What is the difference: DWI vs. DUI?

A DWI vs. DUI charge depends upon the state you live in. The difference between DUI and DWI is that a DWI measures intoxication whereas a DUI measures influence. Intoxication implies the use of alcohol and influence can imply not only alcohol but drugs and other substances as well.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Written by Rachel Bodine
Feature Writer Rachel Bodine

Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance, including home, auto, umbrella, and dwelling fire insurance. He’s also been featured on sites like Reviews.com and Safeco. He reviews content, ensuring that ex...

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Reviewed by Daniel Walker
Licensed Auto Insurance Agent Daniel Walker

UPDATED: May 26, 2022

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Things to Remember

  • A DUI is enforced when a driver can be found to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • A DWI meaning can be defined as driving while intoxicated past the legal limit
  • In some states, DWI’s can carry a higher weight because they require that a driver’s blood alcohol limit is excessively high
  • A zero-tolerance policy is utilized by most states where DUI’s and DWI’s are interchangeable

Drinking and driving represent huge legal infractions. Drivers across the United States can see slogans flashing across traffic screens daily like, “Don’t drink and drive, and you’ll stay alive” or “Don’t Drink and Drive, Arrive Alive,” among several others.

Drinking and driving can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense depending on certain factors and laws. Which laws contribute to hindering drinking and driving? A DUI (driving under the influence) and/or DWI (driving while intoxicated).

The DWI/DUI meaning can be labeled as driving with harmful toxins in your body whether it is alcohol or a narcotic.

What’s the difference between a DUI and DWI? The major difference lies in the words themselves. One is associated with being under the influence of an impairing substance while the other is associated with being intoxicated past the legal limit with alcohol.

If you find yourself driving while impaired, which offense will be more costly to your driving record and car insurance, a DWI or a DUI? You may wonder, “what is DUI insurance like after an offense occurs?”

Compare DWI vs. DUI car insurance rates in your area by entering your ZIP code in the free tool above.


A DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence) are both illegal acts of driving a vehicle while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. There are federal mandates for DUI’s or DWI’s. Federally, if you’re stopped for a DUI or DWI you must submit to a test of your blood alcohol level. The federal limit is 0.08%. State limits can be higher or lower.

A DWI and DUI can also be handled on a state-by-state basis. Most states have instituted a zero-tolerance policy which means that both a DUI and DWI carry the same level of offense.

Other states differentiate the terms by the inclusion of drugs as well as alcohol. The phrase “under the influence” can mean the use of alcohol, drugs, or both. Furthermore, in some states, DWI’s can be associated with a higher level of offense. Intoxication denotes a higher blood alcohol level.

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What is a DUI?

A DUI is evidence that a driver has illegally driven a vehicle or gotten into a vehicle with the intent to drive while possessing high concentrations of alcohol or drugs in his or her system. In states where a DUI and DWI are different, a DUI can constitute a lesser crime or misdemeanor offense than a DWI.

DUI’s can often be handed down without a blood alcohol test. There are even some instances when DWI’s can be argued down to DUI charges with a plea deal.

Whether a DUI or DWI, neither is good for your record. A DUI can result in an average car insurance increase of 71%.

What is a DWI?

Unlike a DUI, a DWI offense shows that a driver’s blood-alcohol level was tested and proved to be at an extreme. Like a DUI, DWI’s display that a driver has illegally driven a vehicle or gotten into a vehicle with the intent to drive while possessing a high concentrations of alcohol or drugs in his or her system.

What happens after a DUI or DWI?

If a driver is charged with a DUI or DWI,  repercussions can include:

  • Increased car insurance costs
  • Monetary fine(s)
  • Mandated community service
  • Loss of car insurance coverage
  • Suspension of driver’s license
  • Loss of driver’s license

Assessment by breathalyzers, or electronic devices that measure the breath alcohol content (BrAC) from a person, can also be a consequence of DUI’s or DWI’s. The device ensures that a driver has a 0.0% blood alcohol level and is fit to start a vehicle.

In the event a driver loses their car insurance coverage to one or more DUI or DWI charges, one may have to utilize an SR-22. An SR-22 is special documentation used by the DMV and/or car insurance companies to prove a person has met the minimum liabilty coverage of the state.

When you compare a DUI vs. DWI, you’ll find that any differences between them typically depend on the state you live in and how they dictate DUI and DWI charges and offenses.

Type your ZIP code in the free tool below to discover DWI vs. DUI car insurance quotes in your area.

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