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 11 largest insurers in the Golden State and found the cheapest options for several common driver types.
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Cheapest for good drivers
For drivers with no at-fault accidents, DUIs or moving violations.
Geico returned the cheapest rates for this group in our test, at roughly $99 a month, followed by Esurance and 21st Century.
Good drivers typically have discounts available that reward their safety behind the wheel. Look to keep costs down by scoring perks for claims-free driving.
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 had the lowest sample quote in our results for young drivers in the general population, about $39 per month.
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 about $500 more than the cheapest estimate for a driver of the same age with a clean record.
AAA was the best choice for non-military-affiliated drivers in our analysis, with Esurance and Geico rounding out the three cheapest options.
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 score pretty cheap car insurance in California. 21st Century notched the best rates in our test, at roughly $78 per month, with Geico and Allstate not far behind.
To save even more, retirees should look into discounts aimed at mature or retired drivers age 55 or older.
Cheapest for low-mileage drivers
For drivers who travel under 5,000 miles or less per year.
If you’re spending less time in the car than you used to — whether you work from home, commute in a carpool or mostly use public transit — consider shopping around for auto insurance.
Case in point: The cheapest average price for low-mileage drivers — those logging no more than 5,000 miles per year — was $757 per year from Metromile, a San Francisco-based company offering pay-per-mile coverage. That was $436 lower than the most affordable rate for our sample good drivers, who put twice as many miles on the odometer.
Cheapest for drivers with a military connection
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 one of the three cheapest auto insurance options for every driver type listed above. USAA customers also benefit from the insurer’s top-rated customer service.
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.
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 (CAARP). 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
|Drivers with one at-fault crash||AAA|
|Retired drivers||21st Century|
|Drivers with a military connection||USAA|
Alex Glenn is a staff writer for NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 2013 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.