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.

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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).

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about Ellen

Ellen has spent many years as a professional wordsmith, helping to shed light on such topics as world travel, cargo pants, and the porosity of bath tiles. As a freelance copywriter for Esurance, she brings her boundless curiosity to the world of insurance. Outside work, she can be found cheering on the San Francisco Giants, hiking in the Oakland hills, and (barely) resisting smuggling penguins home from Antarctica.