SR-22 Explained: What Is It and When Do You Need One?

What is an SR-22, anyway? Who needs them, how do you get one, and how long do you have to carry it? In Part Two of our FAQ series, we answer all these questions and more.

At Esurance, we do our best to keep paperwork to a minimum — but a certain amount of documentation comes with the territory. One document that raises a lot of questions and causes a lot of confusion is the SR-22. If you have a good driving record and don’t let your insurance coverage lapse, you may never need one. But if you are required to get one, it’s important to know the right way to proceed.

Here, we answer your most pressing SR-22 questions, with the help of Nicole D., one of our super-knowledgeable insurance experts.

(Please note: These are general guidelines. Since regulations vary widely across the country, you should always confirm your local requirements with your state.)

SR-22s: what you need to know

What’s an SR-22?

An SR-22 is often required for a driver to reinstate or maintain their driving privileges after certain traffic-related offenses. It’s also sometimes known as an SR22 or a Certificate of Financial Responsibility.

Is it a type of car insurance?

No. It’s a document that the insurance company sends to the state (electronically or on paper) to confirm that the driver has an active policy that meets state liability requirements.

How do I know if I need an SR-22?

An SR-22 is required when someone who was involved in an accident or convicted of a traffic offense is unable to show financial responsibility (in other words, they can’t prove that they’d be able to pay for damages they may cause while driving).

You might need an SR-22 if you’ve had any of the following:

  • A DUI or DWI or any serious moving violation
  • An instance of being caught driving without insurance and/or without a license
  • An at-fault accident while driving without insurance
  • Repeat traffic offenses or too many tickets in a short time period
  • A revoked or suspended license

If the SR-22 is court-ordered, you’ll be notified at the time of your ruling that you need one. If it’s state-ordered, you’ll receive a notice of the requirement from your state DMV. If you’ve been informed that you need an SR-22, contact your insurance company so they can file it with your state.

Are SR-22s expensive?

The SR-22 itself is not typically very expensive. Though it varies by state, most insurance companies charge a processing fee of around $15 to $25. Some insurance companies won’t insure drivers who need an SR-22, or may add surcharges to the policy because of the SR-22 requirement, but that’s not generally the case. Since SR-22 availability and fees can vary by company, this might be a good time to shop around and get some comparison quotes.

Will an SR-22 cause my insurance rates to go up?

Depending on the violation, you might see an increase to your premium. But it would likely be due to the violation rather than the SR-22 itself.

How long do I need to carry an SR-22?

In states that require SR-22s, you usually have to maintain continuous insurance coverage with an SR-22 for 3 years (though it can range between 2 and 5 years depending on the state and the reason for the SR-22).

Wouldn’t it be easier to skip the insurance and just not drive for 3 years?

You could choose not to drive for 3 years, but that won’t necessarily waive the requirement. When you go back to the DMV after that 3-year hiatus, you may find that you’re still expected to obtain a policy with an SR-22 for another 3 years in order to reinstate your license.

The requirements can vary by state depending on the violation, so your best bet is to check with your DMV to confirm exactly what they need.

I want to get my license back as soon as the state allows. When should I contact my insurance company to get my SR-22 going?

This may depend on how your insurance company files SR-22s with the state. If they’re set up for electronic filing, the SR-22 can potentially be sent to the state the same day you make the request.

If the SR-22 is filed manually through the mail, however, we suggest allowing 10 to 14 days for it to be delivered to the state and processed by the appropriate department. You might get your copy before the state has finished processing the original. If so, you may want to take your copy to your DMV office to see if it’ll be proof enough to speed up your license reinstatement. But it’s up to the DMV to decide if they’ll accept your copy as proof of SR-22 or whether they’d want to wait for internal confirmation that the original SR-22 has been received.

Does having my license reinstated mean I don’t have to carry an SR-22 anymore?

Not necessarily. In most cases, you’re required to carry the SR-22 for the entire time period mandated by your state. It may be that the end of the license suspension also marks the end of the SR-22 requirement, but it’s also possible that the suspension will be reapplied if you don’t keep the SR-22 for the entire mandated period. We suggest checking with your DMV to confirm.

Have more questions about SR-22s?

Post your comment below and we’ll do our best to get you an answer. And if you’re an Esurance customer, you can call our customer service experts anytime at 1-800-ESURANCE (1-800-378-7262).

Not an Esurance customer (yet)? Get a car insurance* quote online now.

Related posts

The top 6 things you should know about SR-22s.
Out-of-state car-insurance: everything you need to know
Excluded drivers: our expert answers your questions

* Not available in all states.

298 Responses to “SR-22 Explained: What Is It and When Do You Need One?”

  1. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Darcie Harris
    May 29, 2016 #

    My mother-in-law is required to have a sr-22 and her vehicle broke down ,she is driving mine til she gets hers fixed. But I have found out she let her insurance policy drop and is borrowing my car and she is not on my policy if she has a accident will it be covered since she let her policy drop? I live in va and have full coverage on my vehicle and she does have a valid license.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Hi Darcie,

      When an unlisted driver is involved in a claim, it can cause complications. Your best option may be to add her to your policy to ensure there aren't any issues if you need to file a claim.

      Thank you for reading.

  2. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    kayana simmons
    May 31, 2016 #

    I have a friend that has an SR22 and I have been trying to tell her that she still has to carry full coverage insurance on her vehicle because it's being financed and that's what got her in this mess anyway NO INSURANCE!! How can I make her understand that if she gets a random from the Secretary of State or pulled over by the police that she will be in trouble again!?!?!?

  3. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    June 10, 2016 #

    There was an issue with my card and my sr22 lasped for 6 days. I never received a letter from my insurance company and finally noticed it today while checking my email. I took care of it and got it back but what do i do now? I resigned back up for auto pay. But do i just wait now?

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Thanks for reaching out to us, Kristi. You would want to speak to the DMV and your agent directly to get policy specifics on the situation.

      Thank you for reading.

  4. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    June 15, 2016 #

    I got into an accident Sept 2013 and I decided not to drive for 4 months. It has now been almost 3 years. I would like to drive this month. I live in California. Do I still need to get an SR-22?

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Hi Steph,

      We would suggest speaking directly to the California DMV directly as they’ll have specifics on your situation.

      Thanks for reading.

  5. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    June 16, 2016 #

    If I received a refusal in RI but live out of state how do I know if I need to file an SR-22. I've read what the court has wanted me to do but no where does it say that I need an SR-22. The state I live in I believe doesn't recognize this form.

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Hi Em,

      Your first best option would be to speak with the DMV of RI and explain the situation to see if they have any alternative options. Otherwise, you may be able to purchase a non-owners SR22 policy from a local agent in RI to resolve the situation.

      Thanks for reading!

  6. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Dolly Lindsey Gilbert
    June 17, 2016 #

    My brother, John D.B.Lindsey, got his license on June 6 , 2016 , following a court ordered restoration , offence , 3rd DUI ! He died on June 8th from terminal cancer . Supposedly , he received a letter from DMV requesting his license back, tags , & SR22 insurance ! His vehicle was insured by Geico ! What's the procedure , now , that he's deceased . I had hoped to keep his license , we worked hard to get this accomplished before his death & the last picture of him ! Please advise ASAP ! Thank you !

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Hi Dolly,

      Please accept our sincere condolences on the loss of your family member, Dolly. We know that must be a hard situation for all involved. Your best option to resolve the concerns you have is to notify the DMV and the insurance company of his passing. They should have procedures in place for these types of situations.

      Thank you for reading.

  7. Avatar for Ellen Hall
    Maria Rodriguez
    June 25, 2016 #

    Hello Rachael Heller my name is Maria and I have a question does the of California requires one with an sr-22 to take the written and driving test again to reinstate your drivers license? I was pulled over for not yielding, not driving the speed limit, etc.. and my license got suspended but I would still drive and would get pulled over for driving stupid.. that's my question. Thank you for reading my life..

    • Avatar for Ellen Hall
      Sara Border
      July 1, 2016 #

      Thank you for reaching out, Maria.

      Your best option would be to speak with your local DMV to answer this question as every state has different rules for suspended licenses.

      Thanks for reading.

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