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How a DUI Affects Your Auto Insurance Quote

March 30, 2015
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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After you get busted for driving under the influence, you’re probably most worried about things like jail, fines, losing your driver’s license and your family’s reaction. But a DUI also can have a huge impact on your auto insurance quote.

In a review of 20 cities across the U.S., NerdWallet found that car insurance premiums after a DUI rise by an average of 75.3%, or $857.53 a year. However, this can vary quite a bit depending on where you live.

Rates go up the most, percentage-wise, in San Francisco, where the average increase is 149.2%, according to NerdWallet research. At the low end, the increase averaged 30.4% in St. Paul, Minnesota. Looking at the actual change in dollars, rates rose the most in New York ($1,837.42) and the least in Cincinnati ($376.35).

You’ll see the effect of a DUI when you get your policy renewal in the mail. And it may not be as simple as eating a bigger bill from your longtime insurance provider. You might find that the insurer now considers you too big of a risk and no longer wants your business.

Or it may turn out that the company that provided the best car insurance quote before your DUI isn’t the most competitive now. So shop around, even if you have a black mark on your record.

Bigger risk for insurers

One reason insurers react harshly to a first-time DUI offense is that they assume it wasn’t the first time you had driven drunk. Research shows that people who drive drunk are caught only one out every 88 times and that first-time offenders tend to be nearly as impaired as repeat drunk drivers (with blood alcohol levels of 0.16%, compared with 0.18%). A blood alcohol level of 0.08% is considered impaired in all states. In addition, more than 80% of first-time offenders are problem drinkers or alcoholics, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Having an alcohol level of 0.08% makes drivers about four times more likely to crash, while a level of 0.15% makes drivers 12 times more likely to crash, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Another headache may be that you have to get an SR-22 (called an FR-44 in some states). This is a form that the state or a court might require your insurance company to file, verifying that you have the state’s minimum liability coverage. Not all insurers provide SR-22s, and those that do charge you for it.

Assigned risk plans

If you can’t find a company willing to give you a car insurance quote because of your driving record, all hope is not lost. State residual market plans exist to provide coverage to people who are having trouble buying auto insurance through normal channels. These plans are the “last resort” when no one else will give you an auto insurance quote.

The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, for instance, assigns high-risk applicants to insurance companies in proportion to each company’s share of the state’s automobile insurance business. All but seven states have similar programs, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Most of the remaining states have systems through which insurance companies pool policies. Maryland has an independent Automobile Insurance Fund that issues policies.

The insurance industry organization AIPSO has a page with links to state plans.

What you don’t want to do is drive without insurance. That could lead to fines, impounding of your vehicle and, if you get into an accident, financial ruin.

Aubrey Cohen is a staff writer covering insurance for NerdWallet. Follow him on Twitter @aubreycohen and on Google+.

Image via iStock.