DUIs and Car Insurance

Your driving record plays a major part in determining whether an auto insurance company will offer you coverage, and for what price. A conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) is seen as an indicator of risky and dangerous behavior behind the wheel.

While the terms DUI and DWI are often used interchangeably, some jurisdictions use DUI to describe the use of illegal or prescription drugs while DWI is typically limited to alcohol consumption.

It is illegal to operate a motor vehicle in ANY state (including the District of Columbia) if you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher. While the exact punishments vary by jurisdiction, most will levy high fines and suspend or revoke your driving privileges. The infraction will also add a significant number of points to your driving record.

The Effects of a DUI or DWI Conviction

Some car insurance companies offer forgiveness for your first at-fault accident, but none will overlook a DUI/DWI conviction. After a conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will no longer be eligible for safe driver discounts. You can also expect a significant uptick in your monthly auto insurance premiums. It's not uncommon for insurance rates to increase by more than 100% in the first year following a DUI.

Some car insurance companies may also cancel or decline to renew your current policy. To continue driving, you must find another insurance company willing to provide coverage, which may prove more difficult than expected. The ease of finding coverage will decrease as the number of DUI/DWI convictions on your record increases.

Finding Car Insurance After a DUI/DWI Conviction

You cannot hide a DUI or DWI conviction. A potential auto insurance provider will find out as soon as they enter your personal information into the National Driver Register or the Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange (CLUE) databases, which can reveal convictions as far as 10 years back.

Usually, standard car insurance companies do not insure individuals with DUI or DWI convictions, so you may have to apply for coverage with a company that specializes in issuing high-risk insurance. These organizations will provide your state's motor vehicle agency with a copy of the Safety Responsibility Form Number 22 (SR-22) to confirm you have the auto coverage required to reinstate your driver's license (if applicable).

If you switch carriers, your new insurer will have to file another SR-22 with the DMV so that your license will not be suspended or revoked again. The SR-22 verifies you have car insurance that covers at least the minimum amount mandated by the state.

How Long Will a DUI/DWI Affect Your Rates

Although a DUI/DWI conviction may stay permanently on your criminal record, your state motor vehicle agency will eventually remove it from your driving record. The length of time that a DUI or DWI violation remains on your record varies by jurisdiction. In extreme cases, the conviction could stay on your driving record for 10 years or more.

Some states also mandate that after a certain number of years have passed since a DUI/DWI conviction, that conviction cannot be used as a factor in determining how much you pay for auto insurance. When the applicable period ends, you may become eligible for lower-cost safer driver insurance premiums if you have maintained a clean record.