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Sometimes accidents happen.
If you’ve gotten one too many driving tickets — or even a DUI — you’ll have to get paperwork filled out to keep or reclaim your driver’s license.
An SR-22 form from your auto insurance company will prove to your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV) or transportation agency that you have enough car insurance to drive safely.
Here’s what you need to know.
What Is an SR-22?
Contrary to popular belief, an SR-22 is not a type of insurance. It’s actually a form that you’ll be required to fill out for drivers who are considered high risk. An SR-22 is proof you have purchased the minimum liability insurance required by your state. It’s filed on your behalf by your insurance company and sent to your state DMV.
All states require a minimum amount of liability insurance, which covers injuries and property damage from any accidents you might cause. Also called a certificate of financial responsibility, an SR-22 assures the DMV that the driver has enough insurance. “People who are required to have this proof are drivers who have some conviction or infraction with their state,” says Teresa Scharn, vice president of personal lines product development at Nationwide. “They may have a DUI, they may have been convicted of reckless driving, [or] they may have been convicted of driving without insurance.”
Reinstating or keeping your driver’s license is contingent on filing an SR-22.
Who Needs an SR-22?
If you need an SR-22 form, your state DMV will tell you. Generally, you’ll need an SR-22 form in the following circumstances:
- You’ve been convicted for driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI)
- You were in an accident you caused, while driving without insurance
- You drove while your license was suspended or revoked
- You’ve gotten too many driving tickets in a short period of time
- You didn’t pay court-ordered child support
Keep in mind that not all states require an SR-22, and some require an FR-22 (a similar form requiring you to carry more liability coverage than the state minimum) for certain offenses.
Even if you no longer have a car, your state may require you to file an SR-22 and have an auto insurance policy. Some insurance companies offer non-owner insurance policies to those who require an SR-22.
How to Get an SR-22
Most major insurance companies are able to provide an SR-22 form to your state’s DMV office. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll give it to you. Offenses that would require you to file an SR-22 are “part of their rating factors, but some may be more hesitant because they don’t want to give you too high of a rate, or you may represent a higher risk than rating policies like,” says Rick Chen, spokesperson for Metromile, a car insurance company. If major insurers do not approve your application, you may need a high-risk insurance company that specializes in insuring drivers who have serious offenses on their record.
Anyone who needs an SR-22 form will be notified by their state DMV. When applying for car insurance, the form will typically ask if you require an SR-22 or a certificate of financial responsibility. There’s no penalty to needing an SR-22; your rate may be higher or your chance of approval may be lower — but that’s because of the driving offense and not because you need the form. “If you check yes [for an SR-22], that helps the insurer,” Chen says.
The certificate typically states your name, your vehicle information, your state’s minimum liability requirements, and your insurer. Because it’s passed from the insurance company to the DMV, it’s not a physical certificate you receive.
The DMV will likely require an SR-22 for three years, and you will have to renew it each year until the requirement is lifted. Make sure you have insurance the entire time an SR-22 is needed. If a person doesn’t renew the SR-22, “then the insurance company is required to tell the state they have failed to meet the SR-22 filing requirement, meaning they’re driving without insurance,” says Scharn. Your license would then be suspended.
How Much Does an SR-22 Cost?
The cost of an SR-22 will differ by state, but you’d typically be charged $25 by your state DMV. Keep in mind, though, that you’ll likely have to pay higher insurance premiums because you have a major offense on your record.
What to Do When Your SR-22 Ends
So you’ve been driving safely and paying your insurance premiums on time for three years (or whatever the SR-22 period is for your state). “When you fulfill the time requirement, your SR-22 status is lifted,” Chen says. From here, you can let your auto insurer know the SR-22 form isn’t required, because otherwise they’ll continue sending it to the DMV.
“After three years, usually some of those convictions fall off your driving history, and your rates tend to go down if you haven’t had any more accidents or violations,” says Scharn. At this point, you may want to start shopping around for a cheaper insurance policy. Many insurance companies will cut you a better deal after you’ve demonstrated a good driving history three to five years after the offense.