What you pay for car insurance depends on where you live in California.
The average annual premium in California is $1,846. Rates vary whether you live in Redding, Riverside, or Rancho Cucamonga. For example, Los Angeles drivers pay the highest car insurance rates in the state.
You’ll not only see differences based on location. Insurers also can have vast differences. How much of a difference? Our analysis shows there's about a $2,100 difference between the lowest and highest rates in one particular LA zip code.
Those differences happen throughout the Golden State.
"Some states, like New York and California, tend to be less business-friendly -- or more consumer-friendly, depending on your perspective -- than other states,” says David Miller, a personal insurance agent for the last 25 years and vice president, client executive at Plexus Private Client Solutions in Illinois.
“Rates and rules are tougher to file, questions of coverage tend to be interpreted in favor of the customer, rate increase requests are harder to secure, and the legal hurdles to cancel bad risks are higher. All of this adds up to a more expensive business climate, and those costs are passed onto the consumer," Miller adds.
If you're currently shopping around for the best car insurance in California, here's what you need to know about what it might cost and what you can do to get the lowest rate possible.
Lowest car insurance rates in California
Several factors affect what you pay for car insurance in California. Insurers typically take into account your driving record, your age, how many miles you drive, and where you live. California is one of a handful of states that don't allow credit history to determine rates.
State insurance requirements also affect how much you pay. California requires:
- Minimum bodily injury liability insurance of $15,000 per person
- $30,000 per accident for bodily injury
- $5,000 minimum property damage liability
That coverage level is often not enough if you get into an accident. That’s especially true if you have other assets, such as a home or substantial savings.
In California, the average annual rate for liability-only coverage is $491 for a 12-month policy term. That’s about $41 a month. Getting more coverage beyond California's insurance minimum means your monthly costs will increase.
If you increase your liability insurance to $50,000 per person, $100,000 per incident, and $50,000 minimum property damage liability, it'll cost you $592 annually on average. For full coverage of $100,000 per person, $300,000 per incident, $100,000 for bodily injury, and a $500 collision deductible, you'll pay an average annual rate of $1,518.
Though the cost of full coverage in California is more than triple the price of minimum liability insurance, there are ways you can save and find the best car insurance.
Shopping for the best car insurance in California
Before you shop for car insurance, figure out how much coverage you actually need. Chances are you will need more protection if you have a new car or a luxury car. Also, if your vehicle is older, the car’s replacement cost should factor into how much insurance you should get.
"I would consider dropping full coverage (collision and comprehensive) from a car when the cost of the coverage is 20% or more of the average retail cost of the car," Miller says. "For example, let's assume your auto insurance premium is $1,800 per year for liability insurance and you drive a $3,000 car. If it costs less than $600 a year (20% of $3,000), you may want to consider adding full coverage."
Once you decide your desired coverage, it pays to shop around. You could save hundreds (or thousands) of dollars each year.
Here’s how six insurers compare in California for three coverage levels:
- State minimum liability requirements
- Liability limits of $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident and $50,000 property damage
- Liability of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident and $100,000 property damage, with comprehensive and collision at $500 deductible
State minimum average annual rate
50/100/50 average annual rate
100/300/100 average annual rate
How to get the cheapest car insurance rates in California
There are a few steps to take if you want to find the best auto insurance price. Use Insurance.com’s Car Insurance Calculator to find out what coverage fits you. Then, obtain and compare quotes from several companies. Check out the company to make sure you’re comfortable. One place to go is Insure.com’s Best Car Insurance Companies.
Once you decide on a company, explore several other options to bring down the cost of your car insurance:
- Take advantage of customer loyalty discounts: Bundle your auto insurance with your home or renter's insurance and other insurance products to lower costs. Some insurance companies also offer discounts for renewing early.
- Explore membership and affinity programs: You can save if you're a member of the military or AARP. Several university alumni associations, employers, and wholesale clubs also offer discounts. If you're a member of an organization, email, or call to find out about discounts.
- Maintain a good driving record: Being a safe driver can help you avoid accidents -- and lower your insurance costs. In addition, driving fewer miles can help you save.
- Take a driver training course: Check with your insurance company or do a quick online search to find out where an approved defensive driving course is taught in your area.
Discounts can help you get more affordable and better coverage. However, there’s more to car insurance than cost.
"Don't just go with the lowest price. Companies that specialize in providing the bare minimum coverage at very low prices often have very restrictive policies," Miller says. "They also tend to have notoriously bad claims departments. The reason they can offer 'low low rates' is because they do everything they can to not pay claims fairly or on a timely basis. If you get a quote from a company that is much lower than every other quote, there's probably a reason, and it's not a good one."