Car Insurance in California

Scroll down for the latest available information about purchasing and maintaining insurance for vehicles owned in the state of California. Use this info to custom design the optimal auto insurance coverage package for you, at the lowest possible rates.

California Minimum Liability Coverage

State laws pertaining to California car owners dictate a minimum auto insurance coverage of 15/30/5. That means vehicle owners in California must purchase at least $15,000 in Personal Injury Protection, $30,000 in per-accident protection for others who are injured, and $5,000 in coverage against property damage. Still, most state-mandated minimums for car insurance rarely cover all the expenses of an accident. That’s why the Insurance Information Institute recommends 100/300 coverage for all U.S. Drivers.

Penalties for Driving Without Insurance in California

Assuming you get caught, the penalty for driving without insurance in the state of California is a fine of up to $200, plus a huge “penalty assessment” fee. Also expect a suspended license for up to thirty days.

Auto Insurance Rates in California

The average annual auto insurance premium in the state of California was about $1,752 in 2016, the national average being around $1,347 at that time.

Factors that determine car insurance premiums include local climate, economic stability, percentage of uninsured drivers, availability of insurance carriers, population density and average commute times, for example.

Other factors affecting annual rates are the driver’s age, gender, marital status, driving record and vehicle, among other things. California law prohibits using credit scores as factors in determining premiums by personal auto insurance providers. State law also requires that California car insurance carriers calculate rates based on miles driven and driving records before considering geographic location.

Low Cost Car Insurance Programs in California

Despite the deals and discounts, car insurance coverage can be very expensive for California drivers. This is especially true of drivers living in urban centers like Los Angeles and San Francisco, by comparison to more rural areas.

Fortunately, there are numerous ways for California car owners to lower their auto insurance costs. For example, low income residents may be eligible for the CLCA program, which reduces liability limits to 10/20/3. This low cost program is available to California residents 19 or older with good driving records, for vehicles worth $20,000 or less. Another way to lower costs is if you decide to take your car off the road, you can put it on Planned Non-Operation (PNO) status. This allows you to legally drop insurance coverage until you are once again ready to drive the vehicle.

Carriers both local and nationwide offer discounts to encourage intelligent driving habits. Drivers who avoid accidents and moving violations for three years may be eligible for an Accident-Free discount or a Good Driver discount of up to 20 percent. Academic excellence can be rewarded with a Good Student discount. People who own more than one car might score a Multiple Auto discount. Senior citizens sometimes earn a discount for completing a defensive driving course. Other types of available discounts on car insurance are the Multiple Policy discount, the Passive Restraint discount and the Vehicle Safety Discount.

Obtaining Auto Insurance Quotes in California

According to customer satisfaction ratings from 2017 online reviews, the most popular auto insurance providers for drivers in the state of California are AAA, Allstate, Esurance, Geico, Progressive, State Farm, 21st Century and Liberty Mutual Insurance. Since all car insurance companies follow the same guidelines, select the carrier you are most comfortable with. Stick with friendly representatives who are easily reached and communicative regarding discounts and other important policy details.

California is home to hundreds of companies offering car insurance at “the lowest possible” rates. Call a few of them to obtain and compare free quotes. Don’t forget to inquire about their discount offers.

California Car Insurance

Here’s what you should know about California car insurance.

The population of California was estimated at well over 39 million in 2016, making California the most populous state in the nation. The population of California has a median age of about 36 years. Approximately 15.3 percent of California residents live at or below the poverty level. The state unemployment rate as of 2017 is down around 5 percent, quite close to he national average of 4.7 percent. Roughly 18 percent of California drivers are operating uninsured vehicles, as compared to the national average of 12.6 percent.

There also must be a statewide average annual premium on California car insurance.

Unfortunately, statewide averages on car insurance premiums are of little use to most people. These averages are often based on certain parameters that indicate some sort of “average” driver. So, unless you happen to be a 25-year-old single male with a clean driving record, a full time job, and a 2014 Toyota Corolla that you drive between 16,000 and 30,000 miles a year (for instance), statewide average insurance quotes are of limited use.

Instead, your search for California car insurance should involve zip code comparisons within the state. This would provide a more accurate assessment of premium rates. If you really want to know, the “average” annual California car insurance premium rate was around $1,752 in 2016, according to data obtained from This figure is more than $400 above the national average quote for car insurance, which was about $1,325.

Car insurance rates are unpredictable, to say the least. This is partly because each insurance company has its own way of calculating premium costs, based on the location of the vehicle, the owner’s driving record, and state laws, among other things. Premium rates are also affected by population density, climate conditions, and crime rates (particularly car theft, DUI, and speeding), as well as the percentage of uninsured drivers on the road, to name just a few of the factors considered by underwriters who calculate car insurance premiums. Even within the same zip code, car insurance premium rates will vary, often by more than a thousand dollars a year, based on the demographics and personal details of the vehicle owner.

This page offers a detailed analysis of the cheapest and the priciest zip codes for California car insurance. You’ll also find a list of California’s favorite car insurance companies, California’s largest insurance companies, a summary of the types of insurance needed by California drivers, and some weird California state laws, along with other info pertaining to California car insurance.

Read on to find out all you need to know about California car insurance.

Best Car Insurance Companies in California

The top ten car insurance companies in the United States are Allstate, State Farm, Geico, Progressive, Nationwide, AAA, Liberty Mutual, 21st Century, GMAC, and AIG, in that order. A group of researchers at recently surveyed a sample of drivers in the state of California. The drivers were asked to rank California car insurance companies based on premium rates, customer experience, and insurance payout.

According to the data from the survey, the top providers of California car insurance for customer service are USAA, Mercury Insurance, Auto Club of Southern California, State Farm Insurance, and Allstate, in that order. For claims service, California’s top car insurance providers are USAA, Auto Club of Southern California, Liberty Mutual, Geico, and Progressive, in that order. In terms of best value for the dollar, the California winners are Auto Club of Southern California, Mercury, CSAA, USAA, and Progressive, in that order.

Auto insurance companies are also ranked by the dollar amount of premiums written in a year. Here’s a list of the ten largest California car insurance companies in terms of premiums written, which determines their market share. This list was sourced from A.M. Best for the year 2015.

RankCompanyPremiums ($)Market Share (%)
1State Farm Insurance$3,358,92814.48
2Farmers Insurance$2,894,32112.48
3Allstate Insurance$2,032,9658.77
4Mercury General Group$1,923,3928.29
5Auto Club Enterprises$1,885,0778.13
7CSAA Insurance$1,530,1856.60
8USAA Group$1,044,9344.51
9Progressive Insurance$968,6904.18
10Liberty Mutual Insurance$791,2513.41

The reputations of California car insurance companies are outlined on various independent review websites. There is no such thing as The One Best California Car Insurance Company. Some car insurance carriers may be best for one group of people, while other auto insurance companies might specialize in a different demographic. It’s important that you shop around for quotes and make your own decision, based on your own demographic info, your particular car insurance needs, and the auto insurance options available in your area.

What Types Of Car Insurance Do California Drivers Need?

California is a big place. The right types of insurance in some parts of California do not necessarily apply to other parts of the state. However, all California drivers are advised to purchase more than just the minimum auto insurance coverage required by the state.

In addition to basic liability and personal injury protection, California drivers are advised to also buy uninsured motorist insurance (UMI). Although California is not the worst state for uninsured drivers, the rate is still higher than the national average. Roughly 1 out of every 6 California drivers is driving an uninsured vehicle. UMI will cover costs in the event of an accident with an uninsured driver.

In certain California cities, it is also a good idea to buy insurance against auto theft and vandalism. If you really want to cover all your bases, purchase Comprehensive and Collision coverage.

California Car Insurance Laws

  • The California Low Cost Auto Insurance Program allows lower than state-mandated liability limits to low income drivers.
  • In Eureka, it is illegal to use a public road as a bed. Talk about low income drivers!
  • California enforces laws against driving too slowly. As if speeding tickets weren’t bad enough.
  • It is illegal for a woman to wear a housedress while driving in California. In other states, it is merely unstylish.
  • In Glendale, it is illegal to jump from a car going more than 65 miles an hour. The good news is you won’t live long enough to get arrested.

Best And Worst Zip Codes For California Car Insurance

In the most expensive zip codes for California car insurance, annual premium rates can range anywhere from about $900 to more than $3,000. Based on a typically “average” driver demographic, here is a list of the four zip codes where California car insurance premium costs are thought to be the highest. This data was compiled from,,, and, among others

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
90029 (Los Angeles)29,72111.60%27.20%

The high (average) cost of California car insurance in this urban zip code is probably due to a much higher than state average unemployment rate and poverty rate. In fact, unemployment is more than double the 5.3 percent state average. Also a factor is an extremely congested population density in this part of L.A. More than 40,000 people live in this zip code, which has a land area of less than 2 square miles. High population densities, high unemployment rates, and high poverty rates are a recipe for high crime rates, not to mention high rates of uninsured drivers.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
90020 (Los Angeles)35,2709.50%20.10%

Roughly 40,000 people live tightly packed into this urban zip code with a land area of just over one square mile. Also, the unemployment and poverty rates are quite a bit above the state average. This helps explain the relatively high cost of car insurance in this neighborhood.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
90010 (Los Angeles) 8,1787.60%15.50%

This urban zip code, which spans only half a square mile, actually has a very high population density, even if not as high as the previous two zip codes mentioned above. Unemployment is lowish in this predominantly Asian neighborhood. The poverty level is very near the state average.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
90005 (Los Angeles) 35,95810%29.40%

This zip code is one of California’s most crowded neighborhoods. What’s more, the unemployment and poverty rates are both practically double the state average. The neighborhood population is a mix of about half Latino, about one third Asian, less than 10 percent white, and less than 5 percent black.

In the cheapest zip codes for California car insurance, annual premium rates can range anywhere from about $600 to about $1,400. Here is a list of the four least expensive zip codes for auto insurance policies in the state of California.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
93441 (Los Olivos)239.30%11.80%

About half way between Santa Maria and Santa Barbara, just ten miles west of the Los Padres National Forest, lies the sleepy little town of Los Olivos. Although unemployment is slightly higher than the state average in this zip code, the poverty rate is well below the state average. This, combined with an exceedingly low population density and a median age of 46.1 years, is an indication that there are not a lot of high risk drivers in this neighborhood. This could explain the relatively low premium rates on car insurance.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
93437 (Lompoc)8513.80%6.40%

Lompoc is a Southern California town in Santa Barbara County, located just ten miles from the Pacific Ocean, and just south of the Vandenberg Air Force Base. This zip code has a median age of only 23.5 years, as compared to the California state median age of about 36 years. Unemployment is more than twice the 5 percent state average, but the poverty rate in this zip code is miles below the state average of 15.3 percent. A very low population density completes the look of low cost California car insurance in this area, despite the youthful population.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
93428 (Cambria) 835.10%6.90%

Cambria is a quaint little touristy beach town with many unique shops and eye-catching architecture. Unemployment is just below the state average, and the poverty level is less than half the state average. The median resident age in Cambria is about 62 years. Apparently, Cambria is a popular place to live when we retire.

Zip CodePop Density Unemployed %Poverty %
93449 (Pismo Beach) 7904.70%7.10%

This zip code is situated in San Luis Obispo County. The median resident age here is 51 years, which helps keep car insurance premium rates down. Low unemployment, a low poverty rate, and a sparse population make for even cheaper rates on California car insurance.

The top ten most expensive cities in California to buy car insurance are Los Angeles, Oakland, Sacramento, San Francisco, Long Beach, Fresno, Anaheim, Santa Ana, San Jose, and San Diego, in that order. The priciest zip codes in San Francisco to buy car insurance are 94134, 94124, 94121, and 94102. The cheapest zip codes for San Francisco car insurance are 94123, 94114, 94163, 94162, and 94161. As for San Diego, the most expensive zip codes for car insurance are 92135, 92145, 92155, 92105, and 92113. The cheapest zip codes for San Diego car insurance are 92179, 92152, 92184, 92134, and 92102.

In terms of getting cheap car insurance in America, the state of California may not be your cheapest option. In fact, one Los Angeles zip code, 90029, is the 6th most expensive zip code for car insurance in the whole United States, behind only 48227 (Detroit, Michigan), 11226 (Brooklyn, New York), 19132 (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), 02903 (Providence, Rhode Island), 70117 (New Orleans, Louisiana).

On the other hand, none of the 10 cheapest zip codes in America to buy car insurance are located in the state of California.

All in all, California has 2,588 zip codes in 1,239 cities throughout 58 counties, all the way from Agoura Hills to Yreka, and everywhere in between. Other things being equal, there is more than a $1,400 difference in average annual car insurance premium rates between the cheapest zip code and the most expensive zip code in the state of California.

This information should give you a general idea of the cost of California car insurance. To learn more, compare online quotes.

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