California Car Insurance

California loves cars. With all those stretches of oceanside highways, urban interchanges and miles of rush hour gridlock, California gets the best and the worst of the auto world. So what any Californian needs is a good, affordable car insurance policy and a familiarity with the rules of the road and its hazards. Fortunately for California drivers, The Simple Dollar has compiled the essential facts, statistics, resources, rules and regulations that apply across the Golden State.



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Stats in Your State

With so many drivers on the road, California ranks high in many categories when it comes to auto-related statistics. Of course, many of these go hand in hand, and it can be easy to see why California car insurance rates are often similar to the U.S. average. Understanding the stats in your state will certainly give you a better perspective on your own insurance premiums, as well as the risks those stretches of highway pose to you and your car.

Auto Insurance Premiums

With its wide variety of urban, suburban, and rural areas, California presents a fairly accurate example of U.S. drivers in general, and as such California auto insurance rates compare similarly to the U.S. average rates. Drivers in California can expect this trend to continue as long as their highways stay open.

Traffic Fatalities over time

Between 2005 and 2010, California traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly 40%, with a decade-low of 2,720 auto-related deaths in 2010. These statistics have in turn influenced the cost of insurance premiums in California, as evidenced in the graph.

Auto Repair Costs

On top of high fuel costs and insurance premiums, owning a car in California can cost you a pretty penny. In 2010, California automobile owners made an average payment of $394.49 to repair their cars, nearly $40 more than the average American car owner. The following year, repair rates in the state dropped to $367.86 per owner; however, this figure was still about $35 higher than the nationwide average.

Rules in Your State

Before you get behind the wheel, you’ll need to familiarize yourself with some basic rules and regulations. In addition to minimum insurance requirements for California drivers, the basics of DUI offenses are listed in the table below. Below that chart are some basic California licensing rules for new drivers.

California Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements

California Vehicle Code 16430
Liability coverage minimum limits:

  • $15,000 of bodily injury to another person
  • $30,000 of bodily injuries to all other persons in one accident
  • $5,000 of injury to or destruction of property of others in any one accident

TSD Tip: Help your wallet out by always comparing insurance rates from different providers.

California Required Proof of Insurance

An information card issued by your insurer must provide all of the following information:

  • Name, address, and National Association of Insurance Commissioners number of Insurance Company
  • Certification and signature of the representative for the insurance company
  • Insurance Policy Number
  • Effective Date/Expiration Date of Policy
  • Accurate description of year, make/model, and vehicle identification number of registered vehicle
  • Name of Primary Insured Driver

California Licensing Facts for Teen Drivers: The Graduated Driver License

Hardship License for Minors?

Hardship licenses may be granted in some states to minors who are under the age of 16, but for specific reasons must drive a vehicle to support their family or perform essential family functions.

For instance, if their parent is disabled, a teen driver under the age of 16 may qualify to drive to and from the grocery store. In California, to obtain a hardship license for a minor, the minor must be at least 14 but under the age of 18. The pertinent form for California driver is DL120 and is entitled “Junior Permit Statement of Facts”.

Learner’s Permit Age:
15 years, 6 months.

Permit upon completion of driver’s education registration, and cannot drive with a permit without a parent, guardian or licensed adult age of 25 or older.

Restricted License Age:
16 years old. Restrictions include:

  • Not being able to drive anyone under the age of 20
  • Not being able to drive between the hours of 11p.m. to 5a.m. for one year after receiving the license or upon reaching age 18, whichever is sooner.
  • Learner’s permit must be held for six months and learner must log 50 practice hours.

Full License (Unrestricted) Age:
17 years.

TSD Tip: To avoid a hefty fine, possibly losing your license or getting into a pricey car accident, be sure to ask how teens with graduated licenses are covered.


Drinking and driving is against the law; you’re endangering yourself and others. If those reasons aren’t compelling enough, read on.

Administrative license suspension 1st offense? 4 months
Restore driving privileges during suspension? Restricted driving privileges considered after 30 days if hardship is demonstrated.
Are ignition interlocks mandatory for first offenders for the following offenses? All first offenders in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Tulare counties.
Are ignition interlocks mandatory for repeat offenders for the following offenses? yes
Fine for first offense? $390 to $1000
Jail sentence for first offense? Up to 6 months, though no mandatory minimum

Representatives & Resources in Your State

In the event that you need to file a complaint against an insurer or seek support on an issue regarding your insurer’s practices, you can contact California’s Department of Insurance. For drivers who want to learn more about the state’s regulations regarding insurance, licensing, and the rules of the road, the Department of Motor Vehicles is a great resource.

Department of Insurance
California Department of Insurance
Consumer Services Division
300 South Spring Street, South Tower
Los Angeles, CA 90013
Get Directions
Auto Insurance Resources

Insurance Commissioner
Sacramento Office
300 Capitol Mall, Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814
Get Directions
916-445-5280 (fax)

California Department of Motor Vehicles
Contact Department of Motor Vehicles
Office of the Director
Department of Motor Vehicles
2415 First Ave, Mail Station F101
Sacramento, CA 95818-2606