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If you’re looking for cheap car insurance in California, you’ll find that there is no shortage of insurance companies vying for your business. If you’re having trouble finding the best auto insurance quote, this study is for you. Our Geeks took care of all the quote comparison work by evaluating the rates of several top insurance providers to help you find affordable premiums.
Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California
To get the best auto insurance rates in California, you need to shop around and compare policies from several different carriers. To assist with your search, we’ve compiled a list of companies that cater to specific driver profiles:
|Liberty Mutual||Safe Drivers|
|Metromile||Low Annual Mileage|
Best Car Insurance Companies in California
We looked at reviews and complaint data to identify the best auto insurance providers in California. The following table summarizes the results of our study:
Minimum Car Insurance Requirements in California
Motorists in California must carry auto insurance that meets the following minimum limits:
- $15,000 for Bodily Injury Liability per Person
- $30,000 for Bodily Injury Liability per Accident
- $5,000 for Property Damage Liability
Penalties for Driving Without Auto Insurance in California
The penalties for driving without car insurance in California depend on whether it is your first or subsequent offense. Even for a first offense, your vehicle may be impounded. First-time offenders also face a fine of $100 to $200 in addition to a penalty assessment fee of $26 for every $10 in fines. That means a $200 fine would have a penalty assessment fee of $520, which means a first offense could cost you up to $720.
For a second offense, the fine jumps to $200 to $500. That means your fine and penalty assessment fee could reach $1,800.
California Car Insurance FAQs
What Optional Car Insurance Coverage Is Available in California?
In addition to liability coverage, drivers in California can add uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, collision coverage, medical payments coverage, and comprehensive coverage. Although add-on coverage will increase your monthly premiums, it may save you from financial ruin if you are involved in a major accident.
Below is a breakdown of the various types of optional insurance coverage available in California:
Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Coverage (UM/UIM): California is known as a “fault” state, which means drivers only have to carry liability insurance, and the insurance company of the driver who is determined to be at fault for an accident will be responsible for covering the damages incurred by claimants. Unfortunately, an alarming number of drivers in California do not carry the minimum liability coverage. If you are injured in a collision with an uninsured driver, you might have no choice but to sue the at-fault motorist, which will most likely be a waste of time, or to cover your damages out of pocket. But if you have uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, it will help cover your damages if your collision was caused by driver who was uninsured or whose insurance was insufficient to pay for your losses.
Medical Payments Coverage: Medical payments coverage helps pay for medical bills incurred by you or your passengers no matter who is found at fault for your accident.
Collision Insurance: Collision insurance will help cover repairs to your vehicle or the cost of a replacement after an accident with another vehicle or an inanimate object.
Comprehensive Coverage: If your vehicle is damaged by theft, fire, vandalism, bad weather, or certain other types of non-collision events, comprehensive coverage will help pay for your losses.
Additional Insurance Coverage: In addition to the types of coverage listed above, drivers in California can also purchase insurance policies on amenities such as custom wheels and stereos. You can also add coverage for roadside assistance, towing, and a rental car while your vehicle is out of commission.
What Are Some Effective Tips to Save Money on Auto Insurance?
Getting your monthly car insurance premiums reduced might be easier than you think. The first step is to understand the factors that insurers consider when calculating your premiums. Some of the most important factors are:
- Whether you were found at-fault for any accidents;
- Any citations on your driving record;
- Whether you have a history of driving under the influence;
- Your total number of years as a licensed driver;
- Where you live and intend to drive;
- The make, model, and year of the car you’re getting insured;
- The distance you drive each year; and
- How you will use the vehicle being insured.
The next step is finding ways to prove to your insurer that your premiums should be reduced. These five strategies are particularly effective:
- Avoid accidents for several consecutive years;
- Always follow the rules of the road;
- Never drink and drive;
- Compare insurance quotes for different vehicles to find a cheap car to insure; and
- Reduce your annual mileage by driving less often.
A final strategy that may cut your monthly premiums is to switch to a different insurance provider. This is especially true if you were involved in a recent accident or convicted of driving under the influence.
What Is the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP)?
Minimum liability insurance is mandatory in California, but what if you can’t find an insurance carrier willing to take on your risk profile? Or if you can’t afford the standard market rates? The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) may be able to help.
Most licensed insurers in California must accept a number of non-standard motorists delegated by the CAARP. These drivers are usually assigned insurers for one of two reasons: they are either eligible for low-cost insurance due to specific financial restraints, or are considered high-risk drivers with more than a few accidents or traffic tickets on their record.
What Is California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program?
If you maintain a good driving record and are in possession of a valid California driver’s license but are unable to purchase the necessary car insurance due to limited income, the state’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program (CLCA) may be able to help help.
The CLCA allows qualifying drivers to purchase policies with liability limits below the state-mandated minimum coverage. To be assigned a policy through the CLCA you must:
- Be in possession of a valid California driver’s license;
- Own a car that is worth no more than $25,000;
- Be at least 19 years old; and
- Meet the income requirements.
What Defines a High-Risk Driver in California?
Usually, drivers with a history of car accidents or traffic violations will be considered high-risk. California’s Driver Class Plan actually categorizes motorists by their risk profile and driving histories.
Insurance companies assess risk based on to their own calculations, but generally speaking, the higher risk class you fall into, the higher your insurance premium will be. In California, you may be a high-risk driver if you:
- Have been involved in multiple prior accidents;
- Have been driving for less than three years;
- Have received multiple speeding tickets; or
- Are under the age of 25 or over 70.
How Does California’s Good Driver Discount Policy Work?
In California, insurance companies must offer a discount of 20 percent to good drivers. To qualify for this discount, you must have been licensed to drive for the past three years. In addition, you will only be classified as a good driver if you:
- Have never had more than a single point on your driving record due to a violation;
- Have not been to traffic school because of a traffic violation more than once; and
- Have never caused an accident that resulted in injury or death.
Does Credit Score Affect Insurance Rates in California?
Insurance companies in California are legally barred from using your credit history as a factor in determining the cost of your premium. However, they may consider other criteria such as:
- Your driving history;
- Your age, gender, and marital status;
- Where you live;
- How often and how far you drive;
- The make and model of your car; and
- The purpose of your driving.
What Is California’s Automobile Claims Mediation Program?
If you and your insurance carrier are locked in a dispute over a claim, you could turn to California’s Auto Claims Mediation Program for assistance. This program provides you with a third-party mediator at no cost if your dispute is over:
- The extent of the damages incurred in an accident;
- The methods of repair to property;
- The causes of the damage;
- Whether the damage existed before the accident; or
- The value of a vehicle that has been written off due to an accident.
You may not qualify for assistance through the mediation program if the dispute involves:
- Questions of coverage;
- Legal interpretations of the terms of your policy;
- Time limits for filing claims; or
- Actions by a broker or agent.
What Is California’s Points Policy?
Every time a driver commits a violation or gets into an accident in California, the DMV adds points to their license. The amount of points is determined by how serious the situation is; one point is assigned for lesser infractions and two points are assigned for greater infractions. This record helps insurers determine how safe a driver is and how much risk they pose, both of which can significantly impact the rates and discounts offered. Each point stays on the license for a minimum of 36 months (the more serious the conviction, the longer it stays), and is available to the public.
Getting a point from a minor traffic violation doesn’t always mean having to kiss good rates goodbye. In some cases, the judge may offer the opportunity to complete traffic violator school, either online or in person. At the end of the course, the point will be masked from the public, including insurance companies. To be eligible, you cannot have masked another ticket within the past 18 months or have committed a major infraction.
If you acquire four points in 12 months, six points in 24 months, or eight points in 36 months, however, you may be labeled a negligent driver. This could lead to a one-year probation with a six-month suspension, or a complete revocation of your license. In either case, you must wait until the end of the designated suspension or revocation, apply for a new license, and provide proof of financial responsibility.
More serious convictions, like reckless driving resulting in an injury or DUI, can result in serious penalties regardless of previous point totals.
Cell Phone Use Laws for Drivers in California
Distracted driving refers to any action that takes your mind or eyes off the act of driving or your hands off the wheel. More than 3,450 people were killed in 2016 in the United States in distracted driving crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Texting while driving is particularly dangerous but is surprisingly common. According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there were over 426,000 handheld cell phone and texting convictions in 2013, with more than 57,000 tickets issued in April of that year.
State law prohibits drivers from holding a cell phone while operating a vehicle. You may use a phone if it is in voice command mode or if you make use of a mounting device, but even then, you may only swipe or tap the screen once to activate or deactivate a feature or function.
California Car Accident Statistics
Between 2003 and 2012, 10,327 people were killed in crashes involving a drunk driver in California, according to research collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In California, 529 motorcyclists were killed in accidents in 2016 and 742 pedestrians were killed in road accidents in 2015, according to NHTSA statistics.
NHTSA figures show a total of 293 fatal crashes involving large trucks took place in California in 2016.