Updated: January 21, 2014
You did something stupid and you got caught. Or someone you know did something stupid and got caught. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, the person involved is still alive and likely didn’t injure anyone else.
That means it’s time to start driving again (responsibly). You might need a new car insurance provider since it’s possible that your current provider either dropped you or astronomically raised your rates to new highs. Despite what you’ve heard, you do have options. Some auto insurance companies don’t punish people as much as others when it comes to DUIs.
Here are two options to get started:
- Specifically target more lenient or inexpensive companies, like GEICO
- Get quotes from several car insurance companies quickly
Whether you want to use the shotgun approach or the more targeted approach is up to you. You need to get started by getting your new driving profile out there to see what the rates will be. If you weren’t dropped by your current provider, you could be better off staying, but getting a new quote won’t hurt.
The Targeted Approach: Try GEICO First
In order to figure out which of the best car insurance providers you can target, I went through the quote process for five of the highest rated insurance companies.
GEICO came out as the most affordable provider, given the profile for someone with a recent DUI.
In order to accurately compare the quotes across all the providers, I had to standardize my information by creating a profile of a person.
Here’s the profile I used for each quote:
- 28 years old
- Living in Seattle
- Driving a 2012 Ford Escape
- Cited for driving under the influence in 2013
Here’s a list of each company and quote prices based on the above profile:
These companies rank as some of the best nationally. While they’re a good starting point, you might find that a smaller or more local company will offer you the best rates. To find these companies, I recommend using the shotgun approach.
The Shotgun Approach: Get Multiple Quotes
Getting car insurance quotes from several companies is a good place to start because you’ll understand the range of the rates you’ll be working with. You can eliminate any extremely high cost providers and those that won’t accept you. While GEICO is generally the cheapest in most areas, it’s not necessarily the case everywhere. There are local options that may suit you better, but the only way to find out is to get a quote.
The quote tool below can provide you with a list of local options in your area.
Understanding Insurance After a DUI
Every state enforces strict laws against driving under the influence, but insurance companies evaluate your risk as a driver as they see fit. Your rates are based on a number of factors and having a DUI on your record is just one component.
Depending on the severity of your driving offense, your risk as a driver, and your social and economic demographics, insurers may raise your rates, require you to purchase “high risk” insurance, or cancel your coverage altogether. Keep in mind that these are subjective measures, and each insurer will interpret your driving record (and DUI) in slightly different ways. Some companies rank a DUI citation as less of a risk than an at-fault accident.
SR-22 Proof of Insurance
The most common element a DUI or DWI offender will encounter after their license and driving privileges have been reinstated is the SR-22 form. The idea of an SR-22 proof of insurance form is much simpler than some insurers would have you believe: It is simply a form that you or your insurer must file with your state’s department of motor vehicles (or department of licensing) to verify that you have valid insurance coverage. This is commonly required in most states following a DUI or DWI offense. It’s also needed for other offenses under which a driver’s license would be revoked or suspended, such as excessive speeding, a violent crash, or other serious moving violations.
An SR-22 proof of insurance form is often necessary for up to three years following a suspended license, and most states will require newly reinstated drivers to carry insurance or else surrender their driver’s license. If you cancel your coverage or switch insurers, your insurer is required to notify the state so that police officers can be on the lookout for you as a former DUI offender with canceled insurance coverage.
SR-22 isn’t some kind of “special” or “high-risk” insurance coverage. The same regulations and minimum requirements for insurance coverage apply to former DUI offenders as they do for any driver with a clean history. The only difference for a DUI offender is that they have a mark on their driving record.
DUI Rates and Risk
Most major insurers use similar formulas and market data to calculate a driver’s risk of causing a future accident. These companies calculate how much they need to charge for monthly premiums to insure each individual driver. Most major insurers will offer similar baseline rates to DUI offenders, but that will only be a starting point. From there, the other standard factors come into play when determining how much a driver will pay each month. As an example, a DUI offender with a poor credit score is going to pay more than a DUI offender with a great credit score.
Every insurer in the marketplace either denies coverage for former DUI offenders or charges higher rates. How high the rates are depends on the driver and the company. If a driver with a DUI also has excessive speeding tickets or another accident on their record, getting affordable insurance will be tough to find. Someone with only a DUI, and an otherwise clean record, can expect to find something that might be reasonable. (You can see from the quotes I received at the top of this post.)
Cancelled Coverage After a DUI
After a DUI, your insurer may decide to cancel your policy to avoid the risk of paying for your next accident. As in most employment contracts, the average insurance policy is written as a mutual, non-binding agreement, meaning that either party (you or your insurer) can terminate the contract and cancel the policy at any time, for any reason.
A DUI or high-speed crash is a reason many drivers find themselves with no choice but to look for a new insurer. If you had insurance coverage at the time of an accident, your policy covers any damages or injuries (including ongoing medical treatment), even if you cancel coverage at a later date.
If you’re dropped by your current insurance provider after a DUI, you can still get relatively affordable car insurance again from another company.
Getting the Best Rate After a DUI
Following a DUI, a driver’s rates will go down over time if they drive for a few years or more without any accidents, or if their lifestyle changes. Getting a new job, buying a house, moving to the suburbs, driving a minivan, or the simple act of getting older will lower your rates. If you keep a solid credit score, that will also help. Ultimately, to find the best car insurance rates, you have to shop around.
Just as in the courtroom, each case is judged differently.
A misdemeanor DUI offense at low speed when driving two blocks home from your local bar will obviously have a different affect on your rates than a violent crash at highway speed involving alcohol, drugs, or injuries. While some insurers may try to convince you that a single DUI offense puts you in the “high-risk” category, you should get a quote before giving in to high premiums right away.
90 Days Off the Road
Outside of a handful of states in the midwest, which mandate a 30-day license suspension for first-time DUI offenders, most states mandate a first-time DUI offender’s license be suspended for 90 days, and some states require a six-month or one-year suspension. For repeat offenders, most states will suspend a second- or third-time offender’s license from six months to several years.
No matter how you try to rationalize it, 90 days riding the bus, bumming rides from friends, or taking taxis will never sound appealing. One night sleeping on a couch, a floor, or taking a cab to a nearby motel could potentially save you $10,000. Driving home intoxicated just so you can sleep in your own bed will never be worth it. I’m not even taking into consideration the potential for fines, community service, probation, legal fees, and jail time.