There’s no use sugar-coating it: Having a DUI conviction or guilty plea on your record will raise your auto insurance costs. Depending on your personal circumstances, your DUI may complicate your efforts to find affordable auto insurance at all.
On the other hand, your first DUI is not the end of the world. You’ve overcome many obstacles in your life; you’ll get past this one, too.
One important item of business that you’ll need to get to eventually is restarting your auto insurance coverage after your DUI. While you’ll no doubt want to turn to companies known to help in this situation, like nationally recognized insurance provider Freeway Insurance, that’s not the only step you must take to get back on the road to safe driving.
Use the steps below as a road map for obtaining adequate post-DUI insurance coverage.
Be Honest About Your Conviction
As difficult as it might sound, it’s in your best interest to be honest about your DUI during your search for insurance. It’s very unlikely that you’ll be able to conceal your plea or conviction all the way through the underwriting process, and unlikelier still that your insurer won’t discover it at some point after your policy is written. When that happens — and it almost certainly will — your insurer may be within their rights to cancel your policy, or at the very least raise your premiums.
In short, attempting to conceal your DUI from potential insurers will most likely do more harm than good. Don’t chance it.
Find Out Whether You Need an SR-22 Form (Or Your State’s Equivalent)
Most states require drivers with DUIs on their record to file certificates of financial responsibility (CFR) with their state motor vehicle registry. In most states, these certificates are known as SR-22 forms. In Florida and Virginia, they’re known as FR-44 forms. Semantics aside, the purpose is the same: to certify that the insured driver has the minimum liability insurance coverage required by state law.
Look for Insurance Providers That Can Write Your SR-22
Your next order of business is to look for local insurance providers willing and able to write your SR-22 (or FR-44). Not all insurers provide this service, so it’s important to ask potential insurers before you get too deep into the underwriting process. Insurers that do provide SR-22s are usually happy to work with drivers with DUIs on their records — although, as we’ll see, they may levy higher premiums to offset these drivers’ perceived higher risk.
Budget for (Potentially) Higher Premiums
After your DUI, your auto insurance premiums are likely to increase. By how much and for how long are complicated questions that are very difficult to answer in general terms. Certain states are notorious for high baseline insurance rates, usually due to no-fault insurance laws; for example, Michigan and Florida both have legal regimes that raise the cost of insurance for all drivers, DUI or not.
Even if you’re fortunate enough to live in a state with low average insurance premiums, your DUI may result in your admission to your state’s high-risk pool. Unlike the voluntary insurance market, where most drivers obtain insurance, the high-risk pool is exclusive to drivers deemed risky to underwrite. If you find yourself in your state’s high-risk pool, expect your auto insurance premiums to increase significantly.
If You No Longer Have Your Car, Consider a Non-Owner Policy
If your DUI results in a temporary license suspension or long-term vehicle impoundment, consider swapping your driver policy for a non-owner policy. While this policy’s premiums will still be higher in comparison to policies held by drivers without DUIs on their records, they will be lower than traditional owner policies.
Complete Any Legally Required Remediation
Before you restart your auto insurance, confirm that you have completed any legally required remediation:
- Fines and Fees: You’ll need to pay any fines incurred by the offense itself, as well as attendant fees (such as vehicle impound fees). If you hired a lawyer to defend your charge, you will need to settle up with them as well.
- License Suspension Period: You may have to endure a mandatory license suspension period.
- Court Supervision: Depending on your offense, you may be sentenced to probation or prison time.
- Community Service: As part of your court-ordered remediation, you may need to complete a certain number of community service hours.
- Substance Abuse Treatment: You may be required to undergo substance abuse treatment or attend AA meetings for a period of time.
- Ignition Interlock Device: You may need to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle.
Take Steps to Avoid Serious Moving Violations in the Future
It goes without saying that, following your DUI, you should do your best to avoid serious motor vehicle violations in the future. These include activities like reckless driving and racing, as well as driving under the influence. In most states, a second DUI offense brings more serious consequences than the first.
Wait a Few Years, Then Shop for Coverage Again
Although a DUI is unquestionably serious, it’s not a life sentence. A first offense will eventually disappear from your driving record, usually after a decade or so. But you don’t have to wait that long to shop for insurance coverage again. Wait three to five years after securing your first post-DUI policy, then approach your insurer about upgrading to a lower-rate policy. You might be surprised by how receptive they are to your request.
We All Deserve a Second Chance
If you’re like most drivers, you probably feel a bit embarrassed about your DUI. Maybe you’re angry at yourself for getting into this position. These feelings are natural and totally understandable.
But you should also make room for another feeling: hope. As we’ve seen, a DUI isn’t a life sentence. You will get past this setback, just as you’ve overcome other setbacks in your life.
It’s also important to have realistic expectations about how things will proceed in the aftermath of your DUI conviction or plea. If you currently have insurance coverage, your insurer could take months or years (depending on the length of your policy period) to discover your DUI. During that time, your rates will remain at pre-DUI levels, although your risk of policy cancellation will be substantially higher (since many insurers have no qualms about cancelling policies outright).
At the very least, this interlude will give you time to prepare for what’s to come.