Getting convicted of Driving Under the Influence is a sobering experience. No matter how you slice it, your insurance rates are going to go up. Way up.
Even if you had a clean record before, with nary a ticket or a claim, a DUI conviction is a game changer. Here is why:
In order to get your license reinstated, you will have to file an SR-22 Proof of Financial Responsibility form. The reasoning is simple: Auto insurance after a DUI conviction is expensive. To keep you from gaming the system by carrying insurance just long enough to get your license back then dropping your coverage, you'll have to have your insurance company file an SR-22 form with the DMV proving you have insurance.
With the SR-22 form, if your car insurance is cancelled for any reason, the DMV will get a notice from your insurance company and your license will be suspended. And if you thought you could get away with not telling your insurance company about your conviction in hopes they wouldn't find out, the need for an SR-22 makes that impossible.
Car insurance comes in three flavors: standard market, secondary market and assigned risk pool. Standard market companies cover the standard risk pool, which doesn't include convicted drunk drivers and other SR-22 filers. Your current company will either cancel or non-renew your policy, and you will have to search for coverage in the secondary market.
Because the drivers in the secondary market are a greater risk and suffer more losses, premiums are higher. Add in the cost for the SR-22 filing, and your premiums go even higher. After a DUI, you could easily pay 3 to 4 times what you used to pay for your coverage before.
The assigned risk pool is for those who can't get auto coverage anywhere else. The coverage is limited and the cost is high. You don't want to end up here, but if you let your insurance cancel and get suspended again, your state's assigned risk pool could be your only option.
Shop around: Carriers are all different, and if your only blemish on your driving record is the DUI you may get more favorable pricing.
Trade in: Buy an older, cheaper car that doesn't require you to carry comprehensive and collision coverage.
Know the law: Check with your state's insurance division and find out how long an insurance company can count a DUI conviction in determining your premiums. Mark the calendar, and start shopping as soon as you are eligible. Remember that the clock starts ticking on your conviction date, not your infraction date.
Keep your nose clean: Every ticket or claim on your record will carry more weight now, so be careful and slow down.
Resist the temptation to cut back your liability limits to save money. The savings are not great enough to outweigh the additional risk, and when you are shopping for new coverage some companies will give you better rates if you carried higher-than-minimum liability limits with your previous company.
It can take years to put a DUI conviction completely behind you, but being responsible with your insurance can minimize the impact.
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