll be ineligible for safe-driving discounts for ten years.

Let’s take an example from that state to demonstrate just how much a first-time DUI can affect your coverage. Here are the quotes the following Insurify user would see: a single, 28-year-old female living in Los Angeles, California; driving a 2015 Hyundai Accent; working as an accountant; opting for state minimum coverage. 

Insurance CompanyQuote
Infinity$70/month
21st Century$74/month
Clearcover$80/month
Mercury$100/month
Workmens$121/month
Kemper$223/month

Now, here are those same quotes compared to those she’d see on Insurify if, all else remaining equal, she also had one DUI on her record from one year ago. Her license is no longer suspended, but she still must file for an SR-22…and insurance providers will consider her higher risk.

Insurance CompanyQuote without DUIQuote with DUI% Change
Infinity$70/month$123/month+53%
21st Century$74/month$207/month+133%
Clearcover$80/monthWould not quote this userN/A
Mercury$100/month$200/month+100%
Workmens$121/month$204/month+83%
Kemper$223/month$230/month+3%
Homesite$297/monthN/A

In this example alone, the Insurify user’s car insurance quotes would have increased anywhere from around 3 percent to 133 percent, depending on the insurance company. One insurer, Clearcover, would not even quote this user if she had a DUI on her record.

How to find the best car insurance rates after a DUI

Comparison shopping is your best friend when it comes to finding the best rate after a DUI. The ways in which insurance companies assess the risk of a DUI will vary widely, though you can always expect to be considered a high-risk driver. It may also vary over time. You won’t find a program offering DUI forgiveness, but some companies may lower your assessed risk sooner than others.

Bear in mind that you are usually within your rights to change insurers at any point in your policy. You will need to prove that there is no lapse in coverage, however, and you may have to pay an additional filing fee for your SR-22. With Insurify, you can easily compare insurance quotes in two minutes, and unlock discounts that apply to your driver profile. You can also set alerts for possible future savings.

Uncover all eligible discounts. Sure, you’re not going to get the “good-driver discount” available at many insurance companies. However, a DUI often does not preclude prepay discounts, active-duty military discounts, nor affiliation discounts. Affiliation discounts might include your employer, alumni association, or membership with a charitable organization.

Maintain a clean driving record like your life depends on it. While you should always drive safely, a speeding ticket, accident, or other issues will prolong your increased premiums. You may want to brush up on the rules, take a driving class, and certainly rethink that illegal U-turn.

What if you can’t find coverage?

If you’re a first-time offender, you will likely still be able to find an auto insurance company willing to offer you an insurance policy. However, if you’re already in the high-risk pool at the time you’re caught for drunk driving, you might not be able to find an insurance company willing to insure you in what’s referred to as the “voluntary market.” If the DUI is accompanied by an accident, chances increase. You might also be completely on the hook for property damage or other damages resulting from driving under the influence as many companies will deem it an intentional accident.

What is a high-risk pool? These are drivers who have multiple driving infractions or a history of behavior that makes it more likely for them to get into an at-fault accident. If your risk is considered too high, you’ll have to go through the state in order to find coverage.

While rules in each state vary, the idea is essentially the same. When no company is willing to insure, drivers must go to the state’s assigned risk pool to find coverage. The state has requirements with each insurance company to pick up a certain number of these motorists. In these cases, the state assigns the driver to the company. Drivers then get access to bare-bones liability coverage at high premiums and without any chance for a discount.

What if you’ve lost your license? If your vehicle is financed and you want to keep it, you’re likely required to have insurance. You’ll also need insurance on your vehicle if someone else is going to drive you around in it. In this case, you’ll need to find an insurer who will allow you to put another person as your primary driver while excluding you.

Refusing a breathalyzer isn’t necessarily the best advice

Not long after lawyers began counseling people to refuse a breathalyzer test, the legislation began to change. Some states implemented “implied consent laws,” meaning that drivers implicitly consent to blood alcohol concentration (BAC) testing, typically done with a breathalyzer, in exchange for driving privileges.

In 23 states, drivers do not have the right to refuse being tested without penalties. These states are:

  1. Alaska
  2. Alabama
  3. Arizona
  4. California
  5. Colorado
  6. Delaware
  7. Illinois
  8. Kansas
  9. Louisiana
  10. Maine
  11. Maryland
  12. Minnesota
  13. Nebraska
  14. Nevada
  15. North Carolina
  16. North Dakota
  17. Oklahoma
  18. Pennsylvania
  19. Tennessee
  20. Utah
  21. Washington
  22. West Virginia
  23. Wisconsin

In many cases where the test was refused, punishment can be more severe for the driver. In New York, for example, drivers who refuse a breathalyzer face an automatic 6-month license suspension and a $500 fine.

Bottom Line: Your DUI Doesn’t Define You

If you’ve received a DUI, plan on making some changes. The financial and day-to-day consequences are no small matter when it comes to budgets. Comparing car insurance quotes will need to become part of your regular routine if you want to ensure your receiving coverage at the lowest cost. But, while comparison shopping and researching discount programs can address budgetary issues, it won’t address work that needs to be done on yourself.

How can you prevent future at-risk behavior? I highly recommend speaking with your doctor, therapist, or spiritual leader as a start. Consider attending an AA meeting or other support groups. You might also consider any triggering situations, friend groups, or mindsets involved in patterns of reckless behavior and find ways to avoid those situations.

Bottom line: Consider a DUI a cry for help. Finding ways to address your behavior is as important as finding ways to save on your insurance costs.

J.J. Starr is a financial copywriter and enjoys helping readers find the information they need. In addition to her background in banking and financial advising, she is also a poet with an MFA from New York University. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. You can learn more at jjstarrwrites.com.