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California requires car insurance for all registered vehicles. Knowing the specific type of insurance required will ensure you avoid fines and penalties, stay safe while driving, and find the best coverage possible. Continue reading below for an overview of California car insurance and driver safety.

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Average cost of car insurance in California

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) lists the average annual expenditure for car insurance in the state as $782.63.

They broke this figure down to:

$464.53 is the average annual liability insurance expenditure.

$361.24 is the average annual collision insurance expenditure.

$97.67 is the average annual comprehensive insurance expenditure.

Young Drivers in California

Our study found the average car insurance premiums for a young driver living in CA:

  • $1423 for state minimum coverage1,
  • $2517 for basic full coverage2 and
  • $3864 for premium full coverage3.

Premiums are determined and can vary depending on the city you live in. Expect the premiums to increase when applying as a novice driver, nonetheless we found that San Jose provided one of the cheapest quotes for all three types of coverages for a young driver.

Female Drivers in California

A 35-year-old female in CA can reasonably pay for car insurance. On average women can expect to pay around:

  • $525 for state minimum coverage,
  • $1221 for basic full coverage and
  • $1861 for premium full coverage.

According to our research, San Jose tops the list again as the city that offers one of the cheapest rates for an adult female driver and a young driver.

Senior Drivers in California

We used a 68-year-old male driver profile with 45 years of driving experience in our case study (read more about our methodology4 below). In CA, senior drivers with a clean driving experience can project to pay an average of:

  • $491 for state minimum coverage,
  • $1096 for basic full coverage and
  • $1662 for premium full coverage.

Minimum car insurance requirements

All registered cars are required to have insurance in California. The easiest and cheapest way to meet these requirements is with liability insurance.


There are certain minimums your liability insurance must meet in California. These are $15,000/$30,000 for bodily injury/death and $5,000 for property damage.

Many California drivers choose to go above and beyond the minimum requirements for car insurance. Investing in comprehensive coverage, collision coverage, medical and funeral services coverage, uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, rental car coverage, and towing and labor coverage are additional options.

California also have excellent programs in place to help low-income drivers find discounts on car insurance.

It’s important to note that California isn’t a no-fault car insurance state. You must be found legally responsible for an accident before you or your insurance provider are required to pay for damages.

Violations and penalties 

The car insurance laws in California are taken very seriously. Those caught driving without the proper coverage will face serious penalties.

California differentiates between those caught without car insurance in a traffic stop versus a collision. Those found to be without insurance in a collision will face even harsher penalties.

First-offenders caught during a traffic stop receive a $100 to $200 fine. This fine goes up to $200 to $500 for subsequent offenses.

First-offenders caught after a collision receive a $100 to $200 fine plus a one-year suspension of their license. Subsequent offenders will receive a $200 to $500 fine plus a possible four-year suspension of their license. 

Driving safety in California

96% of drivers and front-seat passengers in California wear seatbelts, compared to the 86% national average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Driving safety in California is further explored by the National Highway Safety Administration with a study that shows 914 of California’s 3,176 total driving fatalities in 2015 were caused by alcohol impaired driving. That’s 29% of the total.

The total vehicle occupant death rate in California for driving fatalities is 4.2 per 100,000 residents, according to another CDC study.

Final thoughts

Liability car insurance helps you stay safe and avoid penalties in California. Consider adding additional coverage for even more on-road protection.

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licensed drivers in California, 2014
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privately insured vehicles in California

Source: StatistaInsurance Information Institute

1State minimum coverage includes the minimum liability insurance limits required in your state but excludes the following:
  • No Collision and Comprehensive Coverage
  • No Towing Coverage
  • No Rental Car Coverage
  • No Full Glass Coverage
2Basic full coverage includes:
  • $50,000 Bodily Injury Liability Per Person/$100,000 Per Accident
  • $25,000 Property Damage Liability
  • $50,000 Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage Per Person/$100,000 Per Accident
  • $25,000 Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage
  • $750 Deductible Collision And Comprehensive Coverage
  • $50 Towing Coverage
  • No Rental Reimbursement Coverage
  • No Full Glass Coverage
3Premium full coverage includes:
  • $250,000 Bodily Injury Liability Per Person / $500,000 Per Accident
  • $100,000 Property Damage Liability
  • $250,000 Uninsured Motorist Bodily Injury Coverage Per Person / $500,000 Per Accident
  • $100,000 Uninsured Motorist Property Damage Coverage
  • $250 Deductible Comprehensive Coverage And No Deductible Collision Coverage
  • $75 Towing Coverage
  • $30/day Rental Reimbursement, Max Of $900
  • Full Glass Coverage
4Methodology: To achieve accurate results we obtained estimates for 10 cities in the state: 5 of the largest cities and 5 randomly picked smaller cities. For each city, we collected premiums for 3 levels of coverage: state minimum coverage, basic full coverage and premium full coverage. We used 3 different driver profiles for the case studies. For the young driver profile we used a 20-year-old single male or female with 1 year driving experience. Second, the profile fit that of a 35-year-old married female with 12 years of driving experience. The last profile we used in our studies is a male senior driver who was 68-year-old with 45 years of driving experience. The vehicle we used for all three driver profiles was a 2012 Honda Accord EX.
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