After a serious traffic violation, you may face a car insurance requirement you haven’t encountered before. To keep your driver’s license, or get it back after it’s been revoked, you may need an SR-22 form from your auto insurer. (There’s not a special policy called “SR-22 insurance.”)
Having to file an SR-22 is no one’s idea of fun. You’ll pay higher car insurance premiums than a driver with a clean record and be limited in your choice of insurers. But shopping around for the cheapest rates can help. Here’s what you need to know.
What is an SR-22?
An SR-22 for auto insurance isn’t actually a policy — it’s an official document to prove you’ve bought at least the minimum liability insurance required in your state. The SR-22 form may also be called a certificate of financial responsibility.
With an SR-22, your insurance company assures your state’s motor vehicle or insurance department that you’ll maintain coverage for a certain period of time. If you don’t, the insurer will alert your state, and your driver’s license could be suspended or revoked.
Who needs an SR-22?
An SR-22 allows you to keep or reinstate your driving privileges after serious or repeated offenses.
You might be required to have an SR-22 if:
- You’ve been convicted of DUI, DWI or another serious moving violation.
- You’ve caused an accident while driving without insurance.
- You’ve gotten too many traffic tickets in a short time, such as three or more speeding tickets within six months.
- You didn’t pay court-ordered child support.
- Your driver’s license has been suspended or revoked.
For certain convictions in Florida and Virginia, you may be ordered to file a similar form called an FR-44, which requires a higher level of liability coverage than the state’s minimum.
Not all states require an SR-22 or FR-44. If you need one, you’ll find out from your state department of motor vehicles or traffic court.
How to get an SR-22
The procedure for getting an SR-22 form can vary by state, but here’s how it typically works.
Start by contacting your auto insurance company.
When you’re notified you need an SR-22, start by contacting your auto insurance company. Some insurers don’t offer this service, so you may need to shop for a company that does. Insurers that specialize in coverage for high-risk drivers typically offer SR-22 filing, and so do many of the largest auto insurance companies.
If you don’t already have auto insurance, you’ll probably need to buy a policy in order to get your driving privileges restored. And the insurer may require you to pay the entire premium up front — either six or 12 months’ worth.
When your coverage is in place, the insurance company will file the SR-22 form with your state’s traffic authorities.
How much an SR-22 costs
Filing an SR-22 with your state typically costs about $25, but that one-time fee isn’t the only extra expense you may face. You’ll probably also pay higher car insurance premiums than before.
How much higher? That depends on where you live, what violation resulted in your SR-22 requirement and which car insurance company you choose. To get the best rate for you, it’s important to compare quotes from multiple insurers.
» MORE: Compare car insurance rates
Why it’s smart to shop around
The insurance company that gave you the lowest rate before your SR-22 requirement may not give you the best rate afterward, and no insurance company is the cheapest everywhere.
No insurance company is the cheapest everywhere.
As an example, consider a driver with a recent DUI, a violation that might result in an SR-22 requirement. A NerdWallet analysis of prices in 10 states found that State Farm had the lowest rates for drivers with a DUI in Florida, on average, but it was the most expensive of the insurers we compared in California and Georgia.
So, after a DUI or any violation that results in an SR-22 requirement, it’s wise to shop around and find the best auto insurance rate for you. NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool can help.
You might find that your current provider cancels your coverage or declines to renew your policy in light of your violation. In that case, you’ll have no choice but to shop around for an insurer that will cover you.
If no insurance company will accept you, even after you’ve checked with several that specialize in covering high-risk drivers, you can turn to your state’s high-risk insurance pool. To start, find your state in the directory of the Automobile Insurance Plan Service Office.
SR-22 when you don’t own a car
If you don’t own a car, you may still need an SR-22 or FR-44 filed on your behalf to get your driver’s license reinstated. Some insurers will file them for you if you buy non-owner car insurance.
This insurance will cover any damage you cause while driving a vehicle you don’t own, such as a car you’ve borrowed or rented.
Non-owner insurance can also help you avoid a lapse in coverage. Drivers with a gap in coverage can face higher premiums, because insurers view them as a risk. If you don’t have a break in coverage, you’ll qualify for better rates when your SR-22 requirement is over.
After your SR-22 ends
In most states, an SR-22 requirement lasts three years, even if your driver’s license has already been reinstated before then.
The SR-22 doesn’t automatically fall off your insurance policy.
When your requirement ends, the SR-22 doesn’t automatically fall off your insurance policy. Make sure to let your insurance company know you no longer need it.
This is also a good time to shop again for the cheapest insurance policy for you. Rates typically remain high for three to five years after you’ve caused an accident or had a moving violation. If you shop around just after the three- and five-year marks, you may find lower premiums.