Car insurance can protect you financially while you're behind the wheel, and virtually every state requires you to have it. How much you'll pay for your insurance depends on a variety of factors, including your driving record. Being convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) could cause your rates to go up. There are also a few steps you can take to potentially save money.
- Having one or more DUI or DWI convictions on your driving record could cause your insurance rates to increase.
- It may also be difficult to get a new insurance policy.
- You may be required to have SR-22 insurance coverage to show proof of financial responsibility if your license was suspended because of a DUI or DWI.
DUI, DWI, and Your Driving Record
Being convicted of a DUI or DWI typically means that you were found to be driving under the influence of alcohol and/or other substances in violation of your state laws. Other substances can include illegal drugs, as well as certain prescription drugs and over-the-counter medications. Some states may include household chemicals used as inhalants, such as paint thinner or glue, in that category as well.
States differ in terms of the penalties they impose when a driver is convicted of a DUI or DWI offense. Generally, the more DUI or DWI convictions you have, the more severe the penalties become. But at a minimum, you can usually expect to be fined for a DUI or DWI and to have your license temporarily suspended or revoked. You may also be required to take an approved safe driving course.
In some states, refusing to take a breath analysis test after being pulled over on suspicion of DUI will result in an automatic license suspension.
How a DUI or DWI Affects Costs and Coverage
Having your driver's license suspended or revoked because of a DUI can cause your insurer to drop you or not renew your policy when the time comes. And you may have a difficult time getting new coverage.
Depending on your state, a conviction could stay on your driving record for up to 10 years, though a handful of states keep them on your record for life.
Generally, you can expect to pay more for car insurance once you have a DUI on your record. How much more may depend on several factors, including:
- How your insurance company assesses risk for drivers with a DUI record
- Whether it's your first DUI offense or a subsequent offense
- How many DUIs/DWIs you have on your record altogether
- Your age
- How much time has passed since the DUI offense was added to your driving record
- Your overall driving history (how many accidents you've had, how many speeding tickets, etc.)
If you need to get new insurance coverage following a DUI conviction, it's important to make sure you're meeting the guidelines for coverage in your state. In every state except New Hampshire, this means having at least minimum amounts of liability coverage. Specifically, you need to meet coverage requirements for:
- Bodily injury liability per person (BI)
- Bodily injury liability per accident
- Property damage liability (PD)
Bodily injury liability coverage pays for medical expenses that someone else incurs if you're at fault in an accident. Property damage liability coverage pays for repairs to someone else's vehicle or other property if you are responsible.
The minimum liability coverage requirements vary from state to state, but you'll typically need at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident, and $25,000 in property damage coverage.
Aside from liability coverage, also consider whether you need other types of insurance. For example, some states may require you to have personal injury protection insurance (PIP) or underinsured/uninsured motorist coverage. If you financed your vehicle, your lender may also expect you to have collision and/or comprehensive coverage to pay for any necessary repairs. Gap insurance is another coverage you might want to purchase if you have a financed vehicle and still owe money on it.
SR-22 Coverage May Be Required
In addition to liability coverage, you may need to provide an SR-22 certificate when getting car insurance with a DUI conviction. This certificate essentially serves as proof of minimum liability insurance coverage and shows that you can bear financial responsibility for any accidents you may be involved in.
SR-22 insurance isn't required in every state or in every situation. But generally, you may need to have it if:
- You've been convicted of a DUI/DWI
- You have numerous moving violations on your driving record
- Your driver's license has been suspended or revoked
If your state requires you to have SR-22 coverage to get a suspended license reinstated after a DUI, you may be able to purchase it through your car insurance company. Remember, you need to have minimum liability coverage in place first to get an SR-22 certificate. You may also have to pay a fee to have a suspended license reinstated.
Once you have this certificate, your insurance company will report it to the state insurance department. This is necessary for you to be able to drive legally. States have different guidelines for how long you need to keep SR-22 coverage on your insurance until it can be removed.
If you allow your SR-22 certificate to lapse or you cancel it while it's still required, your driver's license could be suspended.
How to Save on Insurance After a DUI
First, shop around and compare rates from different car insurance companies. It's possible that your current carrier may be the best choice, but then again, another insurer may offer better rates. Be upfront about your driving record and whether you need SR-22 coverage as well as liability insurance.
Next, ask about any discounts you're eligible for that could lower your car insurance premiums. For example, you might be able to get a good driver discount if you have no additional traffic violations since the DUI. Or you may be able to get a discount for bundling your car insurance with your homeowners or renter's policy at the same insurance company.
Another way to save money is raising your policy's deductibles. A higher deductible will translate into lower premiums, but it also means you'll have to pay more out of pocket if you have an accident. So make sure you have the funds available, just in case.