Drivers in nearly every state are required to obtain minimum car insurance coverage, including those with past violations for driving under the influence (DUI), driving while intoxicated (DWI), or operating under the influence (OUI). But with these charges on your record, car insurance companies will generally view you as a higher risk to insure, which can mean unexpected policy cancellations and increased insurance rates.
Despite this, you’ll still need coverage to meet your state’s insurance requirements.
Here’s what to know about car insurance after a DUI, how your rates will change, and tips for lowering your insurance costs.
What happens after a DUI?
If you're pulled over and arrested on suspicion of drunk driving, the arresting officer will probably confiscate your driver's license. You may receive a temporary license once you're released from custody, which you can use until you're arraigned in court.
Whether you want to hire a lawyer for your court hearing depends on your individual preferences and driving history. For instance, it may be wise to hire a lawyer if you have a past DUI or to help you resolve the case on a reduced charge.
If you’re found guilty of driving under the influence, your license will likely be revoked for at least 90 days, though it could be longer depending on your state’s rules and if it’s your first offense. Your DUI conviction will also appear on your driving record, and your auto insurance company might drop your coverage.
If not, expect a rate hike.
How a DUI impacts your car insurance rates
If your insurance company allows you to maintain your policy after a DUI or DWI conviction, you can expect a sharp increase in your auto insurance rates. A 2023 study from auto insurance comparison site QwoteWizard estimates that car insurance premiums increase by an average of $1,495 annually, or $124 monthly, after a DUI. The study is based on data from Quadrant Information Services, which collects rate and pricing data from insurance providers nationwide.
But the amount your rate increases can vary by state. According to the QwoteWizard study, drivers in Hawaii, California, and North Carolina saw the biggest increases after a DUI. For instance, California drivers paid an average of $157 per month with a clean record and around $433 monthly after a DUI.
If you have other infractions besides a DUI, such as an at-fault accident or speeding ticket, these will also result in higher car insurance costs. Depending on your state and driving history, your DUI may remain on your record for three to 10 years, while other infractions typically remain for up to five years or longer in states like Minnesota and Hawaii.
While insurance companies often hike rates for a minimum of three years after a driving infraction, the amount of time your rates will remain high varies based on your insurer, driving record, and infraction you’ve committed.
SR-22 and FR-44 requirements
Certain states, such as California and Washington, will require that your insurer files an SR-22 form with the state to prove you consistently meet minimum coverage requirements after a DUI. In Virginia and Florida, you’ll need to file an FR-44 instead of an SR-22 if you have a DUI conviction. Some states, like New York, don’t require you to file an SR-22 or FR-44, though you can still expect higher insurance rates for serious driving violations.
Typically, an FR-44 or SR-22 filing will need to be in place for at least three years following a DUI conviction, though requirements vary by state. Once you’ve met your state’s requirements, you can request that your insurance company remove the form from your record.
How to get coverage after a DUI
Maintaining adequate insurance will be fairly simple — though expensive — if your insurance provider offers policies for drivers with past DUIs. You can request that your insurer file any required forms with your state. But expect your regular monthly car insurance premiums to increase due to the conviction.
Things get a little more complicated if your insurer cancels your policy because of a DUI conviction. You'll need to find a provider willing to issue car insurance policies to high-risk drivers — and you’ll need to do so quickly to avoid a lapse in coverage, which could result in even higher rates. It can be helpful to contact your state's department or bureau of motor vehicles for guidance on obtaining DUI car insurance.
Remember that most states require at least a minimum amount of car insurance coverage, often including two types of liability insurance. Note that insurance requirements can vary by state.
Bodily injury liability: Covers medical costs for individuals in other vehicles if you’re at fault in a car accident.
Property damage liability: Pays for repairs to damaged property if you're found responsible for an accident.
If your car is leased or financed, your lender may require you to obtain more coverage. Here are some other coverage options.
Comprehensive coverage: Pays for car repairs if your vehicle is damaged due to a covered event, such as severe weather, a fire, burglary, or another event outside your control.
Collision coverage: Pays for car repairs if your vehicle is damaged in an accident with another car.
Underinsured/uninsured motorist: Protects you if you’re in a crash with another driver who doesn’t have adequate car insurance coverage.
Personal injury protection: Also called no-fault insurance, personal injury protection (PIP) covers your healthcare expenses if you’re injured in an accident, no matter who’s responsible.
Tips for finding cheap car insurance for high-risk drivers
Once you have a list of potential insurers that issue policies to high-risk drivers and you understand your insurance requirements and needs, it’s time to find coverage. While your cost of car insurance will be higher with a DUI, rates vary across companies. Here are some tips for finding relatively affordable coverage.
1. Use rate comparison tools
Online insurance calculators and rate comparison tools let you view quotes from multiple insurance companies in one place. These tools can help save you time as you shop for a new policy as a high-risk driver.
2. Get multiple quotes
If you prefer to seek out car insurance quotes on your own, you can also go that route. Many major insurers, including Progressive, State Farm, GEICO, Allstate, USAA, The General and Erie all write high-risk policies. You can start an application online or speak with insurance agents to obtain quotes and compare rates.
3. Seek out discounts
Many insurers offer discounts, which may be accessible despite your DUI. For instance, bundling multiple policies like your homeowners and auto insurance with the same provider could help you save on your premiums. Other common ones include safe vehicle, good grades, low-mileage discounts and good driver discounts.
How to minimize the long-term impact of a DUI on insurance rates
A DUI conviction will generally stay on your driving record for five to 10 years, though the time frame depends on your state. But there are things you can do to reduce the time you must face rate increases.
1. Maintain a clean driving record
Maintaining a squeaky-clean driving record is the best thing you can do to help reduce your rates over time.
2. Take a defensive driving course
Many insurance companies offer safe driving discounts if you complete a defensive driving course.
3. Improve your credit score
Your credit history is sometimes used as a factor in setting individual insurance rates. The lowest rates are often reserved for individuals with excellent credit or good credit because they’re deemed as less risky to insure. Note that some states prohibit the use of credit as a rating factor.
4. Shop around for new coverage
If your DUI is a few years in the past, it’s possible a new insurer may offer you better rates. Shopping around every year is worth it to see if you can get cheaper car insurance.