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California has the highest population of any state in the country, according to the United States Census Bureau. In 2017, California led the next-closest contender, Texas, by more than 11 million. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration, the state of California had 26,199,436 licensed drivers in 2016, out of a total population of just over 39 million people. As you can imagine, that leads to a lot of cars on the roads, especially since California has three of the country’s 10 most populated cities. Los Angeles comes in at No. 2, and San Diego and San Jose are farther down the list, at 8 and 10.

What does that mean for drivers in the state of California looking for car insurance? We looked at California’s auto insurance rates as compared to other states, with a particular interest in how California compares to Texas, as the most comparable state in terms of population. We also looked at the cheapest car insurance companies in California, as well as California car insurance requirements and discounts.

Of course, there are a lot more factors than just living in California when it comes to California car insurance rates. Other important things to consider are your age and gender, whether you live in an urban or rural area, and the crime rates in that area. Insurers also consider whether you park your car in a secured garage or on the street, the kind of car you drive and how old it is, and whether you have a record for being a safe driver or an irresponsible one. We’ll take a closer look at some of these factors and how they affect the cost of car insurance for residents of California.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California

The rates shown here are based on a study performed by Quadrant Information services on behalf of U.S. News. The study examined rates from 10 largest car insurance companies in the United States, using certain driver profiles. Your rates will very likely differ. See more about the rates in this study. 

How We Found the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

At U.S. News, we’re all about helping people make life’s important decisions. Our college rankings, launched in 1983, set the standard in educational rankings. Our rankings in other fields, like healthcare, government, and the automotive sphere, help people and thought leaders make choices that make lives better. Now we’re continuing to empower you with the information you need to make the right choices for your life with our Cheapest Car Insurance Rankings. 

Our Study Rates

For this study, U.S. News worked with Quadrant Information Services to analyze a report of insurance rates in all 50 states from the nine largest national car insurance companies, though not every company operates in every state. Quadrant obtained publicly available rate data that car insurers file with state regulators. Our study rates are based on profiles for both male and female drivers aged 25, 35, and 60. Vehicles used include the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150, with annual mileage ranging from 6,000 and 12,000. Three car insurance coverage levels were used, as were credit tiers of good, fair, and poor. Clean driving records and records with one accident, one speeding violation, and one DUI were also used in the calculations of certain driver archetypes. 

To get the study rates shown here, we computed the mean rate for male and female drivers aged 25, 35, and 60 who drive 15,000 miles per year and have medium coverage, good credit, and a clean driving record. The rates shown here are for comparative purposes only and should not be considered “average” rates available by individual insurers. Because car insurance rates are based on individual factors, your car insurance rates will differ from the rates shown here. 

How Much Does Car Insurance Cost in California?

See the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

If you live in California, our study reveals that the average cost of car insurance across the state is $1,792.67. However, the study also shows that rates vary widely. Driver profiles and our study data show the highest average insurance study rates for customers of Nationwide, at $2,573.96, or about 44% more than the statewide average. Farmers and State Farm aren’t too far behind, with average rates in the study of $2,155.67 and $2,029.13, respectively. Travelers comes in next, with an average rate in the study of $1,799.65, the closest to the statewide average of all companies in the study. Allstate is next with an average study rate of $1,683.12. USAA and Geico are in a close contest, with average rates in the study of $1,455.11 and $1,352.60, respectively. According to our analysis, Progressive has the best representative rates in California, with an average of $1,292.14, about 28% less than the state average rate. Again, these rates are based on study data and driver profiles, and are not necessarily indicative of what you may actually pay.

California Car Insurance Rates by Age


Single 25-year-old male

Single 25-year-old female

Married 35-year-old male

Married 35-year-old female

Married 60-year-old male

Married 60-year-old female




































State Farm





















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In general, the 60-year-old driver profiles pay the lowest rates in California according to our analysis. The study data shows that some auto insurance companies charge the male profile slightly more, and others charge the female profile slightly more. The biggest difference between the two groups was from Progressive, which charged the 60-year-old male driver profile about $172 more than the 60-year-old female driver profile. Three of the companies, Farmers, Geico, and State Farm, have the same average study rates for the male and female driver profiles in this age group that they ensure.

According to the study data, the driver profiles for 35-year-olds have the next lowest average rates. Four of the companies in the study charge the male profile slightly less than the female profile, while three do the opposite, and charge the female profile lower study rates. Per study data, three of the companies – Farmers, Geico, and State Farm – charge the same rates to the male and female profiles in this age group.

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The driver profiles for 25-year-old men and women have the highest average rates in the study. Survey data for these profiles shows that women pay lower average rates than men from all but two companies. In this demographic, the study shows that only Geico has the same average rates for the men and the women.

To determine the average rates based on gender and age, we created driver profiles for males and females in each of the following ages: 25 years, 35 years, and 60 years. The profiles also have a clean driving record, insurance coverage for 12,000 miles per year, a medium level of insurance coverage, and a good credit score. We used three vehicles for our driver profiles: the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

California Car Insurance Rates by Mileage


6,000 annual mileage

12,000 annual mileage
















State Farm









In all cases, the driver profile with the higher annual mileage pays more. According to study data, USAA has the smallest difference between the two driver profiles, charging about $205 more to the driver profile with higher mileage. Several other companies have differences in their study rates of between about $200 and $500. Study data shows that Nationwide has the biggest disparity between the two profiles, at about $535. With Nationwide, the driver profile with low mileage pays a statewide average study rate of $2,038.81, while the driver profile with high mileage pays an average of $2,573.95 – about a 20% difference.

We created two driver profiles to compare how annual mileage can change car insurance rates: one with low mileage (6,000 miles per year) and one with high mileage (12,000 miles per year). The profiles covered males and females in the 25-, 35-, and 60-year-old age groups with a medium level of insurance coverage, a good credit score, and a clean driving record. The vehicles used in our study were the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

California Car Insurance Rates by Coverage Type

























State Farm












Study data shows that across the board, the nine insurance companies in California charge more for high coverage than for low coverage, which is to be expected, though the differences are not as large as some customers might expect. With few exceptions, the difference between low and medium coverage is much higher than the difference between medium and high coverage. In other words, if you’re considering stepping up to medium coverage, you might as well go all out with high coverage. Of course, your mileage may vary based on your individual factors.

We created identical profiles in our study to represent drivers, then found out how rates changed with the three levels of coverage. The profiles were assigned a clean driving record, a good credit score, and 12,000 miles of annual driving. We used both males and females aged 25, 35, and 60. The 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150 were the vehicles used in our analysis. 

California Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record


Clean record

With 1 speeding violation

With 1 accident

With 1 DUI


























State Farm















According to study data, the driver profile with one speeding violation in California is likely to pay the lowest representative rates with USAA ($1,593.36) and Geico ($1,997.64). This driver profile has the highest average rates with Nationwide ($3,619.58) and Farmers ($3,058.87).

The driver profile with one accident is likely to find the lowest average rates based on study data from Geico ($2,229.33). The highest study rates in this category are from Farmers ($3,501.75) and Nationwide ($4,172.27).

The California driver profile with one DUI is likely to pay the lowest average study rates with Progressive ($3,061.27). A few competitors are in the $3,100 to $4,400 range, and from there study rates jump to $5,475.38 for Allstate, $6,179.50 for State Farm, and $6,294.51 for Nationwide.

To find out just how much of an effect a person's driving record has on insurance rates, we made driving profiles with a clean record, with one speeding violation, with one accident, and with one instance of driving under the influence (DUI). These driving record representative profiles were based on 25-, 35-, and 60-year-old males and females with 12,000 miles of mileage per year, a medium level of insurance coverage, and a good credit score. Vehicles used in the analysis were the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

California Car Insurance Rates by City


Average Rate







Long Beach


Los Angeles






San Diego


San Francisco


San Jose


Where you live also has a major impact on how affordable your auto insurance is. San Diego has the lowest study rates in the state at $1,700.57 per year, or about 5% less than the statewide average. San Jose, Bakersfield, and Fresno also come in with representative rates below $1,800. The highest study rates in the state are found in Los Angeles ($2,569.02), which is 30% more than the statewide average, San Francisco ($2,053.40), and Oakland ($2,048.86).

Within each state, insurance rates can vary dramatically from city to city. To get a sense of how these differences affect car insurance premiums, we looked at average representative rates across 10 of California’s top cities. In our study, we used male and female driver profiles aged 25, 35, and 60 who put 12,000 miles on the odometer each year. Our profiles have medium insurance coverage, a clean driving record, and good credit. We included three vehicles in our study: the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

California Auto Insurance Minimum Coverage Requirements

Car insurance is required in the state of California, and it follows what is known as the “15/30/5” rule. This rule refers specifically to liability insurance, and it means that the minimum auto insurance coverage in California is at least $15,000 per person for bodily injury or death, a minimum of $30,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident (covers all people involved in the accident), and at least $5,000 for property damage to the other vehicle involved in the crash. In other words, California’s main insurance requirement is designed to make sure that other drivers’ financial losses will be covered if you cause a crash.

California also requires uninsured motorist coverage. This coverage will make sure your losses are taken care of if you are hit by someone who does not have insurance or someone who does not have enough insurance to cover the losses. However, California’s law regarding uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage is targeted toward insurance companies, who are required to offer you this coverage. If you choose, you can decline this additional coverage by providing a written waiver, though it is a pretty good idea to carry it. Uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage cannot be a standalone policy and can only be added to a policy that includes required liability coverage plus whatever additional coverage you wish to carry.

Cheapest Car Insurance in California

Note: Due to USAA's limited membership, we excluded them from this segment evaluation.


Cheapest Company

Young Adult Drivers


Married Male Adult Drivers


Married Female Adult Drivers


Senior Male Drivers


Senior Female Drivers


Drivers with a Clean Record


Drivers with One Speeding Violation


Drivers with One Accident


Drivers with One DUI


Low-mileage Drivers


High-mileage Drivers


Drivers with Low Coverage


Drivers with High Coverage


According to study data and driver profiles, the cheapest type of car insurance coverage in California is low coverage. The study shows that Progressive is the least expensive company for low coverage, coming in at $1,162.98, about 54% less than the statewide average. From there, representative rates for our driver profiles increase as follows: Geico ($1,171.62), USAA ($1,301.06), Travelers ($1,551.69), Allstate ($1,567.62), State Farm ($1,771.94), Farmers ($1,960.47), and topping out with Nationwide ($2,290.20), which is about 22% more than the statewide average.

To find which car insurance company offers the lowest rates, our study used representative driver profiles with good credit, medium insurance coverage, a clean driving record, and 12,000 miles of annual mileage. Our profiles included males and females aged 25, 35, and 60. The vehicles used in our study were the 2015 Honda Civic, 2015 Toyota RAV4, and 2015 Ford F-150.

Why Car Insurance Rates Vary in California

Like insurers in many other states, companies in California charge higher rates for drivers in urban areas because they are perceived to be at a higher risk.

As the most populated city in California, it should be no surprise that drivers in Los Angeles have the highest auto insurance rates. However, population does not tell the whole story. San Diego and San Jose are the next two biggest cities in California in terms of population, and both of these cities are among the 10 most populous cities in the United States. However, these cities are not the next most expensive for car insurance. In fact, they both rank low on the list, meaning that they have relatively inexpensive average car insurance rates. So, why are other, less-populated cities more expensive? Factors like crime rates play a role. When auto insurance companies give you a quote based on your zip code, the companies consider the frequency and types of insurance claims made in that area. Neighborhoods with high rates of auto theft or lots of crashes will cost more to insure a car. Such factors can help explain why some small cities in California cost more for car insurance than larger cities.

​Car insurance rates also vary based on your perceived risk, which is based on data collected and analyzed by insurance companies. Drivers with a clean record have a lower risk and therefore pay lower rates. Age and marital status are also considered. Married adults are typically more experienced drivers than teenagers and young adults, and these folks are also considered to be more responsible. That is why newly licensed drivers pay very high rates, which typically go down as they get older and demonstrate responsibility.

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How to Get the Cheapest Car Insurance in California

Common car insurance discounts include multi-policy or bundling discounts, which apply to multiple types of insurance policies from the same carrier – such as homeowners or renters insurance policies – as well as multiple vehicles in the same household. You can also potentially take advantage of good driver discounts, student discounts, and employer or affinity discounts, which apply if you work for select companies or are a member of a group or club that has negotiated a group rate with a specific insurance company. There are also discounts for various professions, including for teachers, active members of the military, and veterans.

Some car insurers offer discounts if your vehicle is new or if it comes with specific equipment, such as certain safety systems or anti-theft devices. It’s probably not worth upgrading your car for these discounts, but it’s worth asking if your car qualifies.

4kodiak / Getty Images

Some insurance companies offer discounts in exchange for using a tracking device or a smartphone app that measures how often you drive, how far you drive, and your driving habits, such as acceleration and braking. If you are willing to sacrifice some of your privacy in exchange for this information, see if your insurance company offers a program like this. However, your insurance company is under no obligation to lower your rates based on program participation, and they can actually raise your rates if they don’t like what they see.

Other common discounts include low mileage (typically 5,000 to 15,000 miles a year), paperless or online billing, auto-pay and pay-up-front, good student, and completion of an approved defensive driving or driver training course.

Your insurance company is the best source to find discounts that you’re eligible for. Keep in mind that shopping around is often the best way to lower your rates.

According to data from the Quadrant Information Services study, low-risk drivers pay the lowest rates. Avoid speeding, crashes, DUIs, and other moving violations to save money on your auto insurance premiums.

Important Laws Around Auto Insurance in California

Let’s take a look at some of the California laws about auto insurance. First, it is important to note that California is a “fault” or “at-fault” state. That means that in California, if you cause a crash, you can be sued by the other party even if your insurance company settles a claim. If you live in California, you might want to consider carrying more auto insurance than the state requires, since it will protect you against losing your assets, such as all of your savings or even your home, if you are at fault in a crash and get sued.

California accepts digital insurance cards as well as traditional physical insurance cards. Your insurance company should offer a smartphone app or a digital image of your insurance information so you can have it with you at all times.

Drivers in California who do not own their own vehicle, but occasionally drive a rented or borrowed vehicle, should consider a non-owner insurance policy. This is a type of liability coverage that covers you when you are driving a vehicle owned by someone else. These policies also typically include medical and uninsured motorist coverage.

California Driving Laws and Punishments

Driving laws and penalties can vary from state to state. If you have been convicted of these offenses or other moving violations, they can result in higher auto insurance rates. If you are hit by another motorist, these common offenses may be the reason why.

Texting While Driving and Distracted Driver Laws in California

California covers its bases when it comes to texting and other device usage. There are three laws on the books. One prohibits all drivers from using handheld devices while driving, but it allows for hands-free use. Another bans drivers from texting or using wireless devices while driving, though there is an exception for communication features that come installed in the vehicle. For example, you could use your vehicle’s voice recognition system that allows you to dictate and send text messages. There is also a law for drivers under 18 years old that says they can’t use any devices while driving, not even hands-free. That seems to cover any possible scenario, and the fines are steep. The base fine for the first offense is $20 and subsequent offenses carry a base fine of $50, but assessments and additional fees can raise the total by $100 or more.

​The California Office of Traffic Safety website provides some additional information and clarification with regards to distracted driving. The site says, “Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road, or your hands off the steering wheel – especially texting and cell phone use.” So that means officers are especially looking out for these offenses, but they have the discretion to cite you for distracted driving as they see fit. When the distracted driving law doesn’t seem to apply, in examples such as eating while driving, applying makeup, or driving with a dog in your lap, the Office of Traffic Safety says, “…if a law enforcement officer sees anything that might be considered distracting enough to be a danger, they may be cited under other vehicle sections, such as VC 22350, the basic speed law which restricts speed for multiple reasons including reckless driving and disregard for the safety of persons or property.”

DUI Laws in California

If you are suspected of driving under the influence in California, the officer who pulled you over will ask you to take a chemical test, which means you will be asked to take a breathalyzer or give a blood sample to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A urine test may also be used if the officer suspects you are under the influence of drugs, or if you have certain health conditions that make a blood test unsafe, and the breath test cannot be used for some other reason.

The officer will then file a report with the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will notify you afterward. You have 10 days from this point to request a hearing with the court. If the officer gives you an order of suspension and temporary license, you can drive on the temporary license for 30 days.

If you fail to cooperate with the chemical test, you face a harsher set of penalties than if you cooperate. Regardless of age, those who don’t take the test face a one-year suspension for a first offense, a two-year suspension for a second offense within 10 years, and a three-year suspension for subsequent offenses within 10 years.

PhotoAlto / Frederic Cirou / Getty Images

If you took the chemical test as requested by the officer, you are over 21, and your BAC was 0.08% or more, you’ll face a four-month suspension for a first offense and a one-year suspension for a subsequent offense within 10 years. If you are under 21 and your result showed 0.01% or more, the penalty is a one-year suspension.

To get your license back when your suspension period is up, you’ll need to pay a $125 fee and file proof of financial responsibility, which typically means proof that you have insurance as well as supplemental SR-22 documentation, a type of documentation required for high-risk drivers. You may apply for a restricted license during your suspension period, which will allow you to drive only between your home and your place of work.

Uninsured Motorist Laws in California

Since California has minimum liability insurance requirements, any uninsured motorist in California is breaking the law. If you cancel your insurance policy or it lapses because you stop paying your premiums, your insurance company will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles, which will suspend your car’s registration. If you get pulled over or end up in an accident, you’ll be penalized for both of those offenses. You’ll almost certainly pay fines, you may lose your license, and your vehicle could be impounded, though the severity of your penalties depends on whether or not this is your first offense. In short, if you are caught driving without insurance and on a suspended registration, it will almost certainly cost you more than if you had simply carried the minimum insurance all along. If at that point, you decide to play it straight and get a new insurance policy, it will cost more because you have those infractions on your record. Also, insurance companies will then know that you are willing to take serious risks while you are driving.

California Car Insurance FAQs

Is Car Insurance Required in California?

Yes, car insurance is required in the state of California, known as “15/30/5” liability insurance. That means drivers are required to carry coverage for at least $15,000 for bodily injury or death per person, $30,000 for total bodily injury or death per accident, and $5,000 for property damage to the other vehicle. The state of California will send written notice to residents whose insurance policies are not on file with the state. Residents who do not respond to this notice will have their vehicle registration cancelled by the state.

Which Cars Are Required To Be Insured in California?

According to California’s DMV, “All vehicles driven or parked on a California street, road, or highway must be insured.” That means that if you have cars that you are not driving for long periods of time (for example, being stored or undergoing extensive repairs) they do not need to be insured. If the vehicle is registered but you plan to stop driving it or have already stopped, contact the California DMV to change your registration to planned non-operation status. Then, you won’t need to have insurance. However, you may want to talk to your insurance company about a policy that will cover these vehicles if damage is incurred while in storage, particularly if these vehicles are valuable.

​If you reside outside of California, your insurance must comply with the regulations in the state where your vehicle is registered. However, if you are in California a significant amount of the time, the state may consider you a resident, in which case you’ll need to register your car in California and comply with its insurance requirements. The state DMV’s list of rules for determining residency include whether you are in California for more than six months out of a 12-month period, where you are registered to vote, if you are gainfully employed in the state, hold a state driver’s license, own a business or lease property in the state, attend a college or university on resident tuition rates, or have dependents who attend school in the state.

When Should I Get Car Insurance in California?

You should be prepared to get car insurance in California as soon as you register a vehicle in California. Your insurance company will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles when you start a new policy.

What Happens if My Car Is Not Properly Insured in California?

A California resident whose car is not properly insured will first be contacted by the state and asked to provide proof of insurance. Sometimes, this happens even if the vehicle is insured, due simply to a clerical error, like a wrong digit in the vehicle’s Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). You’ll be fine once you provide the correct information or get insurance and provide proof according to the instructions in the letter. If you don’t show proof of insurance to the state, the state will cancel your vehicle’s registration. You’ll then be in a lot more trouble if you get pulled over or get into an accident.

Is California a No-Fault state?

No, California is not a no-fault state. Regardless of what state you live in, the police or accident investigators will decide which vehicle caused a crash, and that is the party at fault. The difference between a no-fault state and a “fault” or “at-fault” state is that in a no-fault state, the driver who caused the crash cannot be sued by the other party, and the insurance company is expected to cover losses. In a fault state, the driver who caused the accident can be sued by the other party, above and beyond whatever the insurance company pays out. This is especially common in situations in which the drivers involved carry only the minimum insurance and it is not enough to cover losses, especially if the driver or drivers involved have waived uninsured motorist coverage (see below).

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage in California?

Yes, uninsured motorist coverage is typically required in California, though it can be waived according to state codes CIC § 1861.025 and California Code of Regulations Title 10 § 2632.13. Insurance companies must offer this coverage, but customers are free to decline it. You must add uninsured motorist coverage to a policy, since it is not available as a standalone policy.

If you are purchasing a policy that complies with the uninsured motorist minimums, look for bodily injury coverage of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident, along with property damage coverage of $3,500.

There are two common scenarios in which you’ll want uninsured motorist coverage. One is if you are hit by someone who is uninsured, and another is if you are hit by someone who does not carry sufficient liability coverage to cover your losses. There is a third, less-common scenario, for which the law states, “As used in this section, ‘uninsured motor vehicle’ also means an insured motor vehicle where the liability insurer thereof is unable to make payment with respect to the legal liability of its insured within the limits specified therein because of insolvency.” In other words, uninsured motorist coverage will protect you if you get hit by an insured motorist, but their insurance company cannot pay.

Is Liability Insurance Required in California?

Yes, the state of California does require liability coverage with specific minimums. Motorists in California must have policies for bodily injury liability coverage of at least $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident. In addition to that, there is a minimum of $5,000 for property damage liability coverage. You have the option to purchase more liability coverage. You may want this added coverage, considering that you can be sued to cover the rest of the damages if you are at fault in an accident that your insurance policy does not cover. Additional liability coverage will help protect you from that scenario.

If you are caught without liability insurance, the penalties can include fines, a suspension of your license, and impounding of your vehicle. When you start a new liability insurance policy or let your policy lapse, your insurance company notifies the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Does California Accept Digital Insurance Cards?

Yes, California accepts digital insurance cards. That means if you are in a crash, you get pulled over, or you are in some other situation where you need quick access to proof of insurance, you can use your smartphone. Most major insurance companies offer digital insurance cards to customers in states that allow them. If you are a California resident and would prefer to use this convenient service, check with your insurer to see if it is available.