You might think that with tax time in full swing, an SR-22 form is another one of those obscure deduction forms you need to keep on hand in case of an audit. Perhaps an SR-22 form is a signed affidavit allowing a piece of evidence into a jury trial? We probably could go on all day with this guessing game. But the fact of the matter is that an SR-22 form is something people carry to prove they are financially responsible and currently have the necessary auto insurance to operate a vehicle.
An auto insurance provider fills out your SR-22 form. Then they give it to the state and to you to prove that you have the proper insurance.
You might be thinking, "Wait a minute. I have car insurance, but I don't have this form. Am I doing something wrong?"
Probably not. Not every insured motorist needs to have a copy of the SR-22 form. You'd most likely need to carry one if one of these three situations applies to you:
- You've been in an accident and couldn't prove financial responsibility via insurance or self-insurance.
- You've been convicted at court for a traffic violation and couldn't show you have the right insurance.
- A judge orders an SR-22 for some other reason.
Often reason number three applies if you've had your license suspended or revoked in the past, been convicted of multiple traffic offenses, or been convicted of a DUI or DWI.
Essentially, this step is an additional way for the state to ensure that you do, in fact, have the appropriate car insurance when you drive. If you’ve been ordered to carry an SR-22, you need to have it with you when you drive—just like your proof of insurance. Otherwise, you probably don’t need to worry about this form.
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Requirements Vary By State
Car insurance is regulated at the state level. This means that SR-22 requirements vary from state to state. But if you do need an SR-22, you'll receive notification from your state's Department of Motor Vehicles/Bureau of Motor Vehicles via mail. You'll generally have to maintain the SR-22 for three years, though you may need to maintain it for longer than that.
The key to the SR-22 is that if your insurance policy lapses, your insurance provider will immediately let the state know. They’ll then suspend your license until you’ve reinstated your car insurance.
This means that you could face more serious and immediate consequences than the typical driver who has allowed car insurance to lapse.
If you receive a notice that you need to maintain an SR-22, be sure you’re clear on all the requirements. Know how long you need to maintain the form, and understand what you’re responsible for while you have it.
How to Get an SR-22
You’ll have to contact your insurance provider to get an SR-22. Insurers charge a fee—typically between $15 and $35—to file the form. Your insurer will then send a copy of the SR-22 to the appropriate state department, and they’ll send a copy to you. With the SR-22 on file, your insurer will automatically let the state know if your insurance policy lapses.
Keep in mind that if you move to a new state, you'll need to refile the SR-22 with your new state. You may also need to change your insurance policy at that time to meet your new state's insurance liability minimums.
You'll Need Insurance First
Filing the actual SR-22 form doesn't cost much. But the form filing isn't the expensive part. The expensive part is the insurance you'll need to pay for if you're required to file an SR-22. When you file this form, you have to maintain continuous car insurance coverage for the minimum time required. And that can be pricey if you've had the types of violations or accidents that got you into this situation in the first place.
If you don't already have insurance, you'll need to buy it when you file the SR-22. Depending on your driving history, this type of insurance can be quite expensive. But that's the price you'll pay for being able to get back on the road again legally.
If you want to save money on this insurance, try these tips:
- Opt for the minimum. You’ll obviously have to meet your state’s minimum liability requirements to even get an SR-22. But choosing the minimum will keep your costs as low as possible.
- Drive a paid-off car. If you owe money on your car, you’ll have to carry comprehensive car insurance coverage. This will pay off the lender if you total your vehicle. And it’s really expensive if you have a bad driving history. So it may be worth downgrading to a car you can pay cash for if you need to file an SR-22.
- Shop around. Different insurance providers weigh your driving history in different ways. While a bad driving history will always make your insurance more expensive, the difference will be less with some insurers. So be sure to get a few quotes before you purchase insurance.
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Legitimate car insurance companies will be able to file an SR-22 for you. But before you file, shop around to get the best possible rate. And be sure to mention the SR-22 during the quoting process, as this form—outside of your actual driving history—will likely make your car insurance rate increase.
What If I Don't Have a Car?
Even if you don't have a car, you may want to file an SR-22 form. Having a driver's license and the ability to drive occasionally can be important. And maintaining the SR-22 can help you get your license back in good time.
So if you want to get a NonOwners SR-22 policy, you can purchase a liability-only car insurance policy. This type of policy may be cheaper since you’re only driving occasionally. But to get this type of policy, you can’t own a car or have a vehicle in the household that you regularly drive. This type of policy will still be expensive. After all, you’re a risky driver at the moment. But it may be slightly cheaper than a standard liability policy with an SR-22 filing since your annual mileage can be lower.
The bottom line is that if you need an SR-22, your insurance will cost more. But you’ll have to bite the bullet, file the paperwork, and maintain your insurance coverage for the required amount of time. Do that while driving safely, and hopefully, you can see your insurance rates fall in a few years.
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