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San Diego has everything Southern California is known for: sun, beaches, and no shortage of palm trees. It also has the highest concentration of military and defense assets on the planet. It has sporting companies, tech companies, universities, and – most importantly for our purposes – one of the lowest average commute times for cities of its size. 

San Diego is one of the largest cities in the country, with 1.37 million people. It’s second only to Los Angeles among cities in California. It also skews young, with a quarter of its residents being under the age of 20 and only 12% being over 64 years old. 

Stephen Simpson / Getty Images

Despite being such a large city with a young population, average insurance rates for San Diego are some of the lowest when compared to other large cities in the state. This suggests that there are fewer claims filed in San Diego. When the risk of driving and owning a car is lower, insurance companies offer rates that are also lower.

Let’s dig into those numbers and see what our study of car insurance rates in San Diego turned up. 

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in San Diego

Information services on behalf of U.S. News. The study examined rates from the largest car insurance companies in the United States, using certain driver profiles. Your rates will differ.

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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 San Diego?

See the Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

We looked at eight of the largest auto insurers in San Diego to determine which was cheapest on average. We found that Progressive had the least expensive rates in our study, with an overall average of just under $1,200. The most expensive average study rate was from Nationwide, at about $2,500. This was the only study rate in the city that topped $2,000. San Diego’s overall average rate in our study was $1,700. 

San Diego Car Insurance Rates by Age

Company

25-year-old female

25-year-old male

35-year-old female

35-year-old male

60-year-old female

60-year-old male

Allstate

$1,952

$2,140

$1,547

$1,550

$1,146

$1,154

Farmers

$2,233

$2,484

$1,888

$1,888

$1,710

$1,710

Geico

$1,707

$1,707

$1,038

$1,038

$947

$947

Nationwide

$3,059.31

$3,067

$2,437

$2,326

$2,131

$2,009

Progressive

$1,486

$1,592

$1,043

$1,071

$891

$1,051

State Farm

$2,242

$2,276

$1,963

$1,963

$1,684

$1,684

Travelers

$2,027

$1,995

$1,602

$1,554

$1,429

$1,417

USAA

$1,851

$1,750

$1,343

$1,273

$1,310

$1,315

Because newer drivers tend to have more accidents, insurance rates depend on the age of the driver. The 25-year-old male and female driver profiles in our study had the highest representative premiums, with an average in San Diego of about $2,100. 

Study rates drop for 35-year-old and 60-year-old driver profiles, as these drivers would have years of experience behind the wheel and likely fewer accidents. At 35 years old, we found average representative rates for both the male and female profiles of about $1,600. For 60-year-old profiles, the average study rate was $1,400. 

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.

San Diego Car Insurance Rates by Mileage

Company

6,000 miles annually

12,000 miles annually

Allstate

$1,309

$1,582

Farmers

$1,650

$1,986

Geico

$1,035

$1,231

Nationwide

$1,986

$2,505

Progressive

$993

$1,189

State Farm

$1,668

$1,968

Travelers

$1,403

$1,671

USAA

$1,265

$1,474

Drivers who put more miles on the odometer each year will also pay more for car insurance – but not much more, according to our study. The driver profile with 6,000 miles annually had an average study rate of about $1,400. The profile with 12,000 miles per year had an average study rate of $1,700. 

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.

San Diego Car Insurance Rates by Coverage Type

Company

Low

Medium

High

Allstate

$1,481

$1,582

$1,645

Farmers

$1,802

$1,986

$2,126

Geico

$1,058

$1,231

$1,334

Nationwide

$2,230

$2,505

$2,657

Progressive

$1,065

$1,189

$1,258

State Farm

$1,708

$1,968

$2,125

Travelers

$1,433

$1,671

$1,778

USAA

$1,321

$1,474

$1,547

Choosing to have more coverage for your car means paying a higher premium. We created profiles for high, medium, and low coverage to see how San Diego’s average representative rates compared. Low coverage had an average rate in our study of about $1,500, while high coverage had an average of $1,800. In our study, the lowest rates in this category were from either Progressive or Geico, depending on the level of coverage, so be sure to shop around to find the best deal.

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. 

San Diego Car Insurance Rates by Driving Record

Company

Clean record

With 1 speeding violation

With 1 accident

With 1 DUI

Allstate

$1,582

$2,291

$2,944

$5,127

Farmers

$1,986

$2,813

$3,221

$3,999

Geico

$1,231

$1,818

$2,039

$2,876

Nationwide

$2,505

$3,522

$4,059

$6,122

Progressive

$1,189

$2,257

$2,428

$2,799

State Farm

$1,968

$2,884

$3,015

$6,002

Travelers

$1,671

$2,459

$2,705

$3,411

USAA

$1,474

$1,614

$2,570

$4,211

Driver profiles with a clean record had the lowest average rates in our study, around $1,700. Adding one speeding ticket to that profile meant the average in San Diego rose to about $2,450, an increase of about 30%. A driver profile with one accident on its record raises the representative rate to about $2,875, more than $1,000 higher than the profile with a clean record. In San Diego, the profile with a DUI was hardest hit, with an average study rate of about $4,320. That’s more than double the average for the good driver profile. 

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 who drove 12,000 miles per year and had 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.

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San Diego Auto Insurance Minimum Coverage Requirements

California requires everyone to carry liability insurance. You must have $15,000 in bodily injury protection per person, $30,000 in bodily protection per accident, and $5,000 in damage coverage for the other vehicle. The minimum coverage is California is meant to cover the costs of the other parties in an accident that you caused. 

Insurance companies are required to offer you uninsured motorist coverage in California. This covers your costs, up to the limit you set, in the event that your car is hit by a driver who has no insurance or not enough insurance to cover the damages. You are allowed to decline this coverage when it’s offered as part of your auto insurance policy. 

Cheapest Car Insurance in San Diego

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

Category

Cheapest Company

Young Adult Drivers

Progressive

Married Adult Drivers

Geico

Male Senior Drivers

Geico

Female Senior Drivers

Progressive

Drivers with a Clean Record

Progressive

Drivers with One Speeding Violation

Geico

Drivers with One Accident

Geico

Drivers with One DUI

Progressive

Low-mileage Drivers

Progressive

High-mileage Drivers

Progressive

Drivers with Low Coverage

Geico

Drivers with High Coverage

Progressive

Drivers with Used Cars

Progressive

Drivers with New Cars

Progressive

We found that seven of the top eight car insurance companies had average study rates below $2,000 for our driver profiles. Progressive had the cheapest overall average rate of $1,189. Geico was only about $40 more, with an average study rate of $1,230. Nationwide was most expensive, with an average rate of about $2,500. That was more than $500 higher than the average rate from its nearest rival, Farmers. 

To find which car insurance company offers the lowest rates, our study used representative driver profiles with good credit, medium insurance coverage, and a clean driving record. Our profiles included males and females aged 25, 35, and 60 who drove 12,000 miles per year. 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 San Diego

Each auto insurance company has its own secret formula for creating quotes for drivers, which is the main reason for the different rates you see here. They all use a combination of factors such as the driver’s age and driving record, the location where the car is garaged (or parked), and the type of vehicle being insured. 

Christopher A. Jones / Getty Images

Rates vary between cities in California due to population – more people means more cars, which means more chances for accidents – and factors like crime rates. If there are a lot of claims for break-ins or thefts in a particular zip code, the rates for that area are likely to be higher. 

How To Get the Cheapest Car Insurance in San Diego

The best – if not always the easiest – way to get the cheapest auto insurance rates is to have a clean driving record. A clean history tells the insurer that you’re a low-risk driver for them to cover. The data in our study shows that insurers regularly give their best rates to good drivers. 

There are other ways to lower your insurance rates. Car insurers offer a menu of discounts for things like anti-theft systems or safety equipment installed in your car, and even cut rates for students who earn good grades. Taking advantage of autopay for your premiums and paperless statements can also mean more discounts. 

Some companies offer discounts for using an app that tracks your driving habits. These usually record basic information such as the times of day that you drive, your speed, and quick braking events. If you’re a good driver, this can result in lower premiums, but if you regularly drive at night and often slam on the brakes as the light turns red, your insurer could raise your rates. 

Important Laws Around Auto Insurance in San Diego

California is an “at-fault” state, which means that the driver who causes an accident can be sued even if their insurance company settles the claim. It’s worth considering carrying extra insurance in San Diego to protect your assets, such as your house, in the event that you cause a crash and are sued. 

You can use either a traditional paper insurance card or a digital insurance card in California. Your insurance company likely makes digital proof of insurance available in its smartphone app. 

Even if you don’t own a car, you can still get non-owner insurance in San Diego. This will cover you while you’re driving a rented or borrowed car. The policies typically include liability insurance as well as medical and uninsured motorist coverage. 

San Diego Driving Laws and Punishments

The laws for the state of California apply in San Diego. Remember that these count as violations – even texting while driving – and being convicted of any of these will affect your insurance rates. 

Texting While Driving and Distracted Driver Laws in San Diego

California laws cover three areas for phone use in the car:

  • Using handheld devices is not allowed unless it is hands-free.
  • Texting is banned unless there is a feature installed in the vehicle that allows you to text hands-free.
  • Drivers under the age of 18 cannot use devices in the car at all.

Fines for violations begin at $20 for the first offense, with fees rising above $100. These laws are often enforced along with other violations during the same traffic stop, making any ticket you receive that much more expensive.

The laws are written to include distracted driving of all kinds, including eating or applying makeup. If a traffic officer thinks your eyes and attention are on anything but the road, you could be cited. 

DUI Laws in San Diego

When an officer suspects that you’re driving under the influence, you’ll be pulled over and asked to take a breathalyzer test or give a blood sample to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC). A urine sample may be requested, too, if the officer suspects you’re under the influence of drugs or if you are unable to perform the other two types of tests.

The magic number in California, as in many other states, is 0.08% BAC for drivers over the age of 21. The first offense will result in a four-month suspension, and a second offense means a two-year suspension. Drivers who are underage have a much stricter limit: 0.01% BAC. Failing the test means an automatic one-year suspension for underage drivers.

Refusing to take any of the tests means that you’ll receive a one-year suspension of your license for the first offense, and the length of the suspension increases with each subsequent offense. 

To get your license back, you’ll pay a $125 fee and have to show proof of financial responsibility. That means proof of insurance and what’s known as SR-22 documentation for high-risk drivers. 

Uninsured Motorist Laws in San Diego

California requires minimum insurance coverage, so if you don’t have insurance, you’re breaking the law. And you can’t fly under the radar – if you cancel your insurance or stop making payments, your insurance company will notify the Department of Motor Vehicles and your registration will be suspended. If you get pulled over in this situation, that’s two violations already. 

Penalties for uninsured motorists include fines, losing your license, and having your vehicle impounded. These are all probably going to be more expensive in the long run than carrying the required minimum insurance. 

San Diego Car Insurance FAQs

Is Car Insurance Required in San Diego?

Yes, insurance is required by the state of California. Drivers must have a minimum of $15,000 in coverage for bodily injury or death per person, $30,000 bodily injury or death per accident, and $5,000 for damage to the other vehicle.   

Which Cars Are Required To Be Insured in San Diego?

Almost all cars must be insured in California, whether they are driven on a highway or parked on a San Diego side street. The only exceptions are for cars that are in storage and not being driven at all. You’ll still need to notify the DMV that you will not be operating the car and change its status in their records. 

When Should I Get Car Insurance in San Diego?

As soon as you register a vehicle in San Diego, you’ll need to buy insurance for it. When you start a new insurance policy, the company will notify the DMV.

What Happens if My Car Is Not Properly Insured in San Diego?

If the state’s records show that your car is not properly insured, you’ll get a letter asking you to provide proof of insurance. Sometimes this is merely a clerical error and easily cleared up, or you may need to actually buy insurance and provide proof that you’ve done so. If you don’t provide that proof, your car’s registration will be canceled. 

Is San Diego in a No-Fault State?

No, San Diego is not in a no-fault state. California is an at-fault state, which means that the police or investigators will decide who is at fault in any accident. That means the at-fault driver can be sued by other parties for amounts beyond what the insurance pays out for medical and vehicle damages. 

Do I Need Uninsured Motorist Coverage in San Diego?

California requires car insurers to offer uninsured motorist coverage, but you are allowed to waive it. It cannot be purchased as stand-alone coverage; it’s only offered as part of your overall car insurance policy. It’s a good idea to carry it, as this is the part of your policy that will cover your costs when your car is hit by someone who has either no insurance at all or not enough insurance to cover the damages. 

Is Liability Insurance Required in San Diego?

Yes. The state of California does require liability insurance, with $15,000 in bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 bodily injury coverage per accident, and $5,000 for property damage. Purchasing additional coverage can be beneficial given that California is an at-fault state. Higher limits could protect your assets in the event that you’re sued after an accident you caused. 

Does San Diego Accept Digital Insurance Cards?

Yes, digital insurance cards are accepted throughout California. These are often available through your insurer’s app or via a digital image of the insurance card. 

The Best Car Insurance Companies in 2020

Our Car Insurance Ranking

  1.     USAA
  2.     Geico
  3.     Allstate
  4.     State Farm
  5.     Farmers
  6.     Progressive
  7.     American Family
  8.     Nationwide
  9.     Travelers

The Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in 2020

Average Annual Rates:

Car Insurance Hub | Best Car Insurance Companies | Cheapest Car Insurance Companies

Get Cheap Car Insurance Quotes in Your Area

Get great auto insurance coverage at an even better price.