Auto insurance is mandatory for drivers in nearly every state, but car insurance isn’t always affordable, especially if you live in certain states. Some states, like California, offer programs to ensure that drivers can afford to purchase car insurance. California’s Low Cost Automobile Program, also known as CLCA, has been available since 1999 and provides low cost auto insurance to eligible drivers in the state.


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The program eligibility is restricted to low income drivers with California drivers’ licenses, so not all state residents will qualify. Those who do qualify get access to affordable minimum coverage auto insurance, which may help them fulfill their financial responsibility and drive legally. It’s important to note, though, that the coverage may be hardly sufficient to cover damages if the drivers cause a serious accident. Here’s what you need to know about the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program.

The California Low Cost Auto Insurance program

Low-income motorists in California could be insured at an affordable price under the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance program. However, the coverage you receive reflects the low cost, so the coverage is far below the state’s minimum requirements you would need to have if purchasing a standard auto insurance policy. The policy only provides basic coverage to meet California’s financial responsibility laws and doesn’t have the option to add collision or comprehensive coverage. The limits are:

  • Bodily injury: Up to $10,000 per person or $20,000 per claim in an at-fault accident
  • Property damage: Up to $3,000 to cover damage to other people’s property by your vehicle
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury: Optional coverage of up to $10,000 for injuries caused to the other vehicle involved in the accident and up to $20,000 per accident
  • Medical payments: Optional coverage that pays up to $1,000 per person per accident for medical expenses related to an accident

Who is eligible for CLCA?

Contrary to a common misconception, the CLCA insurance program is not meant for those who are simply looking for cheap insurance in California. It is strictly for those who are below the federal poverty level and need affordable auto insurance. Because this is not a regular insurance policy, eligibility is restrictive and customers don’t have much choice in terms of coverage. Also, only a few insurance companies are permitted to sell this policy, but customers cannot choose the provider.

To be eligible for this program, you have to meet the household and income requirements, in addition to the driving record and vehicle criteria. These are:

  • Have a California address where you live and park your car
  • At least 16 years of age
  • Have a valid California driver’s license
  • No more than two cars and two policies per person
  • Vehicle(s) used only for personal or commuting purposes
  • Vehicle worth no more than $25,000
  • Annual household income at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level
  • All cars in the household insured under CLCA
  • No at-fault accidents or violations in the past three years
  • No more than one point on your driving record

How to apply for CLCA

When applying for the CLCA insurance program, the process is different from buying other insurance policies. You don’t get to compare quotes or even choose the provider. To determine your eligibility, you need to either visit the CLCA website and fill out the questionnaire, or get in touch with a CLCA agent.

The process of enrollment is straightforward. All you have to do is click the “Apply Online” button on the website, choose to select an agent and submit the required information. In case of problems or disputes, people are advised to contact the California Department of Insurance helpline.

Cost of the CLCA insurance program

Standard insurance companies determine the annual cost of a policy based on a number of factors, from the type of vehicle to the driver’s ZIP code. However, when enrolling for the CLCA insurance program, there is no comparison shopping like you might see when shopping for the best car insurance policies. Instead, there are set rates.

Because CLCA offers only basic liability coverage, each county within California has a different base price. Although much lower than standard liability coverage rates, this price may rise in two cases: if you are a single male driver between the age of 19 and 24 or if you have less than three years of driving history. The former has a 25 percent surcharge and the latter a 30 percent surcharge.

There are two coverage options offered: medical payments and uninsured motorist protection. The prices for each are fixed and added to the base cost of the policy. The following table illustrates the base cost by county and the price of the policy after adding a surcharge.

County Base +25% +30%
Alameda $261 $326 $339
Alpine $225 $281 $293
Amador $225 $281 $293
Butte $251 $314 $326
Calaveras $225 $281 $293
Colusa $251 $314 $326
Contra Costa $261 $326 $339
Del Norte $251 $314 $326
El Dorado $225 $281 $293
Fresno $213 $266 $277
Glenn $251 $314 $326
Humboldt $251 $314 $326
Imperial $225 $281 $293
Inyo $225 $281 $293
Kern $225 $281 $293
Kings $213 $266 $277
Lake $251 $314 $326
Lassen $251 $314 $326
Los Angeles $363 $454 $472
Madera $213 $266 $277
Marin $261 $326 $339
Mariposa $225 $281 $293
Mendocino $251 $314 $326
Merced $213 $266 $277
Modoc $251 $314 $326
Mono $225 $281 $293
Monterey $213 $266 $277
Napa $251 $314 $326
Nevada $225 $281 $293
Orange $363 $454 $472
Placer $225 $281 $293
Plumas $251 $314 $326
Riverside $225 $281 $293
Sacramento $261 $326 $339
San Benito $213 $266 $277
San Bernardino $225 $281 $293
San Diego $225 $281 $293
San Francisco $261 $326 $339
San Joaquin $261 $326 $339
San Luis Obispo $213 $266 $277
San Mateo $261 $326 $339
Santa Barbara $213 $266 $277
Santa Clara $261 $326 $339
Santa Cruz $213 $266 $277
Shasta $251 $314 $326
Sierra $225 $281 $293
Solano $251 $314 $326
Siskiyou $251 $314 $326
Sonoma $251 $314 $326
Stanislaus $261 $326 $339
Sutter $261 $326 $339
Tehama $251 $314 $326
Trinity $251 $314 $326
Tulare $213 $266 $277
Tuolumne $225 $281 $293
Ventura $225 $281 $293
Yolo $251 $314 $326
Yuba $225 $281 $293

Frequently asked questions

    • It depends. While the CLCA insurance program offers a low cost option for drivers, the liability coverage is lower than the insurance requirements mandated by California. However, it is enough to satisfy the financial responsibility requirements in this state. As such, if a driver with this type of insurance were to be involved in a serious accident, the limits for this type of insurance might fall short of covering the full extent of the damages.
    • If you’re a low-income driver in California, low cost insurance that you can reasonably afford may be difficult to come by. The CLCA program may be a coverage solution for those who meet the vehicle and driving record requirements, but the program is only available to those living at or below 250 percent of the federal poverty level. If you don’t meet the program’s income requirements, but still want cheap coverage, it may be worth comparing rates from the best car insurance companies in California. By requesting quotes for the same levels of coverage and applying as many discounts as you’re eligible for, you may be able to determine which company offers the lowest rates for your situation.
    • The cheapest car insurance company is different for each driver. That’s because there are a number of factors that insurance companies weigh when determining car insurance rates, including the type of vehicle you drive, your driving record, your age, your ZIP code and more. Each company weighs these factors differently, which means that the cheapest option for one driver may not be the cheapest for another driver. If you’re looking for the cheapest car insurance options for you, it may be helpful to get personalized quotes from a number of different insurers and then compare the options to find out which one is most affordable for your situation.