You may have thought having your California driver’s license suspended was bad enough. That is until you are required to purchase auto insurance with a state-ordered SR-22 attachment in order to get it back. Now you are looking at an average 183 percent increase in your premium.
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 rates?
Let’s take a look at some questions and information about what SR-22 insurance is and how you can get back on the road with cheap auto insurance rates.
How Much Does California SR-22 Insurance Cost?
SR-22 insurance in California costs on average between $800 and $1,600 per year. As with all insurance pricing, your cost will depend on a variety of unique factors, such as where you live (your zip code), how old you are, marital status, other characteristics and, most importantly, your driving history.
Most of the time, drivers who need to file this type of certificate with their Department of Motor Vehicles will be looking at double or even triple the amount they used to pay – a significant impact.
Note: The actual filing of the document usually costs a filing fee of $25-$40 and it is a one-time fee as long as you stay with the same carrier.
What is an SR-22?
Simply put, it is a proof of insurance certificate. In plain English, that means an insurer is letting the state DMV know that you have at least the required minimum amount of coverage in California by filing this certificate for you. California’s minimum requirements are:
- $15,000 bodily injury or death one person
- $30,000 bodily injury or death more than one person
- $5,000 property damage
SR means “safety responsibility”. It means drivers should have insurance to be able to help pay for any injuries or damages they cause. Drivers who either do not choose to carry the legally-required insurance or those who behave in a reckless or egregious way behind the wheel are often asked to provide proof they are complying with the financial responsibility laws of their state. In California, this is done when car insurance companies file a certificate of financial responsibility on behalf of their customer.
Choosing to abide by your SR, or safety responsibility, when you drive helps avoid the expense of the resulting premium increase if you choose not to actively participate in your SR. Your 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.
Direct Surcharges for Tickets and Convictions
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 high cost surcharge on your policy for three years.
Once you hit the three-year mark, the surcharge will “fall off” and not be charged at the next insurance renewal. This results in a drop in your car 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.
Overall Risk Profile
It’s no secret that someone with many tickets or accidents or other incidents 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 and you’ll see a significant increase in your premium.
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.
Why Do I Have to Have an SR-22?
California generally requires an SR-22 if you’ve been convicted of a serious driving offense. Check out the following reasons why someone might be required to file an SR-22.
Driving Under the Influence
A DUI conviction in California means you have been found to be driving with enough of some intoxicant in your system to be considered a danger on the road. This could be alcohol (a blood alcohol content of more than .08%), some form of pills or medication (even one that is prescribed), marijuana or some other illegal drugs, such as heroin or cocaine.
Note: Keep in mind that the standards for those under age 21 are far stricter than those for adults. California law (much like everywhere in the United States) has a zero tolerance law for drivers under the age of 21 (the legal age to consume alcohol).
- A BAC of .01-.04% will see you lose your driving privileges for one year. It’s not considered a criminal charge and won’t put a DUI on your record.
- A BAC of .05-.07% will put a DUI on your record as a criminal charge. You’ll lose your driver’s license and be required to attend (and be financially responsible for) a three-month DUI course.
- A BAC of .08% or greater will see you paying thousands of dollars in fines, court-ordered fees, increased insurance costs, as well as days of jail time or juvenile custody, license suspension, years of probation and a three to nine month DUI course.
Driving or Getting into an Accident Without Insurance
Driving without insurance is punishable with an SR022 mandate. And worse, the normal rules of liability don’t apply if you get into an accident without coverage. Even if the wreck is not your fault, if the other motorist is legally driving and you are not, you could be sued by their carrier for damages, up to and including losing your assets, such as your home. And you most likely will need to carry a certificate for up to 5 years.
Reckless driving in the golden state is defined as driving in a way that disregards the safety of people and property. Is this subjective? It can be, but if a police officer gives you a ticket for reckless driving, you’ll be hard-pressed to fight about it and that will cost you money. Of course, getting an attachment on your license is expensive too, so you’ll have to weigh it out.
There are different ways to fall under the limits of carrying an SR-22, such as multiple at-fault accidents and other major violations.
How Long Do I Have to Carry SR-22 Insurance in CA?
In most cases, it’s 3 years. It can be up to 5 in serious instances. It will be completely up to you to monitor your time. Nobody is going to tell you your 3 years is up. Once your time is up, you can notify your current insurer. They may lower your premium if your time has been smooth with no lapses and no additional citations. They may not lower your rate. Your best option may be to shop around for the cheapest companies, but be aware all carriers have a “look back” period of up to 10 years, so any place you go will know your recent driving record history.
Note: Do not let your policy lapse while in your SR-22 time. Your insurer is bound by law to report any lapse to the state. A failure to pay even one month could start your SR time over and cost additional fees. If you find you are in a situation where you cannot afford your payment, get in touch with your carrier immediately.
What If I Don’t Have a Car?
It can seem odd to have a required SR when you don’t own a car. However, it is possible! In some cases, you’ll need a non-owner car insurance policy that will allow you to show proof of financial responsibility to the state under these conditions.
Since it is cheaper, non-owner SR-22 insurance only applies if you do not have access to a car within your household.
Even without a car, this type of 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 policy.
How Can I Lower My Insurance Premium?
This is the question that the average driver has 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 higher rates.
The good news is that there are many options to lower your insurance rates, including by being a safe driver with no traffic violations and qualifying for good driver discounts. Take a page from that book or check out these other discounts!
Take a Defensive Driving Course
The driving courses that the court will require you to take after a DUI, unfortunately, don’t qualify for an 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.
Combine Your Auto and Home Policies
When you carry multiple 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!
Take Advantage of Multi-Car Discounts
If there are multiple cars in your household, putting them together on the same auto insurance policy can help you save money. Most providers 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.
Review Your Insurance Coverage
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.
Install Safety and Anti-theft Equipment
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.
Update How Much You Drive Your Car
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 are working from home now, it’s a good idea to let your agent know! Many companies offer a payment decrease for driving less than a certain number of miles each year.
Look Into a Variety of Discounts
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.
One of the simplest ways to lower your cost is to 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.
Get Cheap SR-22 Insurance in California with Freeway Insurance
Having a DUI or significant driving conviction is frustrating, and getting back on the road is a long process and hard work. However, the Freeway team is here to help. We don’t judge anyone because of their history; we want to help you get the insurance you need at the best rates 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!