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DUI and car insurance: What happens next?

By Penny Gusner Posted : 12/05/2014

car keys in cocktail glassHere are the answers to three common questions regarding car insurance and alcohol-related driving violations.

What will a DUI conviction do to my car insurance rates?

In general, once your insurance company sees that you have a conviction for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) on your driving record, there is no doubt that you'll see an increase in your auto insurance rates.

It’s not just a little hike in your rate; based on an analysis of rates from six major insurers commissioned by Insurance.com through Quadrant Information Services, the average increase after a single DUI is 82 percent.

Where you live makes a difference in how much your auto insurance rates will rise. For instance, in South Carolina, the average increase was 50 percent. Across the state line in North Carolina, according to the data, the average increase was 321 percent.

The car insurance company you choose also makes a big difference. While driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is seen as a major offense and seriously risky behavior by all car insurance companies, some weigh the risk differently. For example, the same driver with a single DUI shopping for car insurance in North Carolina would see rates as low as $1,597 a year or as high as $4,285.

The sure bet is that you will be paying a lot more for your car insurance premium and will lose any preferred status that you had obtained.

Your current car insurance company may even cancel your policy, if state laws allow, or non-renew it at the end of your policy period.  You’ll the have to find coverage with a new auto insurance company that offers coverage to high-risk drivers.

How long will a DUI affect my rates?

Insurance company guidelines, governed by state laws, dictate how long your rates will be affected by a driving DUI conviction.  As with most minor or major convictions, a DUI will raise your car insurance rates for at least three years.   

If your state keeps the offense on your record longer than three years, and many do, it’s common for this offense to affect your car insurance rates for five years to seven year or even more.  For instance, in California, a DUI prevents you from receiving a 20 percent safe-driver discount for 10 years from the date of your DUI conviction.

What is an SR-22 and will it affect my rates?

The SR-22 is a certificate of financial responsibility that many states require when you reinstate your driver's license after a DUI, though the certificates are not limited to just alcohol-related driving offenses.  

SR-22 insurance requirementsWhen you're notified of the need to carry a SR-22, you should be told what the minimum car insurance limits are that the state will accept for this filing. When you purchase the required coverage and have your insurer file the SR-22, the form verifies with the state that you have the mandated coverage in place -- the whole reason for the filing.  

You can get an SR-22 filed by a car insurance company only after buying at least the necessary coverage to comply with the state's requirements.  If you don't own a car but want to get your license back, see about a non-owners policy.  That will allow the insurer to file the SR-22 with the state.

You must continue to carry the SR-22 for a certain number of years -- typically three, but it ranges from one to five depending on the state.  If you cancel your insurance during this time period the state will be notified and usually your license and/or vehicle registration will be suspended.

The car insurance coverage that is associated with the SR-22 form will be rated according to all the factors that ordinarily go into rating a policy, regardless of the SR-22 form filing.  So, your DUI will cause your rates to increase, not the SR-22 filing. The SR-22 itself typically incurs a nominal filing fee of $15 to $25.

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