Car Insurance Requirements in California (2024)

California drivers must carry $15,000 in bodily injury liability per person and $30,000 per accident, as well as $5,000 in property damage liability.

Sarah Sharkey
Written bySarah Sharkey
Sarah Sharkey
Sarah SharkeyInsurance Writer
  • 7+ years writing insurance and personal finance content

  • Contributor to top media, including USA Today

A passionate personal finance advocate, Sarah’s writing has graced the pages of many of the personal finance and insurance industries’ top web publications.

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Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
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Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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Updated July 18, 2024

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Cheapest recent rates in California

Drivers using Insurify have found quotes as cheap as $47/mo for liability only and $119/mo for full coverage in California.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users from California within the last 10 days. Last updated on July 18, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from July 18, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

*Quotes generated for Insurify users from California within the last 10 days. Last updated on July 18, 2024

Rates shown are real-time Insurify user quotes from 100+ insurance companies and Quadrant Information Services data. Insurify’s algorithm excludes anomalous quotes and anonymizes personal details, then displays refined quotes by price, date, and insurer popularity up to 10 days ago from July 18, 2024. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer’s unique driver profile.

Golden State drivers must purchase both bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverage to drive legally in the state. On average, drivers in California pay $137 per month for liability-only car insurance.[1]

On top of meeting minimum car insurance requirements, drivers in California have the option to purchase more insurance, such as collision and comprehensive coverages. No matter what kind of coverage you buy, you should always compare car insurance quotes from multiple insurance companies before buying a policy.

California car insurance requirements

California has a 15/30/5 minimum requirement for car insurance, meaning drivers must carry $15,000 in bodily injury liability per person, $30,000 in bodily injury liability per accident, and $5,000 in property damage liability per accident.[1]

Drivers have an opportunity to skip paying for car insurance if they make a cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV, receive a DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance, or provide a surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California.

However, most drivers choose to purchase an auto insurance policy, as it’s cheaper than the above options. It’s easier to decide what car insurance you need when you know what the required car insurance coverage pays for.

Bodily injury liability

Bodily injury liability coverage helps pay for injuries you cause to others behind the wheel. In California, drivers must carry at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage.

For example, if you cause an accident and the other driver accumulates $5,000 in related medical bills, your insurance policy would cover these costs. But your insurer will only pay up to $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. You can opt to carry higher limits of coverage to better protect your finances.

Property damage liability

California law also requires drivers to carry $5,000 in property damage liability coverage. This type of insurance helps pay to repair or replace another person’s vehicle or other property if you damage it during an accident.

For example, if you cause a fender bender that damages the other driver’s vehicle, your insurance company will help you pay to repair their vehicle. However, this coverage won’t help you pay to repair or replace your own vehicle.[2]

If you want help repairing your own vehicle after an incident, consider a full-coverage policy. Full-coverage car insurance includes collision coverage and comprehensive coverage, which pay for damage to your own vehicle after a covered incident.

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California car insurance programs

California offers a more affordable option to some drivers: the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program. To qualify, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a valid California driver’s license

  • Meet income eligibility guidelines

  • Own a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less

  • Be at least 16 years old (applicants younger than 18 must be legally emancipated)

  • Have a good driving record or be a new driver

The income eligibility requirements vary based on the size of your household. For example, drivers with two people in their household have an income cap of $49,300. If you qualify, the annual premium ranges from $232 to $932 per year, which includes the state’s minimum liability requirements.[3]

You can apply for this program online at MyLowCostAuto.com.

Do you need more than state-minimum coverage in California?

The minimum liability coverage California car insurance laws require provides drivers with a good foundation of auto insurance coverage, but it may not be enough for everyone. In fact, only meeting the coverage requirements can be a risk.

Imagine you’re in an accident and the other person’s car sustains $15,000 in damage. If your insurance only meets the minimum liability limits, it will only pay $5,000 toward that person’s property damage. You’ll be left to pay the remaining $10,000 out of pocket.

Many insurance experts recommend paying for higher liability limits and opting for full coverage. Full-coverage policies include both comprehensive and collision coverage, which protect you much more thoroughly than liability-only coverage. But a more robust insurance policy comes at a higher cost.

If you have ample emergency savings to cover major repairs after an accident, you might choose to skip full coverage. But if you don’t want to be on the hook for repair costs after an accident, you should consider a full-coverage policy. If you have a loan on your car, your lender will likely require you to carry full coverage to protect its investment.

The cost of liability-only car insurance in California

California drivers pay an average of $137 per month for a liability-only car insurance policy. This type of coverage helps pay for injuries and damages you cause to others.

The table below shows the average cost of liability-only car insurance policies by company in the state of California.

The below rates are estimated rates current as of: Monday, July 1 at 12:00 PM PDT
Insurance CompanyAverage Monthly Quote
Mile Auto$60
Sun Coast$75
Mercury$94
Anchor$100
USAA$116
National General$131
GEICO$154
Direct Auto$155
Allstate$160
Farmers$164
State Farm$178
Travelers$187
21st Century$203
Bristol West$223
Nationwide$251
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers and quote estimates from Quadrant Information Services. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

The cost of full-coverage car insurance in California

A full-coverage car insurance policy costs an average of $287 per month for California drivers. This type of policy includes both comprehensive and collision insurance. After an accident or other covered event that causes damage, comprehensive and collision coverages help pay for repairs to your own vehicle.

The table below breaks down the average full-coverage insurance costs by companies in the state.

The below rates are estimated rates current as of: Monday, July 1 at 12:00 PM PDT
Insurance CompanyAverage Monthly Quote
Mile Auto$111
Mercury$175
Sun Coast$220
Anchor$233
USAA$239
GEICO$319
National General$319
Allstate$330
Farmers$339
Direct Auto$366
State Farm$368
Travelers$386
Bristol West$417
21st Century$420
Nationwide$518
Disclaimer: Table data sourced from real-time quotes from Insurify's 50-plus partner insurance providers and quote estimates from Quadrant Information Services. Actual quotes may vary based on the policy buyer's unique driver profile.

Penalties for driving without proof of insurance in California

Without the minimum amount of car insurance, California drivers face significant penalties. Here’s a closer look at the penalties you might face for driving without proof of insurance in the Golden State:

  • Fines: If you’re caught driving without insurance, you might face hundreds of dollars in fines.

  • Impoundment: Law enforcement might impound your vehicle until your insurance issue is resolved.

  • Suspended vehicle registration: Depending on the situation, the vehicle’s registration might be suspended until you provide proof of insurance.[4]

Optional car insurance coverages to consider

You must carry a minimum amount of liability insurance in California. But you also have optional car insurance coverages to choose from. Tacking on additional coverage to your car insurance policy might make it more expensive, but it can better protect your wallet.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/169fdfde11/liability-coverage.svg

    Collision coverage

    Collision coverage pays for damages to your car after a collision with another vehicle or object. If your vehicle is a total loss, collision coverage will reimburse you for the actual cash value of your vehicle.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/665da91bf7/comprehensive-coverage.svg

    Comprehensive coverage

    Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to your vehicle from an event that is not a collision with another vehicle or object. This may apply in situations of vandalism, theft, weather damage, or a run-in with an animal.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/5285c4cd74/uninsured-or-underinsured-motorist-coverage.svg

    Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage

    If an uninsured or underinsured driver causes an accident and you suffer bodily injury, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage will pay for your medical expenses. If the at-fault driver surpasses their bodily injury liability coverage limits, your underinsured motorist coverage will cover your medical expenses.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/x/4c9753bdbe/medical-payments.svg

    Medical payments (MedPay) coverage

    Medical payments insurance can pay for medical expenses related to injuries you or your passengers receive in a car accident, regardless of fault.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/24f1697280/car-key.svg

    Rental reimbursement coverage

    If your vehicle is out of commission, rental reimbursement coverage helps you pay for a rental vehicle during the repair process.

  • illustration card https://a.storyblok.com/f/162273/100x100/26eb27a188/rideshare-coverage.svg

    Rideshare coverage

    If you use your vehicle for rideshare services, like Uber or Lyft, you’ll likely need this specialized car insurance coverage. A rideshare insurance policy provides extra coverage while you use the vehicle for both personal and commercial purposes.

California car insurance requirements FAQs

Below, you’ll find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about California’s car insurance requirements.

  • Does California require car insurance?

    In most cases, yes. California drivers must carry a minimum amount of liability car insurance at the state’s mandated 15/30/5 limits. Drivers may be exempted from carrying liability coverage only if they make a cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV, get a DMV-issued certificate of self-insurance, or provide a surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California.

  • What is the minimum car insurance requirement in California?

    California’s minimum insurance requirements take the shape of a 15/30/5 liability policy. This means drivers must carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury liability per accident, and $5,000 in property damage liability.

  • Do you need car insurance to register a car in California?

    No, but you do need to submit insurance information within 30 days of registering the car. If you don’t do this, your registration may be suspended.[5]

  • Does insurance follow the car or the driver in California?

    Car insurance usually follows the car, including for drivers in California. For example, if someone borrows your vehicle and causes damage, your insurance policy should cover that. However, the details of this question vary from insurer to insurer, so it’s important to read the fine print of your auto insurance policy to understand its specific requirements.[6]

Sources

  1. California DMV. "Auto Insurance Requirements."
  2. III. "What is covered by a basic auto insurance policy?."
  3. California's Low Cost Auto Insurance. "Who Qualifies?."
  4. Kelley Blue Book. "Penalties for Driving Without Car Insurance by State."
  5. California DMV. "Insurance Requirements for Vehicle Registration."
  6. Ca.gov. "Automobile Insurance Text Version."
Sarah Sharkey
Sarah SharkeyInsurance Writer

Sarah Sharkey is a personal finance writer who enjoys helping people make savvy financial decisions. She covered insurance and personal finance topics. You can find her work on Business Insider, Money Under 30, Rocket Mortgage, Bankrate, and more. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

Danny Smith
Edited byDanny Smith
Photo of an Insurify author
Danny Smith
  • Licensed auto and home insurance agent

  • 4+ years in content creation and marketing

As Insurify’s home and pet insurance editor, Danny also specializes in auto insurance. His goal is to help consumers navigate the complex world of insurance buying.

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