Best and cheapest car insurance in California

Wawanesa is the best cheap car insurance in California, with an average cost of $93 per month.

Rachael Brennan headshotAndrew Hurst

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Rachael Brennan

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

&Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®

Certified Financial Planner

Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®, is a certified financial planner and a member of the Financial Review Council at Policygenius. Previously, he was a financial advisor at MetLife and MassMutual.

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We found that Wawanesa has the cheapest car insurance rates in California. On average, Wawanesa costs $93 per month. That’s $1,110 per year, 40% less than the average rate for a full-coverage policy in California.

Besides Wawanesa, our other picks for the best and cheapest car insurance in California are GEICO, USAA, Mercury, and National General.

Company

Average cost

Wawanesa

$93/month

GEICO

$122/month

USAA

$125/month

Mercury Insurance

$127/month

National General

$134/month

Cheapest car insurance companies in California

Wawanesa

Wawanesa logo

Wawanesa’s straightforward car insurance doesn’t leave much room for customization. But Wawanesa, which only offers coverage in California and Oregon, is still a top pick (especially for budget-conscious drivers) for its cheap rates and discounts.

Pros

  • Low average premiums

  • A cheap option for drivers with an accident on their records

  • Top-rated customer service

  • Offers several discounts

Cons

  • Only endorsements offered are rental car coverage, roadside assistance, and special parts coverage

  • Doesn’t offer gap insurance

On average, Wawanesa has the cheapest car insurance rates in California. At just $93 per month, car insurance from Wawanesa costs $747 less per year than the state average for a full-coverage policy. 

We also found that Wawanesa remains affordable for drivers after an accident, DUI, or speeding ticket — all of which can mean serious price increases at most car insurance companies.

GEICO

4.6

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

GEICO logo

GEICO is nationally available and often has some of the cheapest rates. GEICO gets fewer service complaints than average, even though claims satisfaction can be mixed. Drivers can also customize their car insurance from GEICO with a few useful add-ons.

Pros

  • Available in every state and the District of Columbia

  • Usually has some of the cheapest rates

  • Gets fewer complaints than expected for its service

  • Allows drivers to add different types of useful coverages to a basic policy

Cons

  • Mixed reputation for claims satisfaction

GEICO is the cheapest car insurance company in California when it comes to national carriers. A full-coverage policy from GEICO costs an average of $122 per month (or $1,465 per year), which is $392 less per year than average in the state. If you’ve got a past driving violation, though, GEICO can be one of the more expensive companies for car insurance.

USAA

4

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

USAA logo

USAA is one of the most reliably cheap car insurance companies in the country. It also has a long-standing reputation for great customer service. Unlike other providers, USAA is only offered to drivers who are affiliated with the military.

Pros

  • Offers coverage in every state and the District of Columbia

  • Usually has some of the cheapest car insurance rates of any company

  • Drivers can use discounts to lower their rates

  • Consistently high customer satisfaction

Cons

  • Limited options for adding extra coverage

  • Only available to members of the military, veterans, and their families

USAA is among the cheapest auto insurance companies in California, but it’s only an option if you’re a member of the military or a part of a military family. On average, USAA costs California drivers $125 per month ( or $1,502 per year). That’s $355 less each year than average in the state.

Mercury

2.9

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

Mercury logo

Mercury offers drivers fewer add-ons and endorsements than some competitors, but drivers will find affordable rates (especially after a driving violation or accident) and a handful of discounts that could lower costs even more.

Pros

  • Lower-than-average rates after a violation

  • Offers discounts for extra savings

Cons

  • Only add-ons are rental car coverage, rideshare coverage, and roadside assistance

  • Receives more complaints than average for service

Mercury is one of the cheapest car insurance companies in California. We found that the average cost of auto insurance from Mercury is $127 per month ($1,520 per year). That’s $337 less than average. Mercury can also be slightly cheaper than average after a driving violation.

National General

3.9

Policygenius rating

How we score: Policygenius’ ratings are determined by our editorial team. Our methodology takes multiple factors into account, including pricing, financial ratings, quality of customer service, and other product-specific features.

National General logo

National General is best known for being a top provider of insurance for drivers who don’t have clean driving records, but the company also offers coverage to those who haven’t been in an accident or received a violation before

Pros

  • Known for offering coverage to high-risk drivers

  • Good drivers can save with company’s DynamicDrive telematics discount

  • Offers a wide range of discounts

Cons

  • Receives far more complaints than average for its service

National General rounds out our list for the cheapest car insurance companies in California. Besides having low average rates, National General is known for offering coverage to high-risk drivers. 

That means that California drivers with a recent accident, DUI, traffic ticket, or a suspended license who are having trouble getting covered elsewhere should consider National General.

Cheapest car insurance companies by age in California

Young adults typically have very high insurance rates because their inexperience behind the wheel means they are more likely than older drivers to be in an accident. However, most companies base rates on years of driving experience instead of age, which means a 40-year-old and a 16-year-old who both got their license this year will be charged similar rates.

In many states, different insurance companies have the lowest prices for various age groups based on their internal rating systems. California, however, has one company that ranks lower than the competition in every single age group.

Age

Cheapest company

Average cost

16

Wawanesa

$2,205

18

Wawanesa

$1,926

21

Wawanesa

$1,434

25

Wawanesa

$1,210

30

Wawanesa

$1,153

35

Wawanesa

$1,101

45

Wawanesa

$1,076

55

Wawanesa

$1,045

60

Wawanesa

$1,018

65

Wawanesa

$1,019

70

Wawanesa

$1,044

Choosing the right car insurance company in California

Choosing the best car insurance company for you doesn’t have to be difficult. There are several factors to consider, including:

  • Cost: Nobody wants to pay too much for car insurance, so getting quotes from multiple companies can help you find the most affordable option.

  • Coverage: Choosing a plan that offers enough coverage to protect you in case of an accident is vitally important.

  • Customer service: Having an easy, comfortable experience when buying a policy or filing a claim is extremely valuable and could even be worth paying a little more for insurance coverage.

If you're ready to start shopping for insurance, our insurance experts at Policygenius are ready to help you find the right insurance coverage for your needs.

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Car insurance rates for drivers with driving violations in California

Your driving history is one of the factors insurance companies use to help determine your rates, which means an accident or a traffic ticket could have a significant impact on how much you pay for insurance. 

Keeping your driving record clean is the easiest and most effective way to keep your insurance costs low. Take a look at how different violations increased the cost of insurance in California with five of the cheapest car insurance companies in the state.

Violation

Wawanesa

GEICO

USAA

Mercury Insurance

National General

At-fault accident

$1,733

$2,690

$2,156

$2,655

$2,427

DUI

$2,060

$3,764

$4,432

$2,529

$2,249

Suspended license

$1,640

$2,689

$3,132

$2,529

$2,307

Open container

$2,060

$3,764

$3,332

$2,529

$1,724

Expired registration

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Driving without lights

$1,640

$2,427

$1,546

$2,023

$1,724

Not showing documents

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Running a red light

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Failure to yield

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Following too closely

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Hit and run

$2,060

$2,500

$3,546

$2,529

$2,307

Illegal turn

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Improper passing

$1,640

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Not-at-fault accident

$1,153

$1,493

$1,546

$1,534

$1,648

Passing a school bus

$1,640

$2,427

$2,276

$2,023

$1,724

Racing

$2,060

$2,689

$3,343

$2,529

$2,307

Reckless driving

$2,060

$2,689

$2,666

$2,529

$2,307

Speeding

$1,640

$2,333

$1,693

$2,023

$1,724

Cheapest car insurance for drivers with bad credit in California

Insurance companies in some states rate drivers based on their credit score. Theoretically, this is because drivers with lower credit scores are more likely to file a claim instead of paying for damages out-of-pocket, but in practice it sometimes ends up unfairly penalizing some drivers. Because of this, California laws prevent insurance companies from rating based on credit history.

Car insurance costs in California cities

Things like crime rates, population density, or the number of accidents in a given area mean that insurance costs can vary significantly from one city to another. Here’s how car insurance rates compare in the ten biggest cities in California.

  • Los Angeles: $2,642

  • San Diego: $1,775

  • San Jose: $1,829

  • San Francisco: $2,194

  • Fresno: $1,799

  • Sacramento: $2,017

  • Long Beach: $2,068

  • Oakland: $2,156

  • Bakersfield: $1,833

  • Anaheim: $1,965

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Buying car insurance in California

California requires everyone who owns a vehicle in the state to carry one of the following types of auto insurance:

  • Motor vehicle liability insurance policy

  • Cash deposit of $35,000 with DMV

  • DMV-issued self-insurance certificate

  • Surety bond for $35,000 from a company licensed to do business in California

Drivers who choose to carry a liability insurance policy must have no less than the state’s required levels of liability insurance:

  • $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for bodily injury liability

  • $5,000 for property damage liability

Drivers who don’t carry minimum levels of liability insurance or higher will have their registration suspended by the state, which means the car cannot legally be driven or parked on public streets.

In order to provide cheap liability insurance, California minimum insurance requirements are very low. This means they may not provide enough protection if you are at fault for an accident that is more than a simple fender bender. 

The state also does not require you to carry anything more than basic bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, which means drivers carrying state minimum coverage levels don’t have coverage for damage to their own vehicle and they have no protection against uninsured or underinsured motorists.

Pro tip

As of 2019, 16.6% of drivers on the road in California were uninsured, which makes it all the more important to protect yourself by carrying full coverage and uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which covers the costs if you’re hit by a driver without insurance.

California is also one of several states that have made it illegal for policy providers to use gender to determine insurance rates. Other states with similar laws are Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.

How to get cheap car insurance in California

There are many ways for drivers to save money on their insurance, including bundling policies, keeping their driving record clean, and increasing their deductibles. However, sometimes that isn’t enough. For people who can’t afford even a basic minimum liability insurance policy, the state offers California's Low Cost Auto Insurance Program

California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program offers consumers the opportunity to purchase lower levels of coverage. The CLCA policy includes basic liability levels of:

  • $10,000 bodily injury or death per person

  • $20,000 bodily injury or death per accident

  • $3,000 property damage liability per accident

For an additional charge of $39-$104 per year, drivers can also purchase:

  • $1,000 medical payments per person

  • $10,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per person

  • $20,000 uninsured motorist bodily injury per accident

Pro tip

Policygenius recommends drivers have a minimum of $100,000 per person/$300,000 per accident in bodily injury liability and $100,000 in property damage liability coverage to ensure the maximum amount of protection.

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Frequently asked questions

How much is car insurance per month in California?

Drivers in California pay an average of $1,857 per year for car insurance, which breaks down to $154.75 per month.

Why are car insurance prices in California so high?

There are many reasons car insurance is so expensive in California. California has several cities with very dense populations, which means there is an increased chance of accidents. California also has significant numbers of natural disasters, like wildfires and earthquakes, that contribute to more claims being filed under comprehensive coverage.

Who has the best car insurance in California for students?

According to our data, Wawanesa offers the best car insurance for young drivers, but most insurance companies offer a good student discount. For example, GEICO offers a discount of up to 15% for good students.

Is California a fault or no fault state?

California is an at-fault state, which means a driver who is at fault in an accident is responsible for the bodily injury and property damage costs caused by the accident, whether or not they have enough car insurance to cover those costs.

Methodology

Policygenius has analyzed car insurance rates provided by Quadrant Information Services for every ZIP code in all 50 states plus Washington, D.C. For full coverage policies, the following coverage limits were used:

  • Bodily injury liability: 50/100

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: 50/100

  • Comprehensive: $500 deductible

  • Collision: $500 deductible

In some cases, additional coverages were added where required by state or insurer.

Rates for overall average rate, rates by ZIP code, and cheapest companies determined using averages for single drivers ages 30, 35, and 45. Our sample vehicle was a 2017 Toyota Camry LE driven 10,000 miles/year.

Rates for driving violations and “Poor” credit determined using average rates for a single male 30-year-old driver with a credit score under 578.

Some carriers may be represented by affiliates or subsidiaries. Rates provided are a sample of costs. Your actual quotes may differ.

Authors

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Rachael Brennan

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Rachael Brennan is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. Her work has also been featured in MoneyGeek, Clearsurance, Adweek, Boston Globe, The Ladders, and AutoInsurance.com.

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

gray linkedin icon link

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

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