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SR-22 insurance: a guide

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/20/2015

You may never hear the term SR-22 until you tangle with the legal system.

That has led to a lot of confusion about SR-22 requirements and your insurance options. Drivers eager to get back on the road need to understand exactly what an SR-22 certificate is and how it affects their car insurance choices.

What is an SR-22?

An SR-22 certification is a form that is filed with the state, not a type of insurance.

An SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility verifies that the named individual is carrying at least the state-mandated amount of car insurance. The insurance company is guaranteeing to the state that you’re maintaining coverage and are financially responsible for any accidents, and it will let the state know if you do not.

Where do you get an SR-22?

The only way to obtain an SR-22 form is from a car insurance company after you purchase a car insurance policy.  You cannot obtain an SR-22 any other way.

If you have an existing auto policy, you may be able to have the SR-22 added on and filed with the state.  If your insurance company doesn’t file the form, or you’re uninsured, you’ll have to shop for a new policy. (See "How to buy SR-22 insurance.")

 If you don’t own a car, you can still buy a non-owner car insurance policy and have your SR-22 filed with the state.

Why is an SR-22 required?

Many associate the need for an SR-22 with drivers who have a DUI on their record. (See “DUI and car insurance.”)  In reality, the SR-22 can be required for a variety of reasons , depending on where you live.

Common circumstances that result in an SR-22 requirement include the following:

  • DUI or DWI or other major alcohol violation conviction
  • Serious moving violation conviction, such as reckless or negligent driving
  • Several traffic offenses in a short time period
  • Driving without insurance conviction
  • Being involved in an accident while driving without insurance
  • Being caught by the state not carrying car insurance on your registered vehicle
  • A requirement for you to obtain a hardship or probationary license
  • A requirement to reinstate your driver’s license after a suspension or revocation

Meeting the SR-22 requirement can help you get your license and/or registration reinstated and thus get you back on the road.  You’ll know it’s required when you’re informed by the court or state.  The notification should inform you why an SR-22 is required, the insurance requirements and how long the SR-22 form must stay on file with the state.

A form called the FR-44 is similar to the SR-22 but requires drivers to carry much higher liability limits.  It is currently only required in Florida and Virginia for drivers who have been convicted of certain alcohol-related violations. 

How much does an SR-22 cost?

Car insurance companies can charge a one-time filing fee, generally it is $25, and that is all the SR-22 will cost you. 

However, the violation that resulted in an SR-22 requirement will affect your auto insurance premium.  In short, it’s your infraction -- not the SR-22 -- that will hike up your rates.

If the violation is serious, which most on the SR-22 list are, you can expect your car insurance rates to go up drastically.  That doesn’t mean you can’t shop around – in fact, the rates for drivers like you can vary by thousands of dollars – but you will need to compare car insurance quotes from companies that offer SR-22 filings. (For examples, see "The cost of SR-22 insurance.")

With either an SR-22 or FR-44, the car insurance company will make sure you buy the appropriate amount of coverage to comply with your mandated insurance requirements.  If these are higher than the limits you usually carry, then expect to pay more.

Also, be aware that your state, or insurer, may require you to pay in full when your car insurance policy includes an SR-22 or FR-44 filing. 

How long is an SR-22 required?

SR-22 insurance requirementsThe good news in all of this is that the SR-22 requirement doesn’t last forever, just one to five years.

The length varies by state, and in some states according to the offense.  Commonly the SR-22 is required for three years.  When the clock starts on your time period also varies by state; it may begin with the offense date, conviction date, suspension date or the date when you reinstated your license.

Make certain you know how long the SR-22 is required because if you cancel your car insurance policy before that time is up, the insurer will inform the state and you’ll be punished.  Your license and/or registration may be suspended or revoked and the clock could start again on how long the SR-22 must be maintained.

Another bit of good news is the offense that resulted in the SR-22 being required, and that raised your rates, won’t haunt you forever.  When the violation falls off your driving record, your car insurance rates will go down as well.

What if you move or are required to carry the SR-22 in another state?

Not every state uses an SR-22 certificate of financial responsibility.  The SR-22 filing is not used in:

  • Delaware
  • Kentucky
  • Minnesota
  • New Mexico
  • New York
  • North Carolina
  • Oklahoma
  • Pennsylvania

Of the states that do not use an SR-22, each has its own version of the form and insurance requirements.

If you have an SR-22 in one state and move to another state, normally you’ll still be required to meet the requirements of the SR-22 state where the offense was committed.  That means you’ll need to look for an out-of-state SR-22 filing from a nationwide auto insurance carrier. 

If you live in a state that doesn’t use SR-22 filings but are mandated to carry an SR-22 in another state, normally you’ll be unable to obtain an SR-22.  In this situation, you’d need to work with the requesting state to get permission to provide, in lieu of an SR-22, certified documentation showing that your car insurance policy meets or exceeds the limits you’re being required to carry.

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