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SR-22 in California

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An SR-22 is a type of form filed with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to show that a driver has an auto insurance policy in force. SR-22s are typically required after a person’s driver’s license is suspended due to a major violation like a DUI or reckless driving conviction. Auto insurance companies file these forms with the DMV on behalf of policyholders to show that proper insurance is being maintained.

If you have recently been told you need an SR-22 filing, Bankrate can help you understand what you need to do, exactly what an SR-22 form means and how much you can expect your premium to increase. Having this knowledge could help you navigate your situation and be better prepared for the ins and outs of your SR-22 requirement.

SR-22 insurance in California

Before we start, let’s clear up exactly what an SR-22 form is. An SR-22 is not insurance; it’s a “Certificate of Financial Responsibility” that confirms you’re carrying at least the minimum amount of insurance in the state. In California, you must carry at least $15,000 bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident and $5,000 property damage liability coverage to drive legally. Insurance companies must also offer you uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage, but you can decline in writing if you don’t want these coverage types.

If your driving privileges were revoked after a major violation, you’d need to prove that you have insurance to reinstate your license. An SR-22 requirement means that your insurance company will need to file the SR-22 form with the DMV as proof of your coverage. Each policy renewal, the DMV will be updated that you still have coverage. If your policy lapses or is canceled, the DMV will be notified, and you could lose your driving privileges again. You usually have to keep an SR-22 form on file for three to five years after your major violation, but the court system determines the exact length of time.

Cost of SR-22 insurance in California

If you have a major violation on your driving record, you can expect your premium to increase substantially. The average cost of car insurance in California is $2,065 per year for full coverage, which is already higher than the national average of $1,674 per year. But the average annual California car insurance premium with a DUI is $4,988 for full coverage, a 142% increase. And that’s just your auto insurance policy premium. Most insurance companies charge a fee for filing the SR-22 form as well. If you are facing a license suspension, it could mean you’ll be viewed as a high-risk driver. Getting an auto insurance policy and an SR-22 form is likely the only way to reinstate your license.

Car insurance is more expensive for high-risk drivers in California due to the likelihood of accidents. Car insurance companies evaluate how risky insuring you would be before they approve you for coverage. They’re looking for clues that you could cause accidents that would require a claim payout. Generally, the higher risk you’re considered, the more you’ll pay for car insurance. Having multiple tickets, accidents or one or more major violations on your record may mean you are viewed as a high-risk driver.

Not all car insurance companies issue SR-22s, so you may need to shop around a bit to find coverage. Once you do, you’ll likely pay a higher premium than before your driving violations. However, you can work your way back to more affordable car insurance rates by driving responsibly to reduce the chances of speeding tickets and other traffic violations. In addition, pay your premiums on time and avoid lapses in your coverage. After three to five years of a clean driving record, you may qualify for standard coverage again and could see your premiums go down.

Non-owner SR-22 insurance for California drivers

What happens if you need an SR-22 and don’t own a car? Maybe your license was suspended because of something that happened while driving a friend or family member’s vehicle. If this happens to you, you may be able to get non-owner SR-22 insurance to reinstate your license.

First, you’ll need to buy non-owner car insurance. This type of policy provides liability coverage for you when you don’t own a car. Then, the insurance company can issue the SR-22 form to the DMV. Not all insurance companies sell non-owner car insurance, though, and not all companies file SR-22 forms, so you’ll need to shop around to find a company that will underwrite you.

Frequently asked questions

How long do I need SR-22 for in California?

You’ll need an SR-22 for three to five years. This lets the DMV know that you are maintaining at least the state’s minimum required levels of coverage.

What happens if I cancel my SR-22 insurance?

When your insurance company issues you an SR-22, they’re letting the DMV know that you are currently insured with at least the state’s minimum requirements. If you stop making your car insurance payments or cancel your policy, the carrier will notify the DMV. You could risk having your driver’s license suspended or revoked.

How much does an SR-22 form cost?

High-risk auto insurance is more expensive, on average, than standard or preferred coverage. That’s because of the factors that led to the DMV requiring an SR-22 in the first place, such as an accident, DUI or numerous traffic violations. For example, the average cost for full coverage car insurance in California after a DUI is $4,988 per year. On top of that, most insurance companies charge a fee for filing the SR-22. That fee will vary by provider.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverage that meets each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.

Incidents: Rates were calculated by evaluating our base profile with the following incidents applied: clean record (base), at-fault accident, single speeding ticket, single DUI conviction and lapse in coverage.

Written by
Cate Deventer
Insurance Writer & Editor
Cate Deventer is a writer, editor and insurance professional with over a decade of experience in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent.
Edited by
Insurance Editor