Getting Insurance in California after A DUI

Getting Insurance in California after A DUI

On average, every year in California, there are nearly 150,000 DUI convictions. That means that each year, almost 150,000 drivers in California must navigate the tricky aftermath of receiving a DUI. This might include dealing with an Order of Suspension, requesting a restricted license, or attending a court-ordered Driving Under the Influence Program. It will also almost certainly include getting a new insurance policy. 

In California, legislation enables insurance companies to base their policies on a driver's driving record going back ten years. A DUI conviction will unquestionably affect the policy. It could simply mean that a driver's good driver discount is revoked. More likely, though, the insurance company will modify a driver's existing policy with an increased premium, require the driver to get a new policy with a considerably higher premium or cancel the policy altogether. 

Why You Always Need Insurance

  1. California Registration Insurance Law

While a canceled insurance policy might not sound like such a bad idea while your driver's license is suspended—no insurance premium means more money is staying in your wallet—this is illegal for anyone who owns a vehicle. In California, even if a vehicle is not in use, it must be covered by liability insurance.

Additionally, after a DUI, if a driver cancels their insurance coverage and fails to send in updated insurance information within the 45 days, state police are notified.

  1. State Requirements for Insurance Companies

By law, insurance companies must report updated insurance information to the DMV (i.e., A driver's insurance has been canceled because they have gotten a DUI). When the DMV receives this information, they will notify drivers that they have 45 days to submit new insurance information. If they do not, their vehicle registration will be suspended.

  1. Requirements for Restricted And Suspended Licenses
If a driver gets a restricted license or when their license suspension ends, to operate a vehicle, they must have insurance. The DMV keeps track of all of this.

DUI Insurance Rates

The simple fact is that your insurance premium is based on how likely it is that you will get into a car accident. To your insurance company, a DUI indicates a significantly increased risk. According to research, a blood alcohol concentration that is above the legal limit makes a driver 11 times more likely than a sober driver to get into a fatal car crash—and this does not include the increased likelihood for non-fatal car crashes. In short, a DUI in California will stay on your public driving record for ten years and, until those ten years are up and the DUI no longer shows on your record, insurance companies will view you as having a significantly higher risk than other drivers.

This higher risk carries with it an extra cost. This extra cost comes both from the insurance company and from the state of California. After a DUI, California requires a driver's insurance company to file an SR-22 to prove that they are carrying the state-mandated amount of car insurance coverage or more. An SR-22 simply reinstates a driver's driving privileges after their license has been suspended. This form must be submitted for up to three years after a driver's license has been submitted. It costs between $25 and $40 to file.

On top of this, typical insurance premiums will increase by a few hundred dollars or double in cost, creating a significant additional monthly expense. Even three years after a DUI, a driver's insurance premium will remain roughly 60% higher than what it was pre-DUI. Finally, any good driving discount that a driver had before the DUI will be taken away when the policy is renewed. The discount will only become available again after ten years of a clean driving record. 

With all of this being said, most drivers likely have a few months that they can breathe easy after a DUI conviction. Insurance companies in California cannot cancel a policy or increase a premium while a policy term is active. They can only do this when the policy needs to be renewed. 

DUI Insurance Companies

Being precise about post-DUI insurance premiums is difficult because each insurer has the freedom to evaluate driver risk however they see fit. This risk is never solely dependent on whether a driver has a DUI on their record. The premium can be affected by many demographic factors, such as age and gender. It can also be affected by other previous incidents, such as at-fault accidents. Some insurers will weigh a DUI more heavily than others. This fact makes it difficult to know which insurer will suit a driver's new situation best. But it should also give hope that there will be an insurer out there that will be more understanding of a DUI, seeing it as a one-time mistake rather than a habit. 

Can You Get Insurance After A DUI?

Many drivers that receive a DUI worry that they simply will not find insurance. In California, this is not the case. State law requires that every driver carry insurance. Because of this, they are required to create options for everyone. This is why, if all else fails, drivers can rely on the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan

In this program, drivers are matched with car insurance companies. A driver might even be matched with a previous insurer as all insurance companies are required to accept a policy from CAARP

Alternatively, drivers with a DUI conviction can also rely on insurance agencies that represent multiple carriers. These agencies will have a driver's best interest in mind, with a goal to find the most affordable rates and reliable coverage. Some agencies even specialize in identifying optimal insurance coverage for high-risk drivers. They will compare quotes with carriers that are more DUI-friendly. 

GM Insurance Services is one such agency. We specialize in non-standard auto insurance for high-risk drivers in need of insurance after a DUI. Please contact us by phone or on our website for a free quote. 

How to Lower Your Premiums after a DUI Conviction

There is no quick fix that will allow a driver to immediately reduce their insurance premiums to what they were before the DUI conviction. However, several steps can be taken that will help drivers to lower their premiums over the long-term. 

  1. Get the DUI Conviction Reduced

In California, it is not just being convicted of a DUI or not being convicted of a DUI. Drivers can get slightly lessened convictions, including dry reckless and wet reckless. These convictions are still considered major moving violations, though. They will result in an additional two points being added to a driving record, just like a DUI would. However, while a DUI stays on a driving record for ten years, wet and dry reckless are removed from driving records after only seven years. That means premium rates will drop substantially three years earlier than they otherwise would have, allowing drivers to save at least several hundred dollars, if not more. 

  1. Take Classes

Insurance carriers appreciate when drivers take steps to improve their driving. These steps can come in various forms. For some carriers, they will be willing to reduce premiums if the policyholder begins attending AA or NA. Other carriers might prefer policyholders with a DUI conviction to take more driving-specific courses. For example, a 6-hour defensive driving course can allow drivers to get points taken off of their driver's license. This, in turn, will encourage their carriers to reduce their premiums—sometimes by as much as 15%. Drivers should speak to their carrier to find out what will enable them to reduce their premium and by how much they can reduce it. 

  1. Do Not Get Other Violations

As previously stated, insurance carriers partially base premiums off of a driver's record. So while drivers cannot change their age or gender, they can work to improve their record. This means avoiding traffic violations, like speeding tickets. It also means being a more cautious driver to avoid car accidents. 

  1. Multi-Driver Discounts

Many drivers are on a family policy. It is almost always the most cost-effective method. However, because many carriers will not offer coverage for high-risk drivers, most individuals who receive a DUI will simply opt out of the family policy. They will then purchase a separate policy. Unfortunately, this often increases the premiums for both drivers, as the good driver's multi-driver discount will be taken away when they are the only person on the policy.

Most times, it is best to move all of the drivers to a carrier that will cover a high-risk driver and offer a multi-driver discount. 

  1. Address Other Areas That Effect the Premium

As previously stated, the DUI is not the only factor that a carrier will take into consideration when deciding on a driver's insurance premium. It is for this reason that drivers can begin to address the other factors. The first factor that can be actively addressed is driving a safer car. When cars have certain safety features, including airbags, car alarms, anti-lock breaks, and more, insurance carriers view this as a reduction in risk. Because of the risk reduction, they will reduce the premium. 

Another way for drivers with a DUI to reduce their premium is to take a look at their deductible. The deductible is what drivers must pay out-of-pocket before their insurance starts to cover them. A general rule of thumb is that the higher the deductible, the lower the premium. Raising a deductible to a high enough amount could lower the premium by up to 40%.

After being convicted of a DUI, it can be a challenge to find the affordable car insurance in California. But it does not have to be impossible. By working with an insurance agency that has experience in the issue can make all the difference. To find out more, please contact us.