Aside from the obvious danger, getting behind the wheel while drunk can be one of the costliest financial mistakes you’ll ever make. A first-time DUI costs an average of $6,500 per driver, although that can easily climb up to $30,000, depending on a few factors. Here’s a look at how a DUI affects your wallet.
Why DUI costs vary
If your first DUI involves a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or an accident, then your total cost will be higher than other first DUI offenses. Where you live matters, too—some states have minimum fines for first offenders that are closer to $1500 (Oregon, Alaska, Utah) and other states have minimums that cost $0 (Illinois, Indiana, Missouri), according to Finder.com. Your age is also a factor, both for what is an unacceptable BAC (some states have “zero tolerance” laws for drivers under 21, which means they can be charged for a lower BAC than the typical threshold of 0.08) and for potential insurance costs.
After you get arrested for a DUI, police will take you to the police station to be photographed and fingerprinted. After that, you will be released if someone can pick you up and pay your bail, although some states require mandatory jail time, even for first-time drunk driving offenders—typically a day or two. Per the American Addiction Centers, the typical legal costs are listed below:If you’re in a state with mandatory jail time, the bail or bond can be $100 - $2,500. Expect $100 - $1,200 for car towing or impound fees.For a first DUI, expect to pay attorney fees in the range of $1,500 - $5,000. Court-ordered fines range from $150 - $1,800, with an average $352 for a first-time conviction.Other charges include fees for spending time in jail ($10 - $300), fees for sentencing ($100 - $250), fees for probation ($200 - $1,200) and drug tests as a condition of bail or probation (over $100).Some states have what’s known as “driver responsibility fees,” which are additional fees paid directly to the state, and they can be $1,000 - $2,500, depending on the state that issues them.Mandatory educational classes on substance abuse cost around $1,000 - $3,000 Many states require some DUI offenders to have their vehicles fitted with an ignition interlock device (a breathalyzer that starts your car), which can cost more than $500.
G/O Media may get a commission
In many states, your driver’s license is automatically suspended when you’re arrested for a DUI, and a conviction will typically result in losing your driving privileges for several months. To get your license back, you’ll have to pay a reinstatement fee, which ranges from $20 to $200.
Insurance hikes can really hurt your wallet—after a DUI, car insurance rates typically go up by more than 75%, according to NerdWallet. On average, car insurance will cost you an additional $1,104 per year for full coverage and $473 per year for minimum required coverage (again, it varies by state). As a high risk driver, you’ll be stuck with these higher rates for about three to five years after your DUI.
If you lose your license, you’ll likely need to spend money on public transportation or ride-sharing, which will be an additional cost. The costs will vary depending on your commute, but expect at least $200 in new expenses, unless you have a friend or family member to drive you around and they’re willing to cover the cost of gas.
If your DUI conviction involves significant jail time, or you need to drive for your job, or if you’re simply fired by your at will employer, then you’ll have to account for lost wages as part of the total cost of getting a DUI. Of course, how much this costs depends entirely on how much you make, but it’s not hard to see how losing a few weeks worth of wages due to a DUI can completely derail your personal finances.