Best and cheapest car insurance in California

Wawanesa is the best cheap car insurance in California, with an average cost of $80 per month.

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Rachael BrennanRachael BrennanSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertRachael 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 HurstAndrew HurstSenior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance ExpertAndrew 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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Anna SwartzAnna SwartzSenior Managing Editor & Auto Insurance ExpertAnna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.
Expert reviewedExpert reviewedThis article has been reviewed by a licensed Policygenius expert to ensure that sources, statistics, and claims meet our standard for accurate and unbiased advice.Learn more about oureditorial review process.

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Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Ian Bloom, CFP®, RLP®Certified Financial PlannerIan 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 at an average of $80 per month. That’s $959 per year, or $878 cheaper than the average cost for a full-coverage policy in California.

Our other picks for the best and cheapest car insurance in California are GEICO, USAA, Mercury, and National General. You should be sure to compare rates before buying coverage to find the cheapest company for you.

Company

Average cost

Wawanesa

$80/month

GEICO

$122/month

USAA

$125/month

Mercury Insurance

$127/month

National General

$130/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 $80 per month, full-coverage car insurance from Wawanesa costs $878 less per year than the state average for a full-coverage policy. 

We also found that Wawanesa remains affordable compared to its competitors even for drivers with an accident, DUI, or speeding ticket on their records — 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 larger carriers. A full-coverage policy from GEICO costs an average of $122 per month (or $1,465 per year), which is $372 less per year than average in the state. If you’ve got a recent 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 current or former 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 $335 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 $317 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. On average, car insurance from National General costs California drivers $130 per month, or $275 less than the statewide average. Besides having low average rates, National General is known for offering coverage to drivers who are considered high-risk

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.

Best car insurance companies in California

The best car insurance company in California is Wawanesa. According to J.D. Power’s Auto Insurance Study, which ranks insurers based on price, transparency, and overall satisfaction, Wawanesa has the highest score of any company in California. [1]

This makes it both the best and cheapest car insurance company in California. USAA, and Mercury are some of our other picks for the best and cheapest companies in California, since they offer both cheap average rates and J.D. Power scores that are above the statewide average, which is 820.

Rank

Company

Score

1

Wawanesa

879

2

USAA

876

3

Auto Club of Southern California

844

4

CONNECT by AmFam

834

5

Mercury

827

Cheapest car insurance companies by age in California

Compared to their older counterparts, young adult drivers typically have very high insurance rates. That’s because their inexperience behind the wheel means they are more likely to be in an accident and make a claim than older drivers.

We found that the cheapest company in California for young drivers is Wawanesa.

Age

Cheapest company

Average cost

16

Wawanesa

$1,991

18

Wawanesa

$1,717

21

Wawanesa

$1,285

25

Wawanesa

$1,081

30

Wawanesa

$988

35

Wawanesa

$957

45

Wawanesa

$934

55

Wawanesa

$906

60

Wawanesa

$881

65

Wawanesa

$881

70

Wawanesa

$904

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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. Before you shop, figure out how much car insurance you need.

  • Customer service: Having an easy, painless 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, Policygenius can help you compare options and 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, but if you’re in an accident (or get another type of driving violation) Wawanesa usually has the lowest average rates in California after an incident.

Violation

Wawanesa

GEICO

USAA

Mercury Insurance

National General Insurance

United Financial Casualty Company

At-fault accident

$1,488

$2,690

$2,156

$2,655

$2,365

$3,604

DUI

$1,748

$3,764

$4,432

$2,529

$2,191

$4,196

Suspended license

$1,399

$2,689

$3,132

$2,529

$2,248

$3,835

Open container

$1,748

$3,764

$3,332

$2,529

$1,680

$3,357

Expired registration

$1,399

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,680

$3,604

Driving without lights

$1,399

$2,427

$1,546

$2,023

$1,680

$3,604

Running a red light

$1,399

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,680

$3,604

Following too closely

$1,399

$2,427

$1,693

$2,023

$1,680

$3,604

Hit and run

$1,748

$2,689

$3,546

$2,529

$2,248

$3,835

Not-at-fault accident

$988

$1,493

$1,546

$1,534

$1,605

$1,744

Passing a school bus

$1,399

$2,427

$2,276

$2,023

$1,680

$3,604

Reckless driving

$1,748

$2,689

$2,666

$2,529

$2,248

$3,835

Speeding

$1,399

$2,333

$1,693

$2,023

$1,680

$3,357

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Cheapest car insurance for drivers with bad credit in California

IInsurance 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, 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: $2,613

  • San Diego: $1,754

  • San Jose: $1,808

  • San Francisco: $2,161

  • Fresno: $1,779

  • Sacramento: $1,998

  • Long Beach: $2,046

  • Oakland: $2,130

  • Bakersfield: $1,814

  • Anaheim: $1,944

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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?

The average cost of car insurance in California is $153 per month, or $1,837 per year.

Why are car insurance prices in California so high?

Car insurance is higher than average in California because of the state’s cities with very dense populations. Rates are higher in these cities because of a higher 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?

Wawanesa has the cheapest car insurance for young drivers who get their own policies. But it’s not necessarily true that Wawanesa is the best for all students, especially those who join an existing policy. Instead, it’s best to compare the offerings and prices from different companies to find which is the best for you and your needs.

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: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident

  • Property damage liability: $50,000

  • Uninsured/underinsured motorist: $50,000 per person/$100,000 per accident

  • 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.

References

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Policygenius uses external sources, including government data, industry studies, and reputable news organizations to supplement proprietary marketplace data and internal expertise. Learn more about how we use and vet external sources as part of our

editorial standards.
  1. J.D. Power

    . "

    2022 Auto Insurance Study

    ." Accessed January 23, 2023.

Authors

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 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.

Editor

Anna Swartz is a senior managing editor and auto insurance expert at Policygenius, where she oversees our car insurance coverage. Previously, she was a senior staff writer at Mic.com, as well as an associate writer at The Dodo.

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