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Getting car insurance after drink driving conviction

Car insurance is one of the few things people own for decades and hope never to use. Many drivers avoid filing even minor claims after a car accident for fear of triggering higher premiums — either with their existing insurer or the next time they shop for coverage.

This concern doesn’t stop at just accidents, either. Many policyholders rightfully worry about moving violations, such as speeding tickets, lingering on their records and causing rate increases for years.

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But exactly how much does car insurance go up after an accident or moving violation? NerdWallet crunched the numbers to illuminate the financial effects of these behind-the-wheel blunders:

  • Accidents
  • Speeding tickets
  • DUIs
  • Other moving violations

» COMPARE: Quotes through NerdWallet’s Car Insurance Tool

How much insurance rates go up after accidents

Type of accident Damage involved Predicted rate increase
Not your fault Any Typically no change
At-fault Under $2,000 $0-$300 per year
At-fault $2,000 or more $300-$600 per year
At-fault Any causing human injury $400-$800 per year
Multiple at-fault accidents $2,000 or more $1,000 or more per year

If you’re in an accident caused by another driver, his or her insurance company typically pays for your damages. Your own rates usually aren’t affected.

At-fault accidents are another story. If you cause a crash, it will raise your risk profile because your insurance company probably will have to pay for damages, potentially including medical expenses, you caused to others.

But this doesn’t mean your premium will always skyrocket after at-fault accidents. NerdWallet sampled quotes in three states and found that rate increases can range from none at all to a substantial amount.

Here are some examples of what we found:

  • At-fault accident ($1,000-$1,999 property damage): Rate hikes are hard to predict after minor property damage claims. We found examples of rates going up only $1 a year on average in one state but almost $300 a year in another.
  • At-fault accident ($2,000+ property damage): The more serious the property damage, the more it will cost you. Expect quotes about $300 to $600 a year higher than a driver with a clean record.
  • At-fault accident causing injury: Expect rates to go up by about $400 to $800 a year or more, depending on the severity of injuries.
  • Two at-fault accidents in a year ($2,000+ property damage): Expect to pay $1,000 a year or more above what a driver with a clean record would, and several hundred dollars more than you’d pay after one accident.
  • Three at-fault accidents in a year ($2,000+ property damage): If you’re deemed a “serial crasher,” rates could be more than double those of a driver with no wrecks, and at least a few hundred dollars a year more than what you’d pay after two accidents.

While insurance increases after an accident are common and can be significant, don’t automatically assume your rates will rise after a single event. If the incident wasn’t your fault or caused minimal property damage, your premium might not change.

When shopping for coverage, consider companies that offer accident forgiveness. This perk, which may cost extra, can prevent your rates from going up after your first at-fault accident, or your first in a while.

How much rates rise after speeding tickets

If you have speeding tickets on your record, you might be considered a risky driver and face insurance increases.

But exactly how much speeding affects your car insurance rates varies by company. In a NerdWallet study, we sampled quotes in two states to see how much rates spiked after speeding 11 to 15 mph over the limit.

  • After one speeding ticket: Expect at least a slap on the wrist — a rate increase of $100 to $150 a year. Some insurers hike rates by several hundred dollars a year, however.
  • After two speeding tickets: Most insurers charge slightly more after a second offense, though certain companies actually levy harsher penalties after a first infraction than after a subsequent one.
  • After three speeding tickets: Expect to pay $200 to $1,000 a year more for insurance than you would pay after two tickets.

In most cases, speeding will influence what you pay for insurance, although companies mete out justice for lead-footed drivers in their own way. Most raise rates incrementally after each successive ticket, but some penalize drivers with steep increases after just one infraction.

Certain companies we studied, such as Geico and State Farm, didn’t seem nearly as bothered by speeding tickets as other providers, at least based on their rate quotes. That’s why it pays to shop around and get several car insurance quotes if you’re in the market for a policy.

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How much a DUI costs

Probably no violation is more damaging to car insurance rates than a DUI conviction. Even if it’s a first offense, insurers assume (and statistics back them up) that drivers have been intoxicated behind the wheel on previous occasions, but just weren’t caught.

In a 2016 study, NerdWallet found that car insurance rates after a DUI typically jump $800 to nearly $2,700 a year. This crime also might be grounds for insurers to drop coverage entirely.

And higher car insurance rates are only one aspect of the true cost of a DUI. Other fees could include:

  • A citation: Fines range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on location.
  • Lawyer and court fees: Legal fees run about $1,000 to $3,000 — more if the case goes to trial.
  • An ignition interlock fee: A special device may be required to prevent future drunk driving, at a cost of roughly $500 per year.
  • Treatment programs: In some cases offenders will be ordered into treatment, at a cost of $200 to $500.

All told, a single DUI can cost well over $10,000 and lead to jail time. And the consequences only get more serious for repeat offenses.

Those convicted likely will have to file an SR-22 form with the state to prove they have the required amount of liability insurance. Check out NerdWallet’s guide to understanding the SR-22 for help finding providers who offer this coverage.

How other moving violations could affect your rates

Depending on their severity, other moving violations can also affect your car insurance.

Examples of minor moving violations:

  • Light speeding (1-10 mph over the limit)
  • Rolling stop
  • Illegal use of carpool lane
  • License restriction violation
  • Equipment violation
  • Littering

Taken individually, minor violations might not show up on your insurer’s radar. But racking up too many penalty points on your record won’t look good to insurers when they review your driving history, and it could spell higher rates.

Examples of moderate and severe moving violations:

  • Failure to yield
  • Texting while driving
  • Illegal turning or passing
  • Hit-and-run
  • Driving without insurance
  • Street racing
  • DUI

Just one of these violations can add serious points to your driving record and lead to insurance increases ranging from mild to extreme. Again, compare as many estimates as possible when shopping; quotes from one provider might be far different than those from another.

How long accidents and violations stay on your record

Car insurance shoppers may wonder how long they’ll face higher quotes due to past driving mistakes. It all depends on the mistake.

Speeding tickets and other mild to moderate violations typically remain on your record for one to three years. In many cases you can intervene and get violations cleared, especially minor ones, before they hit your record. Serious offenses such as DUIs or hit-and-runs, however, can linger for 10 years or more.

When it comes to accidents, most insurers look back three to five years when setting rates.

Alternative car insurance for high-risk drivers

If you have multiple accidents, DUIs or other red flags on your record, it could become difficult to get car insurance on the voluntary market.

Instead, you may need to look for a state-run assigned-risk plan. Check out the industry organization AIPSO for help finding an assigned-risk plan where you live.

Shop around if you have an imperfect record

Remember, you don’t have to stay with your current insurance company if an accident or violation raises your rates. Every provider treats driving mistakes in its own way, and it’s possible that the cheapest company available when you had a squeaky-clean record no longer offers you the best deal. All drivers can benefit from shopping around and comparing as many offers as possible — especially those with blemishes on their record.

NerdWallet is your go-to source for getting the most competitive car insurance quotes. Try our hassle-free comparison tool to view estimates from top companies and possibly save hundreds on your premium.

Methodology

To test rates after accidents, NerdWallet averaged the four lowest quotes per category for 30-year-old men and women in 10 ZIP codes in California, Connecticut and Texas, and from the largest insurers in each state. Sample drivers carried 100/300/50 liability limits, 100/300 uninsured motorist coverage, 100/300 underinsured motorist coverage (in states where required), collision and comprehensive. A 2012 Toyota Camry was used in all cases.

To test rates after speeding tickets, NerdWallet researched car insurance rates for 30-year-old men and women in eight ZIP codes in Florida and Illinois, with liability limits of 100/300/50, 100/300 uninsured motorist coverage, collision and comprehensive. Coverage includes $50,000 for medical payments in Illinois and $50,000 for personal injury protection in Florida.

To test rates after DUIs, we averaged car insurance quotes in 10 ZIP codes in California, Florida and New York from Allstate, Geico and State Farm for 25-year-old and 50-year-old men and women drivers of a 2010 Honda Accord. In California and New York the liability limits are 25/50/25. In Florida liability limits are 100/300/50. New York quotes include $50,000 of personal injury protection, and Florida quotes include $10,000 of personal injury protection. All quotes include uninsured motorist coverage equal to the bodily injury liability limits, plus collision and comprehensive. These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will differ.

Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: aglenn@nerdwallet.com. 

Updated Sept. 27, 2016.

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You did something stupid and you got caught. Or someone you know did something stupid and got caught. Fortunately, if you’re reading this, the person involved is still alive and nobody has been injured. It’s time to start driving again (responsibly).

You might need a new car insurance provider since it’s possible that your current provider either dropped you or astronomically raised your rates to new highs. Despite what you’ve heard, you do have options. Some auto insurance companies don’t punish people as much as others when it comes to DUIs.

Your best option to get started is to get quotes from several car insurance companies quickly to see which ones will accept you.

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Enter your zip code below and be sure to click at least 2-3 companies to find the very best rate.

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The Shotgun Approach: Why Get Multiple Quotes Works

Getting car insurance quotes from several companies is a good place to start because you’ll understand the range of the rates you’ll be working with. You can eliminate any extremely high cost providers and those that won’t accept you.

While a company like Progressive may be the cheapest in some areas, it’s not necessarily the case everywhere. There are local options that may suit you better, but the only way to find out is to look.

This shotgun approach of getting several quotes is the way to go unless you know of a company that gives breaks on rates to people with DUIs. You need to get started by getting your new driving profile out there to see what the rates will be.

If you weren’t dropped by your current provider, you could be better off staying, but I advise to try the quote tool below because it certainly can’t hurt.

The Targeted Approach: Pick a Company and Get One Quote

In order to figure out which of the best car insurance providers you can target, I went through the quote process for five of the highest rated insurance companies.

Progressive came out as the most affordable provider, given the profile for someone with a recent DUI. However, keep in mind that these results are only only based on one location and one profile.

Two of the companies (StateFarm and Liberty Mutual) would not provide a quote after entering in the DUI citation so they may not even cover you.

In order to accurately compare the quotes across all the providers, I had to standardize my information by creating a profile of a person.

Here’s the profile I used for each quote:

  • 28 years old
  • Single
  • Male
  • Living in Seattle
  • Driving a 2012 Ford Escape
  • Cited for driving under the influence in 2013

Here’s a list of each company and quote prices based on the above profile:

Progressive — $177/month
StateFarm — No quote provided
Liberty Mutual — No quote provided

These companies rank as some of the best nationally. While they’re a good starting point, you might find that a smaller or more local company will offer you the best rates. To find these companies, I recommend using the shotgun approach by getting a quote here.

Understanding Insurance After a DUI

Every state enforces strict laws against driving under the influence, but insurance companies evaluate your risk as a driver as they see fit. Your rates are based on a number of factors and having a DUI on your record is just one component.

Depending on the severity of your driving offense, your risk as a driver, and your social and economic demographics, insurers may raise your rates, require you to purchase “high risk” insurance, or cancel your coverage altogether. Keep in mind that these are subjective measures, and each insurer will interpret your driving record (and DUI) in slightly different ways. Some companies rank a DUI citation as less of a risk than an at-fault accident.

SR-22 Proof of Insurance

The most common element a DUI or DWI offender will encounter after their license and driving privileges have been reinstated is the SR-22 form. The idea of an SR-22 proof of insurance form is much simpler than some insurers would have you believe: It is simply a form that you or your insurer must file with your state’s department of motor vehicles (or department of licensing) to verify that you have valid insurance coverage. This is commonly required in most states following a DUI or DWI offense. It’s also needed for other offenses under which a driver’s license would be revoked or suspended, such as excessive speeding, a violent crash, or other serious moving violations.

An SR-22 proof of insurance form is often necessary for up to three years following a suspended license, and most states will require newly reinstated drivers to carry insurance or else surrender their driver’s license. If you cancel your coverage or switch insurers, your insurer is required to notify the state so that police officers can be on the lookout for you as a former DUI offender with canceled insurance coverage.

SR-22 isn’t some kind of “special” or “high-risk” insurance coverage. The same regulations and minimum requirements for insurance coverage apply to former DUI offenders as they do for any driver with a clean history. The only difference for a DUI offender is that they have a mark on their driving record.

DUI Rates and Risk

Most major insurers use similar formulas and market data to calculate a driver’s risk of causing a future accident. These companies calculate how much they need to charge for monthly premiums to insure each individual driver. Most major insurers will offer similar baseline rates to DUI offenders, but that will only be a starting point. From there, the other standard factors come into play when determining how much a driver will pay each month. As an example, a DUI offender with a poor credit score is going to pay more than a DUI offender with a great credit score.

Every insurer in the marketplace either denies coverage for former DUI offenders or charges higher rates. How high the rates are depends on the driver and the company. If a driver with a DUI also has excessive speeding tickets or another accident on their record, getting affordable insurance will be tough to find. Someone with only a DUI, and an otherwise clean record, can expect to find something that might be reasonable. (You can see from the quotes I received at the top of this post.)

Cancelled Coverage After a DUI

After a DUI, your insurer may decide to cancel your policy to avoid the risk of paying for your next accident. As in most employment contracts, the average insurance policy is written as a mutual, non-binding agreement, meaning that either party (you or your insurer) can terminate the contract and cancel the policy at any time, for any reason.

A DUI or high-speed crash is a reason many drivers find themselves with no choice but to look for a new insurer. If you had insurance coverage at the time of an accident, your policy covers any damages or injuries (including ongoing medical treatment), even if you cancel coverage at a later date.

If you’re dropped by your current insurance provider after a DUI, you can still get relatively affordable car insurance again from another company.

Getting the Best Rate After a DUI

Following a DUI, a driver’s rates will go down over time if they drive for a few years or more without any accidents, or if their lifestyle changes. Getting a new job, buying a house, moving to the suburbs, driving a minivan, or the simple act of getting older will lower your rates. If you keep a solid credit score, that will also help. Ultimately, to find the best car insurance rates, you have to shop around.

Just as in the courtroom, each case is judged differently.

A misdemeanor DUI offense at low speed when driving two blocks home from your local bar will obviously have a different affect on your rates than a violent crash at highway speed involving alcohol, drugs, or injuries. While some insurers may try to convince you that a single DUI offense puts you in the “high-risk” category, you should get a quote before giving in to high premiums right away.

90 Days Off the Road

Outside of a handful of states in the midwest, which mandate a 30-day license suspension for first-time DUI offenders, most states mandate a first-time DUI offender’s license be suspended for 90 days, and some states require a six-month or one-year suspension. For repeat offenders, most states will suspend a second- or third-time offender’s license from six months to several years.

No matter how you try to rationalize it, 90 days riding the bus, bumming rides from friends, or taking taxis will never sound appealing. One night sleeping on a couch, a floor, or taking a cab to a nearby motel could potentially save you $10,000. Driving home intoxicated just so you can sleep in your own bed will never be worth it. I’m not even taking into consideration the potential for fines, community service, probation, legal fees, and jail time.

Written by Mike Jelinek
Uk car insurance group 15 Footman james classic car insurance websites

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Read the Spanish version: ¿Cómo afecta un DUI en tu seguro de auto?

There’s no doubt about it: If you’ve been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you’ll face challenges with your car insurance.

No matter what you do, your auto insurance rates will increase when your insurer finds out. However, there are still ways to find affordable auto insurance quotes after your brush with the law.

How much will a DUI affect my rates?

Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at Insure.com, says that a DUI conviction can increase your rates anywhere from 30 to 200 percent, depending on the circumstances and your insurer’s policies. In other words, a $100 per month bill could rise to anywhere from $130 to $300.

Even harsher, some companies may not even bother raising your rates.

“Some carriers will simply non-renew or cancel your policy after learning of your conviction,” she says. “Not all companies want to deal with drivers with checkered pasts.”

If that happens, you’ll be forced to look for car insurance with two dark marks on your record – a DUI and a cancellation.

However, that doesn’t mean that you should necessarily stick with any insurer that doesn’t end your policy. If your insurer chooses to gouge you rather than drop you, it may be time to shop for a new company.

How long will a DUI affect my rates?

Although a DUI may remain on your criminal record for the rest of your life, insurance companies will usually only see what’s on your state’s department of motor vehicle (DMV) record. When your DUI is eventually cleared from your DMV record, you will once again be able to get cheaper car insurance.

Each state determines how long it will keep a DUI on your record. In most states, an alcohol- or drug-related conviction will remain on your DMV record anywhere from five to 10 years.

For example, California, Florida and New York will keep it on your record for 10 years, while Arizona keeps it for five years. But some states are much stricter, like New Mexico, where a DUI conviction will remain on your record for 55 years.

However, if your DUI is viewable by insurers for a lengthy period of time, state laws may only allow car insurance companies to rate on it anywhere from three to seven years. But there are exceptions, such as California, where state law keeps you ineligible for a good driver discount until 10 years have passed.

Is there such a thing as DUI forgiveness?

Some car insurance companies will forgive your first at-fault car accident, but none will ignore a DUI conviction. But again, insurers vary widely in how much they’re going to penalize you.

“Every insurance company is different in how they treat a DUI and how they price it,” says Pete Moraga, spokesperson for the Insurance Information Network of California. “This is one area where it really pays to shop around. Make calls. Go on the Internet and eventually you will find a company that best suits your needs until the DUI disappears from your record.”

For example, if you're insured with Progressive, you will not face cancellation or nonrenewal due to a DUI conviction, but you are likely to face a rate increase. Progressive reviews rates on a case-by-case basis. It will weigh multiple factors such as your age, gender, driving history and vehicle model.

State Farm reviews DUIs on a case-by-case basis too. But the outcome also depends on which subsidiary you're with. If you have a preferred policy with State Farm Mutual Insurance Co. and receive a DUI, State Farm will likely move you into State Farm Fire & Casualty, which is its standard-policy company for riskier drivers and higher rates.

Will I end up in my state’s high-risk pool?

Each state has what’s called a “high-risk” or assigned-risk pool for risky drivers. How these pools operate can vary by state, but in general states require car insurance companies to participate in these pools in proportion to the amount of business they do there. Each insurer must accept the motorists assigned to it, retaining the profit or absorbing the loss that comes with that customer.

You’ll land in a high-risk pool when you can’t find a private insurer that will sell you a policy. But this is meant to be your last option. You’ll pay a high premium and secure only the minimum liability insurance you must have by law to drive. And you won’t find any money-saving options here – you’ll have to wait it out.

But don’t panic. Your first DUI will not necessarily land you in your state’s high-risk pool. However, if you have numerous speeding tickets, traffic violations and more than one DUI on your record, you may find yourself swimming in the high-risk pool and there’s not much you can do about it. At that point, you generally can’t find car insurance in the "voluntary market" until your driving record improves.

Is it possible my insurer won’t find out about my DUI?

Auto insurance companies may check your motor vehicle record only once every three years or when you're applying for a new policy. It's also possible that accidents, tickets and DUIs may never make their way to your official motor vehicle record.

According to the Insurance Research Council, as many as one in five convictions for traffic violations never end up on motor vehicle records due to lack of shared information between courts and motor vehicle departments, or because a conviction has been erased through alternative means, such as driving school.

If you get your DUI charge reduced in a plea bargain, or have a limited license suspension, such as 30 days, it's also very unlikely your insurer will find out about your conviction.

However, if your insurance company misses the conviction at the time it happens, it still has a few years to raise rates if the DUI is discovered later.

Don't count on your car insurance company missing the DUI. The odds are still good it will find it, which usually means a significant hike in your rates.

What is an SR-22?

SR-22 insurance

Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania don't require SR-22s, but if you have an SR-22 and then move to one of these states, you must continue to meet the requirements of the SR-22 state where the offense was committed.

New York and North Carolina don't require SR-22 filings at all.

In some states there is a fee for SR-22s.

Source: Progressive

Most states require DUI offenders to get a form called an SR-22 from their auto insurers.

An SR-22 proves to the DMV that you carry liability insurance and can assist in regaining your license. An SR-22 also requires your insurance company to notify your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) if it cancels your auto insurance for any reason. You'll likely have to file this proof of insurance for three — sometimes five — years with your state's DMV.

Some car insurance companies don't offer SR-22 policies, so your policy could be non-renewed or cancelled because your company can no longer provide what you need.

What if I refused a breathalyzer?

The majority of states have some type of "implied consent" law, which means refusing a breathalyzer test usually does more harm than good.

"(An implied consent law) means that when you sign up for your driver's license, you also consent to taking a breathalyzer test upon demand from a police officer," says Eric Misterovich, a DUI attorney at Newburg Law in St. Joseph, Michigan.

Many times people refuse a breathalyzer because they don't want to provide evidence of their blood alcohol to police out of fear of being arrested. However, the penalty for refusing the breath test can be harsher than the OWI (operating while intoxicated) charge, says Misterovich.

"In short, at least for first-time offenders where there is no car accident or bodily injury, refusing to take a breathalyzer will likely subject you to greater penalties than the OWI" in Michigan, says Misterovich.

On the flip side, "from an evidentiary perspective, no breath test means an attorney may be able to argue away the subjective evidence,'" says Luftman. All that's left is how you appeared at the time of your arrest, what you said, how you smelled, and the officer's opinion of your field sobriety tests. You may be able to argue away those things," he adds.

Does that mean refusing a breathalyzer could spare you the pain of high car insurance rates? Don’t count on it, says Gusner.

“While it’s technically possible to beat a DUI charge this way, it’s not an easy thing to do,” she says. “Plus, you’re likely to end up paying a lot to an attorney if you even try, which can be especially painful if you don’t win the case.”

Can I still get car insurance if I lose my license?

If your license is suspended or revoked, your insurance company can cancel you at the end of your policy, or in some states your policy can be canceled midterm if the insurer finds out that you lost your license.

It can be very difficult to find car insurance if you don’t have a valid license. But if you still need your car insured, either because it is financed or because you need someone else to drive you around in it, you’ll need to search for an insurer who will allow you to insure the car for another primary driver while excluding you as a driver.

Is there anything else I can do to improve my rates after a DUI?

Gusner says your best defense after being caught driving drunk is to accept the consequences of your actions and look for legitimate means to keep insurance costs at bay.

“Drunk driving is a serious crime that kills thousands of people every year,” she says. “If you escaped the situation without hurting anyone, your best bet is to pledge to do better in the future and look for the best car insurance company you can find for your circumstances."

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