MoneyGeek gathered average premiums from car insurance providers in California to determine the cheapest company. Progressive is the most affordable option in the state based on average rates. Drivers can save as much as $707 by shopping around.
The Cheapest Car Insurance in California for 2021
(Heidi) Luo Yilan
Progressive has the cheapest average rate for MoneyGeek’s sample driver. For actual premium prices, insurers consider different factors such as coverage amounts, driving history and age.
For instance, Esurance is the cheapest company for a full coverage policy, senior drivers and those with at-fault accidents. On the other hand, the most affordable for young drivers is Allstate. If you are an active-duty military, veteran or from a military family, USAA is among your cheapest options.
The Cheapest Car Insurance in California
Cheapest Minimum Liability Car Insurance in California
The cheapest car insurance in California is a liability-only coverage policy, which is a package that only meets the state’s minimum car insurance requirements. California’s minimum liability requirement is 15/30/5, which covers up to $15,000 for bodily injuries or death of one person, $30,000 for bodily injuries or death per accident and $5,000 for property damage.
The most affordable car insurance companies in California for minimum coverage are:
- Progressive: $481 per year
- CSAA: $505 per year
USAA is another affordable option in California for car insurance at $483 on average per year. However, the insurance is only available to current and former military members and their families. Farmers, at an average of $850 annually, is the most costly option in California.
Cheapest Minimum Car Insurance in California
These prices are only estimates based on rates for an average California driver and should not be used to compare insurance prices.
Cheapest Full Coverage Car Insurance in California
A full coverage car insurance policy in California will protect you against most road accidents in the state, with comprehensive and collision insurance and higher liability limits. This policy will cost more than minimum coverage, but it shields against the cost of damages to your car, not just the other driver’s vehicle. You should ideally compare car insurance quotes from multiple providers to find the cheapest rates.
On average, the most affordable car insurance companies in California for full coverage are:
- Esurance: $1,055 per year
- Progressive: $1,132 per year
Cheapest Full Coverage Car Insurance in California
Rates are for a policy with comprehensive and collision insurance with $100,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $300,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per accident and $100,000 in property damage coverage per accident.
How to Compare Cheap California Car Insurance Quotes Online
You can easily get a car insurance quote online from most companies, making the process of shopping for auto coverage far more convenient than it used to be.
- Start by determining how much coverage you need so you can compare insurers with consistent limits. For instance, if you get a quote with one provider for $100,000 in bodily injury liability insurance per accident, you should make sure to use the same number when comparing prices with another insurer.
- If you want to get a quote estimate for the average driver, use MoneyGeek’s car insurance calculator. For personalized quotes, you’ll have to provide more details.
- For the state’s minimum liability-only car insurance package, Progressive, USAA and CSAA offer the most reasonably priced plans, on average.
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Cheapest Car Insurance for Drivers With a DUI in California
The average cost of car insurance for drivers with a DUI in California is $4,075, compared to the average rate of $1,429 for a driver with a clean record.
The cheapest car insurance companies in California for a driver with a DUI are, on average:
- Mercury: $2,377 per year
- Esurance: $2,626 per year
Average Car Insurance Rates With a DUI
Having a DUI on your record can increase your insurance rates because driving under the influence of alcohol can endanger yourself and others on the road. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there were 9,288 car crash deaths involving a drunk driver in California from 2009–2018. In the same study, 1.5% of respondents in California reported driving after drinking too much within the previous 30 days.
Driving under the influence can impact your finances for years to come. Costs associated with a DUI include legal fees, court fees, alcohol education programs and increased auto insurance premiums. Shopping around for car insurance could help you find lower rates after getting a DUI. Improving your driving record in the years to come will keep you safe and lower your insurance costs.
Car insurance companies evaluate car insurance costs based partly on your driving record. The costs of a DUI can amount to roughly $40,000 in increased auto insurance rates over a period of 13 years. Although you'll likely pay higher rates for years to come, striving for an improved driving record and shopping around for car insurance could help you lower your rates over time.
Cheapest Car Insurance in California for Drivers With an At-Fault Accident
Drivers with at-fault accidents typically pay more than those with a clean driving history. The cost of auto insurance for a driver with at-fault accidents is $2,431 annually on average.
Based on MoneyGeek’s analysis, the two cheapest car insurance for California drivers with at-fault tickets are from:
- Esurance: $1,654 per year
- CSAA: $1,704 per year
For military families with at-fault accidents, USAA is one of the cheapest options. It has an average rate of $2,045 per year.
Cheapest Car Insurance With an At-Fault Accident
Cheapest Car Insurance for Drivers With Tickets in California
The average car insurance rate for drivers with a speeding ticket in California is $2,057 per year, $628 more than an average driver with a clean record would pay for similar coverage.
On average, the cheapest car insurance companies in California for a driver with a speeding ticket are:
- Esurance: $1,337 per year
- CSAA: $1,704 per year
For military members and their families, USAA is the most affordable option in California at an average cost of $1,280 per year. The most expensive car insurance in California is Travelers at $2,572 on average per year.
Average Car Insurance Rates With a Ticket
Having a speeding or distracted driving ticket on your record can impact your car insurance rates. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 3,259 auto accidents as a result of distracted driving in California in 2018. California state laws prohibit all hand-held device use while driving, so distracted driving can not only result in the cost of a ticket, but it can also lead to higher insurance costs.
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
In California, car insurance companies cannot use your credit score to determine your premiums. However, as a good credit score can have many financial benefits, it’s still advisable to improve your score if possible.
While insurers in many states use credit scores to determine premium costs, California is an exception. Insurers in California cannot use a driver's credit score to influence the cost of car insurance. Your credit score can impact your finances in other ways, however, so improving your score can help prepare for the future.
Cheapest Car Insurance in California for Seniors
The average cost of car insurance for senior drivers in California is $1,464 annually, which is $35 more than a 40-year-old driver pays for the same insurance package.
The cheapest car insurance companies in California for senior drivers are:
- Esurance: $1,183 per year
- State Farm: $1,220 per year
Average Car Insurance Rates 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. Car insurance rates for seniors tend to increase with age. When shopping for car insurance, seniors in California can look for discounts based on their needs and experience. There are discounts for completing driver safety courses, for infrequent drivers and for owners of cars with advanced safety features that seniors can consider when it comes to choosing auto insurance.
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 in California for Young Drivers
Young drivers in California usually have higher premium rates than other adult drivers. That is because insurance providers see them as high-risk drivers. For a 16-year-old, the average cost of insurance in the state is $4,234 per year. A 25-year-old pays an average of $1,755 per year.
Based on average rates, Allstate is most commonly the cheapest company for drivers between the age of 16-25.
Annual Car Insurance In California for Young Drivers
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- AgeAverage CostCheapest CompanyCompany Cost
It's generally cheaper for parents to add their young driver to their policy rather than have a separate policy, and there may be additional cost-cutting options available such as good student discounts and enrolling a teen driver in a safe-driving program. Additionally, if a young driver is heading off to college and is commuting long distances, increasing coverage may be a good idea. Always notify the insurance company if your car will be used in another state for more than 30 days.
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.
Average Rates for California service members
Car Insurance in California: What You Need to Know
Any car driven 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 if you ever want to take it for a spin.
If you drive your car infrequently, you may qualify for a low-mileage discount or 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 containing information about your policy and the car(s) covered. You can carry this on paper or a mobile device, and you must present it when requested by law enforcement or when renewing vehicle registration.
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 in California is:
$15,000 for injury/death to one person $30,000 for injury/death per accident $5,000 for damage to property
However, this is merely the minimum coverage level required by the state. Insurance experts often recommend carrying 10 times this amount of coverage.
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 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 one accident can wipe out the entire reserve. That's why most people stick with insurance.
How Much Coverage Do You Need in California?
California law only requires that you have liability insurance. However, 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 new car loan, 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 of years' worth of premiums, you might want to forgo that coverage.
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.
Cheapest Car Insurance in California by City
In California, the cost of car insurance may vary greatly depending on which city you live in. Santa Maria drivers tend to have the cheapest rates with an average of $1,109 per year, while Glendale residents pay the most expensive car insurance that costs $2,283 annually on average. These rates are for a full coverage policy.
Click your city to find out more about auto insurance prices in your area.
Average Insurance Rate by City in California
FAQs About Car Insurance in California
Drivers commonly have questions about car insurance in California, especially relating to costs. Here are the answers to some of these queries to help you find the best coverage for your needs.
Expert Advice on Finding Cheap Car Insurance in California
To help you find reliable and accurate insight on car insurance in California, MoneyGeek gathered expert advice from trusted professionals. The views and sentiments shared are those of the individual contributor.
- What are the key factors drivers in California should look for when searching for the best auto insurance coverage?
- What steps can drivers in California take to find affordable car insurance?
- How do regulations and rules in California impact insurance pricing and how consumers might shop for coverage?
Practitioner Lecturer of Business Law at Pepperdine Graziadio Business School
Associate Faculty Professor at National University
Associate Professor of Economics at Chapman University
Assistant Professor Department of Economics at California State University - East Bay
Assistant Professor of Economics at Santa Clara University
Clinical Professor of Finance at the University of San Diego School of Business
Chairman of the Economics Department at Scripps College
Associate Professor of Finance and Chair of the Department of Finance at California State University San Marcos
Assistant Professor of Finance at California State University, Bakersfield
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Adjunct Professor, UC Davis Graduate School of Management; CFO, Wrightspeed
Assistant Professor of Finance at California State University, Fullerton
Professor Emeritus at Southwestern Community College, Registered Representative
JD, Certified Money Coach/Master Money Coach & Trainer, Certified Professional Retirement Coach, Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor, Registered Life Planner, Former CFP®
MBA, CFP® at Fernandez Financial Advisory, LLC
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About the Author
- Centers for Disease Control. "Sobering Facts: Alcohol-Impaired Driving State Fact Sheets." Accessed December 16, 2020.
- Insurance Information Institute. "Auto Rate Setting." Accessed March 10, 2020.
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners. "Market Share Reports for Property/Casualty Groups and Companies." Accessed March 10, 2020.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). "2018 Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)." Accessed March 10, 2020.
- NOLO. "California Driving Laws for Seniors and Older Drivers." Accessed March 10, 2020.