Best car insurance in California for 2021

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Before driving off the lot with a new vehicle, you must purchase insurance to comply with California law and satisfy lender requirements (if your vehicle is financed or leased). Compared to the national average cost of full coverage car insurance ($1,674 a year), California’s average annual rates are on the higher end at $2,065 a year.

Finding the cheapest car insurance in California will depend on numerous factors unique to your situation, such as your age, driving record and location, as well as how much coverage you need.

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, the state has over 27 million licensed drivers on the road. California has the highest population in the country, making it one of the busiest states for drivers. And in 2018, California was second only to Texas for motor vehicle deaths.

Because of these factors, auto insurance is essential for California drivers, and reviewing quotes from multiple providers can help you determine which rates and coverage might best suit your needs. To help you find what carrier is best for you, Bankrate reviewed several insurance providers in your state and evaluated them on 2021 car insurance premiums, as well as financial strength, customer satisfaction ratings and market share. Here are some of the top car insurance companies and their average annual full coverage quoted premiums.

Best car insurance companies in California

Provider J.D. Power customer satisfaction score Average annual full coverage premium
Geico 828/1000 $1,615
Progressive 823/1000 $1,808
State Farm 836/1000 $1,943
Wawanesa 853/1000 $1,599

In the 2020 J.D. Power U.S. Auto Insurance Study, Wawanesa received top rankings as the best car insurance company in California for customer satisfaction, followed by Auto Club of Southern California Insurance Group (an AAA affiliate), State Farm, Ameriprise and Geico. The J.D. Power study rates companies based on:

  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Policy offerings
  • Policy pricing
  • Billing process and policy information
  • Customer interaction
  • Claims handling
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Requesting quotes can help you compare costs, but it may also be your priority to consider a company’s financial strength and performance as this indicates their ability to pay out on future claims.

Geico

Geico is a nationwide insurance provider, and as such is able to offer fairly competitive rates (based on average annual premiums). With Geico you can potentially find additional savings by bundling your homeowners insurance or renters insurance with your auto insurance, but you can also save by pursuing other auto insurance discounts, such as earning a good driver discount and good student discount.

Geico’s mobile app allows you to manage your policy entirely from your smartphone device. This includes updating or changing your policy, making a payment and even filing a claim.

Learn more: Geico insurance review.

Progressive

In addition to quoted premiums landing among the cheapest car insurance rates in California, Progressive offers a well-rounded selection of coverage options. Drivers can expand auto insurance coverage with optional coverages such as MedPay, gap insurance and rental car insurance. If you drive for Uber or another rideshare company, Progressive offers rideshare coverage for drivers who need it.

Progressive receives an A+ (Superior) rating from AM Best — an indication of exceptional financial strength and stability.

Learn more: Progressive insurance review.

State Farm

State Farm provides California drivers a variety of insurance offerings beyond just car insurance, such as homeowners and life insurance. The insurer has numerous local agents across the state, ready to help you decide on the best California car insurance policy to give you financial protection and peace of mind for whatever the road holds. Working with a local agent may give you added confidence that you have the coverages you need, and help you determine which discounts you may also qualify for.

Discounts may help to bring down your annual full coverage premium. Because rates are highly subjective to each driver, you can expect your quoted premium to differ from State Farm’s 2021 average annual rates.

Learn more: State Farm insurance review.

Wawanesa

Wawanesa received the highest scores for customer satisfaction from J.D. Power compared to providers reviewed here. Combined with competitive average annual rates, Wawanesa may appeal to many California drivers.

Wawanesa stands out for its tech-forward approach to insurance as well. Its online portal provides easy and transparent policy management options for California drivers. Its comprehensive list of coverages include standout options such as rental reimbursement, uninsured and underinsured motorist protections and vehicle manufacturer replacement part coverage.

Learn more: Wawanesa insurance review.

Average car insurance cost in California

The average annual cost of car insurance in California is $2,065 for full coverage and $733 for minimum coverage, based on quoted premiums from Quadrant Information Services. Given these averages, California drivers may pay a bit more than the national average of $1,674 annually for full coverage. However, these are sample rates so your quotes will vary.

Average annual premium for minimum coverage in California Average annual premium for full coverage in California
$733 $2,065

State minimum insurance requirements in California

California requires drivers to carry at least the minimum liability insurance coverage on vehicles registered in the state. The minimum coverage requirements are:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident

California also requires that you are offered uninsured and underinsured motorist bodily injury coverage, along with uninsured motor property damage, but you can decline these coverages if you do not want to have them. Comprehensive and collision insurance are also not required by the state, yet if your car is financed, most lenders will require you to purchase these coverages to repair your vehicle from a covered incident. If your vehicle is leased, your coverage criteria may be different as well, since typically, a lease requires higher liability coverage limits and a maximum deductible amount for comprehensive and collision.

Check with your lenders to confirm what coverage you need and speak with an insurance agent to review your policy.

How to get the best car insurance

Although California’s average quoted rates indicate it is not the cheapest state for car insurance, drivers can find the lowest rates or best discounts for their situation by shopping around and comparing quotes from multiple providers. Here are two ways you may be able to find the best car insurance for your situation:

  • Evaluate your needs: Premiums vary widely among companies and rates can differ according to factors such as your driving record, how much you drive, specific ZIP code and the make and model of your vehicle, as well as the level of coverage you opt for. Based on your coverage needs, discount availability and preferred level of customer focus, one provider’s rates may be more appealing than another in your comparison-shopping.
  • Consider state factors: California has the highest population in the country, and a large number of those motorists are uninsured (currently over 15% of California drivers don’t have insurance). If you live in a bigger California city, such as Los Angeles or San Francisco, the chances of you needing to file a claim for theft or vandalism may also be higher than in other parts of the state or even the U.S. Cost of living in California may also impact your financial planning, and could be a variable in the amount of coverage you seek.

Car insurance discounts in California

Most car insurance companies offer discounts to help you save money on your car insurance premium. Common discounts in California include:

  • Multi-policy discount: Carriers that offer multiple insurance products, like auto, home and umbrella policies, often give you a discount on each policy that you buy. Consolidating your insurance products with one company could save you quite a bit of money.
  • Good driver discount: If you have not been in an accident or had a ticket for a certain number of years, usually three to five, you may qualify for a good or safe driver discount.
  • Loyalty discount: Although switching your insurance may help you to find a lower premium, many companies will reward you with a discount for the longer you maintain your policy with the same provider.
  • Good student discount: If you insure a full-time student under the age of 25, you may be able to take advantage of a good student discount. Typically, students must maintain a B-or-better letter-grade average or a 3.0 GPA to qualify.
  • Affinity discounts: If you belong to certain organizations, like membership clubs or alumni associations, you might qualify for a discount with some insurance carriers.

Each insurance company has its own unique array of discounts. You can often research discounts on a company’s website, but talking to a representative might be the best way to identify which discounts are available to you.

Frequently asked questions

How much is California car insurance?

Full coverage car insurance in California averages around $2,065 a year. However, these are sample rates and your own will differ based on a variety of factors unique to your situation.

Which auto insurance company is best in California?

Because each provider offers unique rates, coverage options, varied degrees of customer satisfaction and discount opportunities, the best car insurance company will depend on each driver’s preferences. While the top providers by market share may be a good place to start comparing quotes, local providers may also offer favorable rates or customer service.

Does California require car owners to purchase insurance?

Yes. California drivers are required to hold at least a minimum liability policy, which provides the following amounts of coverage:

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

Does California have a reduced rate program for low-income drivers?

Yes. California’s Low-Cost Automobile Program offers potential savings on car insurance for drivers who meet income requirements.

Methodology

Bankrate utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze 2021 rates for all ZIP codes and carriers in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Quoted rates are based on a 40-year-old male and female driver with a clean driving record, good credit and the following full coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident
  • $500 collision deductible
  • $500 comprehensive deductible

To determine minimum coverage limits, Bankrate used minimum coverages that meet each state’s requirements. Our sample drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.

These are sample rates and should be used for comparative purposes only. Your quotes may be different.

Why trust us

Bankrate demystifies the insurance industry by making it easier to find insurance information. Regardless of where you are in your journey, Bankrate helps you make informed decisions.

We use two key sets of customer priorities to evaluate insurance carriers and help you decide what to consider:

First: we evaluated customer satisfaction and complaints, financial strength and stability and overall costs based on average rates quoted to real drivers.

Second: we evaluated customer experience by assessing each provider’s customer service options through online capabilities and agent accessibility.

Written by
Lena Borrelli
Insurance Contributor
Lena Muhtadi Borrelli has several years of experience in writing for insurance domains such as allconnect, Healthline and Reviews.com. She previously worked for Morgan Stanley.
Edited by
Insurance Editor
Reviewed by
Bankrate Financial Review Board