SR22 Insurance in California: Auto Insurance After a Setback

You may need an SR22 insurance form after a DUI or uninsured wreck in California. Here’s what to expect.
Ben Moore
By Ben Moore 
Updated
Edited by Lacie Glover
1073413506

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If you’re in trouble in California after getting a DUI or committing another serious driving violation, you might be required to prove you have car insurance with a form called an SR22.

An SR22 is a certificate, known as a California Proof of Insurance Certificate, that your insurer files with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. While some people call it “SR22 insurance,” this isn’t an insurance policy — it’s your insurer’s guarantee that you have at least minimum coverage insurance.

If you don’t get an SR22 form after a serious offense, you could lose your driving privileges. Here’s why you might need one and how to find the cheapest insurance rates if you do.

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Who needs an SR22 in California?

California may require you to have an SR22 to keep or reinstate your driving privileges after a serious offense. With an SR22, your insurer informs the Department of Motor Vehicles that you've purchased at least the minimum required liability insurance in California by filing a certificate with the department.

If you’re required to file an SR22, you will receive an order from a court or the state. If you need an SR22 and don’t get one, your car registration and driver's license could be suspended.

California will require an SR22 if your license is suspended or restricted due to a severe violation, including:

  • A DUI conviction.

  • Reckless driving.

  • Failing to report an accident.

  • Underage drinking.

  • Having a wreck when you are uninsured.

  • Having too many driving violations on your record.

  • Not paying what a judge says you owe if you’re sued after an accident.

In some cases, you might need an SR22 after a wreck even if you weren’t behind the wheel. If authorities can’t figure out who was driving, but you owned the car and didn’t have insurance on it, your driver’s license could be suspended. The same thing could happen if your uninsured car rolls away from its parking spot and causes an accident while no one is driving it.

You may also need an SR22 if you’re required to have an ignition interlock device, which prevents your car from starting unless your breath is alcohol-free. You may have the option of getting a restricted license with an interlock device installed in your car after a DUI conviction or a DUI-related lesser offense of “wet reckless” driving.

How to get an SR22 in California

Filing an SR22 isn’t something you do on your own. California requires insurers to electronically report insurance information to the DMV.

If you need an SR22, ask your insurer to file one on your behalf — if it will. Some insurance companies don’t file SR22s.

If your insurer doesn’t provide this service, you’ll need to switch to one that does. After your violation, your current insurer might cancel your coverage or opt not to renew your policy. If you can’t get coverage elsewhere, you can turn to the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, the state’s high-risk insurance pool.

How much an SR22 costs in California

Insurance companies typically charge about $25 to file an SR22. In addition, fines and fees to get your California driving privileges restored can exceed $300.

You’ll also face higher car insurance premiums since you have a new violation on your driving record, but shopping around may lessen the blow. To find how much rates increase, and which insurers are cheapest, NerdWallet analyzed annual 2023 California rates for a 35-year-old driver, before and after committing violations that lead to an SR22 requirement.

The average cost of car insurance in California for minimum coverage with an SR22 requirement due to a recent DUI conviction is about $1,018 a year, or $85 a month, according to NerdWallet’s May 2024 analysis. But we found that some insurers offer cheaper coverage, so it pays to shop around and compare car insurance quotes.

Below are the five cheapest insurers in California for minimum coverage after a DUI and an SR22 requirement.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Grange Insurance Association

$513

$43

$514

$43

Orion Indemnity

$572

$48

$642

$53

$667

$56

The average cost of car insurance in California for a policy with minimum coverage and an SR22 requirement due to a recent reckless driving conviction is about $1,012 a year, or $84 a month.

Below are the five cheapest minimum coverage car insurers in California after a reckless driving conviction and an SR22 requirement.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Orion Indemnity

$462

$39

$482

$40

Grange Insurance Association

$513

$43

$642

$53

$477

$40

*USAA auto insurance is available only to military, veterans and their families.

The average cost of car insurance in California for minimum coverage with an SR22 requirement due to a recent hit-and-run conviction is about $1,012 a year, or $84 a month.

Below are the five cheapest minimum coverage car insurers in California after a hit-and-run and an SR22 requirement.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Orion Indemnity

$462

$39

$482

$40

Grange Insurance Association

$513

$43

$642

$53

$588

$49

*USAA auto insurance is available only to military, veterans and their families.

The average cost of car insurance in California for minimum coverage with an SR22 requirement due to a recent speeding violation is about $637 a year, or $53 a month. Below are the five cheapest minimum coverage car insurers in California after a speeding violation and an SR22 requirement.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

$406

$34

Orion Indemnity

$429

$36

$434

$36

Grange Insurance Association

$513

$43

$347

$29

*USAA auto insurance is available only to military, veterans and their families.

Non-owner SR22 insurance in California

If you don’t own a car but still want to drive, you’ll need to purchase a non-owner car insurance policy from an insurer that offers SR22 filing. A non-owners policy, sometimes referred to as an “operator’s” policy, will provide the minimum liability insurance required in California (or more, if you decide to purchase additional coverage) and will satisfy your SR22 requirement.

Most car insurers don’t offer quotes online for non-owner policies, so you’ll have to use an independent agent or call multiple companies to compare quotes. Be sure to let the agent or company know that you will require SR22 filing on your policy. Otherwise you could risk losing your driving privileges again if you purchase a policy without it.

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How much insurance you need in California

At a minimum, California requires drivers to have liability insurance, which pays out if you cause a wreck and hurt someone else or damage their property, up to specified limits.

California drivers must carry liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person.

  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident.

  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident.

However, these limits will change soon. At the start of 2025, California drivers will be required to carry liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per person.

  • $60,000 bodily injury liability per accident.

  • $15,000 property damage liability per accident.

Liability car insurance covers the cost of any damage, injuries or deaths you cause in a car accident, up to your policy’s predefined limits. Experts recommend getting more than the bare minimum if you want to avoid dipping into your own savings to cover expenses.

For instance, California has a relatively low property damage minimum, only $5,000. If you cause an accident and total another driver’s car, the damage could easily exceed that amount, and you would have to pay the difference out of pocket.

Check out NerdWallet’s guide to state car insurance requirements for more details on how the required and optional parts of your California policy work.

How to get cheaper SR22 insurance in California

To find the most affordable policy, compare car insurance quotes from at least three insurance companies that will file an SR22 form. Because insurers use different factors to price rates, the cheapest insurer before a violation probably won’t be the cheapest after.

Once your SR22 requirement ends, it’s time to go shopping again. Car insurance costs will start to decrease when your violation is three to five years in the past, so compare quotes to snag some cheaper coverage after those anniversaries. NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help.

Some other strategies that can help you lower your car insurance bill after an SR22 are:

  • Asking about discounts. Take advantage of discounts for things like bundling multiple insurance policies, having a car with anti-theft technology, or even your age and profession.

  • Dropping unnecessary coverage. You can lower your car insurance premiums by getting rid of optional coverage types you no longer need. For example, comprehensive and collision insurance cover repairs for damage to your vehicle in a variety of situations, up to the market value of your car. If you own an older car that’s not worth much, you can likely drop these coverage types.

  • Raising your deductible. A car insurance deductible is the amount of money you pay out of pocket before your car insurance kicks in. The higher your deductible, the lower your car insurance premium. Just make sure you have enough money stashed away to cover the higher amount.

Learn more about California car insurance

Frequently asked questions

In California, an SR22 requirement typically lasts three years. Your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked for a few months to a few years, depending on the violation and your driving history, and your SR22 requirement begins after that.

You may be able to get a restricted driver’s license during your suspension so you can commute to work, drive to medical appointments or take your child to school. For the restricted license, you’ll need to get an SR22 and meet other requirements, like paying necessary fees and completing a driving-under-the-influence program if you received a DUI. You can get a restricted license after a DUI in California only if it was your first offense in at least 10 years.

After you have fulfilled the requirements of your license suspension or revocation, and the SR22 form has remained on file and active for three years, you should contact your insurer to have the SR22 removed. If you cancel your SR22 policy too early, or switch to a new insurer that doesn’t file the form on your behalf, you could lose your driving privileges.

An SR1P functions in the same way as an SR22, except it is used for vehicles with fewer than four wheels, like a motorcycle, and is required after violations such as being caught without insurance after an accident or repeat traffic offenses.

Methodology

NerdWallet found median rates for 23 insurers in California based on public filings obtained by pricing analytics company Quadrant Information Services. Although it’s one of the largest insurers in the country, Liberty Mutual is not included in our rates analysis due to a lack of publicly available information.

In our analysis, “good drivers” had no moving violations on record; a “good driving” discount was included for this profile. These are median rates, and your rate will vary based on your personal details, state and insurance provider. Sample drivers had the following coverage limits:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person.

  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident.

  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident.

For drivers with a DUI, we added a single drunken driving violation and an SR22 requirement. For drivers with a hit-and-run on their record, we added a single hit-and-run conviction and an SR22 requirement. For drivers with reckless driving on their record, we added a single reckless driving conviction and an SR22 requirement. For drivers with a speeding violation, we added a single speeding violation for driving 16 mph over the speed limit and an SR22 requirement.

We used a 2020 Toyota Camry LE in all cases and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven. We analyzed rates for 35-year-old drivers.

These are rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your rates will be different.

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