Best Car Insurance in California

Get coverage without breaking the bank

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At an average cost of $80 per month, insuring your vehicle in California isn’t cheap. But getting in an accident without proper coverage can be even more disastrous for your finances, potentially leaving you responsible for tens of thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs.

To help you find the right insurance at the best price, we’ve identified the state’s six best auto insurers based on your personal needs and budget. Whether you’re looking for a cheap basic policy or full coverage for the whole family, you’ll find a solution here.

Our review of California car insurance companies began with 22 contenders, which we reviewed thoroughly and narrowed down to six category winners. Each provider was chosen for its excellence in cost, value, service, coverage options, and more.

The Best Car Insurance in California for 2021

Best Overall : Metromile


Metromile

Metromile uses technology to make insurance more convenient and affordable. It’s the best option for California drivers across the board.

Pros
  • Extremely low rates

  • Only pay for the miles you actually drive

  • Convenient smartphone app

Cons
  • Fluctuating monthly premiums are hard to budget for

  • Can be expensive for long-distance commuters

  • Requires installing a monitoring device in your car

California has no shortage of reputable auto insurers, but Metromile stands out from the crowd thanks to its affordable and convenient usage-based policies. This type of insurance allows you to only pay for the miles you actually drive, often saving money in the process. Metromile tracks mileage using a small device called the Pulse which only takes a few minutes to self-install in your vehicle.

Like any other auto insurer, Metromile considers information such as your age and driving history to assess risk and determine your rate. But instead of charging a flat monthly premium, Metromile gives customers a per-mile rate that is multiplied by the total mileage for the month. Based on the quotes we obtained, this comes down to around $52 per month for minimum coverage and $180 for full coverage—around 30% below the average rates we got from competitors.

Those who love technology will also be happy with Metromile’s smartphone app, which lets you access data from the Pulse device and track your mileage. It’s also easy to file a claim through the app by completing a quick form and uploading photos. If you’d rather get help from a real person, Metromile customer service representatives are available by phone and live chat.

As you might imagine, those who drive less stand to save most with Metromile. To help give you a better idea of how much you’d pay, the company offers a Ride Along program that lets you test drive the technology before becoming a customer. All you need to do is download the Metromile app and complete a 17-day driving period to be given a more accurate quote.

Best Full Coverage : Wawanesa


Wawanesa

Wawanesa

Wawanesa’s affordable full coverage policies come with best-in-class customer service, making it the easy winner in this category.

Pros
  • Top rated in customer service

  • Affordable premiums

  • Operates a 24-hour claims hotline

Cons
  • Not many discounts

  • No mobile app

  • Doesn’t accept drivers with multiple traffic violations

If you’re looking for more than California’s mandatory bodily injury and property damage liability coverage, Wawanesa is our go-to pick. The insurer offers nine optional coverages in addition to state liability requirements with plenty of deductibles and limits to choose from. Their straightforward online quote tool makes it easy to select and purchase a customized policy.

Auto insurance from Wawanesa comes at an extremely affordable price. We were quoted $161 per month for a full coverage policy that included bodily injury and property damage liability, comprehensive, collision, uninsured/underinsured motorist, medical payments, and rental car reimbursement. That’s about one-third lower than the average quote we received from competitors.

On top of its low prices, Wawanesa is also highly regarded for outstanding customer service. Drivers can file a claim 24/7 over the phone or by submitting a report online. Customers seem to appreciate the convenience; Wawanesa took first place in J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Auto Insurance Satisfaction Study for the state of California.

As a smaller local insurer, Wawanesa doesn’t have quite as many resources as its larger competitors. The company has yet to offer a smartphone app and offers fewer discounts than others. You should also be aware that Wawanesa has high standards for its drivers and won’t accept you if you’ve had more than one traffic violation or at-fault accident in the past three years.

Best Minimum Coverage : Safeco


Safeco

Safeco

Drivers on a budget will find Safeco to be the best minimum coverage option in California thanks to low premiums and additional opportunities to save.

Pros
  • One of the lowest rates for minimum coverage

  • Fast and convenient electronic claims filing

  • Get cash back for staying claim-free

Cons
  • Only sold through independent agents

  • Safe driving rewards program not available in California

  • Mobile app receives poor reviews among Android users

Carrying the bare minimum coverage isn’t always the best choice, but if you’re strapped for cash and need to keep expenditures to a minimum, Safeco is the way to go. Our sample driver was quoted just $65 per month for basic coverage in California, with the state’s liability requirements of $15,000 per person and $30,000 per accident for bodily injury and $5,000 for property damage.

Keep in mind that this is simply the bare minimum required by law and won’t be sufficient for everyone, particularly those with more assets. We found that Safeco’s rates remain low even when raising limits, so don’t be afraid to check pricing for various coverage levels when getting a quote.

Safeco also gives drivers the ability to further reduce premiums by staying safe on the road. For every year that you go without a claim for an at-fault accident, Safeco will write you a check for up to 5% of your annual premium. Unfortunately, Safeco’s more advanced safe driving program, RightTrack, isn’t available in California.

If you need to file a claim, you can do so in under 10 minutes through Safeco’s website or by downloading their smartphone app. While the app gets great reviews from iPhone users, its 3.4-star average rating in the Google Play store suggests that those who own an Android may have trouble.

Best for High-Risk Drivers : The General


The General

The General

If driving infractions have sent your auto insurance rate through the roof, The General is the best and most affordable solution in California.

Pros
  • Rates stay low after multiple infractions

  • Offers SR-22 certificates

  • Well-rated smartphone app

Cons
  • Not the most affordable option for good drivers

  • Live chat isn’t monitored by representatives

  • 10% penalty for canceling before the end of your policy term

Drivers who have accumulated multiple tickets, at-fault accidents, or DUIs typically see their insurance rates skyrocket—if they can find coverage at all. The General is California’s most forgiving insurer for high-risk drivers with more than one traffic violation or at-fault accident in the past three years. Our test driver with two recent infractions was quoted $252 per month for standard coverage, about half the average price we saw from other insurers. If you need an SR-22 certificate, The General can help with that, too.

While The General has received complaints regarding poor customer service in the past, the company has recently made a visible effort toward improvement. The main customer service phone number will get you to a live human six days per week and a 24-hour hotline is available anytime you need to file a claim. Claims can also be filed via The General’s smartphone app, which receives overwhelmingly positive reviews in both the App Store and Google Play. However, we were disappointed to learn that The General’s advertised live chat is nothing more than a chatbot with no option to connect with a representative.

Drivers with a clean record won’t find exorbitantly high rates with The General, but there are certainly better options out there from insurers with better incentives for safe driving. If you do sign up with The General due to recent infractions, you may want to think about shopping around again once you’ve cleaned up your record.

Best for Teen Drivers : State Farm


State Farm

 State Farm

Insuring your teen doesn’t have to break the bank with State Farm, the best auto insurer for new licensees in California.

Pros
  • Affordable rates for teens

  • Multiple discounts for young drivers

  • Great customer service ratings

Cons
  • High premiums for single adults

  • Hard to get a quote

  • Customer experience varies by agent

Aside from safety, one of the main concerns for parents of teen drivers is the cost of insurance. State Farm is the best insurer in California for families with a new licensee, with affordable rates and discount programs geared specifically toward young drivers.

Our sample California family, which consists of a married couple with a newly licensed teen, was quoted $459 per month for standard coverage with State Farm, an increase of $174 over their previous rate. To put this into perspective, most other insurers hiked premiums anywhere between $250 and $500 per month to add a teen driver. Some charged even more.

In addition to offering low premiums to teen drivers, State Farm also has a few initiatives in place to help new licensees save even more. The insurer offers discounts of 10% to 15% for those who complete an approved safe driving course. Students who maintain a B average or better in school can earn savings up to 25%. If the student is away at college and not driving regularly, State Farm will often lower their premium even further.

The one downside is that these low rates don’t last forever. The quote we received from State Farm for a single adult was higher than average, which means your teen will probably need to shop around for a better rate when they’re ready to purchase their own policy.

Best for Frontline Workers : California Casualty


California Casualty

California Casualty

California Casualty is the best auto insurer for nurses, teachers, firefighters, and other essential service providers, offering special rates and benefits unavailable to the general public.

Pros
  • Low-cost tailored coverage for essential workers

  • Bundling discount with homeowners or renters insurance

  • Option to pay premiums as a payroll deduction

Cons
  • Only available to a few specific professions

  • Few digital tools

  • Low tolerance for driving infractions

Frontline workers like educators and emergency responders are often underpaid despite providing essential services to the community. California Casualty seeks to help offset financial strain by lowering the cost of auto coverage for these professionals. When asking for quotes, we were offered basic coverage for just $51 per month and full coverage for $174 per month, about 30% below average rates.

As a further incentive, some employers may provide the option to pay your California Casualty premiums as a pre-tax payroll deduction. This applies not only to auto insurance but also homeowners and renters insurance, which can be bundled together at a discount.

California Casualty also offers a few specific coverages that can be particularly beneficial to certain professionals. For example, firefighters and police officers can elect firearms coverage and fallen hero survivor benefits. Nurses and teachers, on the other hand, may be eligible for deductible waivers.

Since California Casualty is a smaller insurance company, you won’t find advanced digital tools like a smartphone app, although web chat is available during limited hours. The company also has an extremely low tolerance for driving infractions such as speeding tickets and at-fault accidents. According to the quotes we were given, California Casualty more than doubles drivers’ premiums after two infractions in a three-year period.

Final Verdict

California drivers have dozens of options to choose from when it comes time to insure their vehicles. Across the board, Metromile was able to offer our sample drivers the best rates while also providing the convenience of digital tools. But there may be a better option for you based on your driving history and the type of coverage you need.

If your record is less than spotless, make sure to ask for a quote from The General, which tends to be more forgiving of multiple driving infractions. Families who need coverage for a newly licensed teen should check with State Farm, which offers competitive rates and helps young drivers develop long-term safe driving habits.

Compare Providers

Insurance Company Why We Picked It Key Benefit
Metromile Best Overall Only pay for the miles you drive
Wawanesa Best Full Coverage Great rates and service
Safeco Best Minimum Coverage Lowest price for basic coverage
The General Best for High-Risk Drivers Affordable coverage after multiple infractions
State Farm Best for Teen Drivers Programs and discounts for teens
California Casualty Best for Frontline Workers Tailored coverage for essential workers

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Coverage Do You Need in California?

California’s automobile financial responsibility laws require drivers to carry at least $15,000 per passenger and $30,000 per accident in bodily injury liability, plus $5,000 in property damage liability. If you finance your vehicle, your lender probably also requires you to have comprehensive and collision coverage. Many lease companies require at least $100,000 per passenger and $300,000 per accident with $100,000 in property damage in liability coverage. 

Are There Low-Income Insurance Options In California?

Drivers who can’t afford a standard auto insurance policy can purchase state minimum coverage at a lower premium. We found that Metromile and Safeco offered the best rates for basic policies in California.

How Much Is California Car Insurance?

Data from the Insurance Information Institute suggests that drivers pay an average of $80 per month for auto insurance in California. We found that rates varied widely depending on your driving history and the type of coverage you purchase. For example, the average quote we received for full coverage was $240 per month, and the rate for a high-risk driver was $486 per month on average.

How We Chose the Best Car Insurance Providers in California

We chose the best car insurance in California based on detailed research of 22 major insurers in the state. Our study looked at the types of insurance available, comparing pricing for both basic and full-coverage policies with each company. We also evaluated customer service by interacting with each provider directly and analyzing third-party data for customer satisfaction. Rates provided are for a single adult insuring a Honda Accord in Sacramento, California, unless otherwise noted.

Article Sources

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. Insurance Information Institute. "Facts + Statistics: Auto Insurance." Accessed February 5, 2021.

  2. J.D. Power. "Auto Insurance Websites Surpass Agents in Importance to Customer Interaction, J.D. Power Finds." Accessed February 5, 2021.