Cheapest car insurance in California for 2021

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From the Golden Coast to the stunning sights of Yosemite National Park, California offers its residents a desirable lifestyle. While the state is one of the most enticing places in the U.S. to live, it is also one of the most expensive. The average cost of car insurance in California is $733 annually for minimum coverage and $2,065 annual for full coverage. That is significantly higher than the national average of $565 per year for minimum coverage and $1,674 per year for full coverage.

This could be in part due to the likelihood of serious accidents in the Golden State. In 2017, over 277,000 people were injured in car accidents and over 3,900 were killed. While you need an auto insurance policy to drive legally, finding the cheapest car insurance in California may be a priority. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team used Quadrant Information Services to obtain current premium information for the largest insurance companies by market share. Knowing what companies tend to offer cheap average rates might help you find a policy that fits your budget.

The cheapest car insurance companies in California

When searching for the cheapest auto insurance in California, it can be helpful to know what a company’s average rates are. Although rates are highly personalized depending heavily on your individual rating factors, choosing a company known for offering low average premiums could help you save money.

If you are shopping for cheap car insurance in California, you might want to get quotes from the following companies:

Car insurance company Average annual premium for minimum coverage Average annual premium for full coverage
Geico $521 $1,615
Mercury $624 $1,636
Progressive $668 $1,808
Allstate $801 $2,119
Kemper $857 $2,564

Geico

Geico is known for offering cheap policies, and the company maintains that reputation in California. The company’s average rates are the cheapest on our list for both full coverage and minimum coverage. In addition to these low average premiums, Geico offers a long list of discounts that might help you save even more. You might qualify for a discount if you are a federal employee, a member of the military or a safe driver.

However, Geico’s policies are relatively basic and do not offer many options for personalization. The company did receive a high score from J.D. Power in the 2020 U.S. Auto Insurance Study in the California region, so if you are looking for strong customer service, Geico may be a good choice.

Mercury

Mercury offers some of the lowest premiums on our list and provides a few optional coverages and discounts to help you tailor your policy to your needs. You may have the option to add ride-hailing coverage, rental car coverage and roadside assistance. And you might save money by paying in full, having an anti-theft device on your vehicle, or insuring more than one car or driver.

However, Mercury did receive below-average J.D. Power scores for both claims service and overall customer satisfaction in the California region. Although, if you are looking for a policy that you can manage online, Mercury could be a good fit. The company’s customer portal allows you to make payments, print ID cards, view your policy information and contact your agent.

Progressive

Progressive is one of the largest carriers on our list of cheapest car insurance companies in California. The company offers average full coverage rates that are lower than California’s average rates, but also provides a list of discounts to help you save even more. You could save for getting your quote and purchasing your policy completely online, paying in full or signing up for paperless documents. You might even save for owning a home, even if you do not insure it with Progressive.

Progressive did receive an above-industry average J.D. Power scores for customer satisfaction in California, but a below-average score for overall claims service. The company does have a strong online presence and mobile app, though, so if digital assets are important to you, Progressive could be a good option.

Kemper

California residents may want to consider getting a quote from Kemper even though the company’s premiums are the highest on our list. Kemper has options for both standard and non-standard drivers, and the company could be a good choice if you have accidents and tickets on your driving record. The fact that Kemper has insurance options for high-risk drivers may be part of the reason the company’s average premium is higher than California’s average.

Depending on which auto insurance option you are able to purchase from Kemper — the Personal Insurance Auto is for standard drivers whereas the Kemper Auto option is for high-risk drivers — there may be discounts that could help you lower your premium, including savings for defensive drivers, military members and good students.

Allstate

Allstate’s average premiums are higher than the state average, but the company does offer numerous optional coverages and discounts that might help you find a policy that fits your needs at a price that fits your budget. You may be able to add roadside assistance coverage, ridesharing coverage, sound system equipment coverage or car rental reimbursement coverage to round out your policy.

You may be able to lower your premium using Allstate’s plentiful discounts. You might save for insuring a new car, signing up for paperless billing, utilizing automatic payment withdrawals or being a safe driver. Allstate also received an above-industry-average score in the 2020 J.D. Power U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study, indicating that customers were satisfied with the company’s claims service.

Minimum coverage requirements for California drivers

In California, drivers are required to carry a minimum amount of coverage. If you are a driver in California, these are the coverages and minimum limits you are required to have:

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

In addition to liability coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage must be offered in California, though drivers have the option not to purchase it. If you choose to buy the minimum amount of coverage in California, you may pay some of the lowest rates. However, most insurance professionals recommend that you purchase higher liability limits. If you cause an accident and the cost of vehicle damages and medical bills are higher than your coverage limits, you could be left with out-of-pocket expenses.

Talking to an agent or licensed insurance professional about your insurance needs could help you determine how much coverage you should purchase. Additionally, minimum limits do not include comprehensive or collision coverage, which provides coverage for damage to your own vehicle. Purchasing full coverage includes these options. If you have a loan or lease on your vehicle, you will likely be required to carry full coverage.

How to get cheap car insurance in California

Although car insurance in California is more expensive than it is in the nation as a whole, there are ways you can save money. If your budget for car insurance is tight, you may want to:

  • Get multiple quotes: Getting quotes from several providers is one of the best ways to see if you can save on your car insurance. Each company has its own rating algorithm and weights 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 that is right for you.
  • Choose a higher deductible: If you have full coverage, you have two deductibles on your policy, one each for comprehensive and collision. Your deductible is the amount of money you have to pay if you file a claim for damage to your vehicle. Choosing a higher deductible generally means that your premium will be lower. However, it is important to make sure you can afford to pay a higher deductible before you update your policy.
  • Take advantage of discounts: Most insurance companies offer discounts that can help drivers lower their premiums. Every company offers different discounts, but some common ones are for paying your premium in full, bundling your policies and insuring multiple vehicles.

These techniques might save you money, but price is not the only factor when it comes to auto insurance. Finding a company that offers coverage to fit your needs, has good financial strength and good customer service scores are also important things to consider.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance in California?

There is not one best car insurance company in California, since every driver is different. Some drivers want the lowest rates, some want the best coverage and others want great customer service. Understanding what you are looking for in a company and comparing several companies that could meet your needs might help you find a good option for you.

Why is car insurance expensive in California?

There are numerous factors that make up the cost of an auto policy. California’s high population and busy roads may contribute to the cost of insurance if it is more likely that you will get into an accident in The Golden State. However, individual rating factors also affect your insurance premium, so the price you pay may be higher or lower than the average. Your age, gender, driving history, ZIP code, vehicle type and coverage choices will all impact your premium.

What happens if I drive without insurance in California?

Car insurance in California can be expensive, but it is important to have a policy in place. Driving without insurance is a serious offense. If you are caught driving without a policy in place, you may be subjected to fines, have your license suspended or have your vehicle impounded.

If you cause an accident without insurance, you could be financially responsible for the damages and injuries that you cause. This could devastate your financial health and could lead to a lawsuit. Having a policy in place not only helps to protect other drivers, but also protects your own finances.

How much does car insurance in California cost?

The average driver in California pays $733 per year for minimum coverage and $2,065 per year for full coverage. However, you may pay more or less than the statewide average based on factors like your ZIP code, age, credit score, type of vehicle and driving history.

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 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.

Written by
Cate Deventer
Insurance Editor
Cate Deventer is a writer, editor and insurance professional. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English with a concentration in professional and technical writing from Indiana University East. She began writing for Bankrate in January 2021 and has nearly a decade of experience in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent. Cate has worked with over a dozen insurance companies and is experienced with auto, home, flood, umbrella and life insurance.
Edited by
Insurance Editor