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California Car Insurance Information

Requirement : Yes

Car insurance is required in California. Drivers must have a minimum of liability insurance, however there are discounts, and programs for low-income drivers.


Minimum Coverage Car Insurance Requirements:

A minimum liability insurance policy is required:

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person.
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for damage to property.

Other Car Insurance Coverage Options:

Liability coverage is the only requirement for California motorist to have, there are several other types of coverage available to drivers:

  • Comprehensive –
  • Collision –  
  • Medical and funeral services coverage –  
  • Uninsured/Underinsured motorist coverage –  
  • Rental car coverage –
  • Towing & Labor coverage –  

  • Note: Comprehensive and or collision coverage is optional, unless the vehicle is being financed or leased, the lending/leasing agency may require you to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage.

Other Forms of Financial Responsibility:

Other legal ways around buying car insurance include  

    • $35,000 cash deposit with the CA Department of Motor Vehicles.
    • Certificate of Self-Insurance from the DMV.
    • Surety bond of $35,000 from a company to do business in California.

Proof of Insurance: Yes

You must carry proof of insurance with your vehicle at all times, you must also have proof of insurance in order to renew your registration. You need to have proof of insurance in order to renew your registration. The insurance company (provider) will give you an insurance card as proof of insurance.


The card will include:

  • Vehicle’s information:
    • Make
    • Model
    • Year
    • Safety Rating
    • Value
  • Your policy name & name of any other drivers insured under the policy.
  • The policy term’s expiration date.
  • A new policy card will be provided every time you renew your car insurance policy.
  • * Providers in California are required to report your insurance information electronically. The California DMV can use these electronic records to verify your proof of insurance.

Getting Pulled Over:

  • If you’re pulled over by a police officer, you must show your proof of insurance, along with your driver’s license and car registration.

Violations, Fines & Penalties:

You are required to have proof of car insurance in the state of California, if you are pulled over and cannot provide proof of insurance, or other forms of financial responsibility, you may face the following fines:

  • $100 - $200 for first offense.
  • $200 - $500 for every offense within 3 years of the first offense.
  • The courts may impound your vehicle and hold it until you can provide proof of insurance.

Suspended Registration:

Not having car insurance may also result in a suspension of your vehicle’s registration if:

  • The DMV is notified of your insurance cancellation and it hasn’t been replaced within 45 days.
  • Your insurance information isn’t given to the DMV within 30 days of your car’s initial registration or transfer of ownership.
  • You registered your vehicle with false evidence of insurance.

The California DMV will send you a letter if your registration has been suspended due to lack of insurance. You may re-register your car with a proof of insurance for a fee of $14. You can apply for reinstatement:

  • Online at the California’s DMV Vehicle Registration Suspensions Insurance Program Page: http://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/online/vrir/vr_sb1500
  • By Mail with a notification letter to:
    • DMV
      PO BOX 997405
      Sacramento, CA 95899
  • By Mail without a notification letter to:
    • DMV VRFRP Unit
      PO BOX 997408 N305
      Sacramento, CA 95899-7408
  • By Phone: (800) 777-0133

California’s Proposition 103 :

  • Under California law Prop 103, all rate increases from insurance providers must be approved by the California Department of Insurance. Additionally, the California Department of Insurance regulates how insurance companies determine your vehicle insurance premiums, as well as the Good Driver Discount Policy.

Good Driver Discount Policy :

Qualifiers of the Good Driver Discount receive a 20% discount. You qualify if:

  • You have been licensed to drive for the past 3 years.
  • During the past 3 years you have not:
    • Had more than 1 point on your driving record due to a violation(s).
    • Taken traffic school because of a traffic violation more than once.
    • Been the at-fault driver in an accident that resulted in injury or death.

Credit Scores & Determining Your Insurance Premium :

Under California law Prop 103, it is illegal for insurance companies to use your credit history as a factor for determining the cost of your car insurance premium. Other factors, however, may be used to such as:

  • Driving record
  • Age
  • Neighborhood or city of residence
  • Make/Model of your vehicle
  • Primary use(s) of your car (work commuting, personal use, etc)

California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program:

In order to qualify for the CLCA program, you must:

  • Have a valid California driver’s license.
  • Own a vehicle with a value of $25,000 or less
  • Be at least 19 years old.
  • Meet the maximum financial eligibility requirements (1 person = $29,425, 2 person = $39,825, 2 person = $50,225, 4 person = $60,625)

California’s Automobile Claims Meditation Program:

California will assist you should a dispute over a claim should occur. In order to be eligible for a dispute with your insurance provider if the dispute include:

  • The extent or amount of damages.
  • Methods of repair.
  • Cause of damages.
  • Prior damage vs. recent damage.
  • Total Loss.
    • If a provider declares your vehicle unrepairable and reimburses you for the estimated value of the car rather than repairing it.
  • Value of a total loss.

You will be ineligible for mediation if the dispute involves:

  • Coverage issues.
  • Legal interpretations of your policy.
  • Statute of limitations and contractual limitations on claiming filming periods.
  • Agent or broker actions.

For more assistance, visit: http://www.insurance.ca.gov/0100-consumers/0060-information-guides/0010-automobile/AutoMediation.cfm#talkto


Automobile Assigned Risk Plan:

The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) helps drivers get insured should you not be able to find a provider due to a poor driving record.

All California car insurance providers must accept a certain amount of CAARP applicants depending on their share of the market. Should you have a clean driving record for a consecutive 3 years, you can purchase your car insurance outside of CAARP.


Electronic Insurance Cards:

Should you not have a car insurance card, you may be able to use your smartphone to pull up your insurance information.


Reporting Accidents:

Should you be involved in an accident:

  • Pull out of traffic, and find a safe spot along the side of the road.
  • Never flee the scent, you may be at the risk of a hit-and-run charge should you flee.
  • Report the accident immediately should anyone be injured or killed.
  • Exchange car insurance information with the other drivers involved in the accident.
  • All accidents that cause more than $750 in damages, you must report the incident within 10 days by completing a Traffic Accident Report (form SR 1) http://www.dmv.ca.gov/portal/dmv/detail/forms/sr/sr1

Discounts : Yes

California insurance companies are required to offer good driver’s discounts for those with clean driving records.


Cellphone Use:

Drivers under the age of 18 are banned from using their cellphones while driving; hand-held or wireless. All drivers are prohibited from using a hand-held cellphone while driving. All drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Texting violations are considered primary offenses. California has a hand-held band, drivers are prohibited from holding a device while driving. Violators face a $20 fine for first offense, $50 fine for subsequent offenses.


California Minimum Coverage Laws

Carriers in California

Full Insurance Laws for California

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