The Best Cheap Renters Insurance in California for 2022

Renters insurance can protect you financially in case of wildfires and other disasters in the Golden State.

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Renters insurance isn’t required by law in California, but it’s often worth buying — especially if you live in an area at risk for wildfires or earthquakes. While your landlord will insure the building you live in, it’s up to you to cover your own belongings.

Here’s how much you can expect to pay and which companies offer the cheapest renters insurance in California.

How much is renters insurance in California?

The average cost of renters insurance in California is $204 a year, or approximately $17 a month. That’s higher than the national average of $179 a year.

Los Angeles is one of the most expensive areas for renters insurance in California, with an average cost of $221 a year. San Francisco renters pay $207 a year, on average, while those in San Diego pay about $198 a year.

Here’s what renters insurance costs, on average, in California’s 25 largest cities:

City

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Bakersfield

$213

$18

Chico

$190

$16

El Centro

$209

$17

Fresno

$196

$16

Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim

$221

$18

Madera

$199

$17

Merced

$193

$16

Modesto

$198

$17

Napa

$198

$17

Oxnard

$201

$17

Redding

$191

$16

Riverside-San Bernardino

$211

$18

Sacramento

$191

$16

Salinas

$206

$17

San Diego

$198

$17

San Francisco-Oakland

$207

$17

San Jose

$209

$17

San Luis Obispo

$190

$16

Santa Cruz

$212

$18

Santa Maria-Santa Barbara

$189

$16

Santa Rosa

$191

$16

Stockton

$199

$17

Vallejo

$195

$16

Visalia

$190

$16

Yuba City

$190

$16

Cheap renters insurance companies in California

NerdWallet analyzed rates from more than a dozen insurers in California to find the ones with the cheapest rates. The following are companies with rates under the statewide average for renters insurance.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Auto Club of SoCal

$102

$9

CSAA

$108

$9

CIG

$132

$11

State Farm

$133

$11

Allstate

$147

$12

Pacific Specialty

$149

$12

Mercury

$155

$13

Travelers

$185

$15

USAA*

$176

$15

*USAA renters insurance is available only to active military, veterans and their families.

About the cheapest companies

Auto Club of SoCal: Auto Club of SoCal offers insurance to AAA members in 13 California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego and Riverside. You may be able to save up to 10% on your renters policy and up to 3.7% on your auto policy if you buy them together. Keep in mind that you’ll want to weigh your savings against AAA’s annual membership fee, which is generally $54. (AAA sometimes offers promotional discounts.)

CSAA: If Auto Club of SoCal doesn't offer coverage in your county, chances are you can get a policy through CSAA, another AAA insurer. It serves more than 40 California counties, including San Francisco, Alameda and Santa Clara. Membership fees currently start at $60 a year. CSAA has drawn significantly more consumer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners.

CIG: CIG’s renters insurance policies come with identity theft coverage. For an additional cost, you may also be able to include extra coverage for earthquake damage, home office equipment or valuable jewelry. CIG, which stands for Capital Insurance Group, is based in California and part of the Auto-Owners Insurance Group.

State Farm: Replacement cost coverage comes standard with State Farm renters insurance. That means if your belongings are stolen or destroyed, the company will pay for brand-new replacements rather than subtracting depreciation from the value of older items. For about $25 a year, you can also add coverage for cyber attacks and identity theft. Learn more in our State Farm renters insurance review.

Allstate: Allstate renters insurance comes with all the basic coverage you’d expect, but you may also be able to add extra coverage for valuable items or identity theft recovery. You can get a quote and learn about coverage options on the company’s website, or work with an agent to get more direct assistance. Check out our Allstate renters insurance review to learn more.

Pacific Specialty: Anaheim-based Pacific Specialty gives you a choice of deductible options and payment plans so you can customize your renters insurance rate. A bundling discount may also be available if you purchase more than one policy (such as renters and auto). Pacific Specialty has drawn significantly more complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size, according to the NAIC.

Mercury: Mercury covers computers up to $5,000, with the option to raise the limit if you have machines worth more. You may be able to get a discount if your home has deadbolts, smoke alarms and other protective devices. You could also save if your rental is in a community that’s taken steps to protect itself against wildfires.

Travelers: If you’re looking for a well-established company, Travelers fits the bill: It’s been in business since 1864. You may be able to save on Travelers renters insurance if you insure your car through the company, you haven’t filed any recent claims or your home is equipped with safety devices such as a sprinkler system. Travelers has drawn fewer consumer complaints to state regulators than expected for a company of its size, according to the NAIC. Check out our Travelers renters insurance review for more details.

USAA: USAA’s renters policies are available only to active military, veterans and their families. If you’re eligible, though, these policies may offer a particularly good value to Californians because they include coverage for earthquake damage. (Most companies charge extra.) USAA also includes flood insurance in its standard renters policies. Read our USAA renters insurance review to learn more.

California renters insurance from the best companies

If you’re looking for renters insurance from highly rated insurers, consider these carriers that made NerdWallet’s list of the best renters insurance companies. Click on each company’s name to read our review.

Company

NerdWallet rating

Average annual rate

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

$133

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

$147

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

$185

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

$295

4.5

NerdWallet rating 

$296

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

$318

5.0

NerdWallet rating 

$176

*USAA renters insurance is available only to active military, veterans and their families.

What to know about California renters insurance

Renters insurance can serve as a financial safety net in a disaster — and unfortunately, California sees plenty of those.

Wildfires

Wildfires in the state have grown larger and more frequent in recent years, causing billions of dollars' worth in damage.

Standard renters policies cover destruction due to fire and smoke, but those who live in high-risk areas may have trouble finding coverage. The California FAIR Plan is the state’s insurer of last resort, offering renters insurance to those who’ve been turned down elsewhere.

FAIR Plan coverage is much more limited than a standard renters policy. It pays only for damage due to fire, lightning, smoke and internal explosions. If you want coverage for theft, wind damage or other disasters, you can buy a “difference in conditions” policy to fill the gap.

In California, insurers must cover at least two weeks of additional living expenses for renters forced to evacuate due to wildfires. This could include costs such as hotel bills, restaurant meals and relocation costs.

Earthquakes

Unlike fires, earthquakes are generally not on the list of disasters covered by renters insurance. That means you’ll need to buy extra coverage if you’re at risk. The California Earthquake Authority works with insurance companies to cover your belongings and pay additional living expenses if you’re displaced by an earthquake.

Floods

Floods are another disaster most renters policies won’t cover. Renters can buy flood insurance backed by the federal government starting at $99 a year. Learn more about flood insurance for renters.

What determines California renters insurance rates?

Insurers look at a variety of factors to determine the cost of your renters policy. In most states, one of those factors is your credit-based insurance score, which is similar to a traditional credit score. But that doesn’t apply in California — it’s one of a few states where insurance companies can’t use your credit history to set rates.

Below are a few of the factors that likely will influence what you pay for a California renters policy.

Where you live

Insurers typically charge more if you live in an area they consider risky. For example, you’ll generally pay more for insurance if your neighborhood has a high crime rate or a heightened risk of wildfires.

Your coverage limits

The more stuff you have — or the more expensive stuff you have — the more you’ll have to pay to cover it fully.

Your deductible

A deductible is the amount you’re responsible for when you file a claim. Say a fire causes $5,000 worth of damage to your belongings. If your deductible is $500, your insurance company would pay the remaining $4,500.

Raising your deductible can lower your premium, but it’s only worth doing if you’re sure you can come up with the higher amount in a pinch.

Your claims history

Filing a renters insurance claim often causes your premium to go up, according to NerdWallet’s rate analysis. These are the five companies with the cheapest rates for renters with a recent theft claim on their records.

Company

Average annual rate

Average monthly rate

Auto Club of SoCal

$102

$9

State Farm

$136

$11

CSAA

$142

$12

Allstate

$147

$12

CIG

$179

$15

The features of your home

Burglar alarms, sprinkler systems and other protective devices may make you eligible for a renters insurance discount.

Other policies

Many insurers offer a discount if you buy both renters and auto insurance together.

Your dog

Because dog bites are a common source of renters liability claims, your insurer may charge you more if you have a breed it considers a higher risk, such as a pit bull or rottweiler. You may even be denied coverage altogether.

California Department of Insurance

If you have questions about your policy or problems with your insurer, the California Department of Insurance is a good place to turn. You can get information and file complaints on the department’s website, or call its consumer hotline at 800-927-4357 for assistance in English or Spanish.

Want more insurance in California?

Methodology

NerdWallet averaged rates for 30-year-old renters from insurance companies in every ZIP code across the state. Sample tenants were nonsmokers with good credit living in a two-bedroom apartment.

They had a $500 deductible and the following coverage limits:

  • $30,000 in personal property coverage.

  • $100,000 in liability coverage.

  • $10,000 in additional living expenses coverage.

  • $1,000 in medical payments coverage.

To see rates for renters with poor credit, we changed the credit tier from “good” to “poor” as reported to the insurer.

These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.

Insurer complaints methodology

NerdWallet examined complaints received by state insurance regulators and reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners in 2018-2020. To assess how insurers compare to one another, the NAIC calculates a complaint index each year for each subsidiary, measuring its share of total complaints relative to its size, or share of total premiums in the industry. To evaluate a company’s complaint history, NerdWallet calculated a similar index for each insurer, weighted by market shares of each subsidiary, over the three-year period. Ratios are determined separately for auto, home (including renters and condo) and life insurance.

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