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How Does a DUI Affect Car Insurance Rates?

Learn about how a DUI will impact your auto insurance rates and whether your insurer covers a DUI claim.

DUI record with car keys, whiskey and handcuffs

 

If you're charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI), the legal and financial headaches can be both lengthy and severe. In addition to the initial costs, your insurance rates will skyrocket after a DUI charge. To ensure you’re prepared for what's going to happen, you should retain a DUI attorney to help with your legal proceedings.

If you plead guilty, you'll still need a DUI lawyer to help you with the court filings. Each state has its own laws for drinking and driving infractions. Groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have worked to standardize the legal threshold for blood alcohol content (BAC). It's now at .08 percent in most U.S. states.  

This article covers what you need to know about auto insurance after a DUI charge, including:

Auto insurance after a DUI

Insurance companies don't write specific "DUI insurance" policies, but they sometimes market their services as if they do. A DUI insurance policy is still just a regular auto liability policy. But the monthly premium can be three to five times higher than what a driver with a clean driving record pays. That’s because insurance companies consider drivers with a DUI on their record high-risk and charge them more.  

How do insurance companies find out about a DUI?

Insurance companies find out about DUIs when they run a motor vehicle report. So, if you have an existing policy, your insurer won’t know about your violation until the renewal date. Your premium won’t change until that time, when they will likely raise your rates or even drop you from the policy. If you’re applying for a new car insurance policy with a DUI on your record, it’s important to be truthful from the beginning about your record. The company will check either way, and if you’re dishonest you could be denied coverage.  

SR-22 forms and DUIs

Most states require that certain drivers file an SR-22 form with their state's Department of Motor Vehicles. An SR-22 is a "Proof of Financial Responsibility" form. It certifies that a driver has purchased at least the minimum required amount of liability insurance for their state.

Every driver is required to carry this level of insurance, but not all drivers are required to file an SR-22 Drivers with a DUI, a DWI or citations for driving without insurance must file an SR-22. Most insurance companies will help file SR-22 forms for their customers.  

The average estimated cost of a DUI

A DUI could cost a driver around $10,000 when it's all said and done (and more if you include lost wages). Here's a chart that displays costs associated with the different aspects of a DUI:

Expense Average estimated cost
Bail: $150–$2,000
Towing and impound: $100–$1,000
Added insurance costs: $5,000+
DUI lawyer: $2,500
Court fines: $1,000
Alcohol treatment/education: $1,000
Licensing fees: $150
Ignition lock: $250
Total: $10,000–$15,000
These costs are just estimates. How much you end up paying could be much higher. Compare quotes to  find out how much a DUI will raise your car insurance rates.

How much do insurance rates go up after a DUI?

Will a DUI really increase your insurance costs by $5,000 per year, as indicated in the chart above? It's hard to quantify because every insurance company handles DUI cases differently. If you have any sort of preferred or safe driver discount, that'll be gone — if not right away, then at your next renewal date when your insurance company re-runs your driving record. Some companies may simply choose to drop you. Others may switch you to their high-risk division as soon as they learn of a DUI infraction.

There are companies that specialize in insuring high-risk drivers. But insurance rates for drivers with DUIs are often double, triple or more than those for a driver without a DUI.

If someone else drives my car and gets a DUI, will it affect my insurance?

No, it will not. If your friend gets charged with a DUI while driving your car, their insurance rates will go up, not yours. There’s really no reason to tell your insurance company about this. But if your friend is a named insured on the policy, your rates could go up. You may choose to tell your insurer that your friend will never drive your car again and then drop them from your policy.

That could work in some cases. But if your friend shares your address, companies will assume your friend will end up driving your car again.

How long does a DUI stay on your insurance?

The length of time a DUI affects your insurance rates and stays on your driving record varies from state to state. Many times, a DUI will drop off your driving record after three to seven years. However, the infraction is likely to remain on your criminal record forever. After the citation is off of your driving record, your rates will return to normal. In most cases, a DUI will raise your insurance rates for a minimum of three years.

If a DUI no longer affects your insurance rates but is still showing up on criminal background checks, you have options. It may be possible to expunge the violation from your criminal record. Another option is to have the infraction listed under "sealed records." Only the police can view sealed records. Contact your state's DMV or a DUI lawyer to learn more.

What if the DUI is expunged?

Getting a DUI expunged is an option for a person looking to remove a DUI from their driving record. However, each state has strict rules on expungement. Some states only allow expungement if there was a DUI arrest, but not if there was a DUI conviction.  

Does insurance cover a DUI accident?

Your insurance claim will be affected if the accident was caused by drunk driving. Insurance companies have strict rules laid out in car insurance policies on what they'll cover and what they will not cover. Insurance companies cover accidental car accidents. Some may cover accidents due to your negligence, and some may even cover grossly negligent car accidents. But not many insurance companies are going to cover intentional car accidents. Most insurers view drinking and driving accidents as intentional, not accidental.

What is considered a DUI?

A DUI charge indicates driving under the influence of certain substances. If it impairs your driving and risks the safety of others while you're behind the wheel, you can be charged. This includes:

  • Alcohol
  • Legal prescription drugs
  • Street drugs
  • A combination of substances listed above

Police can charge you with driving under the influence if you have medication in your blood and have had just one alcoholic drink. The combination of legal prescription drugs and alcohol could affect your driving, putting people at risk, including yourself.

If your blood alcohol level was below .05, you can still be convicted if a prosecutor can prove that the combination of two substances impaired your driving. The best way to avoid charges and high costs is to not drive under the influence.

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