Cheapest car insurance in California

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If you are looking for the cheapest car insurance in California, there are plenty of options. Capital offers the cheapest full coverage car insurance, with an average annual premium of $1,582, based on Bankrate’s extensive research. Geico’s minimum coverage is the cheapest at $520 per year, on average, according to our analysis. For comparison, California’s average premiums are $2,065 annually for full coverage and $733 per year for minimum coverage.

Searching for cheap car insurance in California does not mean you have to sacrifice the quality of your coverage. In fact, by finding the cheapest rates, you may be able to afford more coverage than you thought. 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

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 coverages, 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.

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

Grange and Geico offer 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.

But if minimum coverage is all you can afford, we found that these companies offer the cheapest rates, on average:

Car insurance company Minimum coverage average annual premium Minimum coverage average monthly premium
Grange $520 $43
Geico $521 $43
Mercury $624 $52
CSE $647 $54
Wawanesa $652 $54

The cheapest companies for full coverage in California

Our research revealed that Capital and Wawanesa have the lowest average full coverage car insurance premiums in California. Full coverage adds comprehensive and collision coverages to your policy, giving you financial protection for damage to your vehicle as well as damage that you cause to others.

Car insurance company Full coverage average annual premium Full coverage average monthly premium
Capital $1,582 $132
Wawanesa $1,599 $133
Geico $1,615 $135
Mercury $1,636 $136
Travelers $1,794 $150

Events that can impact your cheap rates in California

If you have recently experienced a life event, like getting into an accident or having a teen driver turn 16, you may want to take the time to shop your auto insurance policy. 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.
  • 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.

Cheapest cities in California for minimum coverage

In addition to your driving record and the coverage level that you choose, your city can play a role in how much you pay for car insurance. Densely populated areas like Los Angeles and San Diego generally have a higher cost of living, which includes higher 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
Weed $509 $42
Trinidad $519 $43
Westhaven-Moonstone $519 $43
San Ardo $523 $44
Big Pine $528 $44

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 California cities have some of the cheapest average full coverage car insurance rates based on our investigation:

City Minimum coverage average annual premium Minimum coverage average monthly premium
Los Osos $1,561 $130
Weed $1,576 $131
Cambria $1,586 $132
Mount Shasta $1,587 $132
Yreka $1,604 $134

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 coverages:

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

Car insurance companies must also 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” by providing a $35,000 cash deposit or surety bond to the DMV in lieu of car insurance.

Although state minimum coverage is all that is required to drive legally, most insurance agents recommend that you purchase higher levels of liability. 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 nation as a whole, there are ways you can save money. If your budget for car insurance is tight, you may want check out the following steps to find cheap car insurance:

  • 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, choosing a deductible level that you can reasonably afford to pay could help avoid financial stress if you do file a claim.
  • 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 help you find cheap coverage, but maintaining your cheap auto insurance policy requires a few additional steps:

  • Maintain a clean driving record: Drivers with accidents, tickets or DUI convictions tend to pay more for insurance, while drivers with clean driving records avoid those surcharges. Practicing safe driving habits might help you keep your car insurance costs in line.
  • Keep continuous insurance: Lapses in coverage often result in premium increases, because it is illegal to drive without insurance in California. Paying on time and making sure your policy stays in force could help you maintain affordable rates.
  • Occasionally shop your policy: While most insurance providers do not recommend shopping your policy every year — you might miss out on substantial loyalty discounts — checking your rates with other companies occasionally could help you decide if your current company is still the most competitive for your needs.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best car insurance company 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.

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.

What factors affect my car insurance premium in California?

Your age, driving history, vehicle type and coverage choices can all impact your premium. Notably, California does not use gender or credit tier to rate policies. The state also bans the use of ZIP codes to rate insurance policies.

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 Writer & Editor
Cate Deventer is a writer, editor and insurance professional with nearly a decade of experience in the insurance industry as a licensed insurance agent.
Edited by
Insurance Editor