Car insurance is one of those expenses that not many people like to pay for. After all, you don’t get anything for it unless you end up using it. And if you do end up using it, it means that something bad has happened, like an accident or damage to your vehicle. Regardless, federal law says that you must have car insurance. There are also state laws mandating the minimum amount of coverage you must have and the penalties associated with not meeting the requirements. If you’ve been told you need an SR-22, it is even more important to have the required amount of insurance. Without it, you may never drive again.
What Is an SR-22?
Although SR-22 is referred to as a type of insurance, it is actually a form that you file with your state government’s office to prove that you’re meeting the minimum auto insurance requirements required by state law. Keep in mind that, although car insurance is required on a federal level, each state has its own rules.
How Do I Know Whether I Need an SR-22?
If you’ve never been told that you need an SR-22, or if you have a clean driving record, chances are you don’t need one. However, your state may require that you or your insurance company provide an SR-22 if any of the following circumstances apply:
- You’ve been convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) or driving under the influence (DUI)
- You’ve been convicted of serious traffic offenses.
- You’ve been convicted of the same traffic offense repeatedly.
- You were found to be at-fault in an accident, and you didn’t have insurance.
- You’ve previously had your license suspended or revoked.
Effects of Having an SR-22
Since an SR-22 is associated with risky driving behavior, auto insurance companies will likely charge more for it than they would for insurance they’d sell to someone who has a clean driving record. The reason for this is that they want to ensure they’ll be able to pay any affected parties who may file a claim against you if you find yourself in any of the above-mentioned situations, e.g., car accident, DUI, DWI, etc.
Once you submit an SR-22 proving that you’ve paid for the level of insurance your state requires, you must keep the same level of insurance; you can’t choose to reduce your coverage in an effort to lower your premium. If you do, it could result in a loss of license.
How Do I Get and File an SR-22?
If you have been ordered by your state to file an SR-22, start by calling your insurance company. They should be able to add it to the policy you already have. However, if you’re not happy with the rate they give you (especially since higher risk=higher premiums), you’re free to shop around.
If you shop around and ask for quotes from other car insurance providers, make sure to let them know about the SR-22 in advance of committing to a rate. Some car insurance companies won’t insure drivers who need an SR-22.
Once you have found an insurer you like and pay your first premium, they will likely be able to file your SR-22 electronically with your state’s department of motor vehicles (DMV). In some states, however, your insurance company will be required to mail the SR-22 to your state’s DMV. If this is the case, be sure to account for the extra time it might take in the mail.
What If My SR-22 Insurance Lapses?
Unfortunately, skipping a premium payment for your car insurance isn’t an option when you file an SR-22. Missing a payment will likely lead to what’s called a “lapse in coverage,” which means you won’t be insured until you’re able to pay again. They may even drop you altogether.
If you are uninsured and get pulled over for any reason or get into an accident, the police officer(s) will ask for proof of insurance. If you don’t have evidence that your SR-22 is in good standing, you may not be able to drive away. Instead, you’ll likely be taken to the police station and need to be picked up by a friend or family member. Additionally, your car may be towed or impounded, which will cost you even more money to go pick it up. In addition, you could be charged fees and other related penalties by your state’s DMV and local law enforcement.
Aside from the financial consequences, the DMV may also suspend or take away your license, meaning you legally cannot drive. Even if you don’t get pulled over or in an accident, but you skip a payment, your insurance provider is required by law to report the lapse in coverage to the DMV. In short, don’t ever assume you’ll get away with skipping an insurance payment when you’re required to have an SR-22.
What Are My Options If I Can’t Afford SR-22 Insurance?
If you’re worried about not being able to afford your SR-22 car insurance payments as required by the court or state DMV, the best thing you can do is to contact your insurance provider. They might be able to work with you and develop a payment plan to get you on track without your insurance lapsing.
If you’ve already let your insurance lapse, you will need to act quickly and immediately make any missing payments. At this point, you can ask your insurance company to provide the DMV with a new SR-22. But you may also need to pay the DMV to get your license back if it was already revoked.
How Long Do I Need to Keep My SR-22 Insurance?
The answer to this depends on where you reside, as states vary in their requirements. The average time frame for keeping an SR-22 is three years (36 months). Some states require a longer-term. Nonetheless, if you keep your SR-22 insurance for the required length of time, you can go back to getting regular car insurance unless an additional event occurs that requires a new SR-22.
However, if you fail to keep your SR-22 insurance, whether for lack of payments or any other reason, you may have to start over with a new SR-22. For example, if your local court told you to keep SR-22 insurance for three years, but you skipped a few payments after one year, you won’t be able to become current on your payments and finish the remaining two years. Instead, you’ll likely be required to start the clock again and complete another three years. Again, try to work with your insurance provider to make sure your coverage doesn’t lapse.
What If I Don’t Have a Car? Do I Still Need SR-22 Insurance?
If you don’t own a car and never plan on driving again, you don’t need to file an SR-22. However, if there is a chance you may have to rent or borrow someone’s car, then you will need one. Therefore, it doesn’t matter whether or not you lease, own, rent, or borrow a vehicle; as long as you plan on being behind the wheel, you must file an SR-22 if required to do so.
The good news is that you may be able to get a non-owner SR-22 insurance policy, which is generally less expensive than a traditional SR-22 policy. That’s because insurance companies assume that you’re less likely to drive one if you don’t own a car. And if you’re less likely to drive, you’re less likely to cause an accident that will require them to pay the other party.
How Can I Make Sure I’m Getting the Right SR-22 Insurance?
As you can see, getting the wrong type of coverage that doesn’t meet the courts’ requirements or DMV could be quite costly. That’s why it is important to communicate your SR-22 requirements upfront to your insurance company so they can help you stay on the road responsibly.