Looking for the best car insurance for California drivers? We've got you covered.
Published July 26, 2019|3 min read
Is there any U.S. state more evocative of driving culture than California? Whether you’re cruising down the Pacific Coast Highway, off-roading it in the mountains, pulling into an In-N-Out or stuck in Los Angeles traffic, California drivers deserve unique protection for unique needs.
If you’re shopping for car insurance in California, you’ll have to decide which carrier to choose for your coverage and how much insurance you’ll need.
It’s important to consider not only the coverage amount required by California law, but also how much insurance you need for your particular lifestyle and driving habits. And when it comes to choosing a car insurance company, price matters, but so does finding an insurance company with the coverage options you need and a claims satisfaction rating you’re happy with. Here’s what California drivers should know about choosing the right car insurance.
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At least some amount of car insurance is required by law in almost every state. Some states require just liability insurance, which pays for damage or injury you cause with your car. Others have more required coverage. In California, drivers are required to have at least the following amounts of coverage:
Bodily injury liability coverage per person: $15,000
Bodily injury liability coverage per accident: $30,000
Property damage liability coverage: $5,000
Personal injury protection: Optional
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage: Optional
Remember, California’s car insurance requirements are a minimum, you should consider getting more coverage than the law demands. It’s smart to have higher liability limits than what is required so you’re not stuck paying for damages you caused out of pocket. Additionally, if you lease or finance a car, you’ll most likely be required by your lessor or lienholder to add comprehensive and collision coverage, which protects your own vehicle.
|Insurance Company||J.D. Power Claims Satisfaction Rating||Market Share||A.M. Best Rating|
|Berkshire Hathaway (GEICO)||857||9.18%||A++|
|Auto Club Enterprises||854||8.48%||A-|
Methodology: These five insurers represent the largest auto insurers operating in the state of California, according to the NAIC. The claims satisfaction ratings are according to J.D. Power’s 2018 U.S. Auto Claims Satisfaction Study.
Coverage and claims: Farmers - Farmers boasts stellar claims satisfaction ratings from independent reviewer J.D. Power, putting it in among the top tier of auto insurance carriers when ranked by claims satisfaction. Farmers also has a wide range of coverage options, including all the standard auto coverage most drivers need, plus some non-standard options, including original equipment manufacturer coverage, which pays for repairs using factory-original parts, and glass buy-back coverage, which covers glass replacement.
Low rates and discounts: State Farm - State Farm is a popular car insurance provider among California drivers and it’s also a relatively affordable one. State Farm manages to offer wallet-friendly coverage and higher-than-average claims satisfaction. It also offers a wide range of available discounts, including State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save program that tracks your driving and awards discounts.
Digital tools: - Allstate - Allstate has an easy-to-use website, including resources, quizzes and an online quote generator. The free Allstate mobile app lets you contact representatives, access digital proof of insurance, ID cards and policy documents and lets you start and track a claim from your phone. You can also take photos of damage to your car through the app and reach roadside assistance. The Allstate app also includes some helpful extras, like a parking reminder that helps you remember where you parked and a gas finder that locates the cheapest gas prices wherever you are.
Teen drivers: GEICO - GEICO auto insurance, a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, has great options for teen drivers. No matter which carrier you choose, insuring young and inexperienced drivers will always be costly, but GEICO is all around an affordable insurance company with special discounts for teen drivers, including a good student discount for maintaining a “B” average or better in school, discounts for teens who complete driver’s education programs and resources like a parent-teen driving contract and online presentations on teen driver safety.
According to a 2017 report from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in 2015, the average annual cost of car insurance in California was $986.75, slightly below the average cost of car insurance in the U.S. that year which was $1,009.38. Here’s that information broken down by the average cost of different coverage types.
As we mentioned earlier, California requires drivers to carry a certain amount of liability coverage, but having just the bare minimum of liability coverage is a risky move. That leaves you financially on the hook if you’re in an accident and cause damage that exceeds your limits. It’s also smart to consider adding comprehensive and collision coverage, which covers damage to your vehicle.
If your car is leased or financed, you may be required to have comp and collision, but even if you don’t have to add that coverage, it’s a good buy.
Liability coverage - Covers the costs if you damage someone’s property or injure someone while driving.
Uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage - Covers the costs if you’re in an accident caused by someone who doesn’t have insurance, or whose insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of the damage.
Personal injury protection - Covers medical expenses and lost wages if you or your passengers are injured in a car accident.
Collision coverage - Covers damage to your vehicle from an accident, regardless of who was at fault.
Comprehensive coverage - Covers damage to your vehicle that happened when it wasn’t being driven, like damage from extreme weather, falling objects, fire, flood, vandalism and theft.
California is an “at-fault” state, meaning that after an accident, the driver who was at fault is responsible for the damage or injuries they cause. (As opposed to a no-fault state, where drivers must get compensation for their damage or injuries through their own insurance company, regardless of who was at fault.)
Wildfires and earthquakes are natural phenomena that Californians are more likely to deal with than drivers in other parts of the country. So if you’re a California driver, you should know that both wildfires and earthquakes will typically be covered under comprehensive coverage, another good reason to make sure comp coverage is part of your car insurance policy.
California also has a program to help low-income drivers get car insurance. The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan helps match low-income drivers seeking insurance to auto insurance carriers that are already operating in the state.
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