SR-22 in California: what you need to know

If you are in trouble in California because you are not insured in a wreck or get a DUI, you may need to prove you have auto insurance with a form called SR-22.

An SR-22 is a certificate, known as the California Insurance Proof Certificate, that your insurer files with the California Department of Motor Vehicles. While some people call it “SR-22 InsuranceIt’s not an insurance policy – it’s your insurer’s guarantee that you have at least minimal coverage.

If you don’t get an SR-22 after a serious violation, you could lose your driving privileges. Here’s why you might need it, and how to find the cheapest insurance rates if you do.

Who needs an SR-22 in California?

California may require you to have an SR-22 to retain or restore your driving privileges after a serious violation. With an SR-22, your insurer informs the Department of Motor Vehicles that you have purchased at least the minimum required liability insurance in California by filing a certificate with the department.

If you are required to file an SR-22, you will receive a court or state order. If you need an SR-22 and don’t get one, your car registration and driver’s license could be suspended.

California will require an SR-22 if your license is suspended or restricted due to a serious violation, including:

  • Have three or more traffic violations.

  • Drive after drinking and being under 21 years old.

  • Have a wreck when you are uninsured.

  • Failing to report an accident resulting in property damage over $ 1,000, bodily injury, or death.

  • Don’t pay what a judge says you owe if you are sued after an accident.

In some cases, you might need an SR-22 after a wreck even if you weren’t behind the wheel. If authorities can’t determine who was driving the car, but you owned the car and didn’t have insurance, your driver’s license could be suspended. The same could happen if your uninsured car pulls away from its parking spot and causes an accident while no one is driving it.

You may also need an SR-22 if you must have an ignition lock, which will prevent your car from starting unless your breath is alcohol-free. You may have the option of obtaining a restricted license with a locking device installed in your car after a DUI conviction or lesser DUI-related “reckless wet” driving offense.

How to get an SR-22 in California

Filing an SR-22 is not something you do yourself. California requires insurers to electronically report insurance information to the DMV.

If you need an SR-22, have your insurer file one on your behalf – if they want it. Some insurance companies do not produce SR-22.

If your insurer does not provide this service, you will need to change it. After your violation, your current insurer may cancel your coverage or choose not to renew your policy. If you can’t get coverage elsewhere, you can turn to California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan, the state’s high-risk insurance pool.

How much does an SR-22 cost in California

Insurance companies typically charge around $ 25 to file an SR-22. Additionally, fines and fees to reinstate your driving privileges in California can run up to over $ 300.

You will also have to deal with higher auto insurance premiums because you have a new violation on your driving record, but shopping around can lessen the blow. To find how much rates are going up and which insurers are cheapest, NerdWallet analyzed California’s 2020 annual rates for a 40-year-old driver, before and after a DUI conviction, a violation that leads to an SR-22 requirement.

The average cost of auto insurance in California for a policy with minimum coverage and a recent DUI conviction is approximately $ 1,473 per year, or $ 123 per month. But our analysis found that some insurers offer cheaper coverage, so it pays to shop around and compare. auto insurance quote.

Our analysis of the cheapest insurers after a DUI found that:

  • California’s five cheapest insurers are increasing minimum annual coverage rates by an average of $ 227.

  • Grange Insurance Association returned the cheapest average minimum coverage rate after a DUI, to $ 723 per year or $ 60 per month.

  • National General, which aims to provide affordable insurance for drivers with a DUI on their records, recorded the smallest average rate increase out of the group, adding just over $ 38 to the average minimum rate for drivers with a DUI, at $ 725 per year or $ 60 a month.

To find a fair rate, you will need to compare auto insurance quotes from several companies. Since insurers use different factors to set rates, the cheapest insurer before an offense is likely not to be the cheapest after. In fact, our analysis revealed that if Geico had the cheapest average annual rate for a good driver with minimum coverage, after a DUI the rate increased by over 150%, pushing the company out of the top five cheapest companies for an SR-22 in California.

Once your SR-22 requirement is complete, it’s time to start shopping again. Auto insurance rates will really start to drop when your violation is three to five years old, so shop around for cheaper coverage after those birthdays. Nerdwallet auto insurance comparison tool can help.

SR-22 Insurance for Non-Owner in California

If you don’t own a car but still want to drive, you will need to purchase a auto insurance for non-owners policy from an insurer that offers the SR-22 deposit. A non-homeowner policy, sometimes referred to as an “operator” policy, will provide the minimum liability insurance required in California (or more, if you decide to purchase additional coverage) and meet your SR-22 requirement.

Most auto insurers don’t offer online quotes for non-owner policies, so you’ll need to hire an independent agent or call multiple companies to compare quotes. Be sure to let the agent or company know that you will need an SR-22 deposit on your policy, otherwise you could risk losing your driving privileges again if you purchase a policy without it.

How much insurance do you need in California

At a minimum, California requires drivers to have third party liability insurance, which pays if you cause wreckage and injure someone else or damage their property, up to the limits specified. California requires these limits:

  • Civil liability of $ 15,000 per person.

  • Civil liability of $ 30,000 per accident.

  • Civil liability of $ 5,000 per accident.

To get an SR-22 in California, you’ll need to purchase at least that much coverage, and you might want to consider more. Even if no one is injured, a wreck can easily cause over $ 5,000 in property damage – and if the accident is your fault, you will be responsible for the rest.

Frequently Asked Questions

In California, an SR-22 requirement typically lasts three years. Your driver’s license can be suspended or revoked for a few months to a few years, depending on the violation and your driving history, and your SR-22 requirement begins after that.

You may be able to get a restricted driver’s license during your suspension so you can drive to work, attend medical appointments, or take your child to school. For the restricted license, you will need to obtain an SR-22 and meet other requirements, such as paying the necessary fees and completing a driving program under the influence if you have 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.

Once you have met the requirements to suspend or revoke your license and the SR-22 form has been on file and active for three years, you should contact your insurer to have the SR-22 withdrawn. If you cancel your SR-22 policy too soon or switch to a new insurer who does not complete the form on your behalf, you could lose your driving privileges.

An SR-1P works the same way as an SR-22, except that it is used for vehicles with less than four wheels, such as a motorcycle, and is required after offenses such as getting caught without insurance after a accident or repeated traffic violations.

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