Car Insurance After a DUI: What You Need To Know

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Let’s face it: while you should never, ever get behind the wheel while intoxicated, it happens. All it takes is getting behind the wheel with more than the average legal blood alcohol limit of .08% to get popped. If you do that and get caught, you’ll need to jump through some major insurance hoops to get things back on track.

You might need a new car insurance provider since it’s possible that your current provider either dropped you or astronomically raised your post-DUI insurance rates to new highs. You can expect to see at least a 7 percent increase in the price of your premium, which is the national average, but it can vary wildly from company to company. To give you some perspective, according to Insurance.com, State Farm’s average insurance rate is $1,186, and it shoots up to $1,633 for drivers with one DUI. Progressive’s average insurance rate is $1,518, but it increases to $2,019 for drivers with one DUI. According to alcohol.org, drivers with a DUI on their record are considered high risk and can expect their insurance rates to increase by somewhere between $1,000 and $10,000, depending on the details pertaining to the DUI, the insurance provider and other factors.

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The other repercussions you’ll face after a DUI will depend on the state you live in. Arizona has the harshest penalties for drivers who get behind the wheel while under the influence, including mandatory impound of your vehicle, a mandatory ignition interlock device and a minimum jail term of 10 days for first-time offenders, along with a 90-day minimum jail time for a second offense. A third DUI is an automatic felony in Arizona.

On the other end of the spectrum is South Dakota, the most lenient state for DUI drivers. There is no minimum jail sentence for either a first or second DUI in South Dakota. A third DUI is considered a felony, but there is no mandatory ignition lock device, no required administrative license suspension, no mandatory vehicle impound and no required administrative license suspension.

Whatever state you happen to live in, if you have a DUI on your record, you most likely have options for insurance. Some auto insurance companies don’t punish people as much as others when it comes to DUIs.

The best way to find cheap insurance after a DUI is to shop around. There are plenty of insurance carriers that offer coverage after a DUI, but you’ll have to ask questions because it varies from state to state.

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.

How to Find the Best DUI Insurance

The Shotgun Approach: Why You Should Get Multiple DUI Car Insurance 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 a company like Progressive may be the cheapest in some 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 look.

This shotgun approach of getting several quotes is the way to go unless you know of a company that gives breaks on rates to people with DUIs. 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 I advise to try the quote tool below because it certainly can’t hurt.

The Targeted Approach: Pick a Company and Get One Quote

In order to figure out which of the best car insurance providers you want to target, here are the average rates and post-DUI insurance rates by company, provided by Insurance.com:

Company Average Rate Post-DUI Rate
State Farm $1,186 $1,633
Progressive $1,518 $2,019
Farmers $1,520 $2,228
Allstate $1,898 $3,132
Nationwide $1,586 $3,563

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.

Getting the Best DUI Insurance Rate

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.

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.

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.

What if I’m denied coverage?

You aren’t guaranteed a policy from any company after a DUI. Luckily, if you’re denied coverage, there are some options you may be able to take advantage of.

Look into high-risk insurance pools, which are programs that exist to help insure drivers with major black marks on their driving records. Most states offer high-risk insurance pools, but the eligibility requirements vary quite a bit by state. The general rule, though, is that you will need to be turned down at least once in the past 60 days by traditional insurance providers to qualify. Some states require you to be turned down more than once, so you’ll need to take a look at your state requirements and go from there. You can find specific information about state requirements in the directory of the Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office.

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 other potential costs of a DUI, including fines, community service, probation, legal fees, and jail time.

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.

The Bottom Line

As mentioned above, the consequences for getting behind the wheel while intoxicated can include jail time, community service, fines, license suspension or having to install an ignition locking device in your vehicle, but it will depend on your blood alcohol level and your state. If you need more information about the consequences of a DUI/DWI in your state, visit DUI Driving Laws.

Find the Best Car Insurance

Enter your ZIP code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.