You’re required to have car insurance in California, but you don’t have to pay through the nose for it.
Shopping for car insurance in California can be a daunting task, especially because you have so many options from which to choose.
To help you find the best insurance for your car, we’ll take a look at the state requirements for California car insurance and talk about the most affordable providers.
Whenever shopping for car insurance, we recommend getting quotes from multiple providers so you can compare coverage and rates. In addition to the insurance company you choose, factors such as your age, vehicle make and model, and driving history can affect your premium, so what’s best for your neighbor might not be best for you.
You can either use our tool below or call (855) 518-0148 to start comparing personalized car insurance quotes.
In this article:
- Which Is The Best Car Insurance In California?
- State Requirements For Car Insurance: California
- What Is The Average Cost Of Car Insurance In California?
- What If You Don’t Have Car Insurance In California?
- What If You Can't Afford Car Insurance In California?
- Final Thoughts On California Car Insurance
Which Is The Best Car Insurance In California?
You have many choices when it comes to finding car insurance in California. To help save you time and effort, we ranked providers based on industry standing, availability, customer service, cost, coverage, and technology and found the top five providers of California car insurance.
|Best Car Insurance In California||Motor1 Rating||Customer Service||Affordability||Coverage|
*You may notice that some car insurance companies are listed above those with higher star ratings. This is because our ratings take into account nationwide factors, while our ranking looks specifically at what insurance providers are best for car insurance in California.
#1 Geico Insurance: Cheapest California Car Insurance
Depending on your driving record, you can find very low rates with Geico auto insurance in the Golden State. This deal is made even sweeter by the high ratings that Geico gets across different areas. In our own research, we identified Geico as the best car insurance company that is available to everyone. (USAA has some undeniable strengths but is only available to military members and their families.)
In J.D. Power’s 2020 Auto Insurance Satisfaction Study℠, Geico ranked highest in the Northwest and North Central regions. The study looked at how people experienced Geico’s claims process, and many drivers had a smooth and easy experience.
Also, the company has an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and an A++ financial strength rating from AM Best. The AM Best rating is the highest given to any insurance company, and it means that Geico can easily handle the financial responsibility of insuring so many people nationwide. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), Geico is the second-largest auto insurer in the U.S. and wrote over $34 billion in auto premiums in 2019.
Geico also offers a number of car insurance discounts for car insurance in California for things like:
- Being a good driver
- Having airbags
- Completing a defensive driving course
- Being a federal employee
You can get multi-policy discounts when you bundle auto with another plan like renters insurance, too. All of these qualities led us to choose Geico as the best option for car insurance in California. We also think it’s a great choice if you want more coverage than just the bare minimum.
|A+ rating from the BBB and A++ financial strength rating from AM Best||Average quotes experience|
|Many choices for coverage|
|High level of customer satisfaction|
|Available in 50 states|
To learn more about the car insurance provider, check out our full Geico review.
#2 State Farm Insurance: Best For Students And Teens
Another top provider for California auto insurance, State Farm excels in insuring students with a wide variety of discounts including the Steer Clear program, which encourages safe driving for drivers under 25 years old. There’s also the standout Drive Safe & Save program that monitors your driving habits via an app to help you save on car insurance.
If you’re looking for high liability coverage limits, State Farm has you protected with coverage up to 500/500/500, which is more than enough to meet California car insurance requirements and take care of most expenses in the event of an accident. A few extras from State Farm include rental and travel expense coverage, rideshare coverage, and roadside assistance. The Drive Safe & Save discount with State Farm uses data acquired from an app on your phone about your driving habits to determine savings.
|Comprehensive coverage offerings||Reported errors with autopay|
|Extensive selection of discounts|
|Positive customer reviews|
|Easy online quotes process|
|A+ rating from the BBB||
To learn more about the car insurance provider, check out our review of State Farm auto insurance.
#3 Farmers Insurance: Best For Seniors
Farmers Insurance is one of the nation’s oldest choices for insurance and ranks among the best. The insurance company provides coverage options for drivers in every stage of life. On top of standard types of car insurance, Farmers also offers supplemental California car insurance coverage for:
- New car replacement
- Accident forgiveness insurance
- Custom equipment protection
- Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts
- Loss of use coverage
- Guaranteed Value™
- Towing and roadside service
- Personal umbrella
- Glass and windshield coverage
The discount opportunities offered by Farmers give you the power to improve your eligibility by making changes to your driving style or your car’s features. Discounts with Farmers depend on where you live, but some examples of ways you can save on car insurance in California include:
- Good driver discount
- Homeowner discount
- Discounts for adult drivers and students/teens with parents who have safe driving records
- Good student discount
- Occupational discounts (applicable to doctors, nurses, RNs, firefighters, police officers, etc.)
- Senior defensive driving discount for people age 55 or older after completing an online safety course provided by AARP
- Alternatively fueled vehicle discount (ie. electric cars)
- Airbags, anti-theft technology, and other safety features
- Discount for having policies for multiple vehicles
Signal is Farmers’ app that monitors your driving behavior and can qualify you for even more discounts. It tracks how fast you drive, brake, accelerate, and other driving habits. Once you sign up for Signal and complete 10 trips, you’ll receive a 5-percent policy discount. When it comes time to renew your auto policy, you could be eligible for up to a 15-percent discount, based on the driving score the app gives you.
|Good selection of coverage add-ons||
Customer complaints about high premiums, roadside assistance availability, and rental car options
|Discount opportunities for good drivers||
Average customer service
|A (Excellent) financial strength rating by AM Best||
To learn more about the car insurance provider, check out our comprehensive review of Farmers Insurance.
#4 Liberty Mutual Insurance: Best For Military
Liberty Mutual auto insurance is a great choice for teens and military personnel in California because of the discounts available to these groups. Plus, the company has good reviews by auto insurance industry experts like the BBB and AM Best.
Liberty Mutual partners with over 14,000 employers, alumni associations, and professional associations to give you discounts. Some ways to save on California car insurance with Liberty Mutual Insurance include a multi-car discount and having a vehicle with safety features like anti-theft systems and airbags. You can also qualify for discounts depending on your alumni and professional connections.
|Strong financial company||
Low J.D. Power scores
|Comprehensive coverage options||
High premiums in some states
|Average amount of customer complains||
To learn more about the car insurance provider, check out our review of Liberty Mutual auto insurance.
#5 Allstate Insurance: Best For Classic Car Insurance
Now one of the largest publicly held personal property and casualty insurance companies in the United States, Allstate serves more than 16 million American households. But unlike some other national car insurance companies, Allstate car insurance works through a network of local agents to provide coverage.
Allstate has an A financial strength rating with AM Best and an A+ rating with the BBB. In addition to basic types of coverage, Allstate auto insurance offers:
- Rideshare insurance
- Classic car insurance
- Travel insurance to and from Mexico
- Custom parts coverage
There are a number of ways to get discounted rates for Allstate car insurance in California, including bundling with other policies like home insurance, renters insurance, motorcycle insurance, and more. Other discounts include:
- New car discounts for the first owners of a vehicle
- Multi-car and multiple-policy discounts for customers who bundle home and auto insurance policies
- Student discounts for drivers under 25
- Anti-lock brake and anti-theft discounts for equipped cars
- Early signing discounts for policyholders who sign early
- EZ pay plan discounts for policyholders who use Allstate’s automatic withdrawal feature
- Allstate eSmart® discounts for policyholders who go paperless
- FullPay® discounts for customers who pay their full premium at one time
- Safe driving discounts for policyholders who meet safe driver requirements
|Works through a network of local agents to provide coverage||Expensive|
|Superior financial strength rating by AM Best and A+ rating with the BBB||Mixed customer service reviews|
|Mileage-based discount program|
To learn more about the car insurance provider, check out our review of Allstate car insurance.
State Requirements For Car Insurance: California
The State of California requires all drives to have at least a coverage of 15/30/5 when it comes to bodily injury liability (BI) and property damage liability (PD). Let's break down these minimum liability limits:
- $15,000 bodily injury per person: This is the state minimum coverage requirement for bodily injury liability insurance per person in California. The word “liability” designates that this coverage is for other people in accidents that you cause, not for yourself. It will go toward covering the other party’s medical costs.
- $30,000 bodily injury per accident: This is the minimum requirement for bodily injury per accident. Let’s say you bump into a car that has three passengers. It was a hard bump, so each person claims $15,000. With $30,000, your plan will not cover the total medical cost ($45,000), and it will get used up in the order that injury claims are filed.
- $5,000 property damage liability: This minimum coverage is used to pay for repairs on the other party’s vehicle. This liability coverage is per accident, so you can imagine that $5,000 would be used up quickly in a multi-car accident.
Benefits of Higher Coverage
Let’s look at the outcomes of only going with the minimum property damage requirement in California. It’s no secret that Californian highways host lots of expensive cars. You might not drive a Ferrari, but the risk of damaging an expensive car in an accident is higher in this state than in others. Do you want to take a chance and only hold $5,000 in property liability? If you crash into a Porsche while cruising around San Diego, the other driver can sue you for damages once that $5,000 is maxed out.
Only two other states have a $5,000 property damage requirement, and almost half require $25,000 in coverage. California’s bodily injury requirements are also on the low end: 34 states require $25,000/$50,000 coverage, and Maine’s requirements are double that.
If you just carry the minimum limits, you can find cheap car insurance in California. However, that might not be enough to cover you in the event of a catastrophe. For example, what if someone you hit is seriously injured and requires surgery and recovery care? In California, drivers who aren’t at fault in an accident can sue the at-fault party up to two years later for injury claims or three years for property damage. If you lose a lawsuit like that, you’re required to cover all current and future medical expenses related to the accident.
What Is The Average Cost Of Car Insurance In California?
According to the NAIC, the national average car insurance expenditure was $1,004.68 per year in 2017, while drivers in California only paid an average of $957.08 for auto insurance coverage. Here's a breakdown:
|Type of Coverage||Average Annual Expenditure in 2017|
*Most drivers carry liability coverage but not necessarily other types of auto insurance. Total average annual expenditure measures what California drivers actually spent on auto insurance in 2017.
Why Is Car Insurance In California So Expensive?
California has about 26.7 million drivers, according to Statista.com. With that many people on the road around urban areas, the chances of having an accident are higher. That’s part of the reason why insurance in California can be more expensive than in other states. Plus, you can expect to pay more in congested areas like the Bay Area and Los Angeles.
Also, Californians drive a lot. In 2017, drivers in the state put 343.8 million miles on their cars, according to the Federal Highway Administration. When dividing that number by the number of drivers, we can see that Californian drivers drove about 12,780 miles each that year. According to Energy.gov, the average mileage driven by household vehicles across the United States in 2017 was 10,200. From this data, we can see that California drivers put a few more miles on their cars than the national average.
Driving tired, speeding, and not knowing the right-of-way rules are common accident causes. Sudden breakdowns, while less common, can leave you stranded on the highway and in danger of causing an accident. If you’re thinking about changing insurance, it also might be a good idea to consider if you should get an extended warranty to make sure you’re covered for repair costs, since auto insurance won’t cover breakdowns.
What If You Don’t Have Car Insurance In California?
To make a long story short, you don’t want to go without auto insurance in California. In addition to paying the ticket from the police officer, you can be fined by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) for not having car insurance. The first time, the fine can be $100 or higher. Fines for subsequent offenses can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $2,500. You might as well buy a car insurance policy instead.
What If You Can't Afford Car Insurance In California?
Car insurance premiums can be expensive, especially for high-risk drivers, such as teen drivers or drivers with DUIs or speeding tickets on record, To address this program, California offers the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP). The CAARP is a state program that requires most car insurance providers in California to insure a share of low-income, high-risk motorists within an assigned risk pool. Each insurance company that participates is required to cover a share of drivers proportional to its size. For example, Geico has about six percent of the car insurance market share in California, so it insures about six percent of the drivers in the assigned risk pool.
You are only eligible to apply for a CAARP plan if you haven’t been able to find car insurance on your own. That might be because insurance companies refuse to cover you based on your poor driving history, you can not afford a high-risk insurance plan, or you are eligible by income. If you are eligible by income, you can get a cheaper CAARP plan through California’s Low-Cost Auto Insurance Program (CLCA). If you qualify, you could get plans that come with a lower coverage minimum of 10/20/3.
Final Thoughts On California Car Insurance
While California car insurance can be rather expensive, there are many insurers that offer affordable auto insurance rates in California. If you can not afford car insurance, it is worth looking into the CAARP program, rather than driving without insurance.
To get started comparing your free quotes to find the cheapest car insurance, enter your zip code in the tool below. You can also get free California car insurance quotes seven days a week by calling our team at (855) 518-0148.
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