You’ve just gotten your license back, and now you have a letter from the DMV that says you need SR-22 insurance in California. You can’t help but wonder, “How much is that going to cost?”
There’s no doubt that dealing with a suspended license and SR-22 insurance is expensive. Why is it so much, and what can you do to lower your insurance rates?
Let’s take a look at what SR-22 insurance is and how you can get back on the road to better auto insurance rates.
Despite the name, SR-22 insurance is not a different type of coverage. It’s still auto insurance, with all of the standard coverage options you would have for liability, comprehensive, collision, and other add-ons.
An SR-22 is actually a guarantee that the insurance company makes to the state of California. By sending an SR-22, the insurer guarantees that your policy meets the state’s minimum liability requirements.
If your insurance lapses, the insurer has to notify the state that you no longer have coverage immediately. This may cause the state to suspend your license again or charge you additional fees.
California generally requires an SR-22 if you’ve been convicted of a serious driving offense. This includes a DUI or DWI, reckless driving, or multiple tickets.
Due to these convictions, the state wants to ensure you maintain appropriate insurance coverage and requires a guarantee in the form of an SR-22. This requirement lasts a specific amount of time, often three years.
Once the period is over, you can let your insurer know to remove the SR-22. That doesn’t necessarily mean your insurance rates will go down, however. The rates will reflect the driving history and convictions, not the SR-22 itself.
It can seem odd to have required SR-22 insurance in California when you don’t own a car. However, it is possible! In some cases, we can offer a non-owner policy that will allow you to show proof of insurance to the state even without a car.
Non-owner insurance only applies if you do not have access to a car within your household. For instance, if your roommate has a car, a non-owner policy may not be available. Instead, you might need to be listed on your roommate’s car insurance, and their insurer would issue the SR-22 for you.
Even without a car, a non-owner policy would allow you to drive rental vehicles and other cars you don’t own. Once you purchase a vehicle, you would then change your coverage to a traditional automobile insurance policy.
Your auto insurance will be more expensive if you have to have SR-22 insurance in California. This is not because the SR-22 form costs a lot of money, however. There’s usually a filing fee of around $25 to get it sent to the state.
The good news is that you only have to pay this $25 once, not every year. However, your car insurance policy will be re-rated based on your driving activity. This includes any DUIs, tickets, or serious driving convictions. This activity affects your policy premium in two ways: direct surcharge and overall risk profile.
If you get a ticket, at-fault accident, DUI, or other driving violation, your insurance goes up for those events. Generally, each one will have a specific surcharge attached to it. Most insurance companies keep the surcharge on your policy for three years.
Once you hit the three-year mark, the surcharge will “fall off” and not be charged for any more at the next insurance renewal. This results in a drop in your insurance rates as long as you don’t have other tickets or activity added.
Different insurance companies charge differently for tickets and activity. Talk to your insurer about how these charges are handled so that you know what to expect.
It’s no secret that someone with many tickets or accidents is a more risky driver than someone without that activity. As a result, having to get an SR-22 will probably move you into a higher-risk category than you were in before.
If you were in the standard or average category, a DUI and required SR-22 can easily move you into the high-risk category instead. That causes all of your insurance rates to be higher, even without the direct surcharge that comes from the activity itself.
Your risk category usually lasts five years, but a DUI can affect your risk for 10 years. That’s why SR-22 insurance can be more expensive long after the SR-22 is no longer required and the DUI has fallen off the direct surcharge list.
This is the question that most drivers have in mind when they ask about how much an SR-22 will cost. After all, most people don’t have a lot of extra money lying around to pay high insurance premiums.
The good news is that there are a lot of ways to lower your insurance rates. Here are a few to try!
The driving courses that the court will require you to take after a DUI, unfortunately, don’t qualify for an auto policy discount, but taking one voluntarily after you get your license back can. Defensive driving courses can make a big difference in your insurance rates, and the discount lasts one to three years. When it falls off, you can retake the class to renew the deal.
Many insurers provide much more than just car insurance, such as homeowners and renters coverage. When you carry both your auto and home policies with one company, you may qualify for a multi-policy discount that lowers the premium on both types of insurance. It’s a great way to get lower rates!
If there are multiple cars in your household, putting them together on the same auto insurance policy can help you save money. Most insurers offer a multi-car discount if you have more than one car with them.
Having multiple cars on one policy is generally less expensive than having an individual policy on each one, so be sure to ask for a quote.
Insurers always want you to have appropriate insurance coverage, but sometimes changing the types of coverage on your car can make a big difference. For example, if your vehicle is older and you don’t have a loan on it, you might want to consider only having liability coverage.
If you want to continue with comprehensive and collision coverage, why not see how much you can save with a higher deductible? Often changing the deductible can save you a lot of money each month.
A safer car is cheaper to insure, so make sure you let your insurer know about all the safety equipment you have installed. For instance, an anti-theft device can help lower the premium on your comprehensive coverage. Other equipment might reduce the risk of having an accident or getting injured.
When your carrier is aware of your car’s safety equipment, they can adjust the premiums accordingly.
It’s not a surprise that someone who drives less often is less likely to be in an accident. If you have limited driving habits, or maybe you’re only allowed to go back and forth to work right now, let your insurance company know! They can update your annual mileage and make sure you’re not being charged for driving more than you actually do.
Some insurance companies offer discounts for a variety of student statuses, federal affiliations, and membership. If you’re a great student — or have one in your household — that can lower your insurance premium. So can being a member of the military, a veteran, or holding specific memberships.
Make sure you talk to your insurer about all of your affiliations so they can apply all the discounts you deserve. Affordable insurance can be a big part of getting back on your feet.
Having a DUI or significant driving conviction is frustrating, and getting back on the road is a long process. However, we’re here to help. We don’t judge anyone because of their history; we want to help you get the insurance you need so you can get back to driving safely.
If you need SR-22 insurance in California, contact us today. We can give you a quote, issue the SR-22 to the state, and update your policy to keep your premiums as manageable as possible. Over time, your premiums can improve as your safe driving history grows. Let’s get you back on the road today!