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Best Cheap Car Insurance in California for 2021

Dec. 11, 2020
Auto Insurance, Insurance
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If you’re looking for the best cheap car insurance in California, you may need to be diligent. Rates can vary from one company to the next, so it pays to compare as many car insurance quotes as possible.

To make things easier, NerdWallet has done the heavy lifting for you. We analyzed rates from 39 auto insurers in California and found the cheapest options for several common driver types in the Golden State. We also have information on low-income car insurance in California, auto insurance laws and how to know which AAA group serves your county.

Cheapest for 20-year-old drivers in California

Drivers in their 20s may have to get a lot of quotes to find cheap car insurance. Prices can be sky-high for younger 20-somethings, but tend to come down as drivers get more experience on the road. Still, some companies routinely have better insurance rates for young drivers, so it's best to shop around to find them.

Cheapest full coverage in California for 20-year-olds

Drivers in California with clean driving records may want to consider the following companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Wawanesa: $2,080 per year.
  2. Grange Insurance Association: $2,325 per year.
  3. Esurance: $2,581 per year.
  4. Geico: $2,587 per year.
  5. CSAA: $2,659 per year.

Cheapest minimum coverage in California for 20-year-olds

Drivers in California who want just the state minimum coverage may want to check with these companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Grange Insurance Association: $644 per year.
  2. CSAA: $698 per year.
  3. Geico: $787 per year.
  4. Wawanesa: $822 per year.
  5. Travelers: $870 per year.

Cheapest for 20-year-old drivers with one at-fault crash in California

For drivers with a recent accident in California, here are the companies with the lowest average rates for minimum coverage:

  1. Grange Insurance Association: $780 per year.
  2. CSAA: $1,046 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,082 per year.
  4. Esurance: $1,372 per year.
  5. Travelers: $1,378 per year.

Cheapest insurance for 20-year-old drivers after a DUI in California

The cheapest auto insurance we found after a DUI is shown here, alongside the insurers’ average rates for minimum coverage.

  1. Grange Insurance Association: $974 per year.
  2. National General: $1,149 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,426 per year.
  4. Mercury: $1,775 per year.
  5. Travelers: $1,782 per year.

Cheapest for 30-year-old drivers in California

By the time they reach their 30s, most drivers will enjoy cheaper car insurance rates than in their teens and 20s. Still, factors like a person’s driving record and car make and model can increase prices. Drivers in their 30s can get lower rates by shopping around and taking advantage of any car insurance discounts.

Cheapest full coverage in California for 30-year-olds

Drivers in California with clean driving records may get the lowest rates from these companies:

  1. Esurance: $1,341 per year.
  2. CSAA: $1,422 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,499 per year.
  4. Wawanesa: $1,644 per year.
  5. CIG: $1,738 per year.

Cheapest minimum coverage in California for 30-year-olds

Drivers in California who want their state’s minimum coverage can check with the following companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. CSAA: $385 per year.
  2. Geico: $404 per year.
  3. Grange Insurance Association: $485 per year.
  4. Progressive: $534 per year.
  5. Mercury: $586 per year.

Cheapest for 30-year-old drivers with one at-fault crash in California

For drivers in California with a recent accident, here are the lowest average rate options for full coverage:

  1. CSAA: $1,789 per year.
  2. Esurance: $2,121 per year.
  3. CIG: $2,211 per year.
  4. Grange Insurance Association: $2,241 per year.
  5. Geico: $2,711 per year.

Cheapest insurance for 30-year-old drivers after a DUI in California

For the cheapest auto insurance after a DUI, we found the following options for full coverage.

  1. Infinity: $2,614 per year.
  2. Grange Insurance Association: $2,802 per year.
  3. Mercury: $2,883 per year.
  4. Esurance: $3,375 per year.
  5. CIG: $3,407 per year.

Cheapest for 40-year-old drivers in California

Drivers in their 40s tend to have better insurance rates than their younger counterparts on average, but still pay more than older age groups. Shopping around for cheap car insurance quotes with multiple insurers is the best way to find lower rates. Good drivers who don’t get behind the wheel often might want to consider pay-per-mile insurance, which charges drivers by how many miles they drive.

Cheapest full coverage in California for 40-year-olds

Drivers in California with clean driving records may want to think about the following companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Esurance: $1,265 per year.
  2. CSAA: $1,408 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,458 per year.
  4. Wawanesa: $1,549 per year.
  5. Grange Insurance Association: $1,597 per year.

Cheapest minimum coverage in California for 40-year-olds

Drivers in California who want just the minimum coverage may want to check prices from these companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Geico: $395 per year.
  2. CSAA: $398 per year.
  3. Grange Insurance Association: $442 per year.
  4. Progressive: $525 per year.
  5. Mercury: $576 per year.

Cheapest for 40-year-old drivers with one at-fault crash in California

For drivers with a recent accident living in California, here are the companies with the lowest average rates for full coverage:

  1. CSAA: $1,772 per year.
  2. Esurance: $1,998 per year.
  3. Grange Insurance Association: $2,088 per year.
  4. CIG: $2,133 per year.
  5. Geico: $2,638 per year.

Cheapest insurance for 40-year-old drivers after a DUI in California

The cheapest full coverage auto insurance we found for drivers with a DUI came from the following companies.

  1. Infinity: $2,559 per year.
  2. Grange Insurance Association: $2,609 per year.
  3. Mercury: $2,806 per year.
  4. Bristol West: $3,142 per year.
  5. Esurance: $3,175 per year.

Cheapest for 50-year-old drivers in California

Drivers in their 50s have cheaper car insurance rates than most other age groups on average. Prices will continue to drop as they inch toward their 60s and gain more driving experience. Rates can still vary depending on other factors such as a driver’s gender and location, so it’s smart to shop around to find the best rate. Our list of the best cheap car insurance companies is a good place to start.

Cheapest full coverage in California for 50-year-olds

Drivers in California with clean driving records may want to get quotes from these insurers, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Esurance: $1,250 per year.
  2. CSAA: $1,357 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,428 per year.
  4. Wawanesa: $1,517 per year.
  5. 21st Century: $1,588 per year.

Cheapest minimum coverage in California for 50-year-olds

Drivers in California who opt for the state minimum coverage may want to consider the following companies, with the lowest average rates:

  1. CSAA: $378 per year.
  2. Geico: $389 per year.
  3. Grange Insurance Association: $442 per year.
  4. Progressive: $520 per year.
  5. Travelers: $564 per year.

Cheapest for 50-year-old drivers with one at-fault crash in California

For drivers living in California with a recent accident, here are the insurers with the lowest average full coverage rates:

  1. CSAA: $1,707 per year.
  2. Esurance: $1,978 per year.
  3. CIG: $2,049 per year.
  4. Grange Insurance Association: $2,088 per year.
  5. Geico: $2,586 per year.

Cheapest insurance for 50-year-old drivers after a DUI in California

The cheapest auto insurance we found for drivers with a recent DUI comes from the following companies, listed with rates for full coverage.

  1. Infinity: $2,414 per year.
  2. Grange Insurance Association: $2,609 per year.
  3. Mercury: $2,656 per year.
  4. Esurance: $3,136 per year.
  5. Bristol West: $3,142 per year.

Cheapest for 65-year-old drivers in California

Although 65-year-olds have cheaper car insurance rates than many other age groups on average, prices will start increasing as they get older. To find cheap auto insurance for seniors, drivers in their mid-60s should make sure to shop around to find the best rate. Drivers in this age group should also take advantage of any available discounts for senior citizens.

Cheapest full coverage in California for 65-year-olds

Drivers in California with clean driving records may want to think about getting quotes from these companies, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Esurance: $1,278 per year.
  2. CSAA: $1,352 per year.
  3. Geico: $1,409 per year.
  4. Wawanesa: $1,449 per year.
  5. State Farm: $1,461 per year.

Cheapest minimum coverage in California for 65-year-olds

Drivers in California who want just the state minimum coverage may want to check with these insurers, which had the lowest average rates:

  1. Geico: $390 per year.
  2. CSAA: $435 per year.
  3. Grange Insurance Association: $442 per year.
  4. State Farm: $466 per year.
  5. Wawanesa: $556 per year.

Cheapest for 65-year-old drivers with one at-fault crash in California

For drivers with a recent accident living in California, here are the companies with the lowest average rates for full coverage:

  1. CSAA: $1,703 per year.
  2. CIG: $2,013 per year.
  3. Esurance: $2,024 per year.
  4. Grange Insurance Association: $2,088 per year.
  5. State Farm: $2,311 per year.

Cheapest insurance for 65-year-old drivers after a DUI in California

The cheapest auto insurance we found after a DUI came from the following companies, shown with their average rates for full coverage.

  1. Grange Insurance Association: $2,609 per year.
  2. Infinity: $2,683 per year.
  3. Mercury: $2,690 per year.
  4. CIG: $3,100 per year.
  5. Esurance: $3,209 per year.

Cheapest for military 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.

Because of that restriction, USAA isn’t ranked with the others, but it was among the cheapest five auto insurance options for many of the driver profiles we examined.

» MORE: Best car insurance for veterans and military

Minimum auto insurance requirements 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 would 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.

Low-income car insurance in California

If you can’t afford car insurance premiums, you might qualify for California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance program, which has several payment plans and no broker fees. Requirements include:

  • A current California driver’s license.
  • An automobile worth $25,000 or less.
  • Income of no more than 250% of the federal poverty level.

The federal poverty level depends on the year and the number of people in your household. For one person in 2019, the income limit for the program was $31,225.

The program’s website has a calculator to determine income cutoffs for larger households, a rate calculator and a tool to find participating insurance plans. You’ll have to provide documentation of income, as well as other requirements, to qualify.

Alternative car insurance in California

If you have a high number of accidents, DUIs or other factors making it hard to find auto coverage, 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.

Auto insurance laws in California

California’s insurance laws are uniquely consumer-friendly, according to many experts. A lot of that is thanks to Proposition 103, which was approved by voters in 1988 and immediately required insurers to roll back prices 20%. Proposition 103 also mandated that auto insurance rates be preapproved by the state’s department of insurance, among other regulations. Many of the laws detailed below are from Proposition 103, but not all.

Auto insurance pricing: Unlike in most other states, auto insurers in California can’t set prices based on credit history, nor can they charge more for lapses in auto coverage.

The state also recently banned gender-based pricing, which tends to translate to higher premiums for young men and middle-age women. The rule was introduced this year and insurers have some time to roll out new rates so this may not affect you quite yet.

Auto body repair claims: California’s insurance code includes a consumer bill of rights for repairs after a claim. They include:

  • The right to choose your own auto body repair shop and obtain independent damage estimates while the claim is ongoing.
  • The right to an itemized invoice of repairs. The invoice must identify parts as new, used or rebuilt, and must indicate whether they are aftermarket or original equipment manufactured parts.
  • When aftermarket parts are used, the insurer (and not necessarily the shop) must guarantee that they are equal to OEM parts in quality, safety, fit and performance.
  • The right to accurate information about towing and storage services and your policy’s coverage, if any, for a rental car while yours is in the shop.

How AAA car insurance works in California

AAA, the automobile club best known for its roadside assistance memberships, also sells insurance in many states. But just like the clubs themselves, AAA insurance companies are separate companies that operate independently. If you use a AAA webpage, it will ask for your ZIP code in order to ensure you’re looking at information for your local AAA club.

The Automobile Club of Southern California serves the following counties: Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare and Ventura. CSAA serves all other counties in California, plus several other states.

So if you’re a AAA member and move from Northern California to SoCal, or vice versa, you would transfer membership from one club to the other. If you have auto insurance through your regional club and move, your policy, premium and agent would also change.

If you’re a AAA member and need roadside assistance outside of your home club’s region, the AAA club in that area will take care of you.

Methodology

For our “good driver” profile, NerdWallet averaged insurance estimates from an average of 14 insurers in each state and Washington, D.C., for single male and female drivers with no tickets or violations. The analysis included 5-10 of the largest insurance companies in each state; smaller insurers were also included when rates were available. Liberty Mutual and its subsidiaries were excluded from our analysis as rates were not available.

For full coverage policies, we used the following coverage limits:

  • $100,000 bodily injury liability per person.
  • $300,000 bodily injury liability per accident.
  • $50,000 property damage liability per accident.
  • $100,000 uninsured motorist coverage per person.
  • $300,000 uninsured motorist coverage per accident.
  • Collision coverage with a $1,000 deductible.
  • Comprehensive coverage with a $1,000 deductible.

In states where required, minimum additional coverages were added. Some policies include additional coverages at the insurer’s discretion.

  • We used a 2018 Toyota Camry L for all drivers and assumed 12,000 annual miles driven.
  • We analyzed rates for drivers 20 to 80 years old in five-year increments.

We used the same assumptions for all other driver profiles, with the following exceptions:

  • For drivers with minimum coverage, we adjusted the numbers above to reflect minimum required coverage by law in the state.
  • For drivers with one at-fault crash, we added a single at-fault crash that happened six months ago, resulting in $10,000 in property damage and no bodily injury claim.
  • For drivers with a DUI, we added a single drunken driving violation that happened six months ago.

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

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