Hollay Ghadery Last Updated On: August 3, 2023

How to Find the Best Car Insurance in California

The state of sunshine, chasing big dreams, and endless blue skies—California. Whether you’re a Cali resident or touring wine country along the Pacific Coast, you want to ensure your car insurance is up for the ride. 

An estimated 259.8 million people visited California in 2022 and over 39 million people call California home, which is a lot of people on the roads at any given time.  Busy roads increase your chances of getting into a car accident, so you want to ensure you have top-notch car insurance so you can happily cruise along the coastline because you know your car insurance has got your back. 

You’re on the road to finding the best car insurance in California, but first let’s go over everything you’ll want to know about car insurance in the Grape State, from cost to coverage and more. 

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Table of Contents

California Car Insurance Minimums

To legally drive in California, you must be insured. So if you’re ready to cruise the Golden State, these are the state minimums:

  • Liability coverage minimums (15/30/5):
    • $15,000 bodily injury per person, for a maximum payout of $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident
    • $5,000 property damage coverage
  • California is not a No-Fault state, meaning if a driver hits and injures you, you must file a claim through their insurance—you’re not required to have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) car insurance to satisfy state minimums.

In other words, California car insurance minimums may permit you to drive legally, but they offer you very little protection. The national average for liability minimums in California is 25/50/25, which is well below the national average. 

This means that if you hit a car and cause over $5,000 worth of damages to the vehicle (very easily done), you’re on the hook for the rest. Not to mention, if you injure the driver and their passengers, liability will only pay $15,000 in medical expenses per person for a total of $30,000 for an accident. With such low coverage limits, you’ll likely end up paying out of pocket for medical or property damages.

Another thing to consider is liability insurance protects others should you hit them. Liability does not protect you. If you want your car repairs covered, you’ll need collision coverage.

If you want total protection, peace of mind, and to pay as little out of pocket as possible should something happen, simply satisfying the minimum car insurance in California is not enough coverage. 

ConsumerCoverage can help. Get info and quotes on all your coverage options like liability, collision and comprehensive, GAP insurance, and more. 

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Optional Car Insurance Add-Ons

One of the best features of insurance is the freedom of choice. You have the choice to buy liability coverage, but you also have the luxury of building a car insurance policy that’s up to the task of protecting you (the way you want it to)!  Here are some car insurance options you can add to your policy if you live in Sunshine State:
  • Collision: If you hit someone, your liability insurance will help pay for damages to the other driver, but to get personal property protection (i.e., not having to pay for repairs to your vehicle), you’ll need collision.
  • Comprehensive: If you want 360-degree protection for your car, whether you’re driving it or not, comprehensive is your golden ticket. This coverage will pay for other damages resulting from weather-related events (hail or flooding damage, tornado, etc.), theft, vandalism, or hitting an animal.
  • GAP: If you lease or finance a vehicle, you should have GAP coverage. If your car were totalled while you were paying it off, this coverage would pay off the remaining balance on your loan.
  • Rideshare: If you drive for a ridesharing company like Uber, you must have this car coverage.
  • Uninsured Motorist Coverage: Let’s face it, not every driver has insurance. Roughly 1 in 8 Americans drive without insurance, meaning that every day, many drivers around you don’t have car insurance and are putting you at risk. If this fact is unsettling to you, uninsured motorist coverage can help protect you from paying for damages that they cause your person or your property—including if the driver flees the scene after hitting you.
  • Roadside Assistance: If you want roadside assistance for any potential car issues, this rider is a great call. It can help with towing your car for repairs, flat tires, if you’re locked out, jumpstarting your car, and much more.
Customizing your car insurance policy gives you more control over your coverage and your wallet, should something happen.

The Cost of Car Insurance in California

It might be known as the Land of Milk and Honey, but it’s definitely not the Land of Cheap Car Insurance: the average cost of full coverage car insurance in California is $2,190, which is higher than the national average of $1,771 per year for full coverage. When it comes to minimum coverage, the national average is $545, while in California, it’s $619.

You may wonder why the average car insurance in California is so expensive. This is because of California’s population, the volume of uninsured drivers, and how much money insurers lose due to claims. 

But just because car insurance in California is expensive, it doesn’t mean you can’t find affordable car insurance. 

Here are some ways to get discounts on your car insurance:

  • Bundling: Get a discount on your insurance by combining products like home and car insurance.
  • Good Driver: You can earn up to 20% off your premiums if you qualify.
  • Good Student: If you’ve had a license for less than 8 years and maintain an average of a B at school (high school, college, university), you could be eligible for a discount with some providers.
  • Safe Driving Course: If you enroll in a safe driving class, you can shave some money off your premiums.

Not all insurance providers offer the same discounts, and your eligibility might vary between providers. Be sure to ask for any discounts you think you might be entitled to, as insurance providers don’t always volunteer them when quoting you.

More Ways to Save on Car Insurance in California

If you’re hoping to get the best car insurance rates in California, then here are some additional ways to save money on your Cali car insurance:
  • Coverage Level: Understand your car insurance needs, so you purchase only what you want. For example, if your car is old, having collision coverage may not be worth it because the repair cost may exceed the vehicle’s actual cash value.
  • Discounts: Make sure to inquire about which discounts apply to you so you can take advantage of the savings.
  • Get Multiple Quotes: It pays to shop around. Every insurance company’s rate algorithm is different, so don’t settle on your first quote. Shop around until you find the right fit at the right price! Need a quote? Get a free car insurance quote with ConsumerCoverage now. 
  • Buy the Right Car: Another way to save is by not driving an expensive vehicle, sports car, or commonly stolen vehicle. If you’re unsure which vehicles fit the bill, it never hurts to ask your insurance agent. 
  • Increase Your Deductible: By paying more for your deductible, your premiums will decrease.
For those new to California, there are two insurance programs offered in most other states—accident forgiveness and telematics discounts—that aren’t available in the Sunshine State. But this doesn’t mean you still can’t save on your rates with other discounts.

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New to California? Here’s What You Need to Know

For new California residents, a great resource to help prepare you for California roads and how to register your vehicle is the California Driver Handbook. Do you have collision coverage? If so, ask your insurer whether you’re eligible for California Deductible Waiver. The waiver guarantees your insurer will cover the deductible cost should an uninsured motorist hit you.  To avoid penalties, you must register your vehicle and pay fees within 20 days of entering the state. Here’s what you need to do:
  • Complete REG 343: Application for Title Registration form
  • Submit: Out-of-state Registration Certificate and Title
    • Proof of California Smog Certification
    • Odometer Mileage Certificate (for a car under 10 years old)
  • Go to the DMV: Verify the car’s identification number
  • Pay fees
  • For commercial vehicles, be prepared to provide a Weight Certificate (if asked).
If you don’t register your vehicle, you may receive a California Intent to Suspend Registration letter. This letter indicates that the state cannot verify your car insurance by not registering the car, a clerical error such as an incorrect VIN on file, or your previous insurance out-of-state lapsed, so they will terminate the car’s registration. 

Car Insurance for Teen Drivers

For adults with teens ready to take the wheel, there are some things you should know:
  • In order for a teen to get a provisional permit to drive, they must complete driver training and be 15.5 years old or older.
  • To get a driver’s license in California, you must have your provisional permit for 6 months and be 16 years old.
  • To get a provisional license, teen drivers must take and pass the DMV driving test.
  • There are provisional license stipulations teen drivers must uphold during the first 12 months before they receive “full driving privileges,” such as:
    • Driving only between 5:01 am and 10:59 pm
    • Only driving passengers 21+
Teens are one of the most expensive groups to insure, so make sure to take advantage of discounts for defensive driving courses and good students, if they apply.

How Car Insurance Rates Are Calculated in California

Car insurance rates vary by provider, which is why it’s so important to get multiple car insurance quotes.

Here’s what you should know about how California insurance company’s rates are calculated:

  • Vehicle: The car you drive affects your rates. If you drive an expensive or commonly stolen vehicle, your rates will reflect that.
  • Driving History: If you’re a good driver without any violations on record, your rates will be lower. However, if you have citations on your record, your rates will increase in accordance with the severity of the offense. For instance, a minor (<$1,000) at-fault accident could raise your rates by 2%, whereas driving without seatbelts can mean an increase of 33%.
    • Worst Driving Offenses: The worst offenses can increase your rates by over 100%. These include driving with a suspended license, racing, reckless driving, DUI, leaving the scene of a hit-and-run, and refusing a chemical test (breathalyzer).
  • Usage: How often you drive and how many miles you drive affects your premiums. The more you drive, the higher your premiums.
  • Where You Live: Your zip code impacts your premiums. For example, if you live in a big city like Los Angeles, you’ll pay higher premiums as you’re at a greater risk of getting into an accident than living in less densely populated areas like Weed, California. If you live in an area with higher crime rates, this could increase your premiums too as your vehicle is at a higher risk of being stolen or vandalized.
  • Age: If you’re a teen or a young adult, you will pay more than an adult for car insurance.
  • California does not use credit scores to determine your rates.

The good news is, you can control a lot of the factors that raise your insurance. By maintaining a clean driving record, foregoing the flashy car, and adding anti-theft devices to your vehicle, you can help reduce your costs. Over time, teens will get older and see their rates reduced, and those with infractions on their driving record will see those drop off eventually and their rates reduced.

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What You Should Know About Proof of Insurance

Only some states allow for electronic proof of insurance; California is one of them. So, you can use an electronic or paper copy as proof of insurance.

However, if you’re pulled over in California, you’ll have to show proof of insurance—including that you meet state liability requirements—to avoid getting charged with driving without insurance, so you’ll want to ensure it’s easily accessible. 

If You’re Caught Driving Without Insurance in California

Don’t make the mistake of getting caught driving without insurance in California, as the consequences can be harsh. California is cracking down on drivers without insurance, so they have steep penalties for offenders, including:
  • First Offense: Fine of $100-$200, plus the court may add penalty assessments like impounding your vehicle.
  • Second Offense: Fine of $200-$500 and any court penalty assessments, like car impoundment.
  • Court Penalty Assessments: Depending on where you live, six additional fines may be added to your original fine. The fines range from $1 to $10 for each $10 (or part of $10), which could quickly double your fine. 
  • Cause a Car Accident: If you cause a car accident without car insurance, you will pay out of pocket for ALL damages (medical and property) for the other person and yourself, you run the risk of being sued, and you can have your license suspended.
If you lose your license for any reason, like a DUI or other serious offenses, you’ll need an SR-22 to get you back on the road. And if you need an SR-22, your insurance premiums can skyrocket.

Final Thoughts on California Car Insurance

If you live in the Golden State or you’re just coming for a visit, one thing to remember is that you want to have car insurance and enough coverage to keep you safe.

Although car insurance in California can be expensive, don’t just settle for liability coverage because it won’t protect you from paying out of pocket. With only $5,000 for property damages, a minor fender bender (with all the plastics and electronics in new vehicles, car repairs aren’t cheap) could put you over payout limits.

So what does good car insurance in California mean for you? Well, that depends on what you need. For example, if you want your vehicle repairs paid for should you get into a wreck, then you’ll want collision coverage.

Or, if you want 100% coverage from accidents and unexpected events (e.g., a tornado destroying your car), consider “full coverage”, which offers you unsurpassed protection.

Check out ConsumerCoverage for information and quotes on every level of car insurance, because you deserve peace of mind and financial protection.

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