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California Car Insurance

California has low car insurance limits and strong laws to protect drivers, yet coverage can still be very expensive for drivers in the major metropolitan areas of the state. Other state car insurance rates can be much cheaper. We’ve got every ZIP code compared in the map below.

California Car Insurance Laws
The 5 Most Common Traffic Tickets in California
Largest Car Insurance Companies in California

California Car Insurance Requirements

California state law requires the following minimum car insurance coverage:
Minimum bodily injury liability $15,000/$30,000
Minimum property damage liability $5,000
California Car Insurance Rates by ZIP Code & City To learn more about the most and least expensive cities for car insurance, click the link below. Car insurance rate comparison >
Top Cities
Priciest Neighborhoods
In California
  • 90029: $2,416
  • 90020: $2,403
  • 90010: $2,402
  • 90005: $2,388
Cheapest Neighborhoods
In California
  • 93441: $996
  • 93437: $1,025
  • 93428: $1,027
  • 93449: $1,028

California Car Insurance Quotes

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California Car Insurance Laws:
What you need to know

Penny Gusner
Consumer Analyst

California's minimum liability car insurance requirement is very low in comparison to most states. Drivers must carry at least $15,000 worth of bodily injury liability coverage for anyone they injure, up to $30,000 per accident, and at least $5,000 to cover property damage.

A minor accident could easily exceed these limits, leaving you responsible for any damages not covered by insurance. Consider adding more once you buy a house, start a family, or have savings to protect.

Cheapest car insurance: California Low Cost Auto Insurance program: If you are low income, you may be eligible for the California Low Cost Auto Insurance program, which permits lower liability limits of:

  • Bodily injury liability - $10,000 person / $20,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability - $3,000 per accident

The low-cost program (rates top out at about $350 a year and are often cheaper) is available to drivers with good records, 19 or older, licensed for three years and for vehicles worth $20,000 or less.

Uninsured motorist fees: If you are ticketed for driving without insurance, you could have your car impounded and have to pay up to $200.

Leaving town? If you have a car that you aren’t going to have on the road, place it under Planned Non-Operation (PNO) status and you can legally drop insurance coverage to save money. PNO status allows your registration to be canceled and insurance to be taken off the vehicle until you are ready to once again drive it.

Your credit is not an issue for car insurance quotes: California law says that it’s unacceptable for your credit score to be a rating factor used by personal auto insurance providers. It also requires that California car insurance carriers calculate rates based on miles driven and driving records before considering your geographic location.

What is a good driver?: Insurance law defines for California car insurance companies who should be given a good driver discount. A person qualifies if he or she:

  • Has been licensed for at least three consecutive years
  • Has no more than one point on his or her driving record

Drivers that meet these conditions must receive rates at least 20 percent lower than what a non-good driver's rates would be at the same insurance company.

Alternatives to insurance: There are alternative ways to meet California’s financial responsibility law. Instead of obtaining a California car insurance policy you can provide proof of:

  • A cash deposit of $35,000 with the Department of Motor Vehicles;
  • A certificate of self-insurance issued by the DMV to owners of fleets of more than 25 vehicles; or
  • A surety bond of $35,000 obtained from an insurance company licensed to do business in California.

How much car insurance do I need?

You can use these suggestions as you compare car insurance rates.

"I can barely afford to pay for any coverage."

Typically, carrying only bare-bones coverage is a bad idea, but if you're having trouble making ends meet, some insurance is better than none at all. Recommendations:

  • Bodily injury liability - $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability - $5,000 per accident
  • Comprehensive coverage - $500 deductible (if you have a newer or financed vehicle)
  • Collision coverage - $500 deductible (if you have a newer or financed vehicle)

A newer vehicle or one that’s financed will require collision and comprehensive coverage. Do not choose an unrealistic deductible; you could find yourself insured but still without a car because you can’t scrape up $1,000.

"I have some assets to protect, but need to save."

If you can afford more than a basic policy but don’t yet have many assets to protect, you should raise your limits but keep your rates low. Recommendations:

  • Bodily injury liability - $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability - $25,000 per accident
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury - $25,000 per person / $50,000 per accident
  • Comprehensive coverage - $500 deductible (if you have a newer or financed vehicle)
  • Collision coverage - $500 deductible (if you have a newer or financed vehicle)

A small amount of additional liability coverage won't cost that much and could prevent a financial crisis if you get into a serious accident and have to pay some of the bills.

If you’re paying on a vehicle, you’ll need collision and comprehensive to comply with the requirements of your lien-holder. If you want to save more money, you can choose a higher deductible of $1,000 for collision and comprehensive. Just make sure you don’t bump the deductible up so high that you won’t be able to pony up the money if you need to make a claim.

If you did not put a substantial down payment on your newer, financed car, consider gap insurance to pay off the loan if you total the car. It’s usually cheaper from an insurance company than it is from the dealership.

If you own an old car outright, skip comprehensive and collision coverage if their costs equal your car's value. 

"I have a house and savings to safeguard."

Once you have assets to protect you’ll want to raise your limits and reassess your policy needs. Recommendations:

  • Bodily injury liability - $100,000 per person / $300,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability - $50,000 per accident
  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist bodily injury - $100,000 per person / $300,000 per accident
  • Comprehensive coverage - $500 deductible (for any newer or financed vehicle)
  • Collision coverage - $500 deductible (for any newer or financed vehicle)
  • Rental reimbursement
  • Umbrella liability policy

Higher liability limits mean that it is less likely for accident costs to exceed your coverage limits and put your own money at risk. 

Even if you have health care coverage, it usually comes with deductible or co-payments.  With uninsured motorist bodily injury (UMBI) in California, there is none of that, so if you’re hit by an uninsured motorist you can directly use the coverage for your medical expenses, up to your limits.

"I want the most coverage possible."

Purchase the most coverage you can at the highest limits possible to keep your personal assets very well protected. Recommendations:

  • Bodily injury liability - $250,000 per person / $500,000 per accident
  • Property damage liability - $100,000 per accident
  • Uninsured / underinsured motorist bodily injury - $250,000 per person / $500,000 per accident
  • Medical payments - $5,000
  • Comprehensive coverage - $1,000 deductible
  • Collision coverage - $1,000 deductible

These high limits are much harder to exceed in an accident, so there's much less chance of your personal assets being jeopardized.   Medical payments will pay out regardless of fault in an accident.  If you have health insurance that requires a deductible, medical payments may be able to help in that regard.  It may also pay for other items your health insurance does not cover, such as dental expenses, nursing services and funeral expenses.

Because you have ample savings, we recommend $1,000 deductibles (or higher) on your comprehensive and collision coverages.  You have enough money in the bank to take care of minor damages on your own so you can save a little money by choosing these higher limits.

Largest Car Insurance Companies in California by Market Share

Rank Company/Group Direct premiums written ($) Market share %
1 State Farm Insurance Group 2,863,700 14.00
2 Farmers Insurance Group 2,699,254 13.20
3 Allstate Insurance Group 1,838,313 8.99
4 Mercury General Group 1,734,647 8.48
5 Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Group 1,718,429 8.40
6 CSAA Insurance 1,353,093 6.62
7 Berkshire Hathaway Insurance 1,327,427 6.49
8 USAA Group 892,539 4.36
9 Progressive Insurance Group 838,645 4.10
10 Liberty Mutual Insurance 738,797 3.61
Source: A.M. Best market share rankings are based on direct premiums written in 2013.

Car Insurance in California Cities