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Best Car Insurance in California for 2024

Updated
Christy Bieber
Dana George
By: Christy Bieber and Dana George

Our Insurance Experts

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that compensate us. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.

While the cost of auto insurance in California may feel sky-high, the average policy premium falls below the national average. In addition, young drivers and drivers with a speeding ticket on their record pay considerably less than they would pay for auto insurance coverage in many other states.

Below, we'll analyze the best car insurance in California and break down what you need to know to make the best auto insurance decisions.

Best auto insurance in California:

  • Best overall: Wawanesa
  • Best budget pick: Wawanesa
  • Best for typical drivers: Wawanesa
  • Best for customer satisfaction: Wawanesa
  • Best for minimum coverage: Geico
  • Best for military veterans: Wawanesa
  • Best for teen drivers: Wawanesa
  • Best for drivers with one speeding ticket: USAA

Best car insurance in California overall: Wawanesa

Unless you're a policyholder, you may never have heard of Wawanesa Mutual, and that's okay. There are a whole lot of insurance companies out there vying for attention. Wawanesa started out in Canada in 1896, but did not expand into California until 1975. Nearly 49 years later, Wawanesa can fairly be called the best overall auto insurer in the state.

As you'll notice throughout this list, the company manages to beat all competitors in most categories. What's more, it doesn't rise to the top based on a single issue but somehow manages to offer the lowest rates and earn the highest customer satisfaction ratings.

Wawanesa

Logo for Wawanesa
Wawanesa
Rating image, 3.50 out of 5 stars.
3.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Best budget pick: Wawanesa

The average policyholder in California pays an annual premium of $2,754. The average Wawanesa policyholder pays an annual premium of $1,673. That's a savings of 39%. As you shop for a new policy, you may also want to take a closer look at these companies:

  • Mercury, with an average annual rate of $1,867
  • USAA, offering military members and their families an average rate of $2,034
  • Geico, with an average annual premium of $2,174

Best for typical drivers: Wawanesa

Because Wawanesa wins out in so many categories, it seems the natural choice for the typical California driver. However, if you have a teen driver in your household or a speeding ticket on your driving record, Mercury and USAA should also be on your short list of companies to call.

Best for customer satisfaction: Wawanesa

For the fourth year in a row, Wawanesa was named No. 1 in customer satisfaction for auto insurers and best in price by J.D. Power.

Best for minimum coverage: Geico

By law, California drivers must be able to provide proof of insurance. For those drivers seeking a minimum coverage policy, Geico offers an average rate of $382. USAA comes in second place with an average rate of $470.

Award Icon 2024 Award Winner

Geico

Logo for Geico
Best for price conscious consumersGeico
Rating image, 4.50 out of 5 stars.
4.50/5 Circle with letter I in it. Our ratings are based on a 5 star scale. 5 stars equals Best. 4 stars equals Excellent. 3 stars equals Good. 2 stars equals Fair. 1 star equals Poor. We want your money to work harder for you. Which is why our ratings are biased toward offers that deliver versatility while cutting out-of-pocket costs.
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Best for military veterans: Wawanesa

It's easy to assume that USAA -- a company dedicated to military members and their families -- always offers the best rates and service to military veterans. However, according to the J.D. Power study, Wawanesa once again offers the lowest rates and highest level of customer service.

If you're a USAA member, you may score a lower rate by bundling your auto policy with other types of coverage, like homeowners, so it's certainly worth investigating. Another company you'll want to consider is Geico and its 15% discount for military households.

Best for teen drivers: Wawanesa

It can be shockingly expensive to insure a young driver. In fact, nationwide, the average annual rate runs $6,291 before discounts. Wawanesa's average rate is $2,321. The important thing about finding a low rate is that it gives you more wiggle room. You want a young driver to be covered by the most comprehensive -- but affordable -- coverage available.

Best for drivers with one speeding ticket: USAA

Getting caught speeding is bad enough, but you'll likely pay a higher insurance premium for at least three years until the ticket falls off your driving record. Once an insurer sees that you have a speeding ticket on your record, it will be concerned that you'll get another or may even get into an accident. USAA is the most forgiving California insurance company we could find, with an average rate of $1,840 for drivers with one speeding ticket. Close behind is Mercury Insurance, with an average rate of $2,022.

How much does car insurance cost in California?

The exact cost of your auto insurance depends on several factors, including your age, driving record, and vehicle type. On average, the cost to insure a vehicle in California runs $2,754 annually, 9% lower than the average national rate of $3,017.

Average car insurance cost

Here, we break down the average monthly and annual premiums for a variety of common driver personas in California:

Persona Average Monthly Premium Average Annual Premium
Overall $230 $2,754
Drivers with Clean Records $182 $2,179
Drivers with One Accident $272 $3,269
Drivers with One Speeding Ticket $247 $2,960
Drivers with One DUI $457 $5,480
Teen Drivers $381 $4,572
Senior Drivers $157 $1,882
Military Veterans $166 $1,987
Drivers Seeking Minimum Coverage $53 $640
Data source: Quadrant data.

All California drivers must carry auto insurance. Failure to do so is punishable by a $100 to $200 fine, plus additional state assessments and fees. If the same driver is ticketed another time for driving without insurance within three years of the first infraction, the fine jumps to between $200 and $500. In addition, the court can order the driver's vehicle impounded.

What is the minimum car insurance required in California?

The minimum liability insurance requirements in California are as follows:

  • $15,000 for injury or death to one person
  • $30,000 for injury or death to more than one person
  • $5,000 for damage to property

Other things to consider when looking for car insurance in California

As opposed to the "no-fault" system many other states operate under, California operates under a "fault" system. In other words, if you're involved in an accident that is your fault, you or your insurers must cover the damages. If the accident was caused by the other driver, that driver or their insurer must cover the damages.

The fact that California is a "fault" state makes it doubly important to call law enforcement if you're involved in an accident. Even if the other driver offers to pay you in cash or begs you not to call, you need a third party to record who was at fault. Your insurance company will want a copy of this police report.

How to find the best car insurance in California

These tips can help you land the best coverage at a price you can afford.

Shop around

No two auto insurance companies are alike. Each company measures risks differently, and their rates reflect those differences. If the first company you contact scares you off with its high rates, don't assume they will all be the same.

Take advantage of discounts

Often overlooked, car insurance discounts can save you hundreds of dollars a year. For example, you may score discounts for the safety features on your car, for being a loyal customer, or for driving with a clean record for a specific number of years.

Choose a higher deductible

Your deductible is the amount you must pay toward a claim before your insurance company kicks in to pay the remainder. Typically, the higher the deductible you agree to pay, the lower your premium. Taking the time to build an emergency fund you can pull from in case of an accident or other claim makes it easier to cover your portion of the bill.

FAQs

  • Anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car in California is legally required to be covered by auto insurance. Failure to do so can result in fines and vehicle impounding.

  • If you are ticketed for failure to carry car insurance, the infraction is punishable by a $100 to $200 fine, plus additional assessments and fees. Subsequent infractions for failure to carry insurance result in fees from $200 to $500.

  • Wawanesa tops our list this year, but that doesn't mean it's right for every household or situation. For example, if you're in the military, you may be better off with USAA. Mercury Insurance may be your best bet if you have a speeding ticket on your record.

Our Insurance Experts