With rent and insurance costs skyrocketing, can Californians find affordable renters insurance?

The average rent in California is a whopping $1,455—nearly $500 more than the national average. That means Californians pay $6,000 more for renters insurance every year! So the question must be asked: how can California renters save money?

According to Apartment List, California claims the 16 most expensive cities for renters. In fact, the Golden State is second only to the District of Columbia when it comes to the average cost of renting. When it comes to saving, savvy Californians know they need to reduce costs wherever possible.

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Getting Cheap Renters Insurance Quotes in California

The average cost of renters insurance is $182 a year for Californians, about $15 a month. That’s according to the Insurance Information Institute.

But, several factors can increase or decrease that price. These are:

House Structure: When it comes to burglary, houses and duplexes are common victims. Apartments, especially ones with security provided, are less likely to be burglarized.

Neighborhood Statistics: Insurance companies look at many local factors to determine your level of risk. These include claim rates, crime rates, and inclement weather.

The Value of Your Personal Possessions: The more valuable your stuff, the more it costs to replace it. The more it costs to replace, the higher your premium. Simply put: only buy enough insurance to cover what you own.

Your Deductible: The more risk you accept via an increased deductible, the less you’ll pay in premiums. But keep in mind that a high deductible leaves you financially vulnerable. Never raise it higher than you could reasonably afford.

Your Dog: If you have a dog whose breed is labeled high-risk, you may find it next to impossible to get liability coverage. Different insurance companies have different rules. Common high-risk breeds include:

  • Pit Bull/Staffordshire Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher 
  • German Shepherd
  • Rottweiler

If you can’t find coverage because of your dog’s breed, you can buy canine liability insurance. Canine liability insurance protects dog owners in the event their dog harms someone. 

What’s the Best Way to Get the Cheapest Renters Insurance in California?

The best way to get cheap renters insurance is by bundling it with your car insurance policy. This is also known as a multi-policy discount. If you don’t have a car, there are still ways to save. Common discounts include:

  • Fire alarm or smoke alarm 
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Deadbolt locks
  • Burglar alarm system
  • Gated community 
  • Security guard 
  • Paperless discount
  • Pay-in-full
  • Quote in advance

Once you know how much insurance you need and the discounts you’re eligible for, you’ll need to gather renters insurance quotes to compare from top companies. 

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Best Renters Insurance Companies in California

If you’re on the lookout for affordable and quality renters insurance, we recommend you check out renters insurance rates from these top companies in California:

  • AAA
  • Allstate
  • American Family Insurance
  • Lemonade
  • Liberty Mutual
  • Mercury
  • State Farm
  • USAA
  • Wawanesa

Plan to gather quotes from at least four companies. We recommend six to eight quotes to understand the range of options available to you. Once you have your quotes, you’ll be able to make a clear decision on which company is right.

Pro-tip: using a spreadsheet keeps information organized.

Is renters insurance required in California?

No, there is no law requiring renters insurance in California. Even so, we recommend purchasing enough insurance to protect you from financial ruin. For most people, this means carrying adequate renters insurance.

Can my landlord require me to carry renters insurance in California?

Landlords can require renters to carry and maintain a renters policy. This protects landlords from dealing with insurance claims outside of their responsibility. And it protects renters from unfortunate events.

Renters Insurance for Mobile Homes in California 

Renters insurance for a mobile home is actually the same HO-4 policy any other renter would buy. The perils you face as a renter of a mobile home are subject to the same factors as any other renter. Perils include:

  • Fire damage
  • Crime rates
  • Flooding

If your area has low crime, is nowhere near a flood plain, and widely-spaced homes, you can expect a low premium. 

Renters Insurance in a Manufactured Home in California

The term “manufactured home” refers to a mobile home built after 1976. That’s when the Department of Housing and Urban Development set manufacturing standards nationwide. Renters in a manufactured home buy the same HO-4 policy as renters in a condo, apartment, mobile home, or house. 

What does renters insurance cover?

There are three components to a renters insurance coverage.

Personal Property covers your property and your property only. This means all your electronics, designer clothing, and whatever else you own. This excludes the structure of your rental property—that’s covered by your landlord. It also excludes the personal belongings of your roommates. 

Personal Liability Protection covers you when a guest is injured in your home. The injury must result from your negligence. Be sure to speak with your insurance agent about whether you or your landlord is liable. Medical payment coverage protects you if the injured party seeks medical care.

Additional Living Expenses or Loss of Use covers the extra costs you incur if you cannot stay in your home. This can include expenses like:

  • Hotel and extended stay costs
  • Eating out
  • Gas money if you now have a longer commute

These are also called “covered losses.”

What doesn’t renters insurance cover?

It’s important to note that renters insurance does have limitations. You’ll need to buy a special rider to protect your property in the event of:

  • Wildfire
  • Flooding
  • Earthquake
  • Sinkhole

In some cases, it may not be possible to purchase protection for some perils. 

Renters Insurance Coverage Options

Personal property coverage limits cover the loss of your property. Be sure to understand if you’re buying coverage for actual cash value or replacement costs. 

Actual cash value only covers you up to the amount of what your personal property is worth right now. The computer you bought top-of-the-line three years ago is worth half of what you bought it for. If your computer is stolen, you’ll receive a check for half of what you paid for it. 

Replacement costs cover you for the amount it costs to replace your item. That same computer would be covered for however much it costs to buy a new one of similar size and quality. 

Your limits for personal liability should be at least $100,000. But, if you often have guests over or throw large parties, you’d want to consider raising those limits. If you’re not the type of person to have guests in your safe space, you can consider lowering those limits. 

California Renters Insurance FAQ

How do I get cheap renters insurance in California?

First, you should calculate how much insurance you need. If you don’t have an expensive home office or a designer clothing collection, you may not need a $20,000 policy. Create a spreadsheet of your personal property. Include the current value of each item and replacement costs. If you do this, you will know exactly how much insurance you need.  Next, make a list of any discounts you’re eligible for. This can include: Bundling auto insurance; Military discount; Employer-related or other affiliate-based discounts; or Pay-in-full, paperless, and automatic payment discounts. You can also consider raising your deductible. This means you’d pay more out-of-pocket in the event of a claim. A word of caution: only raise your deductible to a limit you could reasonably afford. 

Which insurance company provides the best renters insurance in California?

The truth is, the best renters insurance for you is not the best renters insurance for everyone. You will have different priorities, possessions, and perils than someone else. So don’t approach buying insurance as one-size-fits-all.  The best thing to do is to make a list of what you need from your insurance company. Do you want to be able to upload photos of your vinyl collection? Do you need to be able to speak to a person 24/7?  Knowing your preferences will help you narrow your options. And it helps tie-break two companies offering similar pricing. 

Are roommates covered by renters insurance?

Your roommates’ property is not covered by your renters insurance policy. But, you are covered if your roommate is the cause of your property loss. You can add your roommate to your insurance policy, but we don’t recommend this unless your roommate is related to you or your roommate is your significant other.

Conclusion: The best way to save on your insurance costs

The quickest, easiest way to save a ton on your renters insurance is to bundle it with an auto insurance policy. This is the standard advice across the industry, and it’s with good reason. Here are the estimated bundling discounts, according to carrier websites, for the best California car insurance companies: 

  • American Family: 20-29%
  • GEICO: 3-10%
  • Nationwide: 20%
  • State Farm: 15% 
  • Mercury Insurance: 25% 

Be sure to consider whether a single deductible is right for you. A single deductible protects you when one incident damages your car and other personal property. 

Before you bundle, be sure you’ve got the best car insurance. Use Insurify to gather 6+ quotes from top insurance companies in less than two minutes.

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Updated April 16, 2020

J.J. Starr is a financial copywriter and enjoys helping readers find the information they need. In addition to her background in banking and financial advising, she is also a poet with an MFA from New York University. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts. You can learn more at jjstarrwrites.com.