California drivers pay some of the highest statewide average rates in the country for car insurance. California drivers pay an average of $2,065 per year for full coverage and $733 per year for minimum coverage, according to Bankrate’s analysis of average premiums from Quadrant Information Services. This is significantly higher than the national average cost of car insurance.
But while rates are higher on average in this state, California drivers can still obtain cheap auto insurance without sacrificing coverage for cost. According to our rate study, Geico offers the cheapest average price for minimum coverage in California, while Capital offers the cheapest full coverage rates in the state. Individual rates will vary, though, so shopping around with multiple carriers is the most advantageous way to find the best car insurance for your budget. We’ve compiled a list of the cheapest car insurance for drivers in California to help.
The cheapest car insurance companies in California
To find the cheapest auto insurance in California, Bankrate’s insurance editorial team first obtained 2021 premium data from Quadrant Information Services for the largest car insurance companies by market share in California. We also reviewed each company’s available coverage types, discounts, customer satisfaction scores and financial strength ratings. This means that these companies offer affordable rates as well as robust coverage and highly-rated service to policyholders. If you are looking for the cheapest car insurance companies in California, the following carriers might be a good fit, depending on what coverage level you are looking for.
The cheapest companies for minimum coverage in California
Geico offers the cheapest minimum coverage premiums in California, based on our analysis. Because minimum coverage provides the lowest level of financial protection that you can purchase in California, premiums tend to be lower. Most insurance professionals recommend that you purchase higher liability limits if you can afford to so that you are not financially devastated from a major loss if you are ruled at fault in an auto accident.
But if minimum coverage is all you can afford, we found that these five national and regional companies offer the cheapest rates, on average:
|Car insurance company||Minimum coverage average annual premium||Minimum coverage average monthly premium|
The cheapest companies for full coverage in California
Our research revealed that regional carriers Capital and Wawanesa have the lowest average cost for full coverage car insurance in California. Full coverage adds optional comprehensive coverage and collision coverage to your policy, giving you financial protection for damage to your vehicle as well as damage that you cause to others in an at-fault accident.
|Car insurance company||Full coverage average annual premium||Full coverage average monthly premium|
Events that can impact your cheap rates in California
If you have recently experienced a life event, like moving to a new location or getting married, or getting into an accident or adding a teen driver to your policy, you may want to take the time to shop your auto insurance coverage. When life changes, your insurance needs might change as well. You may want to reconsider your car insurance coverage if you have recently:
- Added a teen driver: Teen drivers are inexperienced, which generally translates to higher premiums. But there are cheap car insurance companies for teen drivers and many carriers offer student discounts to help you reduce your rate.
- Received a speeding ticket: Speeding tickets can be an indication of risky driving behavior, as speed can make accidents more severe. If you have a speeding ticket on your record, you might see an increase in your premium for three to five years.
- Been involved in an at-fault accident: At-fault accidents generally increase your premium for three to five years. If you have been involved in an accident, there are companies that may not surcharge you as heavily, so shopping your policy could help you save money.
- Been deemed a high-risk driver: High-risk drivers are generally drivers with one or more speeding tickets, at-fault accidents or DUI convictions on their records. While you will likely pay more for coverage as a high-risk driver, there are steps you can take to lower your premium, including taking advantage of discounts.
- Moved to a new city or recently married: According to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I), your location and marital status are among the individual rating factors that insurers use to determine premium costs for California drivers. Other common rating factors include your age, motor vehicle record, make and model of your vehicle, auto claims history, coverages and deductibles you select and how many miles you drive per year.
Cheapest cities in California for minimum coverage
The specific city where you reside in California can play a significant role in how much you pay for auto insurance. Densely populated areas like Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Diego generally have a higher cost of living, which includes higher auto insurance premiums.
Based on our research, the cheapest cities in California for minimum coverage are:
|City||Minimum coverage average annual premium||Minimum coverage average monthly premium|
Cheapest cities in California for full coverage
When it comes to full coverage, prices are generally higher than they are for minimum coverage. This is because full coverage provides more financial protection and includes coverage for damage to your car. The cost of vehicle repairs also plays a role in how cheap or expensive full coverage car insurance is. In cities with higher costs of living, like San Jose and San Francisco, full coverage may cost more.
These five small California cities have some of the cheapest average full coverage car insurance rates based on Bankrate’s analysis:
|City||Minimum coverage average annual premium||Minimum coverage average monthly premium|
Minimum coverage requirements for California drivers
Like most states, California designates the minimum amount of car insurance that drivers must purchase to drive legally. If you live in California, you must carry at least the following minimum coverage type and levels:
- $15,000 bodily injury liability per person
- $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident
- $5,000 property damage liability per accident
According to the Triple-I, the uninsured motorist rate in California is 16.6%, the 10th worst in the U.S. As a result of this high rate, auto insurers in the Golden State are required to offer you uninsured motorist coverage and underinsured motorist coverage, although you can decline these options in writing. California residents can also satisfy the state’s “financial responsibility law” for high-risk drivers by providing a $35,000 cash deposit or surety bond to the DMV in lieu of car insurance. This typically applies to drivers with DUIs and other major infractions on their motor vehicle records.
Although state minimum coverage is all that is required to drive legally, most insurance experts recommend that you purchase higher levels of liability to have financial peace of mind. Car accidents can be expensive, and if the damages and injuries you cause exceed your insurance amount, you will have to pay for the overage out of pocket. Additionally, if you have a loan or lease, you may be required to carry full coverage.
Here is how to find (and keep) cheap car insurance in California
Although car insurance in California is more expensive than it is in the U.S. as a whole, there are ways you can save money. If your budget for car insurance is tight, you may want to check out the following steps for securing and maintaining cheap auto coverage:
- Get multiple quotes: Getting quotes from several providers is one of the best ways to see if you can save on your car insurance. The Triple-I recommends obtaining a minimum of three quotes from a mix of national and regional insurers. Each company has its own rating algorithm and weights individual rating factors differently. Additionally, every driver has a different set of circumstances that they bring to their car insurance search. Comparing premiums, coverages, discounts and features may help you find a policy and price that is right for you.
- Maintain a clean driving record: Drivers with accidents, moving violations or DUI convictions on their motor vehicle record tend to pay more for auto insurance, while drivers with clean driving records avoid these types of surcharges. Practicing safe driving habits might help you keep your car insurance costs in line.
Frequently asked questions
What is the best car insurance company in California?
The best car insurance company in California will vary based on your needs and wants. Each driver brings unique preferences to their search for car insurance. For example, you might be looking for the lowest rates while another driver might want a company that offers user-friendly policy management and claims-filing capabilities via a mobile app. Making a list of the features, coverage types and discounts that you are looking for and then getting quotes from a few companies might help you find a good carrier for your circumstances.
Why is car insurance expensive in California?
Auto insurance premiums vary based on more than a dozen rating factors. California has a large population and is a top tourist destination in the U.S., which means that roadways can be crowded. More vehicles on the road typically leads to a higher likelihood of accidents. Additionally, the cost of living in California is higher than it is in many other parts of the country. That means that the cost for medical care, vehicle parts, labor and legal fees might all be higher, and those factors can change the cost of your insurance coverage. Remember, though, that your rate is based on your individual rating factors, so you may pay more or less than the Golden State’s average cost for car insurance.
What happens if I drive without insurance in California?
Car insurance in California can be expensive, but it is important to have an active policy in place before you hit the road. Driving without insurance is a serious offense and could even be classified as a misdemeanor in the state. If you are caught driving without a policy in place, you may be subjected to fines up to $1,000, have your license suspended and your vehicle impounded, and even be sentenced to jail for up to six months.
If you cause an accident without insurance, you will be held financially and legally responsible for the damages and injuries that you cause. This could be financially devastating to you and your family and could also result in a major lawsuit filed against you. Having insurance coverage not only helps to protect other drivers, but also protects your own financial health.
What factors affect my car insurance premium in California?
Factors that could impact your car insurance in California include age, location, years of driving experience, driving history and past claims. Notably, California does not use gender or a credit-based insurance score to rate policies. The type of car you drive could also impact your cost, as could your annual mileage. Your desired coverage, including your policy’s liability amounts, deductibles for collision and comprehensive coverage, and any other add-ons will impact your premium amount.
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 coverage that meets each state’s requirements. Our base profile drivers own a 2019 Toyota Camry, commute five days a week and drive 12,000 miles annually.
These are sample rates and should only be used for comparative purposes.