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The Best Cheap Car Insurance Companies for the Average California Driver in 2020

Most California drivers will be able to choose from California car insurance companies like State Farm, Farmers, Allstate, Berkshire Hathaway, and Progressive, as well as USAA, which offers insurance to members of the military and veterans and their families, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

The table below lists various insurance companies and the approximate monthly premium cost for an average driver. However, these numbers are rough estimates and may vary greatly from any individual quote that would pertain to your unique driving history and situation.

Company
Amount
1. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$1,739
per year
2. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$2,014
per year
3. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$2,117
per year
4. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$2,354
per year
5. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$3,728
per year
6. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance on average.
$3,755
per year

Estimates give you an idea of which companies to contact for car insurance quotes, but make sure to shop around when you’re looking for California car insurance companies and ask about multi-policy discounts and other discounts for safe driving, long tenure with the company and more.

Which Car Insurance Company in California is the Cheapest for You?

While one California auto insurance company might provide cheaper rates than its competitor for one group of drivers, for another group, it could be more expensive. That variation is why it’s important to get personalized auto insurance quotes. California insurance companies consider the following things when determining premiums: Names of all owners and operators of the vehicle(s) in a household; physical address; age, sex, and marital status; driving history and license status; year, make, and model of vehicle; vehicle usage; prior insurance; employment and occupation; and credit information.

The Best Car Insurance Companies in California for 2020

We created a unique rating system, which is based on a combination of ratings from reputable outlets like JD Power and AM Best. Scores are out of 100, with each weighted equally, and include financial stability, customer satisfaction, claims, and affordability metrics.

These ratings are an important indicator of the insurance company’s responsiveness in an emergency, their claims process, and what they offer their consumers. See the top companies below.

Expand all Rankings +

1

USAAScore: 100
+

5/5

User Satisfaction

5/5

Claims Ratings

5/5

Affordability

A++

Financial Stability

2

AAAScore: 90
+

4/5

User Satisfaction

5/5

Claims Ratings

4/5

Affordability

A

Financial Stability

3

GEICOScore: 90
+

4/5

User Satisfaction

3/5

Claims Ratings

4/5

Affordability

A++

Financial Stability

4

WawanesaScore: 87.5
+

4/5

User Satisfaction

4/5

Claims Ratings

5/5

Affordability

A-

Financial Stability

5

State FarmScore: 87.5
+

4/5

User Satisfaction

3/5

Claims Ratings

3/5

Affordability

A++

Financial Stability

6

AmeripriseScore: 85
+

4/5

User Satisfaction

3/5

Claims Ratings

4/5

Affordability

A

Financial Stability

7

HartfordScore: 85
+

3/5

User Satisfaction

4/5

Claims Ratings

3/5

Affordability

A+

Financial Stability

8

ProgressiveScore: 82.5
+

3/5

User Satisfaction

2/5

Claims Ratings

4/5

Affordability

A+

Financial Stability

9

AllstateScore: 82.5
+

3/5

User Satisfaction

3/5

Claims Ratings

3/5

Affordability

A+

Financial Stability

10

SafecoScore: 80
+

3/5

User Satisfaction

3/5

Claims Ratings

3/5

Affordability

A

Financial Stability

According to 2018 data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the top-rated auto insurance companies in California are: State Farm, Farmers, Allstate, Berkshire Hathaway, AAA Auto Club Enterprises Car Insurance, Mercury General Insurance Group, Kemper Corporation, CSAA Insurance Group, Progressive, and USAA.

Market Share by Company

State Farm has the greatest market share in the state at 13.74%, followed by Farmers at 10.68%, Allstate at 8.99%, Berkshire Hathaway at 9.69%. Check out the other top insurers in California below.

Company
Market Share
1. State Farm
13.74%
2. Farmers
10.68%
3. GEICO
9.69%
4. Allstate
8.99%
5. AAA
8.69%
6. Mercury
7.77%
7. CSAA
7.19%
8. Kemper
6.55%
9. Progressive
4.56%
10. USAA
4.49%

Cheapest Car Insurance for Drivers With a DUI in California

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10,327 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in California from 2003–2012. The percentage of adults who reported driving after drinking too much (in the 30 days prior to being surveyed) was 1.8% in California, according to 2012 CDC data.

The financial repercussions of getting a DUI are costly and can range from court and legal fees to alcohol education treatment programs. Additionally, your insurance rate will also see a spike in cost in addition to the legal fees. Consider the following auto insurance rates for drivers who receive a DUI in California.

Company
Amount
1. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$1,670
per year
2. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$1,949
per year
3. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$2,080
per year
4. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$2,322
per year
5. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$3,684
per year
6. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance for dui.
$3,804
per year

While each insurance company calculates premiums differently, you can expect to pay an additional $40,000 over the course of 13 years in increased auto insurance premiums. Exactly how much your rate would go up depends on your insurance company, your location and your driving record. With a DUI you’ll likely pay higher rates for up to a decade.

Cheapest Car Insurance For Drivers With a Speeding or Distracted Driving Ticket in California

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) 2018 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), 3,259 crashes in California were caused by distracted driving. Driving while distracted can cause accidents. California state laws prohibit all handheld device use while driving, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association.

Company
Amount
1. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$1,820
per year
2. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$2,125
per year
3. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$2,434
per year
4. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$2,503
per year
5. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$4,207
per year
6. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance for distracted drivers.
$4,361
per year

Your auto insurance rate is likely to go up if you get a ticket for speeding or for distracted driving. According to the Insurance Information Association, your driving record is taken into account when you secure your auto policy, so being riskier to insure means paying higher premiums. Your insurer can also re-evaluate your rate if you get a moving violation (i.e., a speeding ticket).

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California for Drivers With Bad Credit

According to Experian, the average FICO Score in the United States hit a record high of 703 in 2019, which is lower than the California average FICO Score of 708.Nationwide Insurance uses credit scores to determine premiums as studies show that using a credit score helps companies better predict insurance losses. If you have subprime credit (credit scores below 670), you’ll likely have to shop around to secure affordable car insurance in California.

Consider the following table for an estimate of California auto insurance for people with low credit scores.

Company
Amount
1. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$1,660
per year
2. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$1,995
per year
3. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$2,020
per year
4. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$2,266
per year
5. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$3,666
per year
6. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance for poor credit history drivers.
$3,670
per year

To improve your credit score, check out our guide on how to improve your credit score.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California for Seniors

In California, there are more than 5.5 million drivers older than 55—and more than 2.5 million of them are 70 or older. When shopping for car insurance, seniors in California should ask for discounts for completing driver safety courses, discounts for driving infrequently and discounts for choosing a vehicle that has good safety features. There are other options that seniors can consider when it comes to choosing auto insurance.

The following table is a general guideline of what seniors in California can expect when they go looking for the most affordable car insurance.

Company
Amount
1. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$1,700
per year
2. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$1,926
per year
3. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$2,148
per year
4. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$2,185
per year
5. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$3,342
per year
6. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance for seniors.
$3,693
per year

California requires drivers age 70 and older to renew their licenses in person every five years and take both vision and written tests. The state accepts requests from family members and others for the DMV to conduct unsafe driver investigations. Finally, the state requires doctors who diagnose patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other conditions that may make them unsafe drivers to report the diagnosis.

Cheapest Car Insurance for Students

California Car Insurance: How Much a Teen Driver Will Cost You

Median annual price change for families with a teen driver on their policy:

$2,276 INCREASE

This is a difference of 95%.

Studies show that teens are much higher-risk drivers than adults, so expect your car insurance premium to jump exponentially when your teen starts driving. It's generally cheaper to add your teen to your own policy rather than have a separate policy, but your policy still could skyrocket. MoneyGeek analyzed high- and low-cost California car insurance policies to show just how widely policies vary — and what you can do to lower your costs.

If your child is heading off to college, it's a good time to talk with your insurance agent about how these changes will affect your insurance coverage. If your child doesn't plan on driving at college, you may be able to save some money. If your child is commuting long distances, you may want to consider increasing your coverage. Full-time college students with a B average or higher may also qualify for a Good Driver Discount. Always notify the insurance company if your car will be used in another state for more than 30 days.

The following table illustrates an estimation of what parents in California can expect to pay for their teen or college-aged student drivers.

Company
Amount
1. Mercury
In 2020 Mercury ranked #1 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$3,193
per year
2. CSAA
In 2020 CSAA ranked #2 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$3,862
per year
3. Allstate
In 2020 Allstate ranked #3 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$4,285
per year
4. AAA
In 2020 AAA ranked #4 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$5,615
per year
5. State Farm
In 2020 State Farm ranked #5 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$5,694
per year
6. Farmers
In 2020 Farmers ranked #6 in California for the cheapest car insurance for students.
$11,558
per year


Premium Comparison by Student Type

Premium comparison for two adults + 16 years old

car
Average premium for two 2014

Mustang GTs

$6,787
car
Average premium for two 2008

Town and Country Limiteds

$4,782
Anual benefits of minivans:$2,005 saved

This is 30% less expensive.

Cheaper premium for college vs. high school drivers

Median premium change with a college student vs. high school driver:

$1,200 DECREASE

This is a savings of 25%.

Potential discounts for teens in California

Impact on annual premium with good student and defensive driving discounts:

coins
$620 SAVED

California students: a long-distance discount

You may pay a smaller annual family premium if your child lives 150 miles or more away from home.

male
Average premium for a 19-year-old male
car

$4,712 at home

graduation

$4,622 at school

$90 IN SAVINGS

female
Average premium for a 19-year-old female
car

$3,888 at home

graduation

$3,815 at school

$73 IN SAVINGS

Insurance Rate Information for Military Drivers and Veterans

California is home to 184,540 active duty military personnel and more than 1.8 million veterans — more than any other state. In California, some insurance companies offer car insurance exclusively for service members and vets, while other companies offer discounts. However, a good driving record is still required to get a price break.

USAA, which caters to veterans and enlisted personnel, offers discounts for a five-year clean driving record and for insured vehicles less than three years old. AFI (Armed Forces Insurance) also sells policies exclusively to veterans, active duty military, and their spouses or surviving spouses.

Age savings for California service members

male
25 years$2,274
50 years$1,704
female
25 years$2,127
50 years$1,698

$570 Saved
$128 Saved

Median auto insurance for service members: $1,743

Who Needs Car Insurance in California?

Any car that is operated or parked on California roadways must be insured, according to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Even your 1967 Camaro that sits in the garage will need insurance to be registered if you ever want to take it for a spin.

If you drive your car very little, though, you may qualify for a low-mileage discount or a "pay as you drive" insurance.

Proof of Insurance in California

All California drivers must carry evidence of financial responsibility in their vehicles at all times, or proof of an alternative (see below). Your insurance company should provide you with an insurance card, which will contain information about your policy and the car(s) covered. You can carry this on paper or on a mobile device, and it must be presented when:

  • Requested by law enforcement.
  • Renewing vehicle registration.

The vehicle is involved in a traffic collision.

Minimum Liability Insurance Requirements in California

Drivers must have minimum liability insurance, which covers costs related to injuries or damage you might cause in a car accident.The minimum level of coverage is:

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

But that's the bare minimum. Insurance experts often recommend carrying ten times this amount (See below: "How Much Insurance Do I Need?").

Low Cost Auto Insurance Program in California

If you cannot afford liability insurance, you may be eligible for the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program.

Alternatives to Insurance in California

Most drivers purchase auto insurance to cover their financial liability, but the California DMV offers a few alternatives:

  • A cash deposit of $35,000 with the DMV.
  • A DMV-issued self-insurance certificate (which requires even larger reserves).
  • A surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California.

These alternatives require significant cash reserves, and the entire reserve can be wiped out with one accident. That's why most people stick with insurance.

Car Insurance Requirements in California: How Much Coverage Do You Need?

What percentage of drivers in Pennsylvania lack vehicle insurance?

14.7%%

National average: 12.6%

Source:

Insurance Information Institute.

California law requires only that you have liability insurance, which covers injuries to other people or property damage to others.

But cheap car insurance isn't always the best car insurance.According to the Insurance Information Institute, insurance experts and consumer advocates recommend carrying liability coverage of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. Some experts recommend carrying uninsured motorist insurance as well.

If you have a loan for a new car, the insurer will require that you purchase collision and comprehensive insurance. You may also want to carry it if you’ve purchased a relatively new car for cash. On the other hand, if your car is worth less than your deductible and a couple years' worth of premiums, you might want to forgo that insurance.

Additional collision coverage beyond the state-required minimum will protect you if you are at fault in an accident. Comprehensive coverage helps repair or pay for the replacement value of a vehicle following a crash.

For more on the common types of car coverage and what's best for you, check out the MoneyGeek guide to car insurance.


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Sources