Cheap California Car Insurance

Compare the best rates from 12 car insurance companies in California.

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Here's what you need to know when driving in California

Across the Golden State, there are 386,604 miles of road just waiting to be driven. We’ll get you prepped with the best and cheapest insurance, then you take the wheel.


Cheap Car Insurance in California

What's the cheapest car insurance in California?
RankCompany NameAvg. Annual Premium
3Century National$1,202
621st Century$1,352
13The Hartford$1,607
15State Farm$1,716
18Bristol West$1,813
21California Capital$2,109
22Liberty Mutual$2,241
24Auto Club$2,526

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Cheap Insurance for Good Drivers in California

Good drivers can save money on car insurance if you have no at-fault accidents, speeding tickets, or DUIs. Insurance companies use your driving record as a way to predict what kind of risk you will pose to them. So, by not having any of these violations you are less risky and therefore cheaper customer for them. In addition to having a cheaper premium, some companies offer a safe driving discount. While the amount varies based on your company, it can range between 5-10%. If we’re looking beyond just average rates and at individual companies, Nationwide seems to have the cheapest rates for good drivers.

Rating Factor$ Savings% Savings
No Traffic Tickets$58826.29%
No Accidents$92635.96%
Good Credit$00.00%

Cheap Insurance for Young Drivers in California

Young drivers between the ages of 16-25 pay the highest car insurance premiums of anyone in the US. Because of the risk presented by inexperienced drivers, teen drivers pay more than three times the national average for car insurance. For teen drivers, historically the most expensive drivers to insure, we’ve found that Allstate, Geico and Progressive are the cheapest companies in California for teenagers.

AgeAnnual Rate with ParentsAnnual Rate Alone

Cheap Car Insurance for Bad Drivers in California

Having a bad driving record can be a huge burden for getting cheap car insurance, no matter your location. In California, a DUI raises auto insurance rates by an average of $3,154 a year — one of the biggest increases in the nation. Other violations, such as an at-fault accident or a speeding ticket, can also hurt your driving record. Based on our research, if you’ve had a DUI or at-fault accident, your best bet for cheap car insurance is to shop with Liberty Mutual, State Farm, or Nationwide.

Rating FactorAnnual Rate% Increase
At-Fault Accident$2,57535.96%
Speeding Violation$2,23826.29%
Bad Credit$1,6490.00%

What are the Best Car Insurance Companies in California?

Every car insurance company emphasizes its low premiums. But as with any service, the cheapest car insurance isn't always the best. Considering the stakes, it's worthwhile to do your research to purchase an auto policy that covers your car adequately after a collision. Consider shopping around to find the best value, rather than settling for the cheapest auto insurance available.

Compare top insurance companies' financial strength and claims satisfaction ratings to better understand the level of service they'll provide. Claims satisfaction — assigned by J.D. Power — is ranked on a scale of 2 to 5, with 5 being "among the best" and 2 being "the rest." Financial strength — calculated by A.M. Best and running from "Poor" to "Superior" — assesses an insurer's financial strength and ability to satisfy its policy and contractual obligations.

Insurance CompanyClaims Satisfaction (J.D. Power)Financial Strength (A.M. Best)
21st Century3Excellent
California CapitalNot RatedExcellent
EsuranceNot RatedSuperior
Liberty Mutual3Excellent
State Farm3Superior
WawanesaNot RatedExcellent


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What is the Best Car Insurance Coverage in California?

The legal auto insurance minimum in California is $15,000 Bodily Injury per person, $30,000 Bodily Injury per accident, and $5,000 Property Damage per accident.

For the legal minimum coverage level in California, expect to pay a mean of $718 per year. This is more than the national average by 9%. If you choose a higher level of car insurance coverage, you can purchase a policy with comprehensive and collision coverage, which will protect against damages caused by car-vs.-car crashes, theft, or weather incidents. It's worth noting that better auto insurance coverage comes at a cost: in California, a comprehensive policy with a $1,000 deductible costs $1,491, 108% more than basic liability-only coverage. For a comprehensive policy with a $500 deductible, you can expect to pay 136% more than for a basic liability-only policy.

Compare average rates for liability-only and comprehensive car insurance tiers below.

LocationLiability-OnlyComprehensive — $1,000 DeductibleComprehensive — $500 Deductible
National Average$657.66$1,241.26$1,397.94

California Car Insurance Laws

State minimum insurance requirements in California

In California, the state minimum coverage requirement is liability with limits of:
  • Bodily Injury $15,000 per person
  • Bodily Injury $30,000 per accident
  • Property Damage $5,000 per accident
Optional coverage in California (varies by carrier):
  • Comprehensive
  • Collision
  • Loan/Lease Payoff
  • Medical and Funeral Services
  • Rental Car Reimbursement
  • Roadside Assistance
  • Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury
  • Uninsured Motorist Property Damage

Liability coverage is legally required in California and pays for injury and lost wages that you cause to another driver or their passengers as well as damage to the other driver’s vehicle in the event that you are considered “at fault” in an accident. The coverage limits are determined by each individual state and normally split into three categories. In California, the cheapest insurance minimum is listed as 15/30/5 and explained below:

  • $15,000 bodily injury coverage per person. This is the maximum dollar amount that pays for a single person that you injure in an auto accident.
  • $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident. This is the maximum dollar amount that pays for all injuries that you cause in an accident if more than one person is hurt.
  • $5,000 property damage per accident. This is the maximum dollar amount that pays for damage that you cause in an accident.

These numbers reflect the minimum limits required in California but higher coverage amounts are available with most companies. These minimums will provide you with the cheapest insurance rate.

California Car Insurance FAQs

Can undocumented immigrants get car insurance in California?

Undocumented immigrants can get car insurance without a license but it may be difficult and expensive. However, the consequences of driving without insurance are much more costly.

Is car insurance required in California?

Yes. In order to drive a vehicle legally in California, it needs to be insured at the state minimum liability limits.

How do you insure a salvaged car in California?

Call different insurance companies and ask. In the eyes of an insurance company, a salvaged vehicle comes with added risk and might cost more to insure. When you're in the quoting process, be honest with the insurance agent — this will save you time if the company later declines to insure a salvaged title.

How much does car insurance cost in California cities?

Car insurance companies calculate your rate based on many factors, location of the vehicle being an important one. The cheapest car insurance is found in Fremont, California, and the most expensive in Glendale, California.

RankCityAvg. Annual Premium
2Los Angeles$2,510
4San Francisco$2,102
6San Bernardino$2,049
8Long Beach$1,982
10Santa Clarita$1,929
11Moreno Valley$1,927
12Garden Grove$1,917
14Santa Ana$1,886
21Huntington Beach$1,782
22San Jose$1,767
23San Diego$1,739
24Chula Vista$1,728

Recent California Car Insurance Questions and Answers

Can I insure my recently-deceased mother's car while waiting for the title to transfer?

So sorry to hear about your loss. Yes, you are allowed to insure and use the vehicle before the transfer is done.  Thanks for the question and don't hesitate to reach out should any other questions arise.  

Should I take my 23 yr old daughter off of my insurance? She recently was involved in an accident and has a DUI pending.

Yes, it would be a good idea to remove your daughter from your insurance policy due to her recent DUI and suspended license — both of which would impact your insurance by way of a much higher premium. Find out just how much a DUI can impact your rates here. Even with the citation and suspended license, she'll be able to find her own insurance — though that may be difficult.

Our son-in-law is a USAA member (Navy). Can we join also?

Parents are not eligible for USAA. I believe USAA eligibility flows "downstream" — so descendants, i.e.

What can I do if I was in a not-at-fault car accident without insurance?

Sorry to hear about your accident. Regardless of whether you had insurance or not at the time of the accident, the at-fault party must pay for the damages.

Driving Laws in California

California Texting and Driving Laws

  1. Ban on hand-held cell phones
  2. Ban on all cell phones for school bus drivers and novice drivers <18 years
  3. Ban on text messaging for all drivers


California DUI Laws

California’s lookback period is 10 years. Repeated DUI offenses within this period will lead to more severe fines and penalties.

First-time DUI offenses in California will result in:

  • Fines of $390 to $1,000
  • 48 hours to six months in jail
  • License suspension for six months
  • The possible requirement of an interlock ignition device for five months to three years
  • Attendance in a DUI program (length determined based on BAC)


Speeding Laws in California

California has a “basic speed law” in place which requires drivers to refrain from driving faster than conditions allow, regardless of the posted speed limit. Drivers should pay attention to:

  • The amount of vehicles on the road
  • The speed of other vehicles on the road
  • Road condition
  • Pedestrians and cyclists
  • Weather conditions


Reckless Driving Regulations in CA

You are guilty of reckless driving in California if you drive “in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” In general, this means if you make a choice not to obey traffic laws or to drive dangerously, you are driving recklessly.


Distracted Driving in California

Distracted driving in California is a major threat to driving safely. Drivers are considered to be driving while distracted if their attention is anywhere other than the actual act of driving.

In California, distracted driving is categorized in three ways:

  • Visual
  • Cognitive
  • Manual


Racing Laws in California

Racing in California is also referred to as speed contests. Speed contests involve a race between two vehicles, using a clock or “other timing device.”

Street races, speed races, and drag races all fall within the definition of “speed contests” in California.

California also considers it illegal to participate in an exhibition of speed. An exhibition of speed in California involves accelerating or driving at a dangerous or unsafe rate of speed in an effort to show off or impress at least one onlooker.


At-Fault Accident Rules in California


California is considered a fault-based state. Following an accident, fault is assigned to one or more drivers for the purposes of liability and compensation.

However, it is possible for all parties to an accident to have some share of fault. A driver’s compensation may be reduced by the percent of the accident for which they have been deemed at-fault.

How Do Tickets Impact Car Insurance Rates in California?

If you get a ticket, your auto insurance rates may rise. How much your rates rise depends on the violation, your insurance company's pricing strategy, and differing local insurance risks and regulations. That's why tickets may have a different impact on insurance in your state compared to the national average.

Below is a look at average auto insurance rates in California after a few common citations.

ViolationAvg. Annual Auto Insurance Rate% Insurance Rate Increase$ Insurance Rate Increase
Hit and Run$5,102181%$3,286
Refused Breathalyzer/Chemical Test$5,102181%$3,286
Reckless Driving$5,102181%$3,286
Driving with a Suspended License$4,400142%$2,585
At-Fault Accident$2,57342%$758
Driving with an Open Container$2,78653%$970
Operating a Vehicle Without Permission$3,34084%$1,524
Passing a School Bus$2,49237%$676
Improper Passing$2,49237%$676
Following Too Closely$2,49237%$676
Failure to Stop at a Red Light$2,56942%$754
Illegal Turn$2,49237%$676
Driving Wrong Way/Wrong Lane$2,66647%$851
Failure to Yield$2,49237%$676
Speeding in a School Zone$2,51238%$696
Driving Too Slowly$2,51238%$696
Distracted Driving$2,32628%$510
Driving with Expired Registration$1,9166%$101
Failure to Show Documents$1,8150%$0
Not-at-Fault Accident$1,8592%$44
Failure to Use Child Safety Restraint$2,02512%$209
Failure to Wear a Seat Belt$1,9799%$163
Driving Without Lights$1,9799%$163

California Tour Guide Scholarship

At The Zebra, we know better than most just what a pain buying car insurance can be. We also know that students suffer from higher-than-average policy rates. Talk about a double-whammy. That’s why, this year, we’ve decided to continue The Zebra’s annual scholarship with the goal of helping to alleviate the financial pressures of college-bound students in the California area, while also getting an insider view of the Golden State.


So, students, we want to see your favorite road trip destination(s) in your state— from your unique perspective. If it makes sense to hit the open road and be our virtual tour guide, that's great! But there are no limits to what we're looking for: a narrated animation, a slideshow of memorabilia, an illustrated map of the best roadside attractions on the way. This is a chance for you to showcase any place you love in as an original way as possible.

How do I choose a location?

The length of the road trip to your feature destination is inconsequential. So if you have an awesome spot in mind that's just two miles from home, we want to see it.


Applicants must be currently enrolled at or planning to attend a four-year university, graduate program, community college, or trade school located in the continental United States. Upon notification, winner(s) must supply a current proof of enrollment or letter of acceptance.

How to Apply
1. Create a video

Your original video should not exceed 2 minutes

2. Post online

The video must be hosted on YouTube or Vimeo

3. Submit by email

Email your submission to

4. Please include...

your name, address, and phone number when you submit


Selected winner(s) will be awarded a check for $1,000


Applications must be received by 11:59 p.m. CST on December 31st, 2019


Winner(s) will be selected and notified by email by January 31st, 2020

Judges: The Zebra

The winner will be selected based on creativity in the content and presentation

*Upon notification, winner(s) must also supply a current proof of enrollment at a four-year university, graduate program, community college, or trade school located in the continental United States.

Fine Print

By participating, entrants represent that the video submitted is their sole and original work and does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any other party. In other words, no copyrighted music or images may be used.

Employees of The Zebra and their immediate family members are not eligible to participate in the contest.

Written credits for any technical or talent positions (e.g., editor, director, actors) should be included with your submission, along with any sources used to create the video.

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