Car insurance premiums vary depending on personalized factors like driving record, age and location, so regularly getting personalized quotes can help you find the best rates. MoneyGeek ranked the top car insurance companies in California based on price, customer service and more. Whether you have a ticket on your record, are looking to insure a teen driver or simply want to compare rates, MoneyGeek’s rankings can help you find quotes and coverage options for your needs. When you compare car insurance costs from some of the most popular providers in California, you could save up to $707.
The Cheapest (and Best) California Car Insurance Companies for 2021
(Heidi) Luo Yilan
The Cheapest and Best Car Insurance in California
Cheapest Minimum Liability Car Insurance Companies and Quotes 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
- USAA: $483 per year (only available to current and former military members)
Average Cost for Minimun Liability Coverage
These prices are only estimates based on rates for an average California driver and should not be used to compare insurance prices.
A minimum coverage plan in California is the cheapest available but only covers bodily injury and property damage liability insurance. Drivers who wish to cover damages to their own car, or enhance their protection against higher liability costs, should consider buying a full coverage policy.
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
Average Comprehensive and Collision Rates 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.
The Best Car Insurance Companies in California for 2021
The best car insurance companies in California for most drivers for most drivers are:
- Best Overall: AAA
- Runner-up: GEICO
USAA received the highest score in California by MoneyGeek's rating system. However, because USAA is only available to military members, veterans and their families, it is not listed as best overall.
MoneyGeek combined results of J.D. Power's U.S. Auto Insurance Study and AM Best's financial strength ratings with the industry standards for insurance company ratings to calculate each auto insurer’s final rating out of 100.
Aside from affordability, it is important to consider claims experience, customer satisfaction and financial strength when looking for the best car insurance in California.
USAA’s services are available only to current and former military members and their families. This company gets the maximum score for user satisfaction, affordability and claims ratings, and gets an A++ rating for financial stability.
USAA is consistently one of the best and most affordable car insurance companies in the country, and this is true in California as well. If your parents have a USAA policy, you can qualify for discounts, as this provider rewards drivers if their families stay loyal.Read MoneyGeek's USAA auto Insurance Review
AAA is the runner-up in our ranking and gets the maximum score of 5/5 for claims. AM Best gave AAA an A rating for financial stability.
AAA offers unique features such as 24/7 roadside help if you're stranded. It is an ideal provider for new car owners in California, as its policy will cover you without accounting for depreciation, which means you'll get full value for your new car after an accident.Read MoneyGeek's AAA auto Insurance Review
While USAA scores highly in many areas, this provider is only available to military members, veterans and their families.
List of the Largest Insurance Companies in California
In California, the three car insurance companies with the largest market share are State Farm (13.7%), Farmers (10.7%) and GEICO (9.7%). Market share is the proportion of policies written by a specific insurance company divided by the number of total policies in the state.
You should ideally look to buy a policy from a large car insurance company, as it is likely to be financially stable, meaning you are more likely to be reimbursed for your legitimate claim.
- CompanyMarket Share
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.
- Enter your ZIP code below to compare rates or use our price data as a suggestion for which companies to consider.
- For the state’s minimum liability-only car insurance package, Progressive, USAA and CSAA offer the most reasonably priced plans, on average.
What Is the Average Cost of Car Insurance in California?
Based on premium costs for comprehensive and collision insurance in California, MoneyGeek calculated the rates in the state for the average driver, who is defined as a 40-year-old male driving a Toyota Camry with no record of tickets or accidents. Depending on your location, driving history and age, your premiums may be lower or higher than the following averages.
- Average Driver: $1,429
- DUI: $4,075
- Speeding Ticket: $2,057
- Seniors: $1,464
- Students: $3,834
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 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:
- USAA: $1,280 per year (only available for military members, veterans and their families)
- Esurance: $1,337 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 for Students in California
The average cost of car insurance for student drivers in California is $3,834 per year, compared to $1,429 for the average driver. Students typically have to pay higher rates because they’re considered inexperienced and riskier drivers.
The most affordable car insurance companies in California for student drivers are:
- Allstate: $2,228 per year
- State Farm: $2,409 per year
Average Car Insurance Rates for Students
Studies show that teens are higher-risk drivers compared to 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 above table illustrates an estimation of what parents in California can expect to pay for their teen or college-aged student drivers.
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.
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
Educator and Comedian, Adjunct Associate Professor in Economics at Cerritos College
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
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.