If you’ve gotten in trouble behind the wheel in California, you could be ordered by the court to file for an SR-22.
While commonly referred to as SR-22 insurance, an SR-22 isn’t insurance at all. It’s a document your insurance company files with the state to prove you’re covered by the minimum car insurance required to legally drive.
Here’s a look at how you can get and maintain an SR-22 in the Golden State.
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Do I need SR-22 insurance in California?
Your state DMV will let you know if you need to file an SR-22. In California, you may need to file for an SR-22 if:
- The state restricts or revokes your license.
- You’re convicted of a DUI or DWI.
- You’ve racked up a lot of points or unpaid tickets on your driving record.
- You’re responsible for an accident and fail to pay for damages.
- You don’t pay your court-mandated child support.
What if I don’t have a car or license?
You’ll still need to file for an SR-22 to legally get behind the wheel in California. If you lose your license because you’re caught driving without insurance, the court could order you to carry non-owner insurance to reinstate your license.
California can require one of three types of SR-22 forms:
- Operator’s Policy Certificate. For drivers that don’t own a vehicle.
- Owner’s Policy Certificate. For drivers who intend to drive their own cars.
- Broad Policy Certificate. Coverage for all cars you might drive, whether you own them or not.
What if I’m from another state?
If you have an SR-22 from another state, you must maintain it while driving in California. Your SR-22 is likely sufficient in California, but it’s best to verify coverage with the DMV and your insurer.
How much does an SR-22 cost in California?
Once you’ve purchased or renewed a policy, most providers will file an SR-22 for a fee of $20 to $50. But it’s not the fee that’s most expensive when you’re required to file for an SR-22 — you’ll also typically see higher premiums than you’re used to.
SR-22s are often required after a driving conviction, such as driving without insurance or a DUI. After such a conviction, you’re considered a “high-risk” driver by the state and most providers.
Talk to your provider about how much you can expect your rates to increase. And make sure you understand your role in maintaining your insurance and your SR-22. A lapse or nonrenewal could set you back a lot of money and time.
You might also need to pay up front for your policy. Providers might expect you to pay the annual premium up front to protect them from future risks of nonpayment.
How do I file an SR-22 in California?
If you’re unable to drive because the state’s suspended or revoked your license, a California court could order you to file for an SR-22 through the DMV.
If you’re already insured, call your provider to make sure that your policy includes at least:
- $15,000 for injury or death to one person.
- $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person.
- $5,000 for damage to property.
You could see this coverage listed as 15/30/5 in insurance documents.
If you don’t currently carry an insurance policy, find an insurance company that’s licensed in California and willing to file an SR-22 on your behalf.
You won’t be able to legally drive in the state until your SR-22 is filed and processed.
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How long will I need an SR-22?
In California, most court-ordered SR-22s result in a coverage requirement of up to three years. However, more serious convictions can result in carrying SR-22 insurance for up to 10 years.
What happens if I let my SR-22 lapse?
If you don’t buy or renew your car insurance, your provider will file an SR-26 with the California DMV, resulting in the suspension of your license until you file for an SR-22. If you want to cancel your policy and find a new provider, you have 45 days to submit proof of coverage to the DMV.
If you allow your coverage to lapse, you’ll reset the clock on your SR-22 coverage. Say you’re required to file for an SR-22 for three years and you forget to renew your policy after two years. In this case, you effectively reset the clock back to a three-year requirement. Don’t allow negligence to negate the money and time you’ve put into your responsibility.
What happens when I don’t need SR-22 coverage anymore?
Once you no longer need an SR-22, or if the SR-22 period expires, your auto insurance company files a SR-26 form to end the coverage. Your insurer can do this automatically with an electronic form to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA).
The impact of an SR-22 on future car insurance rates
After driving without insurance or a DUI and getting an SR-22 , you’re considered a high-risk driver by the state and most providers. Once labeled high-risk, you’ll likely pay more than low risk drivers until you can prove you’re a safer driver.
You may be required to take out one of three types of SR-22 insurance in California if you’ve faced a DUI or other serious driving convictions. Making insurance payments on time and meeting filing deadlines can help you avoid resetting the clock on your mandate.
Though you may still be considered a high-risk driver for some time after the SR-22 mandate ends, it’s possible to find insurance. Be sure to compare providers to find the one that best suits you.