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DUI & Auto Insurance Rates: How Long Will It Affect Me?

How long will a DUI affect auto insurance rates? You’ve already guessed there’s no simple answer to that. It’s going to depend on the state where you live, the insurance company you use and your own past and future personal behavior. Still, there are some general rules that might help you guesstimate the period your rates will be hit.

“DUI” or driving under the influence is the most common term for what used to be called drunk driving. But in some areas, the same offense is called driving while intoxicated (DWI) or operating under the influence (OUI) or something similar. All of them involve a driver having a blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than that allowed by state laws, or driving while under the influence of drugs. States agreed a standardized BAC threshold of 0.08 percent (that’s 80 milligrams of alcohol per deciliter of blood) for those over 21 years old, and zero or close to zero for those who are younger. However, many have a second, higher BAC threshold, commonly in the 0.15-0.20-percent range, and breaching that leads to more severe penalties. You can check your state’s higher threshold at the Governors Highway Safety Association website. Your insurer is very likely to take that aggravated offense more seriously than a standard DUI.

How Long Will a DUI Affect Auto Insurance Rates – Your State’s Impact

The time your DUI conviction remains on your driving record varies wildly from state to state. Often it’s between three and five years, but it can be much, much longer. For example, in California and Massachusetts it’s a whole decade. In Alaska, it’s for life. This is important, because any insurer you approach for a quote is going to check your driving record, and will see your conviction until it’s expunged. At the very least, you can normally wave goodbye to your safer driver discount for as long as your conviction’s on your record.

You’re almost certainly already aware that auto insurance rates vary even more wildly from state to state than driving record rules do. And the impact of a DUI on those rates is similarly varied. According to one survey, a DUI in North Carolina could on average see you charged over three times more than when you were conviction-free, while in Maryland the hit you take could be as low as 12 percent.

Your Insurer’s Impact

Your insurance company’s attitude to DUIs is as important as the state in which you live. Some insurers take this offense extremely seriously, and can be savage in raising your rates, especially if your driver or claims record is already patchy. Others seem to regard the extra risk one of these convictions suggests less sternly. The same survey mentioned before found one company in Florida upped its rates on a DUI by nearly 400 percent, while another in the same state didn’t increase them at all.

Of course, it’s good practice to shop around for the best deal whenever you renew your auto insurance, which can be even more important following one of these convictions. Answer Financial, our auto and home insurance partner, specialize in helping drivers who have incurred a DUI charge find competitive rates for their auto insurance.

Some Good News

There really aren’t any upsides to driving under the influence. The cost alone can easily exceed $10,000 when you total up fines, court costs, lawyers’ fees and higher insurance rates. And then there’s the disappointing schadenfreude among those you love and like, and the general social embarrassment. So maybe it’s time for some more cheerful news.

Unlike Aunt Sarah, insurance companies aren’t interested in judging you. The higher rates you pay aren’t a form of moral retribution, but are solely based on the increased risk you present as a less safe driver than you’d previously seemed. And, providing your continuing behavior suggests you’re a fundamentally good risk who experienced a momentary aberration, you can expect your rates to become less of a burden as your conviction recedes in time. Quadrant Information Services estimates the average hit nationwide on rates in the first year after a DUI during 2016 will be 94.32 percent. But it’s likely to be less than that in years two and three … until finally you’re back to paying normally.

And you can help that along by showing that you’re a good risk. Drive responsibly and defensively so you don’t incur any further traffic violations or are involved in accidents in which you’re at fault. And, of course, there may be other ways in which you can drive (sorry!) down the cost of your auto insurance, besides shopping around for the lowest rates. These include bundling different policies with the same insurer to gain discounts, and improving your credit score (yes, that often affects your rates).

Making the Best of It

Finally, you might save in a couple of other ways. If you’ve sold your car, and are renting or borrowing one, you could go for non-owner SR-22 insurance, which will maintain liability coverage, and thus provide your auto insurance record with continuity at an affordable price. And you should remember to get new quotes when your DUI drops off your driving record rather than waiting for your next renewal date, so you’re not paying a higher rate for a day longer than is necessary.

So how long will a DUI affect auto insurance rates? That depends – not least on you.

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