Auto insurance rates in California are among the most expensive in the nation, on average, but costs vary widely between different cities and insurers. Our team analyzed cost data to provide drivers in California with better information in their search to find affordable car insurance quotes from the best-rated companies.
Our analysis found that, depending on where you live, the cost of insuring a car can range by over a thousand dollars between companies. This is why, to get low rates, consumers should shop around and compare quotes. Enter your zip code above now to compare auto insurance rates among top U.S. insurers in your area, or read more by jumping directly to each section in our study.
Cheapest Auto Insurance Companies
Best Car Insurance Rates: by City
Best Car Insurance in California
Average Cost of Auto Insurance: by City
Minimum Auto Insurance Requirements
Cheapest Auto Insurance in California
We averaged rates for single 30 year old male, with a clean driving record across 142 cities in California to arrive at annual premiums by company. Here are the top ten car insurance companies with the best rates in the Golden State, in order from lowest to highest.
Cheapest Car Insurance in California: By City
We reviewed auto insurance quotes for thirty driver profiles and forty companies in the largest cities to report on the insurers with the lowest and most affordable rates. Even in some of the most expensive cities such as Glendale, Inglewood, and Los Angeles, cheap car insurance can be found if you know where to look.
Car Insurance in Los Angeles, CA
The cheapest car insurance rates in Los Angeles were found at GEICO, Century National and Nationwide. Car insurance in LA can cost on average $2,257 for a 30 year old male, making it the second most expensive city in our study. However, if you go with quotes from our five cheapest companies in LA, then rates are about 30% cheaper than the average. Here are rates for the top five.
This graph shows the five auto insurance companies with the lowest annual rates for our Los Angeles drivers
Within L.A. county rates can change dramatically. Even jumping one or two zip codes over within Los Angeles can make a difference for Angelenos. Moving the primary garage or parking spot from Long Beach to Walnut, for example, can reduce annual car insurance premiums by $259 for a 30 year old male. Overall the average rate of L.A. county is $1,780, with 25% of cities having rates under $1,700 for our sample driver. Overall, Walnut is the cheapest at $1,483 and Los Angeles proper the most expensive at $2,257.
Car Insurance in San Diego, CA
With 1.3 million residents, America’s Finest City is home to the University of California at San Diego system, as well as a number of naval bases. Cheap car insurance rates can be found at GEICO, Nationwide, State Farm, Grange Insurance Association and Progressive. Across these five insurers, annual rates cost as low as $1,446 on average, compared to $1,950 city-wide average. Below are rates for the top five companies.
Our graph shows how the top five cheapest auto insurance companies in San Diego stack up to the citywide average.
Car Insurance in San Jose, CA
Drivers looking for low car insurance costs in San Jose should start with quotes from GEICO, Nationwide and Century National. The mean annual premium from these three insurers was $1,163 based on our data, which is about 49% cheaper than the overall average in San Jose. Citywide, the cost of car insurance is about $1,731 a year, which places the Capital of Silicon Valley at the 93rd cheapest spot in our survey of Californian cities.
We averaged quotes across multiple carriers and found that these car insurers had the five cheapest rates.
Car Insurance in San Francisco, CA
To get the cheapest car insurance rates in San Francisco, start with Century National, GEICO, Nationwide, Grange and State Farm. In aggregate, these companies charge an average of $1,288 a year to insure a car in San Francisco — about 32% less than the city average. Overall, the Golden Gate City was the 55th most expensive city in California. With over 963 miles of public roads and the beautiful 49-Mile Scenic Drive, there is a lot of territory for San Fran’s 805,000 residents to drive.
This graph highlights the five companies with the best car insurance rates in SF and compares them to the citywide mean.
Car Insurance in Fresno, CA
Fresno’s 495,000 residents are just a short day trip’s drive of less than 80 miles from Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We found the most affordable car insurance rates in Fresno at GEICO, Nationwide and State Farm. Across those three insurers, the mean price was $1,085 for our sample 30 year old driver. This amount represents a 46% discount to the average Fresno rate. Rates for the top five cheap insurers are as follows:
This bar chart shows the five lowest auto insurance rates for our Fresno driver
Car Insurance in Long Beach, CA
If you’re looking for cheap auto insurance in Long Beach, we direct your attention to quotes at Nationwide, Century National and GEICO. These companies had the lowest rates for Long Beach in our data with an average rate of $1,256; a 39% difference from the citywide average of $1,742. The top five cheapest insurers in Long Beach are:
This image has the five least expensive car insurers in Long Beach based on our quote analysis.
Car Insurance in Sacramento, CA
Once the center of the California Gold Rush and the westernmost end of the Pony Express, Sacramento today is the capital of California, and its average cost of insurance reflects that. Within the city, Nationwide, Century National and GEICO had the lowest auto insurance costs. In aggregate, the three companies had an average quote of $1,001 ,or 30% cheaper than the Sactown average. The graph below has rates from Sactown’s five cheapest companies:
Here are the five companies with the least expensive auto insurance rates in Sacramento, CA.
Car Insurance in Oakland, CA
With a population of 391,000, Oaktown is California’s eight largest city. With an average rate of $1,408 for our sample driver, Oakland was 12th cheapest city in the entire state. We found the cheapest car insurance rates in Oakland at Century National, Nationwide and GEICO. In total,annual premiums in Oakland at these three companies averaged $943 – 49% lower than the overall cost in the city. Here are the average rates for the five cheapest companies in Oakland:
The five most affordable auto insurance companies in Oakland are shown in this graph.
Car Insurance in Bakersfield, CA
The most affordable rates in Bakersfield, CA can be found at Nationwide, GEICO and Century National according to our data. With an overall city auto insurance average of $1,526, the city ranks as the 39th cheapest in California. However, going with the four cheapest insurers in the city gave our driver a better rate than the average in California’s cheaper cities. The top five companies in Bakersfield are:
Here are the five Bakersfield companies that quoted the cheapest rates for our driver.
Car Insurance in Anaheim, CA
Home to Disneyland, the Anaheim Ducks hockey team, and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, drivers in this L.A. neighbor city will find the least expensive rates at GEICO, Nationwide and Century National. These three insurers charge an average of $1,239 a year for auto insurance— about 42% less than Anaheim’s citywide cost of $1,760. Here are rates from the top five auto insurers in Anaheim:
The companies in Anaheim with the best rates for insuring our Toyota Camry are displayed in this graph.
Best Car Insurance Companies in California
For Californians, the cheapest car insurance company may not be the best. Certain companies are better for certain types of drivers, so we discuss some insurance companies that may be better for you—depending on your circumstances.
Best For… Car Insurance Company
Customer Satisfaction Ameriprise
Low-Mileage Drivers Metromile
Military Members USAA
As we mention above, Nationwide was the best company in California for cheap car insurance. The large auto insurer even bested typically cheap insurers like GEICO and Progressive. In most cities that we surveyed in the Golden State, Nationwide was the go-to company for low cost rates. In terms of the company’s customer satisfaction however, Nationwide is only mediocre according to the 2016 J.D. Power auto insurance study of California. Nationwide scored mostly 3/5 stars in most categories including interaction with agents, and their method of billing. They did score 4/5 stars however when it came to the claims handling process
Ameriprise was the winner of the 2016 J.D. Power study, scoring a 5/5 stars overall. They got top marks in their billing practices and in the flexibility of policies they offer to customers. They had slightly lower marks in their claims handling process (4/5) as well as their agents’ interaction with customers. We could not get pricing for Ameriprise but the company is generally known for offering affordable and competitive rates.
Metromile is a newcomer to auto insurance in California. The small car insurer bases its rates largely on how often its customers driver by charging them a rate per mile. The rate is usually in between $0.10 and $0.20. In addition to the rate they also charge a base premium. We found people who drive less than 7,500 miles a year would benefit the most from Metromile. Anything above 7,500 miles begins to cost just as much as regular insurance. The downside to Metromile is that they do not have a great record of customer satisfaction and claims handling. This likely stems from the company being mostly online and not having an agent network.
If you are or were in the military, or if your spouse or parents were, you are eligible for USAA car insurance. USAA scores five out five stars across the board for customer satisfaction in California. Customers of the military company are apparently very satisfied with how they handle claims, interact with customers and the number of policies they offer.
The Best Rated Auto Insurers in California
Using complaint and exposure data from the California Department of Insurance, we calculated the justified complaint ratio for auto insurance companies in California. We’ve listed them from the best (lowest complaint index) to the worst (highest complaint index). If a company has an index of 1.05, then that means it has a 5% higher share of complaints compared to its share of underwriting exposure.
Auto Insurance in California: Minimum Coverage Requirements
California requires that car insurance policies have at least bodily injury liability and property damage liability coverages of the limits below:
Bodily Injury (BI): $15,000 per person / $30,000 per accident
Property Damage (PD): $5,000 per accident
While the above is the lowest amount of insurance coverage you can have, you should consider adding more if you have more to lose. For example, we typically advise drivers to match their liability coverage to what they have in total assets. If you own a house in one of the most expensive zip codes in California, Atherton, and have sizable savings and investment accounts, we’d recommend you increase your liability limits and consider adding umbrella coverage on top. On the other hand, if you’re a first-year student at UCLA, you may be fine with liability limits that are closer to the minimums.
How We Conducted This Study
We collected quotes from a variety of insurance companies across 142 towns and cities in California. Our sample driver was a 30 year old male who drove a Toyota Camry. To obtain quotes, we kept parameters for getting coverage the same, such as that he was single, had a good credit score and a clean driving record. The only parameter that changed was the zip code where he lived in California. The amount of coverage we opted for gave our driver bit more than what is required of state minimums.
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 the cheapest auto insurance option for every driver type listed above except retired drivers. 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.
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.
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. 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.