If you’ve been convicted of drunken driving, you probably have dozens of questions about what happens next. The answers will vary depending on the state you were arrested in, but in most cases you are looking at a suspended license, some hefty fines and a big jump in your car insurance rates.
While a DUI on your driving record will mean higher rates overall, you can still save on car insurance if you know what to do – and we’ll explain it to you.
Will I lose my license after a DUI?
The cost of car insurance after DUI
DUI insurance rates by state
How to get cheap DUI insurance
How long does DUI affect car insurance rates?
SR-22 and non-owner insurance
Alphabet soup: DWI, OUI, DUI, DWAI, OVI
First, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of what we call drunken driving violations. While states use different names -- “driving under the influence” (DUI), “operating under the influence” (OUI) or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) -- these terms typically all cover drunken driving. The terms are commonly used interchangeably in many states.
However, in some states DWI refers to drunken driving, while a DUI is impairment from prescription drugs or marijuana. In some other states a DUI is a separate violation from DWI. The DUI is the lesser charge compared to DWI in most states that use both terms.
For our purposes, you can follow the same DUI car insurance guidance for DWI, DWAI, OVI and OUI.
If you are convicted of drunken driving, you will typically lose your license for a certain period of time, for example three or six months, as mandated by your state laws. This can happen in two ways. Either the court orders the license be revoked or suspended, or the state motor vehicle department suspends or revokes the license.
If you refused to take a blood-alcohol level test (breathalyzer or blood test) during your arrest, your driver's license will automatically be suspended regardless of the outcome of the DUI case.
Most first-time offenders will be able to get their driver’s license back after 90 days, but again, it depends on the circumstances of the case as well as state and local laws. In some cases, restrictions, such as driving only to and from work, may be placed on the driver. Repeat offenders may get their license suspended for a year or more, again, depending on state laws.
Fees and fines
The immediate costs of a DUI relate to the fines, penalties and attorney fees that you will have to pay, and the total can be huge. "In Ohio, a first offense for operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) can cost up to $7,000 or more," says Michael E. Cicero, a traffic lawyer with Nicola, Gudbranson & Cooper, in Cleveland.
Here are just some of the expenses Cicero cites, using Ohio as an example:
- Fine of $500 to $1,000
- Court costs, $120 to $400
- Probation fee, $250
- Driver intervention program in lieu of jail, $300 to $400
- Legal fees, $1,000 to $5,000
There is no way around it -- car insurance after DUI is going to be more expensive. While rate hikes will vary depending on where you live, in most cases you can expect your rates to double.
"One DUI will push your car insurance rates up between 40 and 200 percent," says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst with Insure.com. "In North Carolina, it's a 300 percent increase."
Like almost everything related to car insurance, the rate increase from a DUI charge varies widely depending on your state car insurance laws. See the average increase in car insurance rates after a DUI charge for every state. Remember, even if you got cited for a DUI in another state, you will face penalties enforced by your home state:
Average Annual Rate
The truth is that there is no such thing as cheap DUI insurance, but there is DUI insurance that won't put you in the poorhouse. The best way to find affordable DUI insurance coverage is to shop around. Insurers rate risk differently; while some may not be willing to deal with DUI clients at all, other insurers may specialize in DUI clients. Shopping your coverage extensively is the only way to ensure you are getting the best DUI insurance rates.
We have compiled some quotes below to demonstrate exactly how much shopping around can save you. For example, in Los Angeles ZIP code 90001, six insurers’ quotes for a driver with one DUI offense ranged in extra cost from $1,813 to $5,032.
Rate for ZIP code 90001
Extra cost for DUI
New DUI rate
As you can see, the difference in rates can be dramatic. In this case, the highest rate for a driver in the same ZIP code in the same car with one DUI was $6,733. That compares to the lowest at $2,877. That means even with a DUI on your record, you could overpay by $3,856 if you don’t shop around.
How long does a DUI stay on your driving record?
It varies by state, but usually a DUI conviction stays on your driving record for at least five years. As a general rule, expect a DUI to haunt your insurance premium for roughly seven years. In some states it can be much longer.
States such as California and New York will keep a DUI conviction on your driving record for 10 years. Iowa goes even further. A DUI in the Hawkeye state will stay on your record for 12 years, which means you have over a decade of high insurance premiums staring you in the face.
Like most things when it comes to a DUI, where you were arrested will affect how long a DUI will ding your insurance rates. How long a DUI remains on your driving record can vary from five years to 10 or 12, and as long as it’s on your driving record, it can affect your insurance rates.
Keeping your record clean is key if you want your rates to drop. "You can rebuild your driving record to show you've learned from your mistake and are a responsible driver," says Gusner. "In time, your rates will start to fall. It may take three, five or seven years, but you'll get there."
Once the DUI has dropped off of your driving record, be sure to shop your coverage again to make sure you are getting the best rates available.
Keeping your car insurance coverage with a DUI
If your license is suspended thanks to your DUI (the odds are good it will be), maintaining insurance coverage is necessary. One of the biggest factors that insurers consider is continuous coverage. That means if you maintain continuous coverage, you will pay a lower rate, so do whatever you can to keep your policy from lapsing. If you start shopping for coverage after a yearlong suspension with a DUI conviction on your record, combined with a 12-month coverage gap, your quotes are going to be sky-high.
"If you own a car and will have people driving you around, ask if your insurer will allow you to add the person who will be driving you around as the primary driver, with you excluded. The policy will still be in your name so technically there is no gap in insurance coverage," says Gusner.
You may have to shop around to find an insurer who will accommodate your request. Only some insurers allow this, so look for one willing to make the changes, says Gusner.
Drivers who have been convicted of a DUI, reckless driving or driving without insurance are often mandated by the court to carry insurance policies with the state minimum coverage limits, or in many cases, higher than state minimums. Drivers must provide proof of these insurance limits before their license will be re-instated. An SR-22 provides this proof.
A SR-22 filing is simply a document that your insurance company must file with the state DMV that provides proof that you are carrying the proper coverage. If you let your policy lapse, miss a payment or cancel your policy, the insurance company will revoke the SR-22 and your license will be re-suspended.
"If an SR-22 is required, make sure to tell the insurer since not all insurers file the form," says Gusner. Finding an insurer that writes SR-22 policies is one more advantage to shopping your coverage.
Non-owner SR-22 insurance
If you no longer own a vehicle, non-owner SR-22 insurance can be an excellent way to keep your coverage current without breaking the bank. These types of policies only offer liability coverage and require that you don't have "regular access to a car" so prices tend to be lower than a standard policy.
If you are in the market for a non-owner policy, we can help. Ring our call center at 1-844-252-4551 for an immediate quote on non-owner car insurance.