When it comes auto insurance, the best advice on a DUI is to not get one. I’m not being glib either.
A DUI is the source of one of the biggest increases in car insurance premiums you can have.
But if you do have a DUI, the next best advice is to minimize the damage. That’s what we’re going to discuss in this article.
What Constitutes a DUI?
Each state has its own specific laws regarding DUI, which is referred to as driving while intoxicated, or DWI.
In some states, it’s the process of operating a motor vehicle while being impaired by alcohol.
“Impaired” has a specific legal definition in each state. Typically, this is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%, if you’re 21 years or older.
The limit is usually lower for drivers under the age of 21, and can be as low as 0%. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%. Blood alcohol concentration is determined by the administration of a breathalyzer test.
All states have what are known as implied consent laws, which means you cannot legally refuse to submit to the test. These laws have been upheld by the US Supreme Court.
If you refuse, penalties can be increased. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 10,497 deaths were attributed to drunk driving, accounting for 28% of all traffic deaths in 2016.
State Level Penalties for DUI Violations
For this reason, states take DUI offenses very seriously and impose strict penalties. The degree of severity in those penalties will vary by state.
For example, California has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country:
- Up to six months in jail
- $390 to $1,000 in fines and penalties
- License suspension for six months
- Interlock ignition device (IID)*** for up to six or 12 months
(***An IID is a breath test machine that’s connected to your vehicle’s ignition system. The vehicle won’t start until the operator breathes into the device with alcohol-free breath. The offender is required to pay the fees associated with the device. This can include installation fee, removal fee, and monthly fee, each ranging between $50 and $150.)
- 96 hours to one year in jail
- $390 to $1,000 in fines and penalties
- License suspension for two years
- Interlock ignition device (IID) for one year
- 120 days to one year in jail
- Up to $1,800 in fines and penalties
- License suspension for three years
- Interlock ignition device (IID) for two years
California is serious about trying to eliminate DUI completely.
Most other states are following a similar path, though the penalties may not be quite as severe as those listed above.
How DUI Affects Auto Insurance Rates
Nationwide, the auto insurance premium increase for a DUI offense is an average of 80%. But that’s only an average.
The actual increase you will experience varies widely from one state to another. For example, it can range from an average of 28% in Maryland, to a 371% increase in North Carolina.
In dollar terms, increases can be quite dramatic. In Michigan for example, an average annual auto insurance premium of $2,368 can increase by 249% – or $5,900 – to a total of $8,268.
Those are some scary numbers which should help to illustrate the gravity of a DUI offense.
Getting Auto Insurance with a DUI On Your Record
If you have a DUI conviction, you’ll have to come to terms with the reality that your auto insurance premium will increase, perhaps dramatically.
Exactly how much will depend on a several factors. For example, there are different degrees of DUI offenses. If you’re involved in a low-speed accident in which no one was injured, the rate increase should be more modest.
You’ll need to make that case with any insurance company you make application with.
By contrast, if you’re involved in a high-speed accident, which results in either injury or death to a passenger or another driver, you’ll likely be charged the highest premium possible.
Your previous driving record will also be a factor. Obviously, if you have a previous DUI episode, your premium increase will be extremely high.
But it may also be affected by unrelated prior infractions, like speeding or reckless driving. A clean driving history can be one of your best advantages.
Other issues to be prepared for include:
- You’ll most likely lose your license, for anywhere from 30 days to one year, at least on a first offense. Be prepared to make other transportation arrangements, like carpooling, public transportation, or ridesharing services.
- Don’t attempt to drive during your license suspension. It’ll only make things worse.
- From now on, become more defensive in your driving. You can’t afford any more traffic violations or insurance claims.
- It should go without saying that you’re drinking and driving days are over. If you drink, either get a ride home or stay at a very local hotel.
Another possibility, but it’s a long shot, is to get the DUI expunged (removed from your record). You’ll need an attorney to make that happen, and it can only happen for a DUI arrest, not a DUI conviction.
SR-22 Financial Responsibility Insurance Certificate
If you’ve been convicted of a DUI, and your license has been suspended, you’ll need to obtain an SR-22 from your insurance carrier once your license is reinstated.
You’ll be required to carry this document along with your regular evidence of insurance, for a period of time determined by your state department of motor vehicles or the court.
If You’re Looking for Auto Insurance with a DUI You’ll Need to Shop, Shop, Shop!
Due to some of the factors listed above, it’s nearly impossible to say with any certainty how high your premiums will go after a DUI.
Each case will be determined on its own merits. In addition, rates vary from state to state, due to specific laws in each state.
But even more important, rates vary by company, often dramatically. One company may increase your premium by 50% on the first offense, while another will raise it by 100%.
For that reason, you’ll need to shop among several companies to find the best rate and coverage. Start by getting a quote from your own company.
If you’ve got a clean driving record, with no prior claims, they may go easy on the rate increase. But even so, you’ll need to get quotes from other companies as well.
Buying auto insurance is a more complicated process when you have a major violation of any sort, but especially a DUI. To get the best price, you may need to get quotes from 10 or more companies.
While the DUI laws are uniform across your state, each insurance company has a different experience with DUI cases versus other companies. Some may take a more positive view of a DUI first offense, while others may charge exorbitant premiums.
If the first quote you get seems too high, don’t give up hope – just keep shopping. Your premium will go up no matter which company you get insurance with.
But the objective will be to get the lowest payment possible, just as you would when shopping for auto insurance under any circumstances.
Work with an Auto Insurance Broker
When shopping, make sure you only get quotes rather than making formal application. A quote will give you the rate for your situation, but filing an application risks a rejection.
That rejection could hurt your efforts to get coverage through another company. In addition, making formal application with several companies is time-consuming.
And unless you work in the auto insurance industry, you probably have no idea which companies will take the most favorable view of your situation.
You certainly should try to get information from others you know who have DUI infractions. They’ve probably already gone through the shopping process, and know which companies offer the lowest premiums.
Just be reminded that if a friend your consulting lives in a different state, the rate structure may be completely different than your state of residence. Failing that, it’ll be best to work with an auto insurance broker.
Since they work with many different insurance companies, they’ll know which ones are likely to take the most favorable view of your application.
Brokers even have the ability to send in blind applications. These are applications that provide all the necessary information on your driving profile, without specifically identifying you.
In this way, a broker can determine which companies will approve your application, and at what premium level, without risking the possibility of the application being rejected.
How Long Do the Increased DUI Premiums Last?
One of the advantages with a DUI infraction, like all driving incidents, is that they decline in relevance over time. And oftentimes, they’re dropped from your record completely.
Exactly how long that will be will depend on your state of residence. In some states it can be as little as three years, while in others it can be as long as seven.
Once the infraction is removed from your driving record, your auto insurance premiums will return to normal levels. However, since a DUI is considered a criminal conviction, that can remain a permanent part of your criminal record.
In most cases, you’ll be able to get auto insurance even with a DUI conviction. But the process will be more difficult, and you’ll need to be fully prepared for premium sticker shock.