As the most populous state in the nation, it’s no wonder that California is notorious for traffic-jammed roadways.

With all those cars on the road, a solid auto insurance policy is essential for Golden State drivers of all ages and backgrounds. This guide to California car insurance will get you on the right path to the perfect policy for you and your lifestyle. From car insurance requirements to cheap car insurance options, we’ve got Californians covered.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California

Here are the cheapest insurance companies in California based on averaged sample rates for four driver profiles that included varied gender, age, driving history, credit, marital status, prior insurance, higher education, employment, and military service. Average rates may vary depending on the profile and background of the policyholder.

Insurance CompanyQuote
State Farm$61/month
GEICO$64/month
Mercury$106/month
Nationwide$106/month
American Family$124/month

Best Car Insurance Companies in California

The Insurify Composite Score is calculated by analyzing multiple factors that indicate the quality, reliability, and health of an insurance company. Inputs to the score include financial strength ratings from A.M. Best, Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch; J.D. Power ratings, Consumer Reports customer satisfaction surveys, mobile app reviews, and user-generated company reviews. The following are the top-rated companies that offer car insurance in California. For the complete list, see Insurify’s best car insurance companies.

Insurance CompanyInsurify Composite ScoreQuotes
American Family88$124/month
GEICO87$64/month
Nationwide84$106/month
State Farm83$61/month
Mercury81$106/month

Most Popular Car Insurance Companies in California

According to the Insurance Information Institute (III), these are the most popular car insurance companies in California by market share:

  1. State Farm
  2. Farmers
  3. GEICO
  4. Allstate
  5. Auto Club (AAA car insurance)

Cheapest Car Insurance in California by City

Auto insurance costs will vary between locations and insurance companies. Insurify analyzed the latest data for the five most populated cities in California to find you the cheapest sample quotes in each of these metropolitan areas.

California’s most populous city is Los Angeles – home to over 4 million people and notoriously difficult commutes for drivers.


CityCheapest CarrierQuote
Los AngelesGEICO$90/month
San DiegoState Farm$61/month
San JoseState Farm$64/month
San FranciscoState Farm$76/month
FresnoGEICO$73/month

Cheapest Car Insurance in California by Profile

Cheap Car Insurance for Good Drivers

For California drivers with a clean driving record free of any moving violations, auto insurance rates may be significantly lower. Progressive offers the best options for good drivers in California, at $49 a month. With both cheaper premiums and additional safe driving discounts, it can really pay to have a record free of accidents or traffic tickets.

Insurance CompanyQuote
State Farm$61/month
GEICO$64/month
Mercury$106/month
Nationwide$106/month
American Family$124/month

Cheap Car Insurance for High-Risk Drivers

High-risk drivers in California, including those with one or more traffic violations, may have to pay more on their car insurance premiums. Progressive offers the cheapest annual cost for high-risk drivers in California with monthly costs at $87 for car owners with DUIs, $62 for drivers with accidents, and $57 for speeders. Auto coverage is often much pricier for high-risk drivers.

Cheap Car Insurance for Drivers with DUI in California

Insurance CompanyQuote
Progressive$87/month
Grange$95/month
Wawanesa$100/month

Cheap Car Insurance for Drivers with an At-fault Accident in California

Car Insurance CompaniesQuotes
Progressive$62/month
Grange$75/month
USAA$87/month

Cheap Car Insurance for Speeding Drivers in California

Insurance CompanyQuotes
USAA$57/month
Progressive$71/month
Grange$79/month

Cheap Car Insurance for Young Drivers

If you’re under 30 years old in the state of California, you will likely pay more for auto insurance coverage than the average driver. Since inexperienced drivers pose a higher risk for insurance providers, their rates are often significantly higher. Progressive offers the cheapest car insurance rates for young drivers, averaging $68 a month. New drivers must abide by special driving restrictions, including curfews, electronic device limitations, and passenger age restrictions. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these rules before hitting the road.

Insurance CompanyQuote
USAA$68/month
Progressive$68/month
Wawanesa$79/month
Esurance$86/month
Grange$87/month

Insurance policies for 21-year-olds generally run higher than the national average by a significant margin. Even though they’re no longer considered teen-drivers, 21-year-olds are still regarded as high-risk to insurers. Unlike most states, California 21-year-olds benefit from the state’s ban on using gender, education level, and credit score as factors when calculating premiums. This will generally help young Californians lower their monthly payments. To find the cheapest car insurance for 21-year-olds, use a car insurance quotes comparison site like Insurify.

California State Insurance Laws

State Minimum Car Insurance Coverage in California

All motor vehicles operated or parked on California roadways must be insured. Proof of insurance must be carried in your car at all times and must available when:

  • Requested by law enforcement
  • Renewing vehicle registration
  • The vehicle is involved in a car accident

The minimum liability insurance requirements for private passenger vehicles in California are as follows:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person

Bodily injury liability coverage protects drivers if their car is involved in an accident that harms another individual. The minimum limits required by California state law are:

  • $15,000 for the death or injury of a single victim as a result of a car accident
  • $30,000 for the deaths or injuries of multiple victims

Insurance companies list this type of coverage as 15/30, referring to the dollar limitations of each minimum. In the case of an accident, liability coverage can aid perpetrators with costs involved in a legal proceeding as a result of a crash. Bodily injury coverage is part of the minimum coverage required by California law.

The state minimum amount of property damage liability coverage required in California is:

  • $5,000 for damage to property

If an insured driver is determined to be at fault and held liable in a motor vehicle accident, this coverage pays for damage repair to another individual’s property. Property damage coverage will also pay for legal costs if an insured driver is involved in a lawsuit following an accident.

Optional Supplemental Coverage

Comprehensive insurance covers “Acts of God” and things out of a person’s control, like fire or flood, but does not cover medical expenses/auto damage due to a collision.

Collision insurance covers damage to objects (not animals or people) and vehicles as a result of a collision regardless of fault, including hit-and-run accidents, but doesn’t cover damage due to “Acts of God.”

If involved in an accident, uninsured or underinsured motorists may be able to file a claim through the other party’s auto insurance company for damages their customer caused. Because of this, uninsured motorist coverage is recommended in the state of California through the forms of:

Medical Payments, or simply Med Pay, covers reasonable medical costs for you or your passengers in the case of injury from an accident. If a car accident results in serious bodily injury, Med Pay can help ease the stress of high medical bills after a hospital visit.

Am I Liable If I Cause a Car Accident in California?

Like the majority of U.S. states, California uses an at-fault system of auto insurance, based on tort liability.

Each driver involved files a claim, and insurance coverage contributes damages according to the degree of fault of each party. As an “at-fault state,” California drivers’ insurance policies cover damage done in a car accident after fault is assigned to one or more parties. There is a scale by which fault may be assigned; e.g., Driver A may be found 60 percent at fault while Driver B is determined to be 40 percent at fault. If the total damages in the case come to $10,000, Driver A would take home $6,000, and Driver B $4,000.

An involved party’s “level” of fault will determine whether or not they will be eligible for financial compensation and how much they may receive after involvement in a car accident. So, for a driver’s policy to pay for the damage they may have caused in a car accident, they must be found at fault.

Texting and Driving in California

Talking on or using a cell phone while operating a vehicle is illegal throughout the state of California.

Unlawful use of a mobile device will result in a $20 penalty for the first violation and will increase with each offense. The state’s new distracted driving rules outlaw the use of all handheld devices except for voice-operated or hands-free modes. This means that you can get penalized for holding your phone for any reason while operating a vehicle. Voice-activated use of mobile devices is legal if a driver’s cell phone is attached to their windshield. Drivers under 18 years of age are prohibited from all wireless device usage while operating a vehicle, even if it is voice-activated.

Auto Insurance Coverage and Natural Disasters

Your car insurance policy will cover damage caused by an earthquake or a wildfire just as long as you have comprehensive coverage. 

As Californians know all too well, when it comes to Mother Nature, expect the unexpected. With increased rates of wildfires and earthquakes in the past few years, knowing you’re covered in case of an emergency can grant Californians peace of mind.

To ensure you’re protected if a natural disaster destroys your car, you should opt into supplemental comprehensive coverage. This extra source of insurance will ensure that you’re covered if your vehicle is damaged or destroyed due to a natural disaster. Drivers with expensive cars and those who live in areas of California most prone to wildfires should consider adding comprehensive coverage to their policy. Otherwise, drivers of cars that are paid off or less valuable can opt for liability-only coverage in order to save on their auto policy. Any wildfire or earthquake damage that your car suffers (ah, California!) will then have to be paid for out of pocket. That includes the costs of replacing your car, too.

Other Special Insurance Programs in California

California drivers are required to obtain a traditional insurance policy from a private insurance provider to operate on state roadways. They also have the option of obtaining a “self-insurance” certificate from the Department of Motor Vehicles in the form of proof of a $35,000 cash deposit.

In California, there is one exception to the general minimum liability coverage discussed above. California’s Low-Cost Automobile Program, or CLCA, provides affordable automobile insurance to low-income residents. To qualify for the program, residents must be considered safe drivers whose total household income falls below the poverty line. If eligible, California drivers can purchase car insurance policies through the program at a lower cost than the standard state minimums.

For low-income California residents making less than $31,225 annually, California’s Low-Cost Automobile Program is an excellent option. To be eligible for CLCA, drivers must have a valid California driver’s license, own a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less, be at least 16 years of age, have a good driving record, and meet income eligibility guidelines. Use the following table to see if your total household income makes you eligible for CLCA.

Household SizeMaximum Income
1$31,225
2$42,275
3$53,325
4$64,375
5$75,425

Car Insurance Coverage for Undocumented Immigrants in California

California is home to an estimated two million undocumented immigrants. Fortunately, California is one of just a few states that allows people without U.S. documentation to obtain a driver’s license, the first step in being able to purchase car insurance. Drivers should never take the risk of driving an uninsured vehicle, which puts themselves and other drivers in danger.

SR-22 Insurance in California

If your license has been suspended or revoked, these car insurance companies will file an SR-22 with the state of California on your behalf.

California’s state licensing authority will inform California drivers if they might require SR-22 insurance. If you’ve committed a DUI, DWI, a moving violation, or other serious offense, you may be required to hold SR-22 Insurance. In California, many insurance companies offer SR-22 insurance including 21st Century, Acceptance, Affirmative, Alliance United, Anchor, Aspire, Carnegie Insurance, Dairyland, Esurance, Everest National, Farmers, Foremost, Freedom National, GEICO, Good2Go, Infinity, Kemper, Legacy, Mendota, National General, Personable Insurance, Progressive, Reliant, RMIS, Safeco, SCJ, Stillwater, The General, Titan, Victoria, and Workmens.

AAA Car Insurance and Roadside Assistance In California

Locked your keys in the car? Battery dead? Flat tire? If you’ve ever found yourself in this situation, you’ve probably relied on AAA, the iconic American Automobile Association, for roadside assistance. But did you know that AAA also offers automobile insurance for California drivers?

Divided into regional clubs, AAA operates in two districts in California: Northern and Southern. To find out which independent agents operate AAA insurance in your region, visit AAA’s website and search using your ZIP code.

California Auto Insurance FAQs

Is car insurance mandatory in California?

Yes. Drivers in California must have proof of auto insurance that meets the state's minimum requirements to drive in the state legally. If caught driving an uninsured vehicle, Californians risk civil or criminal charges. Uninsured motorists with out-of-state cars traveling throughout the state of California may be fined anywhere from $100 to $500. Drivers are required to keep proof of insurance on their person any time they are operating a vehicle on California roadways. The California Vehicle Code states that electronic documents accessible from a smartphone are sufficient proof of Insurance if you are not driving with a hard copy of your insurance documentation. Your proof of insurance must include the car insurance company’s name, address, policy holder's period of coverage, and auto insurance policy number. 

Will my credit score affect my car insurance rate?

No. Unlike the majority of the United States, California has outlawed the practice of using credit-based insurance scores to help determine the risk of a policyholder. That means that car insurance companies are not allowed to hold your low credit score against you by increasing your rate.Credit scores are calculated based on information from your credit report and are used by lending institutions to determine how likely it is that you'll repay a loan on time. Credit scores determine interest rates and loan qualifications.Credit-based insurance scores don't factor in your job, income history, gender, or any other personal information. Car insurance companies may use these variables to help determine the likelihood of an insurance claim in the future.

Who has the cheapest car insurance in California?

The best way to get the cheapest car insurance in California and save on your insurance premium is to compare quotes from all companies in your area. Use a car insurance quotes comparison site like Insurify to compare up to 10+ real quotes for your specific driver profile and unlock savings and discounts.Click here to find the cheapest car insurance quotes and companies in your area in just a few seconds.

Why It Pays to Go Green in California

California tops the list of states with the highest percentage of hybrid and electric vehicles at over five percent.

The state also has the highest gasoline prices of any state on this list and a substantial rebate program, making ownership of one of these vehicles more cost-effective. The California Vehicle Rebate Program (CVRP) will pay up to $7,000 for qualified purchasers or lessees of electric and hybrid electric vehicles.

California DMV Information

With a population nearing 40 million, it’s no wonder the California Department of Motor Vehicles has nearly 180 outposts across the state.

Every office is open weekdays from 8 AM to 5 PM, with some locations offering additional early-morning and weekend hours. The DMV is notorious for long lines and wait times; beat the wait by making an appointment online or by calling 1-800-777-0133 before your visit. Appointments can be made up to 90 days in advance. Keep in mind that before visiting a DMV to register your vehicle, you’ll need to have proof of insurance.

At the DMV, California residents can access services like driver’s license and identification card registration and renewal, vehicle registration, and license plate pick-up, as well as service provided by the California Department of Insurance. Many services are available online and via U.S. Mail for convenience. Regardless of where you live in the Golden State, a DMV shouldn’t be too far.

The California Department of Motor Vehicles has nearly two hundred outposts across the state. To find a location near your home, check out this list.

Conclusion

California drivers reap many benefits when it comes to car insurance rates and the state’s laws.

Having bad credit won’t necessarily make your premiums increase, and the minimum coverage mandated by the state won’t break your bank.

To find the best insurance provider and coverage based on your personal metrics, use an auto insurance comparison site like Insurify. From the Hollywood Hills to Silicon Valley, Californian drivers deserve to find the cheapest car insurance available.

Compare California car insurance companies today on Insurify.

Jackie Cohen received her B.A. in Global Media and Public Relations from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Currently based in Boston, MA, she works as a content writer for Insurify. An avid globe-trotter and foodie, Jackie spends her spare time adventuring far and near.