California Auto Insurance Requirements
Navigating the waters of car insurance in California can be tricky. To help you on your way, we’ve assembled some basic information about driving in California. Below you’ll find resources on car insurance, licensure information, and fun facts about the state.
Just looking to get an auto insurance quote? Head over this way.
What are the Auto Insurance Requirements in California?
Drivers in California must show financial responsibility – usually, this means drivers must carry proof of car insurance. In California, this proof can also take the form of a $35,000 deposit with the DMV, a $35,000 surety bond, or a DMV-issued self-insurance certificate. You must carry this proof with you at all times, in case you are in an accident or stopped by the police.
California also requires insurance companies to electronically report insurance information for private-use vehicles, so that the DMV can determine whether or not you meet the coverage requirements. California’s minimum insurance coverage levels are:
- Body Injury Liability: $15,000 for injury/death to one person; $30,000 for one accident
- Property Damage Liability: $5,000
Don’t know what those numbers mean? Check out our liability coverage page.
Medical payments, collision insurance, and comprehensive coverage are not required in California. However, between medical bills, body damage, and possible lawsuits may cost you far more than the minimum instance coverage is able to cover. Keep this in mind when you’re shopping, and be sure to get the most appropriate coverage for you.
California Auto Insurance Discounts
Looking for a discount on your car insurance? Many companies and institutions in California offer affinity group discounts to their employees and members. If you’re associated with one of these, you may qualify for an affinity group discount with one or more major insurance companies. Make sure you don’t miss out: Ask your employer if the company has a business relationship with any insurance companies.
California Auto Insurance Penalties
Failure to meet California’s minimum requirements may result in an any number of penalties. These include:
- Suspension of your driver’s license plus a fee and the costs associated with a license and registration reinstatement.
- Impoundment of your vehicle.
- Being required to file an SR-22 annual for three years after reinstatement.
To learn more about the requirements and penalties, visit the California Department of Insurance.
California Car Seat Laws
There’s a lot to things to worry about when you have a child – how to put your child safely in a car seat is something all parents worry about at one time or another. Learn what California’s Car Seat Laws have to say on the matter.
California Driver’s Guide
Read our California Car Registration and Licensing guide to earn what steps you need to take when getting a California driver’s license, registering your car, and more.
California is known as “the strangest state west of New Jersey,” and car insurance in California is strange too. The nation’s most populous state has some unique car insurance laws that cause wide variations in how much a policy costs. That means it’s especially essential for California residents to shop around for the best deal on car insurance. We’ll show you what we mean with this California auto insurance comparison chart.
California Auto Insurance Comparison
Overall, California auto insurance is fairly affordable in California. In 2012, the state ranked eighth-lowest for car insurance costs when measured as a percentage of income. But that doesn’t mean everyone pays low rates. We ran the numbers for three different California drivers to show you how dramatically their auto insurance costs can change, depending on the carrier. The quotes are real, although we’ve left out the names of the insurance companies.
We’ve created three different profiles to run through our insurance panel.
- Is a 44-year-old female
- Owns a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu LS
- Drives for pleasure
- Owns a home and has a master’s degree
- Is a low-risk driver with a clean driving record
- Is a 21-year-old male
- Finances a 2013 Honda Civic SI
- Drives to work
- Rents an apartment and graduated from high school
- Has two speeding tickets on his record
Joe and Julie Average:
- Are a married 41-year-old couple
- Owns a 2012 Grand Caravan SE and finances a 2011 Mazda 6S
- Drives to work
- Owns a condo and both have bachelor’s degrees
- Has minor tarnish on driving record
Which profile is most like you?
Whoa. There’s a huge difference between paying $83 per month for car insurance and paying $775. Obviously, an older, safer driver will pay lower premiums, but why is this difference so significant in California?
California’s unique car insurance rules
- Good drivers are rewarded. A law called Proposition 103 requires car insurance companies to make your driving history one of the main factors in calculating your premium. A 20 percent discount is guaranteed for drivers who have been licensed at least three years, have no more than one point on their records in the last three years, and haven’t been found at fault in a major accident in the last three years. Look at our California car insurance comparison chart and you’ll see that Elizabeth Allclear gets extremely low rate quotes because her record is clean. Joe and Julie Average get low quotes too, because the only accident on their record resulted in less than $1,000 in damage.
- Your credit doesn’t matter. In most states, insurers use credit-based insurance scores to calculate how likely it is that you’ll make a claim, which can affect your rates. In California, this practice is prohibited (as it is in Hawaii and Massachusetts). So even if Johnny Racer has excellent credit, it won’t help lower his insurance rates.
- Your location does matter. California car insurance law states that location must be considered a secondary factor in determining rates, making it less important than your driving record. However, your ZIP code still affects your insurance premiums. Los Angeles is the nation’s 22nd most expensive city for car insurance, according to a car insurance comparison by NerdWallet, followed closely by Glendale.
Low-cost California auto insurance options
In California, drivers are required to carry at least $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 in bodily injury coverage per accident, and $5,000 of property damage coverage. If you don’t want to carry insurance, you have a few other options for demonstrating financial responsibility, such as a $35,000 cash deposit with the state Department of Motor Vehicles or a surety bond for the same amount.
What if you can’t afford California auto insurance? Low-income drivers may be eligible to participate in the California Low Cost Automobile Insurance Program. This program is open to people 19 and older who have a valid California driver’s license, own a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less and meet income eligibility guidelines. Find out if you qualify by taking this online questionnaire.
What about high-risk drivers? If your driving record is tarnished, you need to shop around for the lowest rate available. In our California car insurance comparison chart, Johnny Racer is looking at monthly premiums as high as $775 because of his age and his two speeding tickets. That’s almost twice as much as the $417 offered by another carrier — and that’s why it’s so important to compare insurance quotes on compare.com before you buy. It’s free, fast and easy.
California Car Insurance Companies:
- National General
- Sun Coast
- California Casualty
- Anchor General
- Carnegie General