SR-22 Insurance in California: What is It? How Much Does it Cost?

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California drivers that are convicted of certain violations, such as a DUI or reckless driving, may be required to purchase SR-22 insurance in order to get their driving privileges reinstated. With this policy, an SR-22 form is submitted to the DMV by your insurer to confirm that your auto insurance meets California's minimum liability requirements. If you don't own a car, but intend to continue driving, you would have to purchase a nonowners SR-22 policy, which just provides liability insurance coverage. The cost of SR-22 insurance is more expensive on average, even though the filing cost is quite cheap—instead, rates are higher due to whatever infraction caused you to need an SR-22 form.

SR-22 Car Insurance in California

In California, purchasing SR-22 insurance simply refers to buying a car insurance policy that meets the state's liability insurance requirements and having your insurer file an SR-22 form with the DMV on your behalf. An SR-22 form is often required if you've been determined to be a high-risk driver, such as after a DUI conviction or multiple moving violations, and your license has been suspended. SR-22 insurance demonstrates proof of financial responsibility, as the insurer files it directly with the DMV, and it discloses that your car insurance liability limits include at least:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person injured in an accident
  • $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident
  • $5,000 of property damage coverage per accident

To get your driving privileges reinstated, or to obtain a restricted license in certain cases, you'll need to buy SR-22 insurance and pay any necessary fines. Once the California DMV has received your SR-22 form from the insurer, you'll receive a copy and confirmation, which you should keep in your vehicle in case you're pulled over. Note that the SR-22 insurance policy needs to list all cars you own or regularly drive.

The length of time you'll need to maintain SR-22 insurance in California will depend on your conviction, and it should state how long you're expected to maintain the filing. Most violations only require the form to be filed for three years, but you may need an SR-22 form for up to 10 years for more serious infractions, such as reckless driving. And you should maintain consistent coverage for the entire period of time. Any lapses in your SR-22 car insurance will cause your driving privileges to be suspended again, as your insurer would file an SR-26 form with the DMV notifying them of the lapse.

Similarly, if you move out of California during the period that the state requires you to maintain an SR-22 form, the requirement will not go away. Instead, you'll need to locate an insurer that does business in both states and is willing to file the form on your behalf. In addition, even if the state you've moved to has lower liability insurance requirements, such as Florida, you will need to purchase auto insurance that meets California's minimum limits.

Car Insurance After a DUI in California

SR-22 insurance is often referred to as DUI insurance, as you'll likely be required to file an SR-22 in order to reinstate your driving privileges if convicted of a DUI in California. Though you don't need to notify your insurer of a DUI charge, and it likely won't impact your auto insurance, a DUI conviction will. Your insurer will either learn of the conviction when you ask them to file an SR-22 or when you try to renew your policy, as DUIs stay on your DMV record for 10 years, and insurers check this before reissuing coverage.

During the 10 years following a DUI, you won't be eligible for a good driver discount in California. After this period has expired, the DUI will be removed from your driving record and you will be eligible for the discount again. You may be able to get the conviction removed from your record earlier, but so long as you stay with the same insurer, the company will know about the DUI and continue to use it when determining your SR-22 insurance rates. However, so long as there are no further incidents on your driving record, the DUI will have a decreasing impact on your car insurance premiums over the course of five to 10 years.

Difference Between the SR1P and SR-22 in California

If you drive a vehicle with fewer than four wheels, such as a motorcycle or moped, you may need to file an SR1P form in California, instead of an SR-22 and proof of liability insurance. SR1Ps are usually required if you've had your license suspended after driving without insurance or after being convicted of risky driving behavior.

Non-Owner SR-22 Insurance in California

If you're convicted of a DUI or other violation and have your license suspended, you will need to maintain liability insurance and file an SR-22 form for the stated amount of time in order to reinstate your driving privileges. Even if you don't own a vehicle, this requirement is in place—the only other option is to give up your right to drive and, even then, you'll need to file an SR-22 in California if you want to begin driving later.

In California, there are three forms of financial responsibility: an owner's policy certificate, a broad coverage policy certificate and an operator's policy certificate, also called a nonowners SR-22 policy. For those that don't own a car, nonowners SR-22 insurance is a policy that provides the state required liability insurance but is tied to you as the driver, no matter which vehicle you use. A nonowners SR-22 policy typically isn't available if there's a car you consistently drive but don't own, such as a parent's or roommate's vehicle. But it provides coverage if you occasionally drive other people's cars with their permission.

One of the benefits of non-owners SR-22 insurance is that quotes are typically cheaper than for an owners policy, since you'll only receive liability coverage and the insurer assumes you drive less frequently. Since your insurance rates will already be higher after the moving or traffic violation that caused you to need the California SR-22, nonowners insurance is a simple way to reduce your costs but maintain your license if you don't regularly drive.

How to Get Cheap SR-22 Insurance in California

The cost of SR-22 insurance in California will usually be higher than what you previously paid for auto insurance, but this is primarily due to whatever violation caused you to need an SR-22 filing. For example, the average cost of auto insurance is California is $1,962, and rates typically increase by about 43% after a DUI, meaning the average driver would pay an additional $844 per year.

Though California law prohibits car insurance companies from canceling your policy or increasing your rates during a policy term, your insurer will be able to do so when you renew. And, even if your insurer only increases your base insurance cost a small amount, California's laws also prohibit insurance companies from providing a good driver discount to anyone with a DUI conviction for 10 years following the violation. So, if you were previously receiving a 20% good driver discount, your rates would automatically increase by 25% following a DUI, without taking into consideration any additional rate increases. In addition, the cost of getting your license reinstated is about $125 in California, and most insurers charge a one-time SR-22 form filing fee of $25 to $50.

Whether your current insurer will file an SR-22 on your behalf or not, one of the simplest ways to make sure you're getting cheapest SR-22 insurance is by comparing quotes from multiple companies. Many major insurers in California, such as Progressive and GEICO, will file SR-22 forms, and since each company evaluates your driving history differently, we recommend comparing at least three quotes to ensure you're getting the best rates. For instance, if you receive a DUI in Los Angeles and need an SR-22, you may get better rates with Progressive. On the other hand, a driver in San Diego with multiple speeding violations may get a better SR-22 insurance quote from GEICO. Since rates are determined based on a wide variety of factors, such as your location, age, driving history and vehicle, comparing quotes from multiple insurers helps to ensure you're not overpaying for SR-22 insurance.

There are a few alternatives to paying for SR-22 insurance, such as posting a $35,000 cash deposit or security bond with the DMV, which also can demonstrate proof of financial responsibility. However, these options are less frequently used even though you would not have to pay additional fees to an insurer, because they require a significant amount of money upfront.

Maxime Croll

Maxime is a Director at ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry. Previously she was the Director of Product Marketing at CoverWallet, a commercial insurance startup, and helped launch NerdWallet's personal insurance business. Maxime has contributed insurance insights and analysis to Forbes, USA Today, The Hill, and many other publications.

Editorial Note: The content of this article is based on the author’s opinions and recommendations alone. It has not been previewed, commissioned or otherwise endorsed by any of our network partners.