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A conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs typically has multiple serious consequences, including a major impact on your auto insurance.
Whether it's a DUI or an alternatively designated driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OVI or OMVI), some insurance carriers will refuse to cover you—and those that do offer coverage will likely charge significantly higher premiums than you'd pay without a conviction. Here's a rundown on what to expect, and how to get car insurance after you've received a DUI.
What Happens to Your Car Insurance After a DUI?
If you're convicted of a DUI, you'll likely have a period of at least 90 days during which your license is suspended and you cannot legally drive. In many states, you'll also be required to install (at your expense) an ignition interlock—a breathalyzer that prevents your vehicle from starting if you have alcohol in your system.
While you address those requirements, you should also take the following steps to determine your auto insurance options:
1. Inform Your Insurer
It's a good idea to reach out to your insurance company after you receive a DUI conviction to get an idea of what to expect. You're not legally or contractually obligated to do so, but the insurer is certain to find out about a conviction when they check your driving record prior to your next policy renewal, so being proactive can save you the need to scramble in case they drop you as a policyholder or hike your rates prohibitively.
2. File an SR-22 Form
In most states, courts typically order DUI offenders to link a certificate of financial responsibility, commonly called an SR-22 form, to their auto insurance policies. This document, which your insurance company can file with the state on your behalf (upon payment of a filing fee of up to $50) attests that you have the legally required minimum insurance coverage for your state.
A DUI conviction isn't the only reason a court may require an SR-22 (or, in Florida and Maryland, a similar document called an FR-44), but if you request one from your insurance company, you're effectively notifying them of your conviction. An SR-22 filing compels your insurer to notify your state's department of motor vehicles if your policy lapses for any reason (including nonpayment of premiums), which in turn typically triggers immediate suspension of your driver's license.
3. Expect a Rate Increase
When your policy is up for renewal following a DUI conviction, your premiums will go up. The amount of the increase varies by state and your driving history: A survey commissioned by Insurance.com found that average premium hikes ranged from 28% to 371% depending on the state, and that nationally, a DUI conviction led to an average premium hike of 80%, or $1,163.
How to Get Car Insurance After a DUI
If your current insurer cancels your policy or makes your premiums unaffordable after learning of your DUI, here are some options you can pursue:
- Get quotes from other insurers. You can compare auto insurance rates even when you're looking for DUI coverage. Try searching national providers' websites for "SR-22" or "FR-44" or doing a web search for "SR-22 insurance." This last term isn't strictly accurate, since an SR-22 isn't an insurance product, but some providers have embraced the term as shorthand for policies issued to drivers with DUIs and other similar offenses on their records.
- Shop for lowest premiums. Just as when DUI isn't a consideration, shopping for the best car insurance deal is always a good idea. Each provider determines rates their own way, based on a host of factors from your credit score (in states where the practice is allowed) to your ZIP code. Get quotes from multiple providers, making sure they're aware of your DUI. You'll still pay more than a driver without a DUI, but you may be surprised by the difference between the highest and lowest rates you're offered.
- Contact your state's department of motor vehicles. It's unlikely with a first-offense DUI that you'll be denied coverage by all conventional insurance providers, but that could happen if you've had a prior DUI or if you have many other recent offenses on your driving record. In that case, your only resort for an auto policy may be your state's high-risk insurance pool. Every state has one, and none of them is inexpensive but it's available as a last resort.
- Give it time. In most states, a DUI "falls off" your driving record within five years, but in many states it will persist for 10 years; Florida keeps it on your record for 75 years, and in Alaska it will remain forever. When (or if) the offense disappears from your driving record, the offense no longer affects your insurance eligibility or rates, so eventually you may be able to get affordable coverage again.
Note that court orders to file SR-22 or FR-44 certifications have fixed durations—typically three to five years—but insurers don't remove them automatically at the end of that period. When your state-ordered notification period ends, you should ask your insurer to get the certification removed.
- Consider alternative transportation. Buses, cabs and services such as Uber and Lyft may be less convenient than having your own car, but using them for a few years could be more affordable than paying for high-risk auto insurance. Just be aware that a long gap in your insurance coverage history may contribute to your premium being higher when you get another policy.
Note that the preceding overview addresses first-offense DUI convictions. Repeat convictions, no matter how much time has passed following a first offense, can have more severe consequences, including mandatory prison time in many states, and they may make it far more difficult to get car insurance.
How to Save on Car Insurance After a DUI
In the first years following a DUI conviction, your auto insurance options may be limited, but you can still take some steps to lower your costs using strategies that apply whether or not you have a DUI conviction:
- Remove unnecessary coverage. Collision coverage, which pays for repairs from accidents that aren't your fault, and comprehensive coverage, which covers theft and repairs unrelated to accidents (such as storm damage) both cap payouts at your car's market value. Eliminating them could be worthwhile if you have an older car with limited resale value. Getting rid of add-on benefits such as roadside assistance and rental-car coverage also could save you money.
- Consider a non-owner policy. If you forgo car ownership (by selling your vehicle or choosing not to replace one wrecked in an accident), you can get an auto insurance policy that covers you when driving rental cars or borrowed vehicles, often at considerably lower rates than you'd pay for standard auto coverage. (In many states, drivers with DUI convictions who don't own cars may be required to purchase such a policy, to satisfy SR-22 requirements.)
- Improve your credit scores. Except in California, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan, Oregon and Utah, where insurers' use of credit scores is restricted, most insurance companies use a credit-based insurance score to help determine your auto premiums. Having a poor credit score could mean paying more for auto insurance, and taking steps to increase your credit score could help reduce your rates.
- Avoid additional infractions. Establishing and maintaining a clean driving record always helps reduce your auto insurance costs, but it's even more critical after a DUI conviction. A second conviction for driving impaired, in particular, could cost you far more than a hike in your insurance rates: You could lose your driver's license and even your freedom.
Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense—not to mention an extremely dangerous thing to do. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 28 Americans die every day in drunk-driving crashes.
A DUI conviction can wreak havoc on your life, and bring significant hikes in insurance rates. If you're convicted of a DUI, the best way to save on insurance costs and avoid even costlier errors in the future is to learn from the experience and avoid repeating it.