Car insurance is required under California state law. Learn what the average car insurance rates are for your gender and age based on coverage limits and deductibles, as well as all the details you need to know about car insurance in California.
California car insurance laws require that you must carry at least $15,000 worth of bodily injury liability coverage for anyone you injure, up to $30,000 per accident, and at least $5,000 to cover property damage. This is commonly shown in this format: 15/30/5.
Bodily injury liability: Pays, up to your policy limits, for injuries others receive in an accident caused by you or other drivers listed on your policy. You are required to carry a minimum of $15,000 in bodily injury coverage and $30,000 per accident.
Property damage liability: Covers, up to your limits, damage you cause to other cars or property. You must have a minimum of $5,000 property damage liability coverage.
Here are optional coverages:
Collision: Pays for damage to your car from an accident.
Comprehensive: Pays to replace stolen cars and for damages to your car from theft, fire, flooding, hail, animal strikes, falling objects and vandalism.
MedPay and Personal Injury Protection (PIP): Covers you, your passengers and other authorized drivers of your car who are injured while in your insured vehicle. Both typically also cover you and your family members if you are injured while riding in someone else's car or if struck by another vehicle while on foot.
Uninsured motorist/Underinsured motorist: Pays for medical bills, and those of your passengers, if you are hit by a driver who is uninsured. It may also cover lost income and pain and suffering. In cases where the other driver has insurance, but it isn’t enough to cover the bills, underinsured motorist bodily injury makes up the difference between his policy limits and yours.
Rental car: Pays for a rental while your car is being fixed or replaced.
Towing: Pays for your car to be towed after an accident or breakdown.
California car insurance quotes comparison
If you want to compare car insurance quotes, find out average car insurance rates for your city or town using our tool that shows rates by ZIP code. Enter a ZIP code to see the average premium for the location, as well as the highest and lowest rates from the six major carriers surveyed. This way you can see if your quote is coming in too high and if you should keep shopping or not.
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If you are going for the cheapest car insurance possible, just buy the minimum liability insurance required under California law (15/30/5). Here is what it will cost you, on average, broken down by age and gender, based on data commissioned by CarInsurance.com from Quadrant Information Services:
Rate for Women
Rate for Men
Deductibles and your California car insurance rates
A minor accident could easily exceed minimum liability coverage limits, leaving you responsible to pay for damages not covered by insurance. For example, if you have $30,000 in liability insurance and you cause an accident that costs $50,000, you have to pay $20,000 out-of-pocket. If you don’t have the money on hand, your assets may be taken to cover the costs. To ensure sufficient coverage, consider buying more insurance once you buy a house, start a family, or have savings to protect.
You can boost your protection by raising your liability limits. Extra liability coverage is typically cheap. For example, on average, women in California would pay $18 a month for more coverage, while men would pay $20 more monthly. Here is what your average annual car insurance rate would be for the higher liability limits of 50/100/50, compared to the state minimum:
Minimum Liability 15/30/5
Extra Liability 50/100/50
Annual cost of extra coverage
You can also buy collision coverage and comprehensive insurance, which are optional. Liability insurance does not have a deductible, but comprehensive and collision do. A deductible is the amount you pay before your insurance benefits kick in. For example, if you set your deductible at $1,000 and your car sustains damages totaling $1,800, you will pay $1,000 and your insurance company will pay $800. The higher your deductible, the lower your rate. If you choose to go that route, be sure you have the money saved to pay the deductible should you have to file a claim to get your car fixed.
The recommended levels of coverage are 100/300/100, according to the Insurance Information Institute.
Here is how much you save, on average, by raising your deductible:
$1,000 deductible instead of $250
$500 deductible instead of $250
Good Driver Discount
Under Prop 103, drivers who meet these conditions must receive rates at least 20 percent lower than a driver who does not meet these criteria at the same car insurance company:
Has been licensed for at least three consecutive years
Has no more than one point on his or her driving record
Metromile pay-per-mile insurance
Metromile’s pay-per-mile insurance is a good option for those who don’t log many miles in their cars. Its plug-in device tracks mileage and bills you monthly for a base rate plus a per-mile charge. If you drive less than 5,000 miles per year, Metromile claims you could save 40 to 50 percent over traditional insurers. The per-mile fee tops out at 150 miles a day, making allowances for the occasional long trip.
Planned Non-Operation status
If you are not going to drive, tow, store or park your car on public roads for an entire registration year, you can place it under Planned Non-Operation (PNO) status to 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 registration renewal notice has a designated box you can check off to place your car on PNO status. If a renewal notice is not available, complete a Certificate of Non-Operation/Planned Non-Operation Certification (REG 102) and mail it with your check to the address on the form. A PNO may also be filed online at www.dmv.ca.gov.
You must file the PNO form for your car before the registration expiration date. (You can file up to 90 days after the expiration date, but you will have to pay a fee.)
Once PNO status is placed on a vehicle record, it will remain on the record until you decide to register it. The registration expiration date remains the same and you will receive an annual Non-Operated Vehicle Notice.
Insurance for low-income drivers
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.
CAARP: California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan for high-risk drivers
In California, if you cannot find a car insurance company that will insure you, you can get liability coverage through the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP). This plan is designed for high-risk drivers who are unsuccessful in obtaining insurance from companies that sell non-standard policies.
The plan works by taking your application and assigning it to an insurance company. All insurance companies licensed in the state must accept CAARP applicants. The number of CAARP assignments is based on insurance company market share. The more policies an insurance company issues, the larger the portion of CAARP assignments it is required to take.
The rates used by the plan are the same no matter what insurance company issues the policy. The plan also offers installment options. After three years with a clean driving record, you can get out of the CAARP program and buy a standard policy.
To buy a CAARP policy, you have to work with an agent who is certified by the state to assist in getting drivers these special policies. Start by calling the number below to be paired up with a “certified producer” in your area who will help find an insurer for you. Afterwards, you and your assigned certified producer will work with the insurance company’s agent to get you an appropriate policy.
To Find a CAARP Certified Producer, call 1-800-622–0954
California car insurance laws
Proof of insurance
You must be able to prove you have auto insurance to register your car or renew your registration. Your insurance company will give you an insurance card that can serve as your proof of insurance. You will receive a new card every time you renew your car insurance policy. California law allows drivers to show proof of insurance during a traffic stop on a smartphone. It is one of 36 states that do so.
Credit score is not a rating factor in California
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 insurance carriers calculate rates based on miles driven and driving records before considering your geographic location.
Pure comparative negligence
California is among the 13 states that have a pure comparative fault rule. States with pure comparative negligence laws let all drivers recover some payment for their damages, even if they are mostly to blame. For example, a driver 70 percent at fault in an accident could make a claim for damages against the other driver's liability coverage but expect to receive only 30 percent of the claim amount.
California requires an acknowledgment of all claims within 15 days. Under California law, insurance companies are required to accept or deny the claim within 40 days after receiving proof of the claim. If the claim is accepted, payment must be made within 30 days from the date settlement was reached.
California law requires that you file medical claims within two years of the incident. To be compensated for damage to your vehicle, you have three years to file a claim. Always be sure to review your policy for other details. For instance, you typically must file a stolen car claim within 30 days of the theft.
Driver’s license and insurance for undocumented immigrants
Undocumented California immigrants may apply for a driver's license if they can show eligible proof of identification and residency in the state. Once they pass a written and road test and are licensed, they may buy insurance. State law says that if you have an AB 60 license, it can't be used to question your citizenship or immigration status. Those who don't possess foreign government-issued identification on a list of approved documents can be interviewed by a DMV investigator to see if they qualify.
How to reinstate suspended registration
If you’ve received a notice from the DMV saying your registration is suspended or that suspension is imminent, you can fix the situation by fulfilling your obligations online at the California DMV vehicle registration suspensions portal. You can submit any information needed as well as pay fees required to keep your registration in good standing.
Before you begin, you need your license plate number and the last five characters of your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) or the letter you received from the DMV with a personal identification number.
You may also need your car insurance documents. To submit insurance information through this online service, your insurance company must be participating in the voluntary online verification process. You may also need to have a personal check on hand so you can provide a bank routing number and account number to pay fees, or you can use a credit card.
How to file a complaint against your car insurance company
You can file a complaint against your insurer by filling out an insurance complaint form provided by the California Department of Insurance. You can file and submit it online or print it out and mail it to:
California Department of Insurance/Consumer Services Division
300 S. Spring Street
Los Angeles, CA 90013
If you have any questions, call the California Department of Insurance at (800) 927-4357. For those living out of state, call (213) 897-8921.
California tickets and penalties
1-15 mph over the limit - $35 ticket (increases to $234 once state fees are added)
16-25 mph over the limit - $70 ($360)
26+ mph over the limit - $100 ($480)
Over 100 mph - $200 ($859)
Points - You get 1 point on your license for speeding, 2 points if caught speeding over 100 mph. If you accumulate 4 points in 12 months your license will be suspended.
Driving record – Speeding violations stay on your record for at least three years. If you're caught speeding in another state, typically your out-of-state speeding infraction and points will go on your driving record.
Car insurance impact - Some insurers won't penalize you for one minor speeding ticket. Others may hike your rates by 10 percent or more. If you're busted speeding twice in three years, your rates usually increase by 20 percent or more.
Driving without a license
Unlicensed driving may be charged as either a misdemeanor or infraction. If you’re cited for an infraction, you typically pay a fine of up to $250. The following penalties are for a misdemeanor charge.
Fines - You'll pay fines of $300 to $1,000 for your first conviction. For the second offense, fines range from $500 to $2,000.
Probation - You may receive one to three years probation.
Jail time - A first-time offense could mean five days to six months in jail. A second offense may result in 10 days to one year in jail.
DUI - Penalties are more severe if your license has been suspended for a DUI; a minimum 10-day jail sentence for a first offense and 30 days for repeat offenders.
Your vehicle – Your car may be impounded for 30 days, and you may be charged fees of about $1,000.
Points - You will receive 2 points on your license.
Driving record – Your driver's record for three years will show that you were cited for driving without a license.
Car insurance impact – Driving without a license is typically considered a minor violation by insurers. However, if you're ticketed for driving with a suspended or revoked license, car insurance companies bump that up to a major violation, which will increase your rates. Typically, if you don't have a valid license, insurers will not renew your policy at the end of the term, and usually lapses in coverage also increase your premiums.
Driving without insurance
California drivers must carry liability insurance of $15,000 for injury/death to one person, $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person and $5,000 for damage to property (15/30/5).
Fines - The fine for a first offense is $100 to $200. It goes up to $200 to $500 for a second offense.
Your vehicle - Your car may be impounded until you provide proof of insurance.
Points - There are no points assessed for driving without insurance.
Car insurance impact – A lapse in insurance will cause your rates to increase when you do buy your next policy. And, of course, if you cause an accident while you're uninsured, you’ll be left personally responsible to pay for the damages.
Texting while driving
California has very lenient penalties for driving while texting. In California, text messaging is banned for all drivers. However, hands-free and voice-controlled texting is allowed.
Fine - $20 for the first offense and $50 for each subsequent offense. When court costs and fees are figured in, you'll pay $76 for a first violation and $190 thereafter.
Driving record impact – No driver license points are assessed but the violation will appear on your driving record.
Car insurance penalty – Your insurer will see the violation on your driving record, but it probably won't affect your car insurance rates because it's not considered a moving violation.
A DUI will cause your rates to increase significantly. The average increase for California drivers after one DUI is 160 percent, based on data commissioned by CarInsurance.com through Quadrant Information Services. For example, if your rate is $1,000, a DUI would typically hike it to $2,600.
Though driving under the influence is considered a major offense, insurance companies calculate your risk differently. For example, the same driver with a single DUI shopping for car insurance in California would see rates as low as $2,005 a year or as high as $6,733.
In some cases, you will need to have an SR-22 filed to reinstate your license after a DUI. An SR-22 certification is a form that is filed with the state, not a type of insurance, but is required for you to get insurance. When you're required to carry an SR-22, you will be told what minimum car insurance limits the state will accept. When you purchase the required coverage and have your insurer file the SR-22, the form verifies with the state that you have the mandated coverage in place.
Penalties and fees vary depending on the details of your case, but the following are all possible, assuming there is no death or injury caused by your DUI, in which case you'd be charged with a felony that carries harsher punishment:
Fine - The base fee is $390 but penalty assessments hike that up to $1,800.
Points - 2 points on your license.
Jail time - A maximum of six months.
Probation - Three to five years.
License suspension - 30 days to six months. If your blood alcohol level is 0.15 percent or above, the suspension could last up to 10 months.
The suspension is followed by a five to seven month restriction. That means you may only drive to and from work or an alcohol-treatment program.
Alcohol-treatment program - You must complete a $500 three-month alcohol-treatment program. The program is nine months long if your blood alcohol level was 0.20 percent or higher.
Vehicle impounded - Your vehicle could be impounded for 30 days at your expense.
Interlock - You may have to pay for and install an $800 interlock device on your car, which will test your breath and not allow your vehicle to start if there is any trace of alcohol.
Driving record impact - DUI violations stay on your record for 10 years.
Car insurance penalty – Your rates will increase significantly because insurance companies now consider you a high-risk driver. If an SR-22 is required, you will need to find an auto insurer that will file this certificate for you if your current provider does not.
How tickets and points affect your car insurance rates
Car insurance companies usually review your driving record upon renewal of your policy. If your insurer sees a moving violation on your record and the associated points, your rates are likely to increase, depending on your insurer's guidelines and the infraction.
For example, in California, a driver’s rate will increase by 30 percent, on average, for going 11 mph or more over the speed limit.
Expect the rate increase to stay in place as long as the points remain on your record, typically three years, unless it's a DUI charge, in which case it's 10 years.
Be aware that insurers use their own system to assess driver points -- they don't use the same point system as your DMV. Insurers take the points on your license and run them through their own formula to determine how much your rates are going to increase. Every insurance company has its own rating system, which means that your premium can vary dramatically between insurers when they're calculating how a ticket affects your rates. As an example, a major violation could bump up your rates 25 percent with one insurer while another might increase your premium by 40 percent.
Typically, if the court lets you go to traffic school for an eligible offense and you complete the course by the due date, you will not get any points on your driving record. You will have to pay an administrative court fee and also a fee to participate in the course.
Farmers Insurance: Farmers only offers coverage for the period in which the ridesharing app is open but no passengers are yet assigned (called “Period 1”) under its rideshare endorsement. It can be added to all coverage types, liability, comprehensive, collision, uninsured motorist and medical payment/PIP. According to Farmers, the coverage will cost roughly $15 a month.
Metromile: If you drive for Uber, Metromile will cover you during Period 1. Metromile is a specialty insurer that uses a plug-in device, called a Metronome, to track a driver's mileage. Metromile only charges for miles driven, and integrated databases with Uber allow it to determine the miles covered by Uber versus personal miles. The coverage is not available for Lyft drivers.
Most expensive ZIP codes for California car insurance
The most expensive ZIP codes for car insurance in California's major cities, on average, based on data from Quadrant Information Services commissioned by CarInsurance.com:
1. Los Angeles ZIP 90029
2. Oakland ZIP 94607
3. Sacramento ZIP 95824
4. San Francisco ZIP 94134
5. Long Beach ZIP 90813
6. Fresno ZIP 93701
7. Anaheim ZIP 92804
8. Santa Ana ZIP 92703
9. San Jose ZIP 95122
10. San Diego ZIP 92135
Most stolen vehicles in California
1. 1996 Honda Accord – 25,716 thefts
2. 1998 Honda Civic – 22,924
3. 1991 Toyota Camry – 5,242
4. 2004 Chevrolet Pick-Up (full size) – 5,225
5. 1994 Acura Integra – 4,058
6. 2006 Ford Pick-Up (full size) – 3,797
7. 2013 Toyota Corolla – 2,688
8. 1994 Nissan Sentra – 2,411
9. 1997 Nissan Altima – 2,186
10. 1996 Nissan Maxima – 1,909
Source: National Insurance Crime Bureau
Deer collision odds in California
1 out of 1,048, compared to national average of 1 out of 169, according to State Farm claims data.
Number of uninsured motorists in California
4.1 million, about 12 to 15 percent. Nationwide, 12.6 percent of drivers, about 1 in 8, are uninsured, according to the latest report from the Insurance Research Council.
Undocumented immigrant (AB 60) license statistics for July 2015 (latest data available):
45,000: AB 60 driver licenses issued in July 2015.
442,000: AB 60 driver licenses issued from Jan. 2, 2015 to July 31, 2015.
Alternatives to insurance
Buying insurance is the most common way of proving to the state that you are financially able to pay for accidents and damages, but there are other options. 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 $35,000 obtained from an insurance company licensed to do business in California.
Largest Car Insurance Companies in California by Market Share
Direct premiums written ($)
Market share %
State Farm Insurance Group
Farmers Insurance Group
Allstate Insurance Group
Mercury General Group
Auto Club Enterprises Insurance Group
Berkshire Hathaway Insurance
Progressive Insurance Group
Liberty Mutual Insurance
Source: A.M. Best market share rankings are based on direct premiums written in 2013.