Navigating the complexities of auto insurance can be particularly challenging for low-income drivers, but California offers a solution through its California Low-Cost Auto Insurance program (CLCA). Established in 1999, this program was designed to provide affordable coverage for those who qualify and aims to ensure that all Californians have access to essential auto insurance. For those seeking low-income car insurance in CA, understanding the details of the California Low-Cost Auto Insurance program is essential. Bankrate can help you explore its benefits, eligibility criteria and the application process. Whether you are seeking low-cost auto insurance program reviews or simply want to understand how the CLCA program works, this comprehensive guide can help.

What is the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program?

Drivers who cannot afford car insurance in the private market might qualify for the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program. While the coverage offered is less substantial than a minimum coverage insurance policy purchased through a typical insurer, a policy through CLCA still satisfies the state’s financial responsibility laws.

Base CLCA policies provide liability-only coverage with the following policy limits:

Unlike a regular auto insurance policy, a CLCA policy is not very customizable. Comprehensive and collision coverage are not available through this program; drivers seeking these types of insurance would need to purchase them from a separate provider. However, CLCA policyholders may add the following coverages to their policies for an added cost of around $43 to $82 per year:

  • $1,000 of medical payments coverage per person
  • $10,000 of uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $20,000 of uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident

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Who is eligible for low-income car insurance in CA?

The CLCA insurance program is not meant for those who are simply looking for cheap insurance in California. It is strictly for motorists whose income is below the federal poverty level and who need affordable auto insurance. Because this is not a regular insurance policy, eligibility restrictions apply and customers do not have much flexibility in terms of coverage. Also, only a few insurance companies are permitted to sell these policies, and customers cannot choose the provider.

To be eligible for the program, you must:

  • Have a valid California driver’s license
  • Own a vehicle worth no more than $25,000
  • Be at least 16 years old (applicants under 18 must be legally emancipated)
  • Meet income eligibility requirements
  • Have a good driving record

The CLCA defines a “good driver” as someone who has held a license for three consecutive years, has no felonies or misdemeanors on their record and has earned no more than one point on their driving record in the past three years. A good driving record will also not have any at-fault accidents that resulted in injuries or death within the past three years.

Income eligibility requirements vary based on the size of your household. Per the CLCA website, these are:

  • $37,650 or less per year for a one-person household
  • $51,100 or less per year for a two-person household
  • $64,550 or less per year for a three-person household
  • $78,000 or less per year for a four-person household
  • $91,450 or less per year for a five-person household

To prove income, you may provide a W-2 form, 1099 form, payroll stub, pension letter or another qualifying form. A full list of accepted documents can be found on the CLCA website.

There are also restrictions on how many vehicles you may insure through the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program. Only two vehicles and two policies are allowed per person, and the program does not extend to commercial vehicles or motorcycles. Additionally, all cars in the household must be insured under CLCA in order to qualify.

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, applicants are advised to contact the California Department of Insurance helpline at 1-866-602-8861.

How much does the CLCA insurance program cost?

Expectedly, car insurance costs for the CLCA program are calculated differently than they are for private policies. 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 that range from $198 to $802 per year. Drivers on the program may pay all at once or put 20 percent down and pay the remainder in seven installments. However, each installment will incur a $4 transaction fee.

Because CLCA offers only basic liability coverage, each county within California has a different base price. Your base price could change depending on your age and driving experience. Drivers between the ages of 19 and 24 see a 30 percent surcharge on their base rates, while teen drivers between 16 and 18 pay double the base price. If you’re an adult driver who has held a license for less than three years, your policy will be 40 percent more expensive than your county’s base price.

There are two optional coverage types offered: medical payments and uninsured motorist protection. Medical payments coverage can help with you and your passengers’ hospital and other medical bills, while uninsured motorist coverage offers financial protection if you are hit by a driver without insurance. The prices for each are fixed and are added to the base cost of the policy.

  • County Base policy 19 to 24-year-old driver surcharge Inexperienced driver surcharge 16 to 18-year-old driver surcharge Uninsured motorist bodily injury Medical payments
    Alameda $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Alpine $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Amador $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Butte $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Calaveras $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Colusa $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Contra Costa $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Del Norte $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    El Dorado $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Fresno $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Glenn $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Humboldt $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Imperial $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Inyo $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Kern $281 $365 $393 $562 $32 $19
    Kings $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Lake $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Lassen $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Los Angeles $466 $606 $652 $932 $72 $35
    Madera $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Marin $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Mariposa $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Mendocino $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Merced $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Modoc $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Mono $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Monterey $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Napa $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Nevada $281 $365 $393 $562 $19 $19
    Orange $466 $606 $652 $932 $72 $35
    Placer $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Plumas $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Riverside $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Sacramento $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    San Benito $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    San Bernardino $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    San Diego $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    San Francisco $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    San Joaquin $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    San Luis Obispo $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    San Mateo $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Santa Barbara $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Santa Clara $293 $381 $410 $586 $32 $22
    Santa Cruz $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $32
    Shasta $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Sierra $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Siskiyou $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Solano $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Sonoma $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Stanislaus $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Sutter $293 $381 $410 $586 $39 $22
    Tehama $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Trinity $239 $311 $335 $478 $19 $18
    Tulare $232 $302 $325 $464 $32 $20
    Tuolumne $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Ventura $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19
    Yolo $281 $311 $368 $526 $19 $18
    Yuba $281 $365 $393 $562 $35 $19

Frequently asked questions

    • To determine if you are eligible for California low-cost auto insurance, you must meet several criteria. Firstly, you must be a resident of California with a valid driver’s license. Your household income should not exceed 250 percent of the federal poverty level. Additionally, you must own a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less, and you must have a good driving record with no at-fault accidents or felony violations in the past three years. Meeting these requirements should allow you to take advantage of the affordable coverage provided by the California Low-Cost Auto Insurance program. To find out if you are eligible for the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program, you can visit the website and complete a questionnaire.
    • The California Low Cost Auto Insurance (CLCA) program could be one of the best car insurance providers for good drivers with income levels below the federal poverty level. Drivers may fill out an eligibility questionnaire on the CLCA website. The coverage limits of a CLCA policy are lower than the insurance requirements mandated by California law, but they are enough to satisfy the financial responsibility requirements in the state. Applicants must not only meet the income criteria to qualify but must also maintain clean motor vehicle records to be eligible.
    • The California Low Cost Auto Insurance program offers a very cheap option for car insurance. Rates are determined based on your age, the county you live in, your driving experience and whether or not you choose to add uninsured motorist and medical payments coverage to your policy. To get a better estimate of what the program would cost, you can use the CLCA’s rate calculator tool. In general, premiums range from $198 to $802. Prices range from $232 to up to $1,039 per year.
    • The CLCA program does not offer collision or comprehensive coverage options, which are typically included in full coverage policies. However, you can add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage and medical payments coverage. If you’re interested in a policy with more robust coverage options, you may want to explore quotes from cheap auto carriers to see if you could afford a policy with a private insurer.