Car Insurance Programs for Low-Income Drivers

You may qualify for government-sponsored low-income car insurance in certain states.
Sarah Schlichter
By Sarah Schlichter 
Edited by Ben Moore

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

Car insurance is legally required for most drivers, but not everyone can afford it. The average cost of car insurance in the U.S. is $549 per year for required minimum coverage, according to NerdWallet’s January 2024 rate analysis.

While alternatives for low-income drivers are slim, a few states offer government-sponsored car insurance programs to help keep people from driving uninsured. These low-income car insurance programs typically offer limited coverage at greatly discounted rates.

Are you wondering why insurance rates are higher? Ask a Nerd directly
Simply send us your questions, and our dedicated in-house Nerds will provide you with thoughtful responses within 2 business days.

Low-income car insurance programs by state


Through California’s Low-Cost Auto Insurance program, Golden State residents can buy the minimum liability insurance needed to drive legally. You can also add:

  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage, which pays your medical bills if you get into an accident with an at-fault driver who doesn’t have insurance.

  • Medical payments coverage, which pays medical bills for you and your passengers, regardless of who’s at fault for a wreck.

The program’s insurance won't cover damage to your own car, which falls under collision coverage in standard policies.

Cost: $232 to $932 per year, on average, depending on where you live and your driving history.

Eligibility requirements: You must be at least 16, have a valid California driver’s license and own a car worth $25,000 or less. You must also meet certain income requirements, which vary depending on how many people live in your household. These are the maximum income limits for one- to four-person households:

  • One person: $37,650 per year.

  • Two people: $51,100 per year.

  • Three people: $78,000 per year.

  • Four people: $91,450 per year.

How to get coverage: To apply, start by filling out an eligibility questionnaire.


Hawaii’s Department of Human Services provides free car insurance to some residents who receive financial assistance through the agency’s programs.

Cost: Free if you qualify.

Eligibility requirements: You must own a vehicle and have a valid Hawaii driver’s license. You must also receive Supplemental Security Income or assistance from one of the following programs:

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

  • General Assistance.

  • Aid to the Aged, Blind or Disabled.

How to get coverage: Contact one of the state's processing centers.

New Jersey

New Jersey’s Special Automobile Insurance Policy pays for emergency injury treatment after car accidents, and severe brain and spinal cord injuries up to $250,000. It also provides a $10,000 death benefit for car accident fatalities. It doesn't offer liability insurance for damage you cause to others’ vehicles or pay to repair your car.

Cost: $360 per year for the policy if you pay upfront, or $365 if you’d rather pay in two installments.

Eligibility requirements: You must be enrolled in federal Medicaid with hospitalization benefits. You must also have a valid New Jersey driver’s license and registration.

How to get coverage: Search for an SAIP provider or call 1-800-652-2471.

Other ways to find cheap car insurance

What if you aren’t eligible for your state's car insurance program, or your state doesn’t have one? Here are other ways to slash your premium.

Shop around. Every insurance company sets its rates a little differently. We recommend getting car insurance quotes from at least three carriers before deciding on a policy. Shop once a year to make sure you’re still getting the best price.

Raise your deductible. A car insurance deductible is the part of a claim you’re responsible for paying. Say you hit a deer, causing $1,000 of damage to your car. If your comprehensive deductible is $250, your insurance company would pay out $750.

Raising your deductible will lower your car insurance rate, but it can be risky. If you’d have trouble coming up with enough money to pay a high deductible, choose a lower one.

Ask about discounts. Most carriers offer savings for things like driving safely, having anti-theft features in your car and bundling auto and home insurance policies. Ask your agent if you’re getting all the discounts you’re qualified for.

Drop coverage you don’t need. If your car isn’t worth much, it probably doesn’t need comprehensive or collision insurance. These coverage types pay only up to the total value of your car, minus the deductible. Dropping them can save you hundreds of dollars a year.

Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.