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Best Cheap Car Insurance in California for 2018

Jan. 2, 2018
Auto Insurance, Insurance
NerdWallet adheres to strict standards of editorial integrity to help you make decisions with confidence. Some of the products we feature are from partners. Here’s how we make money.
We adhere to strict standards of editorial integrity. Some of the products we feature are from our partners. Here’s how we make money.

If you’re looking for cheap car insurance in California, getting the best deal may require some patience. Rates can vary from one company to the next, so it pays to compare as many estimates as possible.

To make things easier, NerdWallet has done the heavy lifting for you. We researched rates from the largest insurers in the Golden State and found the cheapest options for several common driver types.

Included in this page are the cheapest rates for:

Good drivers

Young drivers

Drivers with one at-fault crash

Retired drivers

Low-mileage drivers

Drivers with a military connection


Minimum required car insurance in California

Alternative car insurance in California

» FIND YOUR MATCH: Who’s the cheapest carrier for you?

Cheapest for good drivers

For drivers with no at-fault accidents, DUIs or moving violations.

Esurance returned the cheapest rates for this group in our test, at roughly $105 a month, followed by Mercury and Geico.

If you have no violations or crashes on your record, look into discounts companies offer that reward your responsible driving. These sorts of perks could determine which insurer is ultimately cheapest for you.

InsurerAverage priceGet your rate

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Cheapest for young drivers

For drivers in their early 20s.

Drivers in their early 20s often need less coverage than older motorists who have families and greater savings to protect. For this reason, we ran rates for young motorists carrying the minimum required coverage in California.

Geico delivered the lowest sample quote in our results for young drivers in the general population, about $44 per month.

InsurerAverage priceGet your rate
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Cheapest for drivers with one at-fault crash

Causing an accident in California can add a significant amount to your premium. The lowest average quote for this category was over $500 more per year than the cheapest estimate for a driver of the same age with a clean record.

Esurance was the best choice for non-military-affiliated drivers in our analysis, with Mercury and Auto Club (AAA) rounding out the three cheapest options.

InsurerAverage priceGet your rate

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Cheapest for retired drivers

For drivers in their mid- to late 60s who no longer use their car for commuting.

Given their reduced annual mileage, retired drivers can find relatively cheap car insurance in California compared to drivers with a daily comute. 21st Century delivered the best rates in our analysis, at roughly $84 per month, with Mercury and Esurance not far behind.

To save even more, retirees should look into discounts aimed at mature or retired drivers age 55 or older.

InsurerAverage priceGet your rate

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Cheapest for low-mileage drivers

For drivers who travel 5,000 miles or less per year.

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If you don’t spend a lot of time in the car — whether you work from home, commute in a carpool or mostly use public transit — consider shopping around for auto insurance.

Metromile targets drivers who put relatively few miles on their cars; its rates are frequently superior for those who drive under 5,000 miles annually. And other insurers offer per-mile insurance rates, where your bill could change monthly based on miles driven.

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Cheapest for drivers with a military connection

Get a quoteUSAA is available only to active military members, veterans and their families.

If you’re an active member of the military or a veteran — or have an immediate family member who is — chances are you’ll get a relatively cheap rate with USAA, a company that isn’t available to the general public.

USAA was the cheapest auto insurance option for every driver type listed above except retired drivers. USAA customers also benefit from the insurer’s top-rated customer service.

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Minimum required car insurance in California

California drivers must carry liability insurance in the following amounts:

  • $15,000 bodily injury liability per person.
  • $30,000 bodily injury liability per accident.
  • $5,000 property damage liability per accident.

Liability coverage helps pay for other people’s injury or property damage bills if you cause the accident. Experts recommend getting more than the bare minimum if you want to avoid dipping into your own savings to cover expenses.

For instance, California has a relatively low property damage minimum, only $5,000. If you cause an accident and total another driver’s car, the damage could easily exceed that amount, and you’d have to pay the difference out of pocket.

Check out NerdWallet’s guide to state car insurance requirements for more details on how the required and optional parts of your California policy work.
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Alternative car insurance in California

If you have a high number of accidents, DUIs or other factors making it hard to find auto coverage on the voluntary market, you might qualify for insurance through the California Automobile Assigned Risk Plan. This organization connects high-risk drivers to insurance companies that will cover them.

For more help finding the most competitive prices in California, try NerdWallet’s car insurance comparison tool.

Here’s a summary of where you’ll find the cheapest insurance, by category:

Cheapest car insurance in California 2018

CategoryCheapest option
Good driversEsurance
Young drivers
Drivers with one at-fault crash
Retired drivers21st Century
Low-mileage driversMetromile
Drivers with a military connectionUSAA

» MORE: California home insurance 2017: Rates, complaints and earthquakes


For most categories, NerdWallet averaged rates from the largest insurers for 30-year-old men and women in 10 ZIP codes and with 100/300/50 liability insurance limits, 100/300 uninsured motorist bodily injury coverage limits, and collision and comprehensive coverages each with a $1,000 deductible.

We used a 2014 Toyota Camry in all cases.Our sample retired driver was 67 and drove 50% fewer annual miles than other groups, as did our sample low-mileage driver. Our sample young driver was 22 and carried the minimum required coverage. These are sample rates generated through Quadrant Information Services. Your own rates will be different.

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