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California Car Insurance Laws and Requirements (Updated September 2022)

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Jennifer Pendell

By: Jennifer Pendell

Edited by Jackie Cohen

Updated June 24, 2022

California law dictates the minimum requirements for insurance coverage that all drivers must carry. All drivers in California must hold 15/30/5 in liability coverage. Additionally, drivers can pick from a long list of additional coverages for added protection.

Quick Facts

  • Car insurance is required by law in California.
  • Drivers in California must carry 15/30/5 in liability coverage.
  • If caught driving uninsured, drivers face $100–$500 in fines.

Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in California

The minimum car insurance requirements in California[1] are:

  • $15,000 for bodily injury liability for one person
  • $30,000 for bodily injury liability for more than one person
  • $5,000 for property damage liability per accident

California is an at-fault state. That means that when there is an accident, the person determined to be at fault for the accident must take financial responsibility for the bodily injury and property damage caused to their victims.

Why is car insurance required in California?

Auto insurance protects drivers from financial liability in the event of an accident. Depending on a policy’s specific coverage limitations, car insurance may cover everything from vehicle damage to medical bills.

Bodily Injury Liability

Bodily injury liability is part of your liability car insurance coverage. If you cause an accident, this coverage will help cover the other party’s medical expenses. This type of coverage will not cover your own medical expenses for injuries sustained in a car accident you caused. Bodily injury liability coverage is required in California.

Property Damage Liability

Property damage liability is the other half of your liability car insurance. It covers repair costs and damage expenses to the other cars involved in an accident you caused. This coverage does not cover damage to your own car in an accident you were at fault for. Property damage liability coverage is required in California.

See More: Cheap Car Insurance in California

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Is state minimum car insurance enough in California?

The minimum required car insurance coverage in California provides drivers with a solid foundation of auto insurance coverage, but it may not be enough for everyone. In fact, just meeting the coverage requirements with only the minimum liability insurance required is risky.

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

Optional Car Insurance Coverage for California

California drivers who want to be protected in any situation should consider bolstering the minimum car insurance coverage with the following supplemental car insurance coverages:

Collision Coverage

Collision coverage covers 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. This is a great addition to the required property damage liability coverage in California, which applies only to the damages to the other driver’s vehicle.

Comprehensive Coverage

Complementing your collision coverage, comprehensive insurance covers damage to your vehicle that occurs during 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. Adding comprehensive and collision coverage together creates a full-coverage car insurance policy.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage

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

Other Supplemental Coverage

It can be a good idea to add supplemental coverage to your insurance. Medical payments coverage steps in if someone in your car is injured in an accident, even if it’s not your fault. Medical bills can get costly quickly, so this type of supplemental coverage can be a lifesaver.

Towing and roadside assistance can be helpful after an accident by making sure your car can be towed to a repair facility if it’s disabled. Consider adding rental car reimbursement, too—it covers the cost of a rental car if your car has to be repaired after an accident.

See More: Average Cost of Car Insurance in California

Penalties for Driving Uninsured in California

It is illegal to drive in California without the minimum car insurance coverage[2]. You can be fined or even have your car impounded if you’re caught driving without proof of insurance. The potential penalties include:

  • A $100–$200 fee for a first offense
  • Fines of $200–$500 for subsequent offenses
  • Suspension of your vehicle registration
  • Having your vehicle impounded

See More: High-Risk Car Insurance in California

Minimum Requirements for High-Risk Drivers in California

Depending on the specific offense they’ve committed, high-risk drivers may have to jump through a few hoops to get back on the road. People with certain moving violations, such as speeding tickets, may simply have to pay off a ticket.

Other violations, like driving under the influence (DUI), are more serious and may result in the suspension of your license. To get your license reinstated, you may have to install an ignition interlock device and file an SR-22 form, a certificate showing you meet the state’s financial responsibility requirements. You’ll be required to maintain the SR-22 for three years.

More Information for High-Risk Drivers in California

DUI Insurance in California

SR-22 Insurance in California

Cheapest Minimum Car Insurance in California

Car insurance companies weigh different factors to determine what to quote drivers on their car insurance policies. Minimum coverage generally means lower car insurance rates. It also means low coverage limits, which may cost you if you’re ever involved in an accident. Here are the cheapest car insurance quotes for minimum coverage in California.

Insurance CompanyMonthly Quote for Minimum Coverage
Progressive$84
Travelers$95
Kemper$124
Dairyland$159
Bristol West$132
Disclaimer: actual quotes may vary based on the policyholder's unique driver profile.

How to Find Cheap Car Insurance in California

Finding a low-cost policy isn’t always easy, but with a little research, you can find cheap insurance that meets the California minimum requirements. Compare car insurance quotes from several insurance companies to find the best policy for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Yes. All drivers in California must carry 15/30/5—that’s $15,000 for motorist bodily injury to one person, $30,000 for bodily injury to more than one person, and $5,000 for property damage liability.

  • No. California is an at-fault state. The person who is at fault for the accident will be responsible for paying damages to the victims.

  • No. However, it’s a good idea to add it to your policy. Uninsured motorist protection steps in if you’re the victim of a hit-and-run or if an uninsured driver causes an accident.

  • 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[3].

  • The best way to find cheap car insurance in California is to compare car insurance quotes from plenty of insurance companies. Use Insurify to see what different insurers are charging for the same policy and find insurance that works for you.

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  • Data scientists at Insurify analyzed over 40 million auto insurance rates across the United States to compile the car insurance quotes, statistics, and data visualizations displayed on this page. The car insurance data includes coverage analysis and details on drivers' vehicles, driving records, and demographic information. With these insights, Insurify is able to offer drivers insight into how their car insurance premiums are priced by companies.

Jennifer Pendell
Jennifer Pendell

Insurance Writer

Jennifer Pendell is a personal finance expert. She specializes in breaking down dense subjects to make them easier for consumers to understand, with a particular interest in homeowners, renters, and auto insurance concepts. She studied at the University of Iowa.

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Sources

  1. California Department of Motor Vehicles. "Minimum Car Insurance Requirements." Accessed June 14, 2022
  2. California Department of Insurance. "Penalties for Driving Uninsured in California." Accessed June 16, 2022
  3. California Department of Motor Vehicles. "Financial Responsibility Requirements for Vehicle Registration ." Accessed June 16, 2022