Many people think SR-22 is a specific kind of car insurance, but the reality is that it isn't actual coverage at all. Instead, it's a certificate of financial responsibility, required by the state in which you live, and used to verify that you are maintaining an active auto insurance policy. If you are one of the people who is required to have an SR-22, you'll usually be notified by the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state, though sometimes the requirement is issued by a county courthouse.

Why is an SR-22 Required?

The specific reasons that you may be required to carry a CFR (certificate of financial responsibility) or SR-22 are slightly different in every state, but the most common reasons are:

  • Getting convicted for not having car insurance.
  • Failing to maintain the minimum amount of auto liability insurance required by your state.
  • Getting in a car accident while driving without insurance.
  • Serious moving violation convictions, including being convicted of reckless driving.
  • Convictions for DUI/DWI or other serious alcohol-related driving infractions.
  • Being labeled a "habitual traffic offender."
  • Having too many DMV points.
  • Having to apply for a probationary permit (aka "hardship" permit) because your driver's license has been suspended
  • Applying for driver's license reinstatement after the terms of your suspension or revocation have been met.

How Long Must SR-22s Be Carried?

In most cases, you must carry an SR-22 for at least three years, but depending on where you live and what your specific offense was, this can vary from as little as one year to as many as five. The start-date for when you must have an SR-22 in place may also vary, as some states count from the date of the offense, date of conviction, date of license suspension, or the date your driver's license is reinstated.

Whatever your proscribed term may be, it's important that you do not cancel your SR-22 before that term is over, or your state can implement new and more severe penalties. It's also important that you maintain you’re the car insurance associated with an SR-22, because if it's cancelled or removed, your insurance company is required by law to file a form informing the state of the cancelled policy (usually an SR-26). At that point, the state may revoke your driver's license or cancel your vehicle registration.

Does Every State Require SR-22s?

Almost every state in the country uses SR-22s for the situations mentioned above. The exceptions are Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania.

If you are required to carry an SR-22 in one state, and move to another, you must still fulfill the original term from your former state, which means that you'll have to make sure that your insurance company is authorized to do business and file SR-22s in both states. As well, the car insurance policy you buy in your new state must have the coverage amounts and minimum liability amounts that your previous state requires with your SR-22, even if the new state's mandatory minimums are lower. (If the minimums are higher in your new state, you'll have to increase your coverage to the higher levels.)

Among the states that do not use SR-22s, there are some specific conditions you should be aware of:

- If you move to Delaware, Kentucky, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, or Pennsylvania and have not yet fulfilled your SR-22 filing term from your original state, you must still complete the term, even though these states don't use SR-22s.

- New York and North Carolina do not require SR-22 filings, and most insurers don't offer out-of-state SR-22 filings for either of these states.

- While Florida and Virginia do use SR-22s, they also use FR-44s, which have higher liability requirements, for certain very serious alcohol-related convictions.

Will My Existing Insurance Company Know I'm Required to Carry an SR-22?

There is almost no way you can hide the SR-22 requirement from your existing insurance company, as the DMV will cross-reference vehicle registrations if the form isn't provided, and contact your insurer directly. This is true even if your existing insurance policy already has coverage and liability amounts that meet or exceed your state's SR-22-required limits.

If your current insurance provider doesn't file SR-22s, you will need to cancel your existing policy, and purchase a new one at an auto insurance company who will comply with the SR-22 filing requirements.

Will an SR-22 Make My Insurance Cost More?

Technically, it isn't the SR-22 that will cause your car insurance rates to increase, as the form is just a certification that you have the legally mandated insurance coverage on your car. Instead, the conviction which resulted in the SR-22 (usually a DUI, driving while uninsured, or reckless driving) that will cause an increase in your premiums. If any of these offenses appear on your driving record, your insurance will go up even if you don't have to carry an SR-22.

Where Can I Get SR-22 Coverage, and How Much Does it Cost?

SR-22 filings are not coverage themselves, merely proof that you have coverage. As such, every car insurance company can sell coverage to people with SR-22s and most major insurers actually do. We recommend doing some serious comparison shopping before committing to new insurance, as every insurance provider treats DUIs or reckless driving convictions somewhat differently.

As to the cost - a formal quote based on your actual driving record is the only way to find out the estimated premiums you'll have to pay. If your existing insurance didn't meet legal minimum coverage amounts, you can expect to pay more. Likewise, anyone with convictions or moving violations on their record will pay more for coverage than drivers with pristine driving histories. In some states, poor credit scores may also cause your insurance rates to be higher than average.

Whether you stick with your existing insurance company or purchase your SR-22 coverage from a new provider, you can expect to pay anywhere from $15 - $75 (the average is about $25) for them to file the SR-22 form (usually electronically) with your state's Department of Motor Vehicles on your behalf.

For more information, you should ask your insurance agent/sales representative, or contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your state.

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