California Car Insurance Guide Cover Image

10 Best Car Insurance Companies in California

Most of the car insurance California residents can get is quite expensive. The most prosperous state in the US, if it was independent, it would have been the 5th country in the world by GDP, behind Germany. California is also a trend-setter in the technology, fashion, and entertainment industries. Gorgeous beaches and numerous tourist resorts only add to its appeal and strong economy. Furthermore, California is the most populous US state and the 11th overall in terms of population density. All these factors lead to both higher costs behind running insurance businesses and the greater chances of accidents happening.

However, despite the high insurance costs in California, those looking for reasonably priced coverage have many high-quality alternatives to choose from. To help you find the best option, we ranked all the auto insurance companies in California. Our criteria took the quality of the customer service, affordability, financial strength, and the number of discounts and additional coverage options all into account.

Moreover, we provide a guide for each common customer group on how to get the most out of their coverage. Whether you are a high-risk driver, military member, or a senior citizen, you can find the best car insurance for you here.

Best Car Insurance Companies in California – 2019

  • Wawanesa Insurance – Overall Winner
  • Geico Insurance – Runner-up
  • USAA – Best for the Military
  • Progressive – Optimal for Young and High-Risk Drivers
  • Ameriprise – Best for Customer Service
  • AAA Club of California – Best for Extensive Benefits

Overall Winner: Wawanesa Insurance


Wawanesa is the most affordable insurer in LA, and it is the second most affordable option, after Progressive, in California’s other big cities. The difference between the prices of these two companies is almost negligible. Wawanesa is not an enterprise as big as Geico, Progressive, or State Farm, but it is clearly the best California automobile insurance company.

For starters, the company is the second-highest ranked insurer in J.D. Power’s 2018 customer satisfaction study for the California region. On top of that, Wawanesa offers a substantial number of useful discounts and additional coverage options. You can check them on Wawanesa’s good-looking and handy website.

On the other hand, Wawanesa is not as financially secure as the big players, but it’s A. M. Best rating is still a respectable A or “excellent.” This is one small chink in its otherwise pristine armor. In the end, the combination of all factors—especially since Wawanesa offers the cheapest car insurance in CA—makes this company simply the finest choice in California. Ignore it at your peril.


Wawanesa’s car insurance rating in California


Choose Wawanesa for excellent customer service and affordability.

Look elsewhere if you are looking for the best financial strength.

The Runner-up: Geico Insurance


Geico is one of the leading insurers in the US, and it’s also an excellent choice in California. In terms of customer service, it cannot compare to Ameriprise or Wawanesa, but it still gets decent ratings, scoring 3 out of 5 stars in J.D. Power’s study in California. Furthermore, the company’s NAIC ratio is way below the industry average, at 0.62. The lower the ratio, the fewer complaints the company gets.

Those looking for cheap auto insurance in California will be pleased to know that Geico lives up to its reputation as a low-cost insurer. Its prices are slightly higher than Progressive’s and Wawanesa’s, which makes it the third most affordable option in California.

What really sets Geico apart is its first-class financial strength. The company is owned by Berkshire Hathaway, which is one of the most accomplished and financially stable corporations in the US. This suggests Geico won’t be looking for excuses when the moment to pay any claims expenses arrives. On top of that, Geico’s website and mobile app are among the sleekest in the business. If you are looking for affordable car insurance in California, Geico deserves your attention.


Geico’s car insurance rating in California


Choose Geico for a great user experience, affordability, and the best financial strength.

Look elsewhere if you want the finest customer service.

The Best for the Military: USAA


Looking at its near-perfect marks in our expert rating, you might be wondering why USAA is not the best overall insurer in California. The answer is, only former and current US military members and their family members can get car insurance from USAA, so any California quotes will be issued to them alone.

However, if you qualify, we urge you to give this company a chance. It scores in the very top across all possible car insurance parameters. From a sleek website and a wide range of discounts and optional coverages to top-of-the-line customer service, superior financial strength, and affordable policies, you can count on USAA to deliver. If you can get their insurance, obtaining a USAA quote is a must.


USAA’s car insurance rating in California


Choose USAA for all parameters if you are eligible.

Look elsewhere if you are not a member of the US army or a family member.

The Best for Young and High-Risk Drivers: Progressive


Progressive offers some of the best low-cost car insurance California residents can get. The company is the cheapest option on the market, and it doesn’t inflate the prices for high-risk car insurance.

Furthermore, customer service is quite reliable, if not the best, and we like the company’s convenient online quoting system so much that we often use their quotes as the reference. If you want sleek user experience and dirt-cheap prices even if you are a risky driver, give Progressive a chance.


Progressive car insurance rating in California


Choose Progressive for cheap car insurance in CA, even for high-risk drivers.

Look elsewhere if you want the best customer service

The Best for Customer Service: Ameriprise


Ameriprise reigns supreme when it comes to the quality of its customer service; it is the sole insurer with a full 5-star rating in J.D. Power’s 2018 California study (USAA gets 5 stars too, but it has restricted availability). On top of that, it offers many discounts, benefits, and optional coverages to choose from.

However, as we noted in our Ameriprise review, such high-grade service comes at a price. Ameriprise insurance is about 20% more expensive for 40-year-old and 70-year-old drivers than the cheapest options (Wawanesa, Progressive, and Geico). Younger drivers in particular pay a high price; Ameriprise is around 90% more expensive for a 21-year-old driver. Nonetheless, new drivers looking for California auto insurance can save substantially with Ameriprise if they qualify for one of its many safety discounts.


Ameriprise car insurance rating in California


Choose Ameriprise for the highest-quality customer service, lots of discounts, good optional coverages, and other benefits.

Look elsewhere if you want affordable car insurance.

The Best for Extensive Benefits: AAA Club of California


AAA is actually an automotive club that also sells car insurance to its members. This means that you get all the perks of being a AAA member in addition to their solid car insurance. These include free emergency roadside assistance, travel vouchers, and discounts at over 100,000 shops, restaurants, and hotels in the US. The Classic package costs only $56 year, which is a small price to pay for all you’re getting.

On the other hand, AAA’s automobile insurance prices in California are above average in all of the seven big cities in our test. Furthermore, the financial strength of this company is only “A” or excellent, compared to the higher scores of Geico, State Farm, and Progressive.

Compensation for the high prices and mediocre financial strength comes in the form of excellent customer service: AAA is the third best company in J.D. Power’s 2018 California study. Buying insurance from any US company is a trade-off, but if AAA insurance sounds like your cup of tea, give it a chance.


AAA car insurance rating in California


Choose AAA for excellent customer service, extensive coverage.

Look elsewhere if you want affordable car insurance and top-notch financial strength.

Ratings of the Other Major California Insurance Companies

The Cheapest and Best
Car Insurance in California by City

We requested a quote for a 40-year-old male driver with a clean record from five different companies to determine which of the seven biggest cities in California has the best insurance prices. Our quote included full coverage limits.

Los Angeles

The city of Hollywood and the LA Lakers has, unsurprisingly, the highest insurance prices in California. The average premium in this town is $241, which is $58 more than the second most expensive city, Oakland. The City of Angels is the second most populous US city, with a prosperous economy that drives the wages and real estate prices up. Furthermore, California is the leading US state in auto theft. All these factors mean that auto insurance companies have to keep steep prices to stay afloat.

Car Insurance California Price Comparison - Los Angeles


Fortunately, the cheapest auto insurance companies in California are also very well rated, meaning you can save a couple of dollars and still get excellent service. The cheapest companies in LA are Progressive, Geico, and Wawanesa. The last one is also the best auto insurance company in California, but either of these three is a fine choice.

San Diego

Did you know that San Diego has to the 6th largest zoo in the world and it’s one of the rare zoos that breeds giant pandas? It is also the hometown of one of the most beloved children’s authors, Dr. Seuss.

Monthly Car Insurance Prices in San Diego, CA


San Diego has the cheapest average car insurance out of all the big cities in California, at $122. So, if you live in this town, looks like you’re in luck. Despite being the second most populous city in California, San Diego is one of the safest places in the United States, which explains the low insurance prices. Wawanesa, Geico, and Progressive—the usual suspects for the best auto insurance rates in California—are also the cheapest options in San Diego.

San Jose

Did you know that San Jose was once a capital of California? It was established as a farmer’s community. Local agriculturists grew pears, prunes, peaches, broccoli, and grapes. However, it later became an urban environment, and the city declared itself the “Capital of Silicon Valley” in 1988. Many tech giants, such as eBay, IBM, and Adobe are headquartered in San Jose.

Monthly Auto Insurance Prices in San Jose, CA


As far as car insurance rates are concerned, the average price of $127 in San Jose is only $5 higher than in San Diego, which is the cheapest big California city. Wawanesa is the best of the cheap car insurance companies in San Jose, California, because it offers the finest customer service out of all the affordable insurers.

San Francisco

Frisco has arguably the highest concentration of money and brains in the world. Companies such as AMD, Apple, Asus, Cisco, HP, Intel, NVidia, Facebook, eBay, Google, and Twitter are located in the City by the Bay. The Golden Gate City is also a center of liberal activism, being home to numerous countercultural movements since the Summer of Love in 1967.Monthly Car Insurance Prices in San Francisco, CA


The insurance prices in San Francisco are $3 below the national average, which is quite a surprise given how expensive the city is. This means that even the priciest option for the auto insurance California drivers want—which is State Farm at $213—is rather affordable for the majority of Cisco City’s inhabitants.

Fresno

Fresno translates to “ash tree” in Spanish, the symbol that’s also used on the city’s flag. Fresno’s residents enjoy its proximity to Yosemite National Park. It’s also home to one of the biggest raisin industries. The whole thing started by accident when grapes someone forgot to pick dried on the vine.

Monthly Auto Insurance Prices in Fresno CA


The rates in Fresno are below the average car insurance prices in California. Our top choices in this city would be Wawanesa and AAA, but we would also consider Geico and Progressive if we were a younger driver.

Sacramento

Sacramento is the capital of California and home to one of the most ridiculed teams in recent NBA history, Sacramento Kings. It is also the hipster center of the US and the country’s most diverse city according to the 2002 Harvard University Civil Rights Project.Monthly Car Insurance Costs in Sacramento, CA


As far as auto insurance rates are concerned, the average price is $152, which is quite similar to San Francisco. The cheapest auto insurance company in Sacramento, California, by far is Progressive, while Wawanesa, Geico, and AAA are also an excellent choice for those looking for affordable auto insurance.

Long Beach

Long Beach is all about the water. It’s home to the second biggest container port in the US and the Aquarium of the Pacifics, which has more than one million visitors per year. The famous RMS Queen Mary is anchored in Long Beach, where it functions as a restaurant.

Monthly Auto Insurance Prices in Long Beach, CA


The insurance prices in Long Beach are slightly above the above the California average. The cheap auto insurance in this part of California is from either Progressive or Wawanesa, while Geico and AAA offer prices closer to the national average.

Oakland

Oakland is home to the Golden State Warriors the current NBA champion, and the team that holds the record for the most wins in a regular season, at 73. The city’s name and its coat of arms represent an oak tree, which is quite common in this area. A lot of timber was extracted from these oak woods to build San Francisco.

Monthly Auto Insurance Expenses in Oakland, CA


Oakland is the second most expensive city for car insurance in California, with an average price of $183. The great news is that the prices of the most affordable companies, Wawanesa and Progressive, are not much different from the prices in the less expensive cities.

Minimum Auto Insurance Limits Required in California

You will be pleased to know that this state has the second lowest minimum coverage behind Florida, which helps bring down the prices of the car insurance California buyers are looking for. The minimum liability limits are $5,000 for property damage and $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident for bodily injury. And that is all that’s required by law. Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist, Medical Payments, Collision, and Comprehensive coverages are all optional. Nonetheless, if you are leasing a vehicle, a lender may require Collision or Comprehensive.

Settling for the minimum coverage may seem appealing to those looking for affordable auto insurance quotes in California. However, in case of an accident, you will likely have to pay large amounts of money out of your pocket.

California is a wealthy state, meaning there’s a significant number of expensive cars being driven around. Even a minor fender-bender can easily cost over $5,000, not to mention the impact of serious car accidents. Add any payments for medical expenses to that, and your wallet will suddenly feel like it’s on a diet. That’s why it’s smarter to increase your limits, especially since significantly better protection will cost you 15%–25% more, meaning you are definitely getting your money’s worth.

Discounts on Car Insurance in California

If you still having trouble finding the cheapest car insurance California drivers can buy, there’s no better remedy than investigating the many discounts out there. These are some of the most common:

Good Driver Discount – You can get up to 20% off your premium if you’ve been driving safely. To qualify, you must have a valid license for at least the last three years, no more than one minor accident in the same time period, and no convictions for DUIs or felonies in the previous ten years.

Good Student Discount – A young driver or a teen can qualify for this discount by having eight or fewer years of driving experience, being enrolled full-time in an approved academic institution, and by maintaining a GPA of 3.0 (B) or higher.

Bundle Discount – All the car insurance California providers offer include this discount in some way. If you’re insuring multiple vehicles or buying home and car insurance from the same company, you’re bound to get a discount.

California Deductible Waiver – Though not an actual discount, it’s still a useful feature. If you have collision coverage, you may qualify for this waiver. If you do, your insurance company will cover the collision deductible if an uninsured driver struck you.

Safety Features Discounts – Did you know that California is #1 in the US in car theft? We’re sure that the insurance companies calculated this into their premiums. That’s why having a factory-installed anti-theft system will make those prices more affordable. Even standard safety features like air-bags will get you a discount.

How Much Does Auto Insurance in California Cost?

The average  price of car insurance in California for a male 40-year-old driver with a clean record who owns a 2018 Honda Accord is $160. We based the average on a quote from five different companies in the seven biggest cities in California. Furthermore, we requested a quote for a 21-year-old, 40-year-old, and 70-year-old driver from eight different insurers in Los Angeles, and our average in that city is $241.

These prices are way above the national average, mainly due to California’s high living standards, high car-theft rate, and high population density. Nonetheless, the cheapest car insurance offered in California is still quite good, meaning you can get an excellent protection plan on a budget.

How to Find the Best Car Insurance in California

Unlike in New York and New Jersey, prize optimization is banned in the state of California. This means that insurance companies cannot sneak a few extra dollars into your premium if they estimate you’re a loyal customer.

One may think that in these circumstances it doesn’t pay to shop around, but this isn’t entirely true. So many individual factors determine your premium, from the company’s annual pricing plans to the tiniest details of your driver profile. To get the best and the cheapest car insurance in California, you will have to explore the market.

Conclusion:

Car insurance in California is quite expensive, but there are plenty of high-quality budget offers around. Three out of our six best companies in this state are also the most affordable insurers, indicating that more expensive doesn’t always mean better. In addition, it just so happens that the company that has the best car insurance in California overall, Wawanesa, is among the most affordable options in the state.

Nonetheless, one instance where it makes sense to pay extra is when choosing coverage limits. The minimum legal car insurance limits are quite low in California and provide insufficient protection. Purchasing broader coverage from an inexpensive company is only fractionally more expensive, but it significantly improves your financial security.

Together with purchasing higher limits, shopping around, and reading car insurance reviews is a no-brainer. So many individual factors influence the quality of insurance. Only by exploring the market can you be sure that you’re getting the best coverage for your profile.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is auto insurance expensive in California?

Yes. Most of the auto insurance California residents can buy is among the most expensive in the US, at $160 per month on average for a 40-year-old driver on the state level. The high car theft rates, individual wages, and real estate prices, along with the high population density, spike the insurance prices.

Consider choosing affordable companies like Progressive, Geico, and Wawanesa to save on California car insurance. Furthermore, try getting discounts like Good Driver, Safety Features, and Good Student to decrease your premium even further (If you are a young adult, check our guide for college students to save even more).

2. How much is full coverage car insurance in California?

We acquired a quote for 2018 Honda Accord EX 4D, with the liability limits of $50,000/$100,000. Furthermore, we purchased the basic personal injury protection plan, together with $5,000 in MedPay. On top of that, we added comprehensive and collision coverages, with $500 deductibles each.  Our planned use was regular travel, with 10,000 miles covered annually.

We requested the same car insurance quotes in California from multiple companies, as well as for different age categories. Our total average is $160 per month. The Progressive insurance premium for a 40-year-old driver in San Diego was the cheapest, at $90 a month, while State Farm insurance for a 21-year-old driver in LA was the most expensive, at $487 a month.

3. Which is the best auto insurance in California?

Per our analysis, the best car insurance company for the majority of drivers is Wawanesa. It offers super affordable prices, coupled with rock-solid customer service. The only better option in California is USAA; however, that company only sells insurance to former and current military members and their families. Geico, Progressive, Ameriprise, and AAA are also worthwhile options.

Remember, numerous factors influence your final premium. The more you shop around, the better the chances of finding the best coverage for you are. For starters, getting quotes from these five companies is a no-brainer.

4. What car insurance is required in California?

Auto insurance laws in California are quite forgiving. The only mandatory insurance is liability, with the limits of $5,000 for property damage, and $15,000 per person/$30,000 per accident for bodily injury. However, we would strongly urge anybody capable to get higher limits and broader coverage. It costs 10%–20% more annually, but it provides more reliable protection if an accident happens—no more worrying about paying for damages out of your pocket.

5. How much is car insurance in California for new drivers?

The kind of car insurance California residents can buy is predictably more expensive for newer drivers than the same protection plan for a more experienced driver. Our average from the seven biggest companies in LA is $340 per month for a 21-year-old driver, compared to $192 per month for a 40-year-old driver with the same vehicle and same protection plan. Nonetheless, there are ways to lower that large premium. Consider choosing a company that’s more welcoming to high-risk drivers, like Progressive, or an insurer that offers certified courses for young drivers, like State Farm.

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