Best Cheap Car Insurance in California (With 2019 rates)

In our analysis, California car insurance is the sixth highest in the nation. Larger cities in California like Los Angeles and San Francisco have higher rates.

For Californians, who depend on their vehicles to get around, car insurance is a lawful requirement.  Getting the best and cheapest is dependent upon many factors, among them your age, your current zipcode, and your driving record. The only way to save on car insurance in California is to shop around with at least 2-3 insurance companies and compare your car insurance quotes even if you are happy with your current rates.

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies in California

The average Californian pays a yearly premium of $1,660 ($138.33 a month) for auto insurance.  Rates vary widely between geographic locations. Lompoc is the lowest at an average of $1,250 a year, while Los Angeles’s $2,245 median is 135% higher!

When you shop for a quote for auto insurance, you will be priced according to several factors, which include: your driving record, your age, your vehicle, your credit history, your marital status and your place of residence.

In our analysis, these are the cheapest average car insurance rates in California:

Insurers Annual PremiumMonthly Premium
Nationwide$1,129$94
Century National$1,154$96
Geico$1,203$100
Grange$1,348$112
State Farm$1,757$120
Allied$1,622$135
Progressive$1,662$139
Unitrin$1,741$145
Kemper Specialty$2,500$208
Bristol West$2,711$226

Cheapest Car Insurance Companies By Age in California

The most expensive drivers to insure are inexperienced and under the age of 20. The most economical insurance goes to middle aged and late middle aged people.

USAA offers the lowest average rates in California. USAA And Geico are also cheapest for younger drivers. Geico and Progressive are also competitive. The most expensive is Allstate.

Here is a comparison of the average annual rate of auto insurance coverage by age in California:

CompanySingle 20-year old maleMarried 40-year old maleMarried 65-year old male
Allstate$10,036$2,821$2,030
Farmers$13,975$2,620$2,317
Geico$5,445$1,725$1,588
Nationwide$9,048$3,015$2,551
Progressive$5,659$1,773$1,703
State Farm$7,441$3,194$2,795
Travelers$5,816$2,332$2,062
USAA$4,361$1,763$1,785

Cheapest car insurance companies for drivers with DUI in California

Drivers who are convicted of a DUI will find their California auto insurance rates increased by an average of 68% or $3,100.  That is close to the US average increase of 72%. After a serious traffic violation conviction — and likely driver’s license suspension — the California Department of Motor Vehicles (CA DMV) will require you to purchase car insurance with an SR-22 filing requirement.

DUI’s are enormously risky, dangerous and very expensive. But for those who are shopping for auto insurance these are the lowest average rates in California after a DUI:

Insurance companyAvg. annual premium after DUIAvg. monthly premium after DUI
Mercury$2,932$244
Geico$3,274$273
21st Century$4,017$335
Farmers$4,154$346
State Farm$4,209$351
AAA$6,463$539
CSAA$6,540$545
Allstate$6,616$551

Cheapest car insurance companies for Drivers with Bad Credit

On a more positive note, credit score, a measurement often used by insurers to rate applicants and charge higher premiums for bad credit risks, is not legally permitted in the state of California, Massachusetts or Hawaii.

Rundown of Cities in California for Cheaper Car Insurance:

Here is a quick rundown of California cities where you can find the cheapest car insurance:

San Francisco, CA

San Francisco has a well-regarded public transportation system. Its roads are hilly and narrow, driving is difficult, and parking is expensive.
The median yearly premium is $1,699. However, Century National ($1104), Geico ($1126) and Nationwide ($1212) come in as the cheapest providers.

San Diego, CA

San Diego, in the southernmost area of California, enjoys wonderful weather and a beautiful coastline. However it is also a very expensive city to insure a car, averaging $1,950. Geico ($1252), Nationwide ($1272) and State Farm ($1512) come in as the cheapest providers.

Sacramento, CA

With just over 500,000 residents, the state capital of California is also known as “The City of Trees”, for Sacramento has more trees per capita than any other city in the world. It has mild weather too, snow has only fallen here three times since 1900.

Car insurance is slightly cheaper here than in other cities in California.
In Sacramento, Nationwide ($912), Century National ($984) and Geico ($1108) are all lower than the $1486 a year average rate.

San Jose, CA

To paraphrase an old song, “Do you know the way to [the cheapest car insurance] in San Jose?”

It might not be easy to find. San Jose’s average auto insurance policy (for a 30 yr. old male) is $1,731, about 4% higher than California’s average $1,662 a year. Geico and Nationwide are practically tied for the lowest cost auto insurance in San Jose at $1,076 and $1,080 respectively.

California – The Golden State

California, with over 39 million residents, is the most populous state in the union. It also has over 26 million licensed drivers on the road, more than any other state.

The Long Beach-Los Angeles area encompasses 19 million people who live and work amidst a dense and traffic clogged 469 square miles, a region of freeways and some of the highest car insurance rates in the state of California.

The city of Los Angeles has the dubious honor of costing the most to insure drivers. Car theft, break-ins, uninsured drivers, stolen parts, and accident fraud are among the contributors to high rates in the City of Angels.

Car theft raises car insurance rates for everyone. An FBI report found that five of the top ten areas for nationwide theft were in California, with Redding, Bakersfield, Modesto, Stockton-Lodi, and Yuba City making a dishonorable appearance on the most stolen cars list in 2017.

Comparing Los Angeles to other large cities in California you have these average premiums:

  • Los Angeles: $2,562
  • San Francisco: $2,102
  • San Diego: $1,739
  • Sacramento: $2,084
  • San Jose: $1,767

LA is 21.8% more expensive than SF and 44.9% more expensive than San Jose.

California DMV Auto Insurance Requirements

Each California driver is required to carry minimum liability insurance for a private passenger vehicle.  

  • $15,000 for injury/death to one person.
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person.
  • $5,000 for damage to property.

Insurers abbreviate this as 15/30/5.

The higher the numbers in each category, the higher the premium you pay.

For low income Californians, the state offers discounted policies dependent upon a good driving record, income eligibility, and a vehicle valued at $25,000 or less.

What if you are in an accident with a driver who has no auto insurance? Some 15.2% of all California drivers have none, the 12th highest rate in the nation. It makes sense to carry a “Collision Deductible Waiver.” (CDW) It means, in the event of accident with an uninsured driver, you don’t pay a deductible.

A CDW can save you thousands of dollars and should always be a part of your California auto insurance policy.

Summary

  • California car insurance is the sixth highest in the nation, but especially high in Los Angeles.
  • Minimum liability in California is $15,000 for bodily injury, $30,000 per accident, $5,000 property damage.
  • The best way to find out cheap rates is to compare. Get quotes from a few different insurers. Nationwide, Century National, and GEICO are all considered the cheapest statewide according to Value Penguin. Also consider getting a quote from Mercury if you have had a DUI.
  • Your age and your driving record are two of the biggest factors determining how costly your insurance is. As you age, your insurance costs generally fall provided you drive safe.
  • Your city of residence, your type of vehicle, and your mileage can also affect rates.
  • You can buy minimal liability insurance, but it may not pay entirely for medical or property damage, something to consider when deciding if it is really more “affordable.”
  • Look for discount rates with bundling, for military members (USAA is a good option), or low mileage drivers.
  • Always drive safely, and remember that California is an “at fault” state and you could be sued for causing an accident that injures people or damages property.
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