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The Best Car Insurance Companies in California
Lauren Ward – Contributing Writer Last Updated: December 15, 2020
California is home to low auto insurance minimums and premiums that are comparable to the national average. Plus, there’s even a statewide program to help low-income residents get more affordable coverage. Even with these perks, it’s smart to evaluate multiple providers to get the best car insurance in California with coverage that makes sense for you — even if it’s more than the state requires.
Our top five picks for the best auto insurance carriers in California is based on our SimpleScore methodology, which considers important factors like discounts, customer service ratings and additional coverage available.
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Farmers has been in business for nearly 100 years, so you know you can trust it to give you the coverage you need and pay out on claims. Save the most by bundling your auto insurance with other insurance policies. Most companies offer this, but Farmers stands out by including a wide range of policies available to bundle, including home, life, umbrella, small business and other specialty policies.
Geico is competitive when it comes to giving customers low rates. But where this insurer really shines is with its digital resources. Navigate your auto insurance quote entirely online or through the mobile app. The app includes a digital insurance ID card, roadside assistance access and claims features that allow you to photograph and upload pictures of vehicle damage instantly. Geico even integrates with Alexa and Google Assistant.
Cheapest full coverage auto insurance – Mercury Insurance
Mercury Insurance gives its customers access to multiple potential discounts, but pricing is where this insurer really shines. Its full coverage insurance quote was the cheapest out of the five insurers on our list, which could be a result of the long list of discounts available. Mercury does offer 24/7 claims reporting, but you have to call a hotline — there’s no online or mobile option currently available. You can, however, download your insurance cards to your phone, making it a little easier to track your information.
Allstate’s quotes were the highest for both minimum and full coverage compared to its competitors. But don’t write off this national insurer just yet — it also has some of the most extensive perks for policyholders. The Allstate Rewards program, for instance, lets you earn points for safe driving and then redeem those points for gift cards and products. There’s also a claims guarantee — if you’re not happy with the claims process, Allstate will credit you for up to six months of your premium payment.
Californians love local insurer Wawanesa, which ranks the highest in the state for pricing, policies and claims, according to J.D. Power. And it’s no surprise — its policy availability and pricing are on par with the national competition. Plus you get the bonus of working with a company that’s practically in your backyard, with headquarters located in San Diego. Agents are available six days a week and you can start the quote process online. Wawanesa may not be as tech savvy as other options, but you’ll be dealing with other Californians every step of the way.
Choosing your California car insurance provider
When looking for the best car insurance in California, compare both local and national carriers. You may receive different quotes or be eligible for different types of discounts.
May offer more personalized service
Better understand local auto insurance needs
Quotes and claims processes may be less automated
Discounts may not be as robust
More comprehensive discounts
Better technology for quotes and claims
Service may not be as personal
May not have access to specific agent
California’s minimum insurance requirements
California has a few different liability insurance minimums that apply to vehicle owners. The minimum for injury/death to one person is $15,000. There’s a $30,000 minimum for injury/death to more than one person. Finally, there’s also a $5,000 property damage minimum.
All of this is only liability coverage, meaning only damage or injury you cause to others will be covered. These minimums do not cover any injury to you or damage to your car when you’re at fault. It’s smart to get comprehensive and collision coverage as well, so that you’re protected in all possible scenarios when an accident takes place.
Also consider increasing your liability amount since the costs involved with an accident can be much higher since you could be held responsible for the difference.
Minimum coverage vs. full coverage car insurance quotes in California
Minimum Coverage Avg. Annual Premium
Full Coverage Avg. Annual Premium
California car insurance FAQs
While there is a bevy of different factors at play here, the high urban population of the state contributes to its higher rates. More urbanized states tend to have more car accidents and thefts, and California is no exception. There have also been significant weather-related events, such as wildfires, which have prompted insurance companies across the board to raise their rates in response.
To purchase insurance in the state of California, you must either be a resident or prove that your vehicle is principally garaged within the state. An exemption applies to those with active military status.
With an average of six million accidents each year, you will likely have to file a claim in your lifetime. When that happens, you might want full coverage liability instead of minimum coverage. Even with a simple auto accident, it’s expected the other party will experience damages totaling more than $25,000. If the other vehicle has multiple passengers with injuries, costs could exceed $65,000 for damages to include medical bills, lost wages or lost income and pain and suffering.
In most cases, upgrading to a top-tier 50/100/50 plan isn’t as daunting as you might think. The extra coverage can add just a few hundred dollars, a drop in the bucket compared to out-of-pocket expenses in the event of an accident.
When considering more than the minimum coverage, collision and comprehensive insurance are a critical part of your policy. Factors like your driving style and where you live can determine whether you are at high risk for an accident.
Collision insurance protects you when your vehicle hits an object or another car. It can also apply if your vehicle is damaged from road conditions, like potholes. Comprehensive insurance, on the other hand, covers a wide variety of damages. It applies if you hit a deer or a tree branch falls on your car. Vandalism and theft are covered, and you can also claim comprehensive insurance in the event of a natural disaster, such as California’s infamous wildfires. If you are more likely to have one kind of accident over another, that can help determine your type of insurance.
In a no-fault state, your car insurance will cover your vehicle damages and medical expenses, regardless of who causes the accident. However, California is considered a fault state, so the person that causes the accident is responsible for the damages. Because of that, drivers in California are required to carry a higher amount of car insurance than drivers in no-fault states. Drivers in no-fault states are required to have personal injury protection (PIP) insurance, which essentially takes the place of bodily injury coverage.
An SR-22 policy is required for a few different reasons, such as those who had an accident without insurance or have a DUI or DWI on their record. It also applies if you have multiple traffic violations over a short period. The SR-22 should remain on your policy until otherwise ordered by the court.
In these instances, SR-22 insurance may be required for the driver to remain licensed. It is a policy that you can purchase from your regular insurance provider, but it is a longer and more expensive process because of the extensive paperwork required.
The California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan (CAARP) is a way for drivers who can’t get insurance or can’t afford insurance, to purchase affordable coverage. There are two plans available through CAARP—insurance for low-income residents, and insurance for high-risk drivers. The program was designed to ensure every California driver has access to insurance, regardless of their income level or driving history.
With CAARP, drivers who can’t get voluntary insurance are entered into a pool, and participating insurance companies will accept a certain number of drivers to insure. If you use CAARP for protection, there’s no guarantee that it will be cheaper than a regular policy. However, it does ensure that you will get coverage if you’re not able to get insurance on your own.
Different auto insurers focus on different types of discounts. In order to find the best auto insurance in California for you, shop around to see what savings you may be eligible for. Get multiple quotes before you make a decision to make sure you don’t overpay.
At the very least, you should get enough to meet the state’s minimum auto insurance requirements, which only includes liability coverage. Adding collision coverage financially protects you and your vehicle after an accident, while adding comprehensive coverage protects your car from weather events, vandalism and theft.
In the U.S., the average annual premium for auto insurance is just over $1,760. That comes to about $146 a month. California’s average costs are the same. Just remember you’ll pay more in certain situations, like being a younger driver or having a history of auto claims.
Too long, didn’t read?
Shop around for the best car insurance in California based on your needs, whether it’s a certain level of coverage, a specific type of discount or both. With annual premiums on par with the nation as a whole, Californians have a range of options to choose from in order to get the best policy.
We welcome your feedback on this article and would love to hear about your experience with the auto insurance providers we recommend. Contact us at email@example.com with comments or questions.
Last editorial update – December 15, 2020, updated car insurance recommendations and car insurance buying guide.
The SimpleScore makes it easy to compare products and services featured here on The Simple Dollar in a transparent, open and honest way. We rate these products and services using five factors and average them to calculate a single SimpleScore. For auto insurance, we compare:
You can read more about each factor and the details of each score in our auto insurance methodology. Use our ratings and editorial recommendations as you shop for the best auto insurance that fits your coverage needs.
Car insurance rates: We used insurance rates from Quadrant Information Services. This includes analyzing thousands of rates from all 50 states that were publicly sourced from 2019 insurer filings. Rates are based on a 30-year-old male or female that had a clean driving record. Full Coverage premiums assumed a $500 collision and comprehensive deductible, and we looked at those who had both good and poor credit. These rates should be used to inform your car insurance shopping process, but your own quote may differ.
Why do some brands have different SimpleScores on different pages?
To ensure the SimpleScore is as helpful and accurate as possible, we developed unique criteria for every category we compare at The Simple Dollar. Since most brands offer a variety of financial solutions, their products and services will score differently depending on what we’re scoring on a given page. However, it’s also possible for the same product from the same brand to have multiple SimpleScores. For instance, if we compare State Farm’s home insurance according to our criteria for the best home insurance, it scores a 3.8 out of 5. But when we compare State Farm according to the criteria for the best auto insurance, it scores higher, since the features the company offers can vary by the type of insurance.
We looked at the number of discounts each company offers — more discounts mean a higher score.
We awarded higher scores to the companies that have the most coverage options.
We awarded higher scores to lenders with the most channels for customer support.
We leveraged the J.D. Power 2019 Auto Insurance Satisfaction Study℠ to see how customers rated their experience with each company. (If a company wasn’t included in J.D. Power’s study, we skipped this aspect and averaged the four remaining aspect scores.)
We looked at the level of accessibility of each company –– the more resources they have the higher their score.
Nasha Addarich is an editor at The Simple Dollar and a former attorney who specializes in home insurance, auto insurance, life insurance, and savings. She is a former contributing editor to Reviews.com.
Courtney Mihocik is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in personal loans, student loans, auto loans, and debt consolidation loans. She is a former writer and contributing editor to Interest.com, PersonalLoans.org, and elsewhere.