How a DUI Affects Your Car Insurance

Alcohol-related citations can impact your finances

Man driving drunk
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If you’re caught driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can expect consequences that impact your car insurance—from a rate increase to non-renewal. 

Depending on your state, past actions, and current situation, you may also face misdemeanor or felony charges, such as driving while intoxicated (DWI), driving under the influence (DUI), or impaired driving, and a suspension of your driver’s license. Because driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is so dangerous to yourself and others, it is usually treated as a criminal offense with many potential negative consequences. 

Here’s how driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol could impact what you pay for insurance this year and in the future. 

Key Takeaways

  • If you get a DUI conviction, you can expect your insurance rates to go up.
  • An insurance company may choose not to renew your policy when they it learns you have a DUI on your driving record.
  • Over time, the increased premium costs related to a DUI could add up to thousands of dollars.
  • It’s possible to see your insurance rates lowered once the DUI has been removed from your driving record, depending on other factors like your overall driving history. 

How Does a DUI Affect Your Auto Insurance? 

A DUI will probably increase your rate for auto insurance significantly, as it puts you in the category of a high-risk driver. You may also find it more challenging to find an insurer willing to insure you.

According to Angela Ripley, president of VW Brown Insurance Service, “A standard insurance company will probably cancel your insurance policy after the DUI/DWI is discovered.”

And once you find an insurer that accepts drivers with a DUI, it will typically add a “surcharge” to your policy, usually a percentage of your current policy base rate, Ripley said. For example, your insurer may add a 40% surcharge the first year, 30% the second year, and 20% the final year before removing the surcharge, although each insurer is different.

The potential additional costs in car insurance will vary according to your situation and your insurer, but a premium increase related to a DUI could easily cost you thousands of dollars. 

In California, for example, a teen with a DUI may face an additional $40,000 in insurance costs over 13 years. In Pennsylvania, the state estimates that a driver with a DUI will see an additional $1,000 per year in premium costs—if their policy isn’t canceled altogether. 

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Insurance?

A DUI isn’t technically “on your insurance,” but on your driving record, which an insurance company may use to set your rates or accept you as a customer. A DUI could stay on your driving record for two to five years, or possibly much longer. 

How long an insurance company can “look back” at your driving record to decide whether to offer you insurance or add a surcharge depends on your state’s insurance department, Ripley said. But if your driving record continues to show the alcohol violation or restriction, an insurer may be able to legally use it to avoid offering the best premium pricing or not offer the customer a quote at all.

Here are a few examples of state policies for DUI convictions: 

  • New York: Drug or alcohol-related violations or convictions stay on a record for up to 15 years. 
  • Montana: DUI convictions older than three years may not affect your insurance rates, but the second and any subsequent DUI convictions affect your record for five years. 
  • Washington: Alcohol-related convictions stay on your driving record for life, but the driving records that insurance companies use only show the past three years’ worth of convictions. 

When Do You Need To Tell Your Insurance Provider About a DUI? 

“Notify the insurance agency right away after the conviction in court, and take your medicine of increased premiums, rather than the insurance carrier uncovering the DUI/DWI,” Ripley said. Being proactive can help you learn about the consequences to your insurance policy sooner, instead of being surprised. That way, you might have more time to shop around for the best car insurance rates.

If your court or your state’s DMV requires you to file an SR-22 after receiving a DUI, your insurer will likely find out at that point. In many states, insurance carriers are allowed to cancel a policy if you get a DUI/DWI, even if your policy period isn’t up yet. Driving under the influence is often also a valid reason for an insurance company to not renew your policy.  

In most situations, you should share your DUI with your insurer. Here are some specific examples: 

When You’re Looking For A New Policy

Your DUI or DWI will show up on your driving record, which insurers check when deciding whether to offer a new policy and at what rate. In many states, an insurance company has up to 60 days to investigate your insurance application, and the right to refuse or cancel your policy within those 60 days. You could be asked questions during the application process, including whether you’ve had an alcohol-related violation. “You have to answer this truthfully or your insurance quote/application will be rescinded for misrepresentation,” Ripley said.

When You Have An Existing Car Insurance Policy

Insurance companies will inevitably find out about your DUI at some point. This may be when they renew your policy at the six-month or one-year mark, or when they perform an underwriting examination of your driving record every few years. 

When Another Driver in Your Household Has a DUI

When setting your insurance rate, insurers will probably consider the driving record of all household drivers. If the driver is a “named insured” on your policy—such as a family member—their DUI will likely impact your rates or lead to your insurer canceling your policy. You may wish to reach out to your insurer and ask about the situation.

SR-22 Insurance and DUIs

You may be required to file an SR-22 to get your license back if you’ve lost your license due to driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An SR-22 certificate proves you carry the state’s liability insurance minimums. You can get this certificate from insurers who offer it, although not all do. 

The need for an SR-22 certificate automatically lets the insurer know you have a violation that the state considers serious. The period you’re required to carry the certificate can vary but may range up to five years. If you cancel your insurance, the insurance company will tell your state right away. An SR-22 doesn’t cost much—likely around $25—and is even free from some companies. 

Beyond DUIs, SR-22s can be required for other serious moving violations or driving without insurance, depending on state law. 

How To Find Cheap Car Insurance After a DUI 

Your options for finding reasonable rates on insurance after a DUI are limited. 

You may need to investigate a high-risk insurance company or your state plan, which may be called the “[Your State Name] Auto Insurance Plan.” These plans are available throughout the U.S. for drivers who can’t get minimum liability insurance through the regular insurance market. With state plans, you may be assigned to an insurer who must provide you coverage for the minimum liability amount required by state law, although they may or may not be able to offer any discounts or all the coverage you want.

Some insurers claim to offer cheap DUI insurance or specialize in covering high-risk drivers. But ultimately, your rates will reflect your particular driving history and situation. The insurer will also consider your age, any insurance lapses, how long it’s been since your DUI, any other accidents, any moving violations or convictions, and additional claims information.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Will insurance cover my car if I get a DUI?

Some insurance companies might not offer you insurance if you received a DUI, while others specialize in providing policies for DUI-convicted drivers.

How can I lower my insurance rates after a DUI?

After a period of time, you may be able to remove drug- or alcohol-related convictions from your record, which could help you get a lower insurance rate. Your rate will ultimately depend on several factors, not just your DUI convictions.

Can I get DUI insurance? 

Insurance companies don’t offer “DUI insurance,” although they may provide insurance after a DUI conviction. The court or DMV may also require that you file an SR-22 certificate (sometimes called “SR-22 Insurance”).