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Best car insurance companies in California

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Are you moving to California or just looking for the best car insurance in California? Residents in the Golden State should expect steep rates, as California is one of the 10 most expensive states for car insurance. The average annual premium in California is $1,974, which is more than $500 above the national average of $1,555. Factors contributing to the higher cost include: 

The cost of insurance in California depends in large part on your driving history. This table demonstrates the difference between a clean driving record and one that has either a speeding ticket or accident:

Clean record1 speeding ticket1 accident
Full coverage$1,974 $2,790$3,425
Minimum coverage$611
$855$1,114

Quadrant data services, 2020

Driving record impact on California car insurance rates

As you can see, even one mistake can increase your rates with California auto insurance companies. If you’re involved in an accident, your rate could increase on average by as much as $1,451. This is because once you’re involved in an accident, car insurance providers place you in a higher risk tier

If you have a speeding ticket, you’ll pay an average of $816 more for full coverage insurance for an annual premium. That’s an increase of 44%, placing California only second to North Carolina in percent increase after one ticket for full coverage.

StateTicket-free premiumPremium with ticketPercent Increase
North Carolina$1,378$1,97744%
California$1,974$2,79041%
Arizona$1,517$1,97730%

California is also at the top of the list nationwide for policy price increases after an accident. As the table below shows, California insurance companies can increase your rate for full coverage by an average of 73% after your first accident. By comparison, Maine sees an average increase of 64%, while Massachusetts will only raise your rate by 56%. 

StateAccident-free premiumPost-accident premium% increase
California$1,974$3,42573%
Manie$831$1,36164%
Massachusetts$1,399$2,17656%

Meanwhile, if you have minimum liability coverage, you’ll also see an increase in your policy after one accident. California tops the list nationally with a staggering 82% increase. The second highest jump is seen with Massachusetts, where providers will raise your rates an average of 62%, followed by Georgia, which sees a 61% increase on average. 

StateAccident-free premiumPost-accident premium% increase
California$611$1,11482%
Massachusetts$478$77762%
Georgia$640$1,02761%

Best car insurance companies in California

To find the best car insurance companies in California, we examined key factors such as customer satisfaction scores, discounts offered and how much it costs to ensure your vehicle with each. Below is our top selection for the best insurance companies in California: 

  • Mercury – Best for affordability
  • AAA – Best for customer service
  • Geico – Best for coverage choices
  • State Farm – Best for young drivers
  • Wawanesa – Best for senior drivers
  • Progressive – Best for savings
CompanyJ.D. Power claim satisfaction score/5AM BestFeatured discounts offeredAverage annual full coverage rateAverage annual full minimum coverage rate
Alliance UnitedN/AA- (Excellent)Safe driver, policy renewal$2,359$595
Allstate3/5A+ (Superior)Responsible payer, new car$2,294$802
GEICO4/5A+ (Superior)Anti-theft, good driver, emergency deployment$1,627$413
AAA4/5A- (Excellent)Teen smart, good student$1,980$451
Farmers3/5B++ (Good)Professional group, alternative fuel, senior defensive driving$2,188$789
InfinityN/AA (Excellent)Paperless, safety features$1,935$669
Mercury3/5A (Excellent)Good student, multi-car$1,546$500
Progressive3/5A+ (Superior)Snapshot, online sign-up$1,760$485
State Farm4/5A++ (Superior)Drive safe and save, steer clear$2,055$612
Wawanesa4/5A (Excellent)Mature driver improvement course, loyalty$1,806$645

Quadrant data services, 2020

Mercury — Best for affordability

Mercury is the least expensive provider in California with the average annual policy costing you $1,546. Driving down these costs even further, Mercury offers generous discounts which include bundling more than one vehicle and being a good student. As far as the best car insurance providers in California, this one tops our list for affordability. 

AAA — Best for customer service

AAA scores particularly high among providers for claims satisfaction with J.D. Power. The provider earned a four out of five Power Circle rating, indicating most of its customers enjoy the service they receive from the company, and have had positive claims experiences. Given the variety of risks and natural disasters present in California and increased likelihood of having to file a claim, customer service is a key factor when selecting a provider.

Geico — Best for coverage choices

Geico offers you an abundance of choice when it comes to car insurance coverages. This includes rideshare insurance for those who drive for Uber, Lyft or other similar companies. The provider also receives high marks for its customer satisfaction, financial strength and affordable rates.

State Farm — Best for young drivers

Being under 25 years of age makes car insurance more expensive. However, with the Steer Clear discount from State Farm, younger drivers could save as much as 15% on their policy with a clean driving record for the past three years. In a state as expensive as California, a discount of this type is a huge advantage for younger drivers.

Wawanesa — Best for senior drivers

On the other end of the age spectrum, Wawanesa is a great auto insurance provider for drivers 55 years of age or older. Senior drivers can take advantage of a significant discount by taking a defensive driving course. This discount, along with the provider’s low rates, makes them a great option for senior drivers looking to save money.

Progressive — Best for savings

Progressive is one of the most affordable insurance companies in California. Savings options are abundant, thanks to the variety of discounts offered by Progressive. You can even get a discount just for signing up online. With Snapshot, safe driving behaviors can net significant savings on top of already-competitive rates. 

Car insurance in California by city

Location is another factor that influences how much you’ll pay for car insurance. As this chart indicates, which city you live in or near can make a huge difference in costs: 

CityFull coverage annual rateMinimum coverage annual rate
Los Angeles$2,622$816
San Diego$1,751$546
San Jose$1,845$565
San Francisco$2,247$686
Fresno$1,817$566

Quadrant data services, 2020

Los Angeles

Not surprisingly, the City of Angels is an expensive place to insure your vehicle. In fact, it’s the most expensive city for car insurance in California. One of the major contributing factors for this is the frequent incidences of car theft. Every year, Los Angeles has at least 30,000 automobiles stolen

San Diego

San Diego is the least expensive city to insure your car. Residents pay, on average, $871 less for full coverage compared to residents of Los Angeles. This is most likely due to the fact San Diego has a smaller population. That said, rates are still relatively high compared to the national average, as San Diego exists within the state where car thefts occur more than anywhere else in the country. 

San Jose

San Jose is an affordable city in which to have car insurance. Residents there pay on average $402 less for full coverage than their San Francisco counterparts. However, rates might increase in the near future, as the area had its deadliest year for pedestrian deaths, in 2019

San Francisco

San Francisco is the second most expensive city in California to insure your car. This is likely due to the heavy traffic that plagues the area. However, the city is home to more public transportation than what you’ll find in other parts of the state and its traffic fatalities are lowering. Both factors could potentially reduce rates in the future. 

Fresno

Residents of Fresno pay about the same as those living in San Diego or San Jose for full coverage auto insurance. Fresno is, unfortunately, among the highest cities in the country for dangerous crime, which can play a significant role in insurance rates, depending on which specific part of the city you live. 

California car insurance considerations

There are many considerations you’ll want to factor in when choosing the best car insurance in California. The first is the risk of natural disasters. California is home to mudslides, earthquakes, flooding and the all-too frequent occurrence of wildfires. Because of these unique geographical risks, it’s important to consult with your insurance provider to tailor coverage to best protect against damage or loss to your vehicle.

Along with natural disasters, California also has more auto thefts than any other state in the country. Because of all these risk factors, it’s not surprising the state requires you to have minimum liability insurance to drive. 

California minimum liability requirements

In California, three components of minimum liability car insurance are required for all drivers. The first applies to an accident in which a single other driver is involved and sustains injury or dies. The second provides added benefits if there is more than one person involved in the collision. Another term for these coverages is bodily liability. Lastly, California also requires you to carry insurance for any damage done to the property, also known as damage liability. 

Often listed as 15/30/5, here’s how much coverage you’ll need for each component:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability for one person
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability for accidents involving more than one person
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident

Low cost auto insurance in California

California’s low cost auto insurance program helps people who can’t afford insurance receive the coverage they need to be legal when on the road. You’ll have to meet income eligibility requirements to qualify. Previously, you would have also needed three years of driving experience to qualify, but in 2015, California voided this requirement so newer drivers could also take advantage of the program. 

Auto insurance laws in California

California has some unique laws that help motorists with insurance — one of which is the California Deductible Waiver. If you’re involved in an accident with an uninsured motorist, you can apply for the waiver. If approved, your insurance company will pay the deductible for you.

The state is also among the strictest concerning distracted driving. It is illegal for any motorist to be texting or talking on their phones while driving, unless calls are conducted on a hands-free device. Anyone under 18 years of age cannot use their phones at all, even hands-free. 

How we chose the best car insurance providers in California

To find the best car insurance companies in California, we compared providers based on a wide variety of factors including price, customer service, discounts offered and the overall financial strength of the provider. Once we had this information, we compared each provider to see who offers California drivers the best combination of value, coverage and service. 

Other car insurance providers in California to consider

Along with the options listed above, other providers could be included in your comparison shopping as well. Below is a look at our runner-up carriers, and why they are worth considering:

Alliance United

Alliance United possesses sound financial strength, according to AM Best. This indicates it has the ability to pay claims, even under catastrophic circumstances. Additionally, the provider offers a great mix of discounts including policy renewal, multiple vehicles and for driving safely. 

Farmers

Farmers offers a good mix of insurance discounts you might not find with other providers. Included in this mix is one for having a vehicle with an alternative fuel source. Farmers can lower your premium if you work for, or are affiliated with, certain trade groups or companies. 

Infinity

Infinity offers highly-competitive rates, making it one of the cheaper California car insurance companies to consider. They also have relatively sound financial strength and with discounts available for paperless billing and safety features on your vehicle, you could save even more money on California car insurance. 

Methodology

Coverage Utilizes Quadrant Information Services to analyze quoted rates from thousands of zip codes across all 50 states, using the top 15 carriers by premiums written by state. Quoted rates are based around the profiles of a 30 year male and female with clean driving records, good credit and the following full coverage details:

  • $100k bodily injury liability per person
  • $300k bodily injury liability coverage per crash
  • $100k property damage liability coverage per crash
  • $500 collision coverage deductible
  • $500 comprehensive coverage deductible

Minimum coverages were applied to match state requirements. Both drivers used a new, financed 2018 Toyota Camry, commuting 5 days a week and driving 12,000 miles per year.

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